2016 Finalists: Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels

Bera the One-Headed Troll
by Eric Orchard
First Second Books
Nominated by: Sarah Sammis

Bera the one-headed troll lives peacefully on a lonely island, growing pumpkins for the king, but when she finds a human baby, she sets out to find the troll heroes of legend to help her deliver the infant to a human village, all the while attempting to escape the witch Cloote, who wants the baby for her own. The lovely art, full of fascinating details, draws the reader in, and the cast of unique characters keeps the reader engrossed. Bera is a character to love and to cheer for. The implied lore of the world is also vast and exciting, giving the depth to the story at hand.

Benedict Hutchinson, A Goblin Reviews Graphic Novels

Compass South (Four Points)
by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Amy

The start of an exciting new series, Compass South follows twins Alex and Cleo on an epic adventure. From street gangs to pirate ships, jungles to the wild frontier we get to see Alex and Cleo set off in search of gold and find treasures much more valuable: good friends, clues about their mysterious past, and appreciation for family. Full color art, quick pacing, and interesting characters make this book a pleasure to read. The setup for the next book is solid, but the end of this volume is happy and satisfying.

Alysa Stewart, Everead

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth (Book 2) (Lowriders in Space)
by Cathy Camper and Raul the Third
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Lwad

There’s so much to love about the Lowriders series– the unique art style, the opportunity for readers to pick up casual Spanish with the bilingual-lite conversations, and the sheer craziness of a world in which the three main characters are a mosquito, an octopus named El Chavo Flapjack, and a female impala who’s a mechanical genius. Lowriders to the Center of the Earth takes the quest for a lost cat and weaves it into a grand adventure, introducing readers to Hispanic cultural figures such as La Llorna, Mictlantecuhtli the god of the underworld, the chupacabra, lucha libres, and Genie the cat’s legendary alter ego. This book is one wild and crazy ride, with obvious educational merits. Well done, Lowriders.

Liz Jones, Lizjonesbooks

Mighty Jack
by Ben Hatke
First Second Books
Nominated by: Charlotte

Ever read the fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk” and have a child immediately question why Jack was acting so foolish? Ben Hatke’s take on Jack is occasionally foolish—what kid isn’t?—but more often thoughtful and mature as he navigates watching his autistic younger sister Maddy and helping his thoroughly overworked mother during summer break. As the first book, Hatke gives readers a glimpse into the magical while staying firmly rooted in the realistic obstacles Jack’s family faces. The artwork is beautiful and simple, matching the tone of the story perfectly while the book itself moves at a brisk pace. Full of wonder and engaging characters, Mighty Jack is the solution for anyone who ever thought Jack was too foolish.

Lexie Cenni, For the Sake of Reading

Princess Princess Ever After
by Katie O’Neill
Oni Press
Nominated by: Stormy

Originally a web comic, Princess Princess Ever After is a fantasy about Amira and Sadie, two princesses who don’t quite fit the role they’re cast in. O’Neill’s story features swashbuckling, magic, romance and bravery as the two come upon a hapless prince with no clue how to rescue a damsel, a misunderstood rampaging giant and how to deal with their insecurities about who they are. The graphic novel shines as it explores gender identity and societal norms without ever casting judgement on the choices the characters make. Filled with humor, bright colors and relatable issues, Princess Princess Ever After is a delightful read for all ages.

Lexie Cenni, For the Sake of Reading

The Nameless City
by Faith Erin Hicks and Jordie Bellaire
First Second Books
Nominated by: Compass Book Ratings

The Nameless City has the feeling of an epic novel, with unique but ancient settings and the implication of uncountable untold stories surrounding its main characters, Kaiyu and Rat. However, it doesn’t present the usual two sides of good and evil in battle– rather we see the complexity of the situation where one group occupies a place and tries to make it their own, whether or not its residents are cooperative. Both sides are presented in a realistic and compassionate light, and the peaceful resolution at the end is both believable and heartening. The worldbuilding is also superb in this story-. We hope there will be others in this series, as there’s a lot of room to grow.

Liz Jones, Lizjonesbooks

The Wolves of Currumpaw
Flying Eye Books
Nominated by: Julie Rowan-Zoch

With its narrative prose instead of dialogue, large pages, and use of wordless images Wolves of Currumpaw could best be described as a picture book for teens. It’s the story of Ernest Thompson Seton chase and capture of Old Lobo, a wolf who was terrorizing cattle ranchers in New Mexico. Some of the most poignant parts of this story are depicted in l postage-stamp size images, such as the duplicitous relationship between European settlers and Native American tribes and the development of bridges and railways to facilitate movement into nature. Readers are reminded that our if we change nature, we too will be changed. While this story ends on a redemptive note, readers of all ages will be able to ask questions about whether we’re doing enough to protect nature.

Amy Estersohn, No Flying, No Tights