2019 Finalists: Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels

Crush (Berrybrook Middle School) (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Svetlana Chmakova
Yen Press
Nominated by: Wendy

What is it like to have a crush for the first time? Crush explores exactly that emotion – following big, baseball playing Jorge, a quiet but courageous character who stands up to bullies and helps others when needed. Although part of a series, Crush stands on its own, pulling you into Jorge’s story of realizing why he can’t seem to speak around a certain girl suddenly. Beyond just those emotions, this graphic novel delves into middle school bullying – on and offline, bodily autonomy and agency, and overall just crushes the myth that nice guys finish last.

Kristen Harvey, The Book Monsters

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel: A Modern Retelling of Little Women (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Rey Terciero, illustrated by Bre Indigo
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennifer_Miller_RaiseThemRighteous

A fun twist of a retelling on a classic novel. This graphic novel follows Four sisters in a blended family over the course of a year while they experience love, hardships, tough friendships, and their father being deployed. Each girl struggles in her own way but leans on her family for support. Fans of the original and unfamiliar fans as well as graphic novel readers and unlikely readers will enjoy this book!

Stephanie Galvan Russell, The Lispy Librarian Vlog Blog

New Kid (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Jerry Craft
HarperCollins Childrens
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Rich with humor and emotion, New Kid explores both middle school life as well as the racist microaggressions that are prevalent in our society. When protagonist Jordan Banks finds himself at a new private school, he comes to realize that he is one of the few people of color there. Not only does he have to navigate the typical middle school challenges of making friends, dealing with crushes, and completing homework on time, but he also has to deal with the preconceived notions — both his own and others’ — about race. Craft expertly deals with this topic while also creating realistic and heart-warming characters.

Erin Warzala, Crooks in Books

Operatic (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Kyo Maclear and Byron Eggenschwiler
Groundwood Books
Nominated by: Kristen

For a music class assignment, middle-schooler Charlie has been tasked with identifying her perfect song. Unsure what to choose but moved by the opera music her teacher plays for the class, she begins to research Maria Callas. Opera may seem an unlikely choice for a middle-schooler’s perfect song, but Charlie find surprising insights into the confusing dynamics of friendships, crushes, and bullies through Callas’s life and art in this quietly powerful graphic novel.

Elisabeth Ellington, The Dirigible Plum

The Hidden Witch (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Molly Knox Ostertag
Nominated by: Cheriee Weichel

Through her writing and vibrant artwork, Ostertag has created a sequel that is every bit as moving and hopeful as 2017’s The Witch Boy. When a new girl, Ariel, starts at Charlie’s school, a mysterious dark power starts attacking people, and Charlie and Aster suspect Ariel is the source. This series often explores the idea that people who lash out at others may be suffering themselves and instead of turning against her, Charlie and Aster work together to reach out to Ariel and help her turn things around. Even though this comic tackles some serious themes, it does so skillfully and is an absolute delight to read.

Christa Seeley, Women Write About Comics

The Tea Dragon Festival (The Tea Dragon Society) (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Katie O’Neill
Oni Press
Nominated by: Shannon

While gathering herbs in the forest, villager Rinn discovers Aedhan, a dragon who has been in an enchanted sleep for nearly a century. With the help of Rinn’s uncle Erik and his partner Hesekiel, they set off to discover the source of the enchantment. O’Neill includes characters of multiple genders and races as well as disabled characters; she makes a point at the beginning to explain the use of ESL in the course of the story. From the Eisner and Harvey Award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After and Aquicorn Cove, this all-ages companion story set in the world of The Tea Dragon Society is magical and heartwarming.

Maggi Rohde, Books for Squids

Tiger vs. Nightmare (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Emily Tetri
First Second Books
Nominated by: Kara

Find the unlikeliest of friendships and an unbeatable nightmare-fighting team in this empowering graphic novel about wrestling with growing pains and anxieties. Tetri’s dynamic and colorful imagery is full of emotional expressions of bravery, fear, joy, and determination, and there’s an inherent movement to the watercolor media that carries readers curiously but safely through Tiger’s story. Tiger vs. Nightmare is the perfect choice for children aging out of picture books or looking to explore their anxieties more deeply through the comfortable lens of someone else’s life.

Mel Schuit, Let’s Talk Picture Books

Young Adult Graphic Novels

Grimoire Noir (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Vera Greentea and Yana Bogatch
First Second Books
Nominated by: Kristen

Spooky and ethereal, Grimoire Noir creates a mystery within a unique paranormal world in which all the females are witches. When Bucky Orson’s younger sister goes missing, he has to search the whole town to find her. In the process, he discovers a forgotten and sinister history. Bogatch complements Greentea’s unique world building with moody illustrations that are sure to capture the imaginations of readers everywhere.

Erin Warzala, Crooks in Books

Kiss Number 8 (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Colleen AF Venable Ellen T. Crenshaw
First Second Books
Nominated by: Wendy

This coming-of-age graphic novel is equal parts witty, heartbreaking, devastating, and celebratory. Venable deftly produces a safe world for Mads to wholly explore her sexuality and gain a deeper understand of love and its many forms. Equally important, Crenshaw’s illustrations radiate warmth, curiosity, and safety by visually welcoming readers into Mads’ most private moments of self-love, self-loathing, and self-actualization. This book is a triumphant combination of nostalgia for older adults and accessibility for younger adults.

Mel Schuit, Let’s Talk Picture Books

Mooncakes (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
Lion Forge
Nominated by: boricuareads

Enchanting and adorable, Mooncakes whisks the reader into a story of rekindled romance between a witch and a werewolf with a touch of danger. The layers of each character add much to the story, our lesbian witch having hearing aids and using them in her magic. The werewolf character is non-binary and learning her wolf magic, and the grandmother characters are just so beautiful, loving and accepting of everything that happens in the story. Mooncakes brings to life a story that is full of acceptance and magic all in one.

Kristen Harvey, The Book Monsters

Surviving the City (Volume 1) (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Tasha Spillett and Natasha Donovan
Highwater Press
Nominated by: Jenna @ Falling Letters

Haunting and timely, Surviving the City raises awareness of the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People through the characters of Miikwan and Dez, best friends whose after-school plans to work on a class Heritage Project are derailed when Dez goes missing. Spillett’s spare writing and Donovan’s evocative art bring the girls and their families and communities to life in this story about strength, resistance, and hope.

Elisabeth Ellington, The Dirigible Plum

They Called Us Enemy (Amazon, IndieBound)
by George Takei,  Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker
Top Shelf Productions
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

This graphic novel is easily one of the most important that I have read this year. It vividly displays the hardships of Japanese-Americans during World War II while they were forced into concentration camps. The book is a graphic memoir and follows George Takei’s family as they lived in one of the camps.

Stephanie Galvan Russell, The Lispy Librarian Vlog Blog

This Place: 150 Years Retold (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm,  Sonny Assu, and Brandon Mitchell
Highwater Press
Nominated by: Aaron

In this anthology, the historical experiences of Canada’s Indigenous people are made personal and real. Twenty-one authors and illustrators, many of Métis, Inuit, and other Indigenous descent, tell ten stories beginning with Canada’s confederation in 1867 and extending into the future. All stories are thoroughly footnoted, each prefaced with a timeline, and include many direct quotes from the historical players. With vivid detail and color, this brings the importance of Indigenous people in the story of Canada front and center.

Maggi Rohde, Books for Squids