Category: Graphic Novels

2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Every year YALSA creates a list of amazing graphic novels for teens. They also pick a Top Ten Great Graphic Novels list. Here is this year’s top ten:

Awkward Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3: Crushed

Lumberjanes (Volumes 1 & 2)by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Shannon Watters, illustrated by Brooke Allen

Ms. Marvel (Volumes 2 & 3) by G. Willow Wilson

Nimona Roller Girl

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Sacred Heart A Silent Voice, Vol. 1 (A Silent Voice, #1)

Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia

A Silent Voice (Volumes 1-3) by Yoshitoki Oima

Trashed The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power

Trashed by Derf Backderf

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Volumes 1 &2) by Ryan North, illustrated by Erica Henderson

Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

Sweaterweather & Other Short Stories by Sara Varon (InfoSoup)

Enter the artistic process of graphic-novel author Sara Varon. Here you will see short comic stories, some done as exercises, essays and journal entries. Varon introduces each piece, sharing that she is always at least one of the characters in each of her stories. Each story has the charm and wit that one expects from a book by Varon, here is bite-sized pieces that allow readers to meet even more adorable animal characters. There are cats who long to fly, stories based on alphabet exercises, bee keeping information, swimming pools, and much much more. This is a world worth visiting multiple times!

Varon’s art is almost wordless, the characters showing much  more than telling all that they do. Varon plays with the cells of the graphic novel, breaking the walls between them by handing cups across the lines in one story and in another showing both above and below the water at the same time. She is consistently gently funny and smart in all of these stories. There is a beautiful familiarity to her work, it is at once quirky and cozy and creates worlds where one wants to exist.

Readers will find a lot to love here, whether they are reading it as future artists and authors themselves or because they love Varon’s work. Varon shows the growth of her own work as the book progresses, and also shows how from the very start she was true to her own style and vision. The collection is empowering and fresh.

The author of Robot Dreams and Odd Duck shows a back-stage view of her work, inviting young readers into her creative process. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.

My Top Picks for Graphic Novels in 2015

Baba Yaga's Assistant Dragons Beware! (Chronicles of Claudette #2)

Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola, illustrated by Emily Carroll

Dragons Beware! by Jorge Aguirre, illustrated by Rafael Rosado

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown

Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir Little Robot

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

Little Robot by Ben Hatke

Beware the Kitten Holy (Lumberjanes, #1-4) The Lunch Witch

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and illustrated by Brooke Allen

The Lunch Witch by Deb Lucke

March: Book Two (March, #2) Nimona

March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

The Only Child Roller Girl

The Only Child by Guojing

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Sunny Side Up SuperMutant Magic Academy

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

A Year Without Mom

A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova

Review: Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakava

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova (InfoSoup)

Peppi has just started a new school when she manages to trip over her own feet in the crowded hallway. When a boy tries to help her, she panics and pushes him away when kids start to say she’s his “nerder girlfriend.” Peppi feels awful about this and buries herself in her new group of friends in the art club. Though she tries to avoid him, Jaime is everywhere. He’s assigned as her science tutor and is part of the science club, the art club’s arch rivals. Soon the two clubs are at war with one another, but Peppi is starting to be friends with Jaime. How can a budding middle school friendship survive the club apocalypse?

The story is over the top in a good way. It captures the story of Peppi, a nice artistic girl who just cannot bring herself to apologize to Jaime, even if she knows that what she did was wrong. So often protagonists are either completely socially inept or entirely extroverted, Peppi is a clear introvert but one with lots of friends and a clear social circle.

Chmakova has a style that will appeal to manga readers and anime viewers. She uses several tropes from those genres to great effect from the streaming tears on people’s faces in reaction to great dismay to the isolated images of angry leaders where they are backlit and scary. Chmakova also manages to keep her graphic novel very diverse, not only is Peppi herself diverse, but other characters who populate the story are diverse as well with a variety of racial, ethnic and abilities. It is subtly done and makes the entire book feel like a real school.

A dynamic graphic novel, this book will appeal to those in middle school and those headed there, artists and scientists alike. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: The Only Child by Guojing

The Only Child by Guojing

The Only Child by Guojing (InfoSoup)

Based on the author’s childhood growing up in China, this is the haunting story of a child left alone at home who decides to take the bus to her grandmother’s house. But when she gets off the bus, she discovers that she is alone in a woods. She sees a stag in the woods and follows him until they reach a body of water. When the little girl slips into the deep water, the stag offers one of his antlers to rescue her and the two travel on together. Out further in the water, there is a light in the clouds and the clouds form stairs for them to climb. They enter a cloud world, filled with other creatures. Although the little girl is having fun, she does miss her family who are frantically searching for her back on earth. But how is she going to ever get back to them from high above in the clouds?

The author’s note that begins this book is crucial to understanding the story. A generation of single children in China led to them living profoundly lonely lives, sometimes left alone at home for the day. That loneliness seeps through every page here, even the joyous ones ache with it. This mash up of a wordless picture book and a graphic novel is exceedingly successful, offering a glimpse into a magical world of animals and clouds that show this small child the love and attention she is seeking at home. This story is hauntingly told with a magnificent heart that shines on each page.

The artwork here is soft and subtle, exuding a warmth even in the falling snow. The pencil drawings are detailed and lush. Guojing plays with light and dark, hope and loneliness throughout the book. The child is central in the book, shining on the page alongside her animal companions. The world of clouds is beautifully textural and playful, hugging the child and supporting her. This art is exceptional and communicates far more than words could.

A ravishingly gorgeous book, this graphic novel will be adored by a wide range of ages. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.

Review: A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova

A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova

A Year Without Mom by Dasha Tolstikova (InfoSoup)

Dasha is twelve when her mother leaves Moscow to go to school in America. Dasha is left in the care of her grandparents. It is the early 1990s and things are changing in Russia. Dasha though is more interested in her first crush on a boy, her friendships, and her trip to Germany for Christmas. She misses her mother terribly and has to figure out how to have a life without her there. Dasha’s life reaches a crisis when she fails an important test because she is having problems with the boy she likes and her friends. When spring comes, Dasha’s life changes again with her mother returning and deciding to take Dasha back to America with her.

This autobiographical graphic novel is something unique and very special. Tolstikova tells a story that is both universal and also very personal. She speaks of liking boys, struggling with friends who are changing, lives changing due to parents leaving, and the strength of family. She also tells her specific story of living with her grandparents, growing up in Moscow, and the self-imposed pressure of getting into a better school.

The graphic novel is illustrated with outstanding and quirky illustrations that are effortlessly modern. Done in primarily black and white line, subtle colors are also on the pages to lift it from any dreariness. Pages are dynamically different from one to the next both in size of the illustrations to using only words in large fonts when someone is yelling.

Beautiful and haunting, this graphic novel captures a time in the author’s life that is fleeting and special. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Drowned City by Don Brown

Drowned City by Don Brown

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown (InfoSoup)

This powerful graphic novel tells the story of Hurricane Katrina from the very beginning as the hurricane forms and grows in power to the slow recovery of New Orleans in the aftermath. As the winds and rains of the storm breach the levees around the city, readers will see the devastation that occurs as 80% of the city floods. The book tells the true story, one where everyday people are heroes, where supplies and help are not sent in a timely way, where presidents make appearances but don’t remedy the problems, and where people looking for help just find more death and despair. It is also the story of selfless people who come in and make a real difference, of rescues and saved lives. It is in short, a true story that unflinchingly tells the story of a storm and a city.

With an enormous list of references and sources at the back of the book, this graphic novel is based entirely on facts and first-person accounts. Brown tells the tale without any need to make it more dramatic, just offering facts about what happened and what went wrong to make it even worse. Brown’s account though is also filled with humanity, offering glimpses of the horrors that people survived, of the losses as they mounted, and of a world turned upside down for people trying to escape the city.

Brown’s art in this graphic novel is done mostly in browns and greens. There are striking pages that stop a reader for awhile, such as the art on pages 30 and 31 which has dead bodies floating past in purple water, even as survivors are being hauled up to a roof. Brown conveys the heat and the desperation of survivors, the desolation of the flooded city, and then the slow rebuilding process.

A riveting and powerful look at one of the worst disasters in American history, this graphic novel is a way to talk with children about Hurricane Katrina. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from library copy.