The nominations for the 2015 Eisner Awards have been announced. These awards are for the best in comics and graphic novels and include specific categories for youth. Here are the nominees in those categories:
Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
BirdCatDog by Lee Nordling & Meritxell Bosch
A Cat Named Tim And Other Stories by John Martz
Hello Kitty, Hello 40: A Celebration in 40 Stories edited by Traci N. Todd & Elizabeth Kawasaki Mermin, Book 3: Deep Dive by Joey Weiser
The Zoo Box by Ariel Cohn & Aron Nels Steinke
Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12)
Batman Li’l Gotham, vol. 2 by Derek Fridolfs & Dustin Nguyen
El Deafo by Cece Bell
I Was the Cat by Paul Tobin & Benjamin Dewey
Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland by Eric Shanower & Gabriel Rodriguez
Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse by Art Baltazar & Franco
Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
Doomboy by Tony Sandoval
The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley
Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, & Brooke A. Allen
Meteor Men by Jeff Parker & Sandy Jarrell
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew
The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple
The Lunch Witch by Deb Lucke
What is a witch to do when no one believes in magic anymore? She has her family’s potion recipes and cauldron, but that’s about it. Then she realizes that there is one perfect job for someone who creates horrible brews – being a lunch lady! So Grunhilda becomes a lunch lady, one who scares all of the children. But Madison isn’t scared of Grunhilda despite the fact that she is the one person who knows that she is not what she seems. Madison has enough knowledge to blackmail the witch, but that’s a dangerous course even when the witch wants to help you. Grunhilda finds a kinship with Madison, but her horrible ancestors are maddened to find their magic being used for good, so they step in and cause all sorts of trouble for both Madison and Grunhilda.
Lucke’s story is a delightful mix of horrible potions, bats that don’t listen, nasty dead ancestors with too many opinions, and amazingly also two people who may just become friends through it all. Lucke creates a story around Grunhilde that offers her back story and makes her transformation to an almost-good witch believable and organic. Madison too has her own story, one that also makes the story work well and makes her own role and connection ring true.
The art of this graphic novel is gorgeously strange and wild. Each chapter leads in with a differently stained page, from oily splotches to actual tomatoes. The pages too are dark and stained, as if Grunhilda herself had been using the book in her kitchen. Against that the white of aprons and speech bubbles pops. Other subtler colors are also used and create a subtle effect against the dark page.
A funny and heartfelt story of unusual friendships created during the most unusual of times. Appropriate for ages 7-9.
Reviewed from library copy.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Astrid and Nicole have been best friends for years, but something is changing. When Astrid’s mother takes them to see roller derby, Astrid immediately wants to do it. Nicole is more interested in doing her ballet camp. Without telling her mother that Nicole won’t be helping with carpooling, Astrid starts at roller derby camp. There she discovers that there is a lot to learn about roller skating, hitting and friendship. As Astrid struggles to keep up with the more advanced skaters at the camp, she finds herself dreaming of of being the star of the roller derby. As junior high and the roller derby show near, Astrid has to figure out how to handle her new budding friendship without losing it to jealousy and how to be a strong teammate.
Jamieson is a roller derby girl herself, so the skills and hard work depicted in this graphic novel offer plenty of detail and reality. The result is a book that shows how hard you have to work to be successful and the determination it takes to stand up over and over again after you fall down. At the same time, the tone is realistic, and does not overdramatize learning new skills and being part of a rough sport. The tone is always realistic and honest.
That same tone continues in the depiction of the friendships that Astrid has. The two friendships, one that Astrid is growing out of and one that is just beginning, are shown in all of their fragility. Astrid’s own responses are honest and depict the difficulties of a young girl trying to find her own voice and her own place in the world. Many readers will see themselves on the page, whether or not they are derby girls.
Get this one into the hands of fans of Raina Telgemeier! It’s another graphic novel with a strong and funny female protagonist. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
The powerful second book in the March graphic novel series continues the true story of the Civil Rights Movement. Told by John Lewis in the first person, this book captures the dangers and violence faced by the Freedom Riders as they headed into the deep south. The nonviolent campaign for civil rights faced beatings, police brutality, bombs, imprisonment and potential death. Yet they found a way to not only keep going but to continue to press deeper and deeper into the south. This book is a harrowing read that shows how one young man became a leader of in civil rights and politics in America.
Lewis’ personal story allows readers a glimpse of what was happening behind the scenes. Historical figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X make appearances in the book, and their own personal perspectives on civil rights and nonviolence is shared. The pushback on the nonviolent aspect of the movement is also shown clearly on the page when new people joined the cause. This shift towards more reactionary tactics threatens to undo the progress that had been made to that point.
Thanks to the graphic novel format, there is no turning away from the violence. Beatings are shown up close and will a frenzy that is palpable. The dangers are not minimized nor overly dramatized, they are shown honestly. There are unforgettable moments throughout the novel, some of them small like a boy being encouraged to claw out a civil rights worker’s eyes. Other moments are larger from the mattress protests in the jail to the march of the children and the police brutality that followed.
Immensely strong and powerful, this graphic novel series allows us to see how much progress was made thanks to these civil rights heroes but also inspires young readers to make more progress against the continued racism in our society. Appropriate for ages 13-15.
Reviewed from library copy.
YALSA has selected the 2015 Great Graphic Novels for Teens. The list includes 79 titles that are recommended for ages 12-18 and that are both high quality and appealing to a teen audience. They also select a Top Ten which you see below:
47 Ronin. By Mike Richardson. Illus. by Stan Sakai
Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale. By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Illus. by Francesco Francavilla
Bad Machinery V.3: The Case of the Simple Soul. By John Allison
In Real Life. By Cory Doctorow, illus.by Jen Wang
Ms. Marvel: V.1. No Normal. By G. Willow Wison. Illus. by Adrian Alphona
Seconds: a Graphic Novel. By Bryan Lee O’Malley
The Shadow Hero. By Gene Luen Yang. Illus. by Sonny Liew
Through The Woods. By Emily Carroll
Trillium. By Jeff Lemire
Wolf Children: Ame & Yuki. By Mamoru Hosoda
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo
The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art illustrated by Mary GrandPré, written by Barb Rosenstock
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett
This One Summer illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamaki
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
Here are my picks for the best graphic novels of the year for youth! As always, share your own picks in the comments.
Comics Squad: Recess! by Jennifer L. Holm
The Dumbest Idea Ever! By Jimmy Gownley
El Deafo by Cece Bell
The Graveyard Book: Volume 1 by P. Craig Russell
Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier
Phoebe and Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle by Dana Simpson
Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth by Ian Lendler
Apocalypse Bow Wow by James Proimos III
Brownie and Apollo are two dogs who have been happily living together with their two humans. Their only argument is that Apollo always gets the couch. But then their humans fail to return and the two of them are left alone. Brownie knows the humans will be back soon because he’s getting very hungry and they always come back when he’s hungry. But they don’t return. So the dogs have to figure out how to get out of the house. Apollo tries to break down the door, but it doesn’t work so Brownie thinks that licking the doorknob will help. Apollo knows this makes no sense, but lets Brownie try it. And when he does, a deer leaps through the window and breaks it. Ta da! Brownie and his tongue have saved the day. But when they get out into the world, there are no humans anywhere and now they have to find their own food. Can two rather silly dogs find a way to survive the apocalypse?
This graphic novel is told in distinct scenes, creating a rather movie-like experience reading it. The two dog characters are great foils for one another, Apollo being the more grounded and logical dog while Brownie is rather confused and hopelessly optimistic about everything. Though the book never explains where the humans have disappeared to, readers will happily just go along with the scenario presented thanks to the humor and the silliness.
Proimos’ illustrations are very funny and the way he uses the page is deftly done, making the scenes all the more humorous. Readers of Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s books will be right at home here with the illustration style.
A humorous take on a bleak dystopian disaster, this book will be enjoyed by children who don’t mind a dark side to their graphic novels. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Bloomsbury and Netgalley.
Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson
When Phoebe skipped a rock (four times!) across a pond, she accidentally hit a unicorn in the nose, distracting the unicorn from gazing at her amazing reflection. The unicorn was bound to offer Phoebe a wish and though Phoebe tried to wish for more wishes and things like that, she wasn’t allowed to. So Phoebe wished that the unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, be her best friend. The two become inseparable, much to Heavenly Nostrils’ dismay at first. Soon they truly became the best of friends, dealing with bullies in unexpected ways, having slumber parties, and playing games together.
This friendship between a girl and a unicorn is filled with great humor, including lots of biting sarcasm which helps offset the cuteness factor. It is not the traditional unicorn and girl relationship either, both of them have unique personalities and sometimes they just don’t get along. It’s those moments of reality that keeps the relationship honest and makes this a graphic novel to celebrate.
Simpson’s illustrations have strong ties to Calvin & Hobbes. Readers will immediately find themselves right at home in the world she creates, one where unicorns are real but sheltered by a Shield of Boringness that keeps others from realizing how special the unicorn is. These plot devices are brilliant and funny.
I brought this book home and my 17 year old immediately rejoiced since she reads the comic online. So you will have fans in your library for this book already. Get it on the shelves for kids and into the hands of adults who will also enjoy it immensely. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow, illustrated by Jen Wang
After a woman gamer comes to present information on gaming and computer science to her class, Anda starts to play Coarsegold. She starts to spend most of her time away from school playing the online multiplayer game. Online she meets another player who encourages her to start killing gold farmers for real life money. So Anda refocuses her battles online specifically on gold farmers, killing them even though they don’t fight back. But something feels wrong about what she is doing and then Anda gets to know one of the gold farmers who has started to learn English. He is a poor Chinese kid who is just trying to survive and loves playing Coarsegold even though he does it for hours as a gold farmer. Anda soon finds herself questioning the morals of killing gold farmers and what is wrong and right in real life and in the game world.
As a gamer girl myself, I applaud Doctorow for choosing to have a female lead in his book about online gaming. It adds another dimension to a book that wrestles with tough questions about gaming and gold farming. Gold farmers are people, usually from poorer countries, who are paid to play the online game, gather materials, and then sell them for real money, something that is against the rules of the games. So the book gets to the heart of people from wealthy countries using those from poorer countries, it looks at working conditions in gold farming companies, and questions the real ethics of the situation, beyond the superficial ones.
Wang’s illustrations are dynamite. She shows Anda as a girl who is built like a real person. She is rounded, comfortable in her clothes, and wonderfully not on a diet! Wang creates an online character for Anda who is powerful but not busty and half naked. It’s a great choice artistically.
Gaming books that actually get the game worlds right are few and far between. Gamers of any MMO will recognize the economy, the style and the play here while non-gamers will find themselves understanding gaming and game economies too. Appropriate for ages 12-16.
Reviewed from copy received from First Second.