YALSA has announced their 2019 list of the best graphic novels and illustrated nonfiction for those aged 12-18. The full list can be found here. They also select a top ten which follows:
Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by Anne Frank and Ari Folman, illustrated by David Polonsky
Crush by Svetlana Chmakova
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka
Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Adrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano
My Brother’s Husband, Volume 2 by Gengoroh Tagame
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Royal City, Volumes 2 & 3 by Jeff Lemire
Silver Spoon, Volumes 1-4 by Hiromu Arakawa
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Emily Carroll
The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown
This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy (9781681198521)
This nonfiction novel in verse tells the story of Jo Ann Allen, one of the twelve African-American students who were among the first in the nation to integrate a segregated high school in the South. The small town of Clinton, Tennessee became one of the first communities to attempt desegregation after the Supreme Court ruling made segregation illegal. A year before the Little Rock 9, this lesser-known group of brave students at first attended their new school without incident but then outside agitators, the KKK and other white supremacists got involved. As the issue grew, simply attending school became too dangerous for the African-American students. When they were escorted by a local white pastor to school, he ended up beaten and almost killed. Jo Ann became a spokesperson for the group of students and for integrating schools in general. Her story is one of resilience and tolerance.
Levy very successfully uses various forms of poetic verse to tell Jo Ann’s story in this book. In her author’s note, she speaks about why verse was the logical choice as it captured the musicality of Jo Ann’s speech. Her skill is evident on the page, capturing both the quiet parts of Jo Ann’s life and the dramatic moments of desegregation including acts of hatred against the students. Jo Ann’s story is told in a way that allows young readers to understand this moment in United States history in a more complete way. The images at the end of the book and additional details shared there add to this as well.
Perhaps most surprising is the fact that these moments have been lost to history and this group of twelve students is not as well-known as the Little Rock 9. At the same time, that is what makes this book all the more compelling to read as their story is more nuanced since the mayor and governor did not defy the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Beautifully written, this heartbreaking and dramatic story of courage in the face of hatred belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.