Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Shuri: The Search for Black Panther by Nnedi Okorafor, illustrated by Leonardo Romero
Publication date May 7, 2019
Shuri is more than just the Black Panther’s little sister—she’s the star of her own comics series in this graphic novel by bestselling Africanfuturist author Nnedi Okorafor and artist Leonardo Romero. Okorafor and Romero’s Shuri is thrilled with her own genius inventions, unsure of her place in the larger world, devoted to her family, and itching to get out of her big brother’s shadow. Shuri—intelligent, curious, and powerful—is more than up to the challenge when T’Challa disappears during Wakanda’s first manned space flight, but her mission to find her brother is complicated by astral projection, black holes, and pressure to take up the Black Panther mantle herself. The nation’s cry is “Wakanda forever”—but where does Shuri fit in, and what does she want for herself?
Black Panther and Wakanda are perpetual favorites in the Marvel universe and Shuri was a standout character in the 2018 blockbuster film, creating a built-in readership drawing from comic and movie fans. And this first volume delivers—readers get a fully-realized, complex young woman to root for (plus she’s a rarely depicted woman of color and a woman of science to boot!). The plot ranges from deep meditations on familial responsibility to dynamic battles with space bugs. The strong art, with its saturated colors, bold lines, and creative worldbuilding detail, provides depth and texture to the world of Wakanda. Other Marvel characters make appearances, but there’s never any doubt that this is Shuri’s story.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Jordan Banks is starting seventh grade at a new private school, where he is not only the new kid, but he’s one of only a handful of students of color. Making friends isn’t too hard, he immediately befriends his assigned guide and another new African-American student, Drew, but dealing with racism and bullying at school is another story. He notices right away that some of the students and teachers treat the black students differently. Classmate Andy is a jerk who is always saying and doing inappropriate things. And even after weeks of school, his homeroom teacher still calls Drew by the name of a different black student that looks nothing like him. Good thing the boys aren’t afraid to call people out on their mistakes. What might be even harder though is fitting in and navigating between two worlds, his urban neighborhood and his posh new school.
What’s particularly great about this middle grade graphic novel is the fact that the author has managed to make a book largely about racism and bullying also laugh out loud funny. Jordan and his friends are likeable characters that are dealing with everyday issues that lots of teens can relate to.
New Kid fits solidly into other great graphic novels about belonging, but also remaining true to yourself like Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol and Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova.
Meal by Blue Delliquanti with Soleil Ho
Iron Circus Comics
Publication Date: December 25, 2018
Yarrow moves to a new town to get her foot in the door at a new restaurant with insect-based food. Yarrow’s fervor for insect cuisine is off-putting to Chanda, the chef at the restaurant, because Chanda’s ancestors have been eating bugs for centuries and Yarrow puts a more modern spin on entomophagy (bug eating). Yarrow learns about Chanda’s culture and how to be a more mindful cook while also finding her style and teaching Chanda something new. Meanwhile, Yarrow starts a friendship with her neighbor Milani that turns into something more.
Even though Meal is fiction, it is a great title for readers that enjoy non-fiction. Chef Soleil Ho ends the book with an essay about entomophagy and includes some recipes for readers willing to take the plunge and try insect cuisine. It can come off as preachy about entomophagy in spots, especially with a chef co-writer, but ultimately it is a fascinating enough topic that may result in readers doing additional research.
Viewers of reality cooking shows like MasterChef, Cake Boss, or Chopped will enjoy this book. Fans of Bloom by Kevin Panetta will appreciate the cooking, romance, and LGBTQIA+ representation.