Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, illustrated by Harmony Becker
Top Shelf Productions
Publication Date: July 16, 2019
Before he was Sulu on the starship Enterprise, boldly going where no one has gone before, George Takei was a little boy struggling to understand why his family was packing up to go live in a horse stable. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the detainment of every person of Japanese descent on the West Coast and imprisoned 120,000 people in camps for years under armed guard. Takei and his family were sent to the Santa Anita Racetrack, then to Camp Rohwer in Arkansas, and finally the notorious Tule Lake camp for “disloyals.” Readers see history in clear, concise, compelling context and follow Takei on his journey from childhood ignorance to righteous anger and awareness to a life of dedicated activism.
The art is a lively, accessible, anime-inspired black and white drawings that focus on characters’ faces and expressions to balance the historical information delivered via text. With parallels to current events like the Muslim travel ban and the detainment of immigrants, it’s high-time to revisit the issue of Japanese internment, and there’s no better guide than George Takei. Pair with Barefoot Gen (Keiji Nakazawa’s classic manga memoir of the Hiroshima bombing), John Lewis’ Civil Rights era March trilogy, or with new young adult novels Internment by Samira Hamed and This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura.
In Waves by AJ Dungo
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
A passion for surfing unites the narratives in AJ Dungo’s graphic novel memoir—from Hawaiians in the eighteen and nineteen-hundreds, to Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku and surfboard designer Tom Blake in the twentieth century, to his resilient girlfriend Kristin who is quietly dying of bone cancer. Dungo explores the history of surfing side-by-side with Kristin’s history of recovery and relapse, showing with tenderness and care the solace that surfing offers those who seek peace and freedom on the waves.
Pairing the multilayered history of surfing with his own personal tale of grief and loss, AJ Dungo treats his subjects with respect while also crafting a pair of compulsively readable histories. His art is a gorgeous woodcut-like style, expressive, economical and elegant, capturing small moments that create an intimate empathy for his characters. In Waves has many appealing hooks for many different interests—history, sports, art, culture, first love, first loss. Give to readers in need of another romance like The Fault in Our Stars and anyone interested in surfing, sports history, or the history of Hawaii.
Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider, vol. 1 by Seanan McGuire, illustrated by Rosi Kampe
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Gwen Stacy AKA Ghost-Spider AKA Spider-Gwen finds herself in a different dimension where that dimension’s version of Gwen Stacy has gone missing. Spider-Gwen works with Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson to locate the missing Gwen. Ultimately, they find Gwen and she works with Peter to develop a machine to allow Spider-Gwen to get back to her dimension. Spider-Gwen uses the machine to visit other dimensions and check in on other versions of herself throughout the multiverse.
For many readers, a viewing of the animated film Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse will be required watching in order to understand the multiverse. Previous iterations of Spider-Gwen left some readers confused, but those readers will have a moment of clarity with this book. Encourage readers who abandoned the Jason Latour books to give this one a try. Ghost-Spider Volume 1 is a fast-paced story that will appeal to younger and older teens alike. McGuire’s witty and charming writing style brings more depth to Spider-Gwen and the character seems more comfortable in this solo book.
Perfect for fans of other current Marvel books like The Magnificent Ms. Marvel, West Coast Avengers, and Shuri. Readers that enjoyed Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee and the Shadowshaper books by Daniel José Older will love Ghost-Spider Volume 1.