Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration by Wayde Compton and April de la Noche Milne
Arsenal Pulp Press
Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Lacuna is a girl without a family or a home. She lives alone in a swamp made of ink, but with the help of Polaris, a will-o’-the-wisp, she decides to travel to the Northern Kingdom, in the hopes of finding other people. The only way to get there, though, is to travel the strange and dangerous Blue Road. Along the way, Lacuna must overcome trials, including a Thicket of Tickets and a stubborn guard at the Rainbow Border. At the end of her journey, she reaches a city that will test her ability to survive and her ingenuity in the face of adversity.
This beautifully illustrated fable pits a strong, intelligent protagonist against a world of perverse and often illogical rules as Lacuna seeks connection and safety. It manages to be both a commentary on the current political situation for migrants worldwide and also a coming of age story—it will appeal to audiences of all ages, who will be able to mine different layers of meaning from the story.
A good choice for fans of Greek mythology, Aesop’s fables, trickster tales, and recent titles like Stepsister, where strong female protagonists must rely on their wits alone on their journey to self-discovery.
Wonderland written and illustrated by Yugo Ishikawa
Seven Seas Entertainment
Volume 1: 978-1626929081; Pub Date: November 20, 2018
Volume 2: 978-1626929982; Pub Date: March 26, 2019
Volume 3: 978-1642751277; Pub Date: August 20, 2019
Teenaged Yukko wakes up one morning to learn that she and her family have shrunken in size. She watches in horror as her cat murders her tiny parents, and her dog becomes her vehicle to get through the now apocalypse-ridden town. Yukko meets Alice who doesn’t speak the same language though is shrouded in mystery, intrigue, and badassery. In volume two, Yukko and Alice meet up with another group of people whose fate is in peril when they are cornered by a gang of cats. The dog doesn’t make it through to safety, and Yukko insists they rescue him. In volume three, Yukko makes contact with her friend Takuya in a neighboring town unaffected by the shrinking but the call is intercepted by the government.
This part Mad Max part The Walking Dead story has tons of teen appeal. The pacing is great and the story engaging. Kids will want the next volume yesterday! The teen characters make decisions like teens actually would, and feels realistic even though it is a fantasy/post-apocalyptic story.
This series would go over well with Junji Ito fans and readers who enjoy manga titles like Witch Hat Atelier and Magus of the Library.
Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918 by Don Brown
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Don Brown tells the story of the deadly Spanish Influenza pandemic in three acts. In Act I, January – July 1918, he gives context for the flu, including where the name comes from, the history of pandemics and of disease during war, and early incidences of the disease. In Act II, August – December 1918, he details the dramatic and devastating spread of influenza first in Boston, and then around the world.
With just bare facts and his signature drawing style colored in sepia tones, Brown makes the reader feel how desperate the situation was—bodies piling up with no coffins to put them into and no one to bury them, the lack of nurses who were either falling ill themselves or working overseas, and the terrifying lack of knowledge of where the flu came from, how to treat it, or how to prevent it. In Act III, 1919, he describes the end of influenza and the discovery of the virus that caused it. Brown ends the book on a haunting question: the flu virus was recreated in 2005—should it have been? Is the possibility of learning from its study worth the risk of it getting out?
Fever Year is a fascinating and highly accessible book of history, public policy, science, and ethics that would be great for book clubs and class discussions. Fans of Don Brown’s other comic books such as The Unwanted and Drowned City are sure to enjoy this one as well.