Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
King of King Court by Travis Dandro
Drawn and Quarterly
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Life wasn’t easy for Travis growing up with a drug-addicted birth father, alcoholic step-dad, and a depressed mom caught between them all. As a kid, Dandro would escape into his own world of make-believe, nature explorations, and drawing. The lasting effects of poverty, abuse, and addiction are laid bare in every page of this memoir. As Travis grows into a teenager and eventually adulthood, his drawings remain stuck in the past, as one can still see the hurt child deep inside.
A beautiful memoir of Travis Dandro’s childhood, King of King Court is an unflinching look into a child’s view of the destructive adults around him and finding ways to cope in difficult situations. Drawn in a simple childlike scribble, the effect creates a relatable naivete that perfectly showcases a child’s view of the complex and sometimes scary world of adults. We plainly see Dandro’s feelings of confusion and hurt that any young adult can relate to.
Hand to teens who’ve read Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka or Stitches by David Small and are looking for additional moving memoirs.
Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis
Walker Books/Candlewick Press
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Raised by nuns on a small, remote island, Margaret, a spirited young orphan, spends her time exploring her surroundings, learning the ways of the Elysian sisters, and hoping for the appearance of the occasional newcomer. With the successive arrival of two strangers, Margaret’s routine life is upended as she not only discovers the island’s true purpose but learns the truth of her own past and the grave danger she and those she cares for are in.
Based loosely on the early years of Queen Elizabeth I, this alternate history offers budding Anglophiles a look at the political intrigue that so often played out in the English monarchy during the Renaissance. Although dialogue-heavy, the narrative is brimming with rich, historical details—a testament to Meconis’s thorough research—and immersive world-building, placing readers alongside the inhabitants of the Island as they go about their daily tasks. Complex, well-rounded characters, including the story’s twelve-year-old protagonist Margaret, populate the tale, and the understated yet powerful mixed media artwork, anchored by Meconis’s use of watercolors in hues of muted blue-greys, sea greens, and pale yellows, not only captures the natural beauty of Margaret’s island home but gives the book the look of a handcrafted chronicle. Readers, be they teens or adults, will find themselves incredibly satisfied yet wanting more as the open-ended conclusion hints that Margaret’s story is only just the beginning of a larger one yet to be told.
Readers who like their history with a twist of fiction might also enjoy Adam Gidwitz’s The Inquisitor’s Tale, or The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, Diane Magras’s The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, and any of Meconis’s other titles, most notably Bite Me! A Vampire Farce and Family Man.
Sanity and Tallulah; Sanity and Tallulah: Field Trip by Molly Brooks
Publication Dates: October 16, 2018; October 22, 2019
ISBNs: 978-1368008440; 978-1368009782
Sanity Jones and Tallulah Vega are BFFs and aspiring kid scientists who run amuck on their space station home, making messes and righting wrongs all over the place. In their first outing, Sanity engineers an extremely adorable (but technically illegal) three-headed kitten, only for Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds to escape and wreak havoc across the station. Now Sanity and Tallulah have to find their mutant kitten–and prove her innocence. In Sanity and Tallulah: Field Trip, the girls’ class is going on a field trip..to a planet! All too soon, chaos ensues—asteroids, shuttle crashes, space pirates, and a ticking clock on a soon-to-be exploding planet. Sanity and Tallulah are always in the thick of it, scheming away and saving the day. Tallulah’s boundless enthusiasm for literally everything, Sanity’s killer problem-solving skills, and nonstop action and humor will have readers on the edge of their seats as Sanity and Tallulah hurtle through their madcap adventures.
With its focus on science, brainstorming, teamwork, and risk-taking, the Sanity and Tallulah books are both an experience and an education for middle school readers, with rockets and witty banter flying across the pages. The stylish three-tone art in shades of pink, purple, and blue adds a retro feel to the sci-fi stories; the panels are brimming with a diverse cast led by daring space ladies. Introduce Sanity and Tallulah to fans of other inquisitive adventurers like Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, the Lumberjanes, or the Secret Coders.