Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Joel Christian Gill tells his life story in this stunning graphic memoir that does not shy away from the sometimes brutal fights and life lessons Gill faced before becoming the father, artist, and author he is today.
Gill is unflinchingly honest in telling readers exactly how things went down in his life, which like the title evokes, involves fights, abuse, and more. Gill’s stylized artwork pops and is pleasing to the eye, and overall this read is on the shorter end of graphic memoirs, making it palatable to nonreaders. This story will make readers think, make them angry, make them sad, but ultimately this is a hopeful story. This title will easily connect to reluctant readers who see themselves in Gill, or in readers looking for emotionally intense stories.
For further readalikes, hand Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka or Stitches by David Small to fans of Fights.
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
Dial Books / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: April 14, 2020
This graphic memoir details the life of a young Somali boy, Omar, and his disabled brother in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Separated from their mother due to war, Omar feels a strong obligation to watch over Hassan. Concerned adults in the camp encourage Omar to attend school and as he pursues an education, he walks the line between the hope of one day resettling to another country and the despair that he may remain in the camp for the rest of his life.
The friendly tone of the graphic illustrations may belie the harsh reality of the circumstances that refugees undergo in the Dadaab camp, but they also help propel a young reader through Omar’s journey, including the day-to-day concerns that any adolescent might face no matter their circumstances (i.e. bullying, friendship, love). The high stakes of Omar’s situation make this a page-turner; readers will want to find out if Omar makes it out of the camp safely with his family. Paired with straightforward text, the mostly linear visual story is easy to follow. While his story isn’t sugar coated, the illustrations do refrain from depicting the harshest realities of war.
For fans of Jamieson’s graphic novels, Hoop Dreams, by Gene Lue Yang as well as other similarly themed graphic accounts including The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown and Illegal by Eoin Colfer. Those who enjoyed Palacio’s Wonder will also root for the empathetic young Omar.