Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio by Derf Backderf
Abrams ComicArts / Abrams Books
Publication Date: September 4, 2020
A few days prior to the shooting of unarmed college students who were protesting the Vietnam War, 10-year-old Derf Backderf saw the Ohio National Guard arrive in his nearby town. On May 4, 1970, students were murdered and wounded by the same National Guard troop that had been sent in by the governor to squash a trucker strike. These four days in May are masterfully brought to graphic life through Derf’s words and illustrations. Like in his books My Friend Dahmer and Trashed, Derf’s ability to investigate and bring forward untold and forgotten stories as part of the bigger, more knowable truth is a testament to his ability as a writer and an illustrator.
The tale of these students, town, and its residents is fully fleshed out through the meticulous detail Derf brings to the story. Through the intensive and exhaustive research and interviews that Derf used to fully expose readers to the tragic history of that date and the days preceding, all can see the horrific events that not only occurred on May 4, but what led up to the tragedy as well. Derf’s illustrations are beautiful, as always. His precise black and white line drawings are incredibly detailed while his lettering is perfectly placed amongst the often chaotic scenes he is drawing. The murders at Kent State, as well as the local and national government response that led up to them, echoes so many of the events the United States is witnessing today. This book is an important and beautiful testament to the importance of protest, as well as the lives lost and irrevocably changed forever by those 67 shots. Recommend it to fans of Derf’s previous works, as well as the March trilogy, Persepolis, and They Called Us Enemy.
The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson and Jo Rioux
First Second / Macmillan
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
After the sudden death of their mother, young sisters Rozenn and Dahut learn how she had pushed back the sea and made the great walled city of Ys where their father, King Gradlon, rules. As the years pass, Rozenn spends her time outside in nature and with village folk, ignoring the dark, sacrificial magic her younger sister Dahut feels she must practice to keep Ys powerful.
Based on a Breton folktale, The Daughters of Ys is a layered, dark, and sometimes sexy fantasy best for mature teen readers. Jo Rioux’s Celtic-styled artwork is gorgeous and moody, with a color palette dominated by bright greens and black, against which pops of color, particularly the red of Dahut’s hair, stand out.
This graphic novel is a great choice for readers who enjoy dark folk and fairy tale retellings like The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, and M.T. Anderson’s earlier graphic novel Yvain: The Knight of the Lion. Fans of Sleepless by Sarah Vaughn and Leila del Duca may also enjoy this title.
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