Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
First Second / Macmillan
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
Life can be more riveting than fiction, and Dragon Hoops proves that with a stellar biographical look at Gene Luen Yang’s true story of the phenomenal men’s varsity basketball team at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, CA, where he previously worked. Intermixed with his own life story as a comic book creator, father, and a teacher, Yang shares his love for storytelling and presents it under a new light in this gripping play-by-play of the 2015 season of the Bishop O’Dowd Dragons as they attempt to win it all in the California State Championship.
Dragon Hoops is an amazing book that is hard to put down. Yang has really risen to the top of his game with both writing and illustrating Dragon Hoops. Yang’s art style is simple and crisp with clean lines that help bring you into the story and await what happens next. The coloring by Lark Pien is subtle and helps to convey the mood and is especially expressive in flashback sequences. It’s not surprising at all that Gene Luen Yang was honored earlier this month at the Harvey Awards with Dragon Hoops being recognized as the Book of the Year as well as Yang’s work with DC’s Superman Smashes the Klan winning the Best Children’s or Young Adult Book Award.
Dragon Hoops deserves all its hype, and readers will cheer for the Bishop O’Dowd Dragons. Teen readers may also enjoy similar titles like After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay, Hoops as well as Slam! by Walter Dean Myers, and Here to Stay by Sara Farizan.
Class Act by Jerry Craft
Quill Tree Books / HarperCollins
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
Newbery-winning author and illustrator Jerry Craft returns to Riverdale Academy Day School with this companion title to New Kid. This time, the story follows Jordan’s friend Drew as he navigates 8th grade and examines how race and privilege can impact friendships as kids move from middle school to high school.
Just as strong as Craft’s debut, this title once again deftly weaves together discussions of inequity, microaggressions, colorism, privilege, and growing up and determining who your friends are, while also being incredibly funny and engaging. The characters we were introduced to in New Kid gain additional depth and context with the introduction of their various family units. Craft’s story is thoughtful and will resonate with any kids trying to determine who they are and where they fit, and the chapter breaks that reference other popular graphic novels are whimsical and will keep readers guessing about what’s coming next.
Class Act is perfect for fans of other graphic novel favorites like Shannon Hale’s Best Friends, Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Raina Telgemeier’s Guts, and also for older teens who enjoy shows like Woke and Dear White People.
Love Me, Love Me Not, vol. 4-5 by Io Sakisaka
Publication Date: September 1, 2020; November 3, 2020
ISBN: 9781974713127, 9781974713134
Volume three ended on a cliffhanger, with Rio kissing his stepsister and secret crush Akari. Luckily, Akari gives him an out to pretend it was an impulse and accident, and Rio realizes that Akari has been aware of and trying to discourage his feelings since she first learned that their parents were dating. This seems to give him the closure to move on. Meanwhile, Akari and Yuna’s friendship grows stronger as they lean into their honesty with each other and decide to be more proactive about pursuing romance. In a delightfully cute reversal, Akari and Yuna become more confident while Rio and Kazuomi flounder in feelings of insecurity and confusion.
These two volumes continue a great shojo manga series. Love Me, Love Me Not has fun, well-drawn characters who clearly all care about each other. Sakisaka keeps the pace up, and even while situations or misunderstandings are cleared up, the drama keeps coming.
I highly recommend this series for fans of Sakisaka’s Ao Haru Ride and Strobe Edge, Love in Focus by Yoko Nogiri, and Blue Flag by Kaito.