Oldies but Still Goodies from YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels Lists

The War at EllsmereLately, I’ve had to weed my Young Adult Graphic Novel collection because I am just running out of room.
  Weeding is always a sad process, be it in a public library or in your personal collection – I just always think, well, if I just give them another month or another week, someone will pick up this book!   I always like to think that there’s a book here for every person, and unfortunately, some books just don’t get a lot of love or get matched up with their perfect person during their time in the collection. 

That got me thinking about this post; I wanted to spotlight older titles, but how would I choose them since there are so many great books out there from years past?  Then, aha!  I had an epiphany – what if I highlighted some of my favorite comics & graphic novels from YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens lists? 

So, I went back through all the GGNT lists, and picked out some of my favorites from the 2007-2011 lists.  Now, some of these books are pretty popular and some are not, but they are all great graphic reads for all different kinds of readers.  From Star Wars to cat burglars to Batman (well, Batwoman, but, close enough), everyone will find something fun to read on this list – and these are old books!  Well, oldish – and older books can be some of the best books.   So, join me, readers, on this walk down memory lane as we revisit some favorites and hopefully, put the spotlight on some forgotten or overlooked treasures.

2007 Great Graphic Novels for Teens:

Star Wars:  Tag & Bink Were Here by Kevin Rubio & Lucas Marangon:  From the inaugural GGNT list, I chose one of very favorite comics ever!  Tag & Bink are two bumbling rebels who, when they come face to face with Stormtroopers, decide to knock them out and steal their uniforms, and thus, their times as members of the Imperial Army begin.  They aren’t the most savvy or smartest of the bunch, so in addition to not being found out by Darth Vader and his minions, they are also trying to stay alive and get back to the other members of the rebellion.  What’s funny about this book is that Tag & Bink are involved in every major event that happens in the movies – and they’re usually on the verge of messing something up or getting themselves found out.  This book is great for Star Wars aficionados as well as newbies – because it introduces something new and hilarious to established movies with no prior knowledge needed.  All of your favorite characters from Episodes IV-VI make appearances here, and this book will definitely keep you laughing until the very last page! 

2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens:

The War at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks:  Yay for Faith Erin Hicks!  She just won an Eisner Award (the Academy Awards of Comics – given out at Comic-Con each year) for her awesome comic The Adventures of Superhero Girl.  That got me thinking about her work in general, and how much I really love all of her books.  Going through the 2009 GGNFT list, I noticed that one of her earlier titles, The War at Ellsmere had made the list!  Juniper is a new student at Ellsmere Academy – a boarding school that has accepted her as a scholarship student.  Unfortunately, as a scholarship student, she is the odd-girl out around all the affluent students who inhabit the school.  Lucky for her, she has an awesome roommate in Cassie, who also gets teased by the upper-class students.  Plus!  There might be a mythical, beautiful beast that lives in the forest behind the school!  Part realistic fiction, part fantasy, this book is awesome – and, of course, it is – it is written & illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks, after all!

Skim by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki:  So, I love it when Mariko & Jillian work together – they are cousins, and they put out the most beautiful and thoughtful graphic novels that really exhibit the teenage experience.  They have a new book out, This One Summer, that is getting a lot of buzz, but I wanted to focus on their earlier title, Skim, the story of Kimberly Keiko Cameron who is dealing with a lot of heavy issues.   Topics like suicide, depression, love, wondering whether or not you’re gay, high school, and loneliness are handled with the upmost respect and tenderness.  Struggling with who you are is something that is a universal teen experience, and the Tamaki cousins bring teen characters to readers who are realistic and dealing with the same kind of problems.  A melancholy and quiet look at trying to make it day to day when you feel like everything is spinning out of control.

2010 Great Graphic Novels for Teens:

Cat Burglar BlackCat Burglar Black by Richard Sala:  I remember reading Cat Burglar Black when it was first announced as part of the 2010 list, and I absolutely loved it.  K. Westree is a cat burglar; she lost both of her parents when she was a child, and was raised in an orphanage by Mother Claude who turned the orphanage into a breeding ground for thieving children.  The orphanage gang was eventually broken up (with weird & tragic results), and K. was invited to Bellsong Academy, a boarding school, which put off an air of mystery.  The weird headmistress, students – really everyone there at Bellsong seems to be hiding something, and K. is determined to figure out the mystery of the Academy.  A great and fun mysterious romp that readers will be sad to see end.  It also ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, but it doesn’t seem like any other books about K. have been written – too bad.  Readers will fall in love with K., her sleuthing skills, and that white hair of hers.

2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens:

Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka & J.H. Williams III:  This book really kicked off the rebirth of Batwoman, aka Kate Kane, in the DC Universe – it’s written by Greg Rucka – one of my favorite crime & mystery graphic novel writers and illustrated by J.H. Williams III, who basically draws the most beautiful art ever.  Seriously.  There is a new foe in town – Alice, who is obsessed with Alice in Wonderland, and she has horrible plans in store for Gotham City.  But, Batwoman is on the case and ready to defend her city at all costs.  A great story that sometimes is forgotten to be included with the current Batwoman run that was rebooted after this title was released.  A great superhero story with a kick-butt lady with some pretty awesome red hair.

Yay!  I’m so happy to share some of my favorite oldies, but still goodies with you!  These are all taken from past Great Graphic Novels for Teens lists which are chock full of great ideas for comic book reading if you just can’t decide what to try next.  I hope you’ll give these “geezers” a chance; I know they won’t disappoint! 

And, remember to join me next month, same bat time, same bat channel for some more graphic reads recommendations! 

–Traci Glass, currently reading My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal

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