Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Surviving the City, vol. 1 by Tasha Spillett and Natasha Donovan
Publication Date: November 30, 2018
Miikwan and Dez are best friends, each grappling with family issues; Miikwan’s mom is missing and Dez’s beloved grandmother is ill. When Dez disappears one night, Miikwan fears that she has become one of the murdered and missing Indigenous women of their community. Miikwan, protected by the spirits of missing women, participates in a march to honor the stolen sisters of their community. There, Miikwan finally finds Dez, safe.
The art in this book is beautiful, and the scenes of the spirits protecting the young girls are haunting and moving. Although the plot is short and simple with a young girl who briefly goes missing but is found, there are layers of complexity in how the book ties in serious issues affecting Indigenous communities and brings to light the high statistics of murdered and missing Indigenous women (MMIW), girls, and two-spirit people. Moreover, the strength of the book lies in the close friendship between Miikwan & Dez, and teens will relate to their close bond. The book grapples with feelings of loss, fear, and grief, but still ends on a hopeful note, emphasizing the importance of turning to each other and our respective communities for support in times of crisis.
Surviving the City is similar in tone to The Outside Circle by Patti Laboucane-Benson and Kelly Mellings with both books confronting the legacy of postcolonial trauma impacting the Indigenous peoples of Canada. Miikwan and Dez’s abiding friendship also finds commonalities with that of Rose and Windy of This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki.
Sparrowhawk by Delilah S. Dawson, illustrated by Matias Basla
Publication Date: August 20, 2019
Artemisia’s relationship with her father’s wife and other children has always been complicated. When she is kidnapped by the Faerie Queen who wants to take her place in our world, she has to fight her way through the Queen’s realm to find her way back home. Artemisia must try to figure out which of her untrustworthy allies she can trust the most and learn to defend herself against otherworldly foes in order to reclaim her own life.
A very dark fantasy with a (literally) kick-ass heroine, Sparrowhawk is an absorbing tale of a girl with a Cinderella-style stepmother trying to figure out where she fits in and how to get what she wants out of life instead of just doing what everyone else expects of her. Blending the Victorian historical era with bloodthirsty Fae creatures, Sparrowhawk is a gory, violent, Wonderland-esque story for fans of Skottie Young’s I Hate Fairyland and Max Bemis’s Lucy Dreaming.
Heartstopper, vol. 1 by Alice Oseman
Hodder Children’s Books
Publication date February 7, 2019
Charlie is the only boy in school who is openly gay. Nick is the friendly, popular rugby jock. Together, Charlie and Nick are classmates, teammates, new friends—and maybe something more. While Charlie’s beating himself up for falling for a straight boy, Nick is realizing he’s perhaps not as into girls as he thought he was. As Charlie and Nick get to know each other, the reader sees every small moment play out—the chatty texts back and forth, the exchanged glances across the classroom, the small gestures that would be overlooked by anyone else but mean the world to two friends who are falling quietly, simply, head-over-heels in love.
Heartstopper is a sweet, genuine love story. Author and artist Alice Oseman focuses on the moment-by-moment evolution of Charlie and Nick’s relationship, which is both the story of a typical high school crush and an eye-opening revelation (romance when you’re gay or bisexual is still innately more complicated). Her artwork is appealing cartoony and charming. The images are expressive and natural—you can tell what the characters are thinking and feeling by the looks on their faces and the posture of their bodies. Much of the storytelling is done through the visuals, and many wordless moments capture the joys and challenges of young love. Give to fans of Rainbow Rowell, Mariko Tamaki, or anyone in the mood for a realistic love story.