Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Primer by Jennifer Muro, Thomas Krajewski, and Gretel Lusky
Publication Dates: June 23, 2020
Primer tells the story of thirteen-year-old ray of sunshine Ashley Rayburn. Ashley’s father is in prison, and Ashley has been in and out of various foster homes because of her curious, rambunctious, and totally developmentally appropriate ways. Ashley finally feels like she’s found her home with a set of new foster parents, but when she breaks into her scientist foster mother’s safe, she comes across a set of body paints that give the wearer various superpowers. The organization that made the paints wants them back, and Ashley has to make choices to protect her new family.
According to the Children’s Bureau, over 672,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care in 2019. That means that many library communities have young patrons who are foster children. It will be incredible for teens in foster care to see themselves reflected on the page, not just as foster children but as good kids who get a bad rap. Ashley is a fun character and shows that being in foster care doesn’t mean she’s a bad kid. She has a kind heart and gives her all. Gretel Lusky’s artwork is bright and spunky and fits Ashley perfectly. While on the younger teen side, don’t hesitate to give this book to teens of all ages including struggling readers. This book has mass appeal.
Primer is great for readers who have enjoyed other books from the DC Graphic Novels for Kids and Young Adults lines including Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki and Joëlle Jones, Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru, and Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn and Nicole Goux. Readers might also enjoy the Netflix series On My Block, Everything Sucks, and Teenage Bounty Hunters.
Seven Little Sons of the Dragon: A Collection of Seven Stories by Ryoko Kui
Publication Date: November 26, 2019
Creator Ryoko Kui takes readers on a whimsical journey through seven magical stories in this manga collection. Each story has its own flavor, offering small twists and turns that brings the readers to new places. In one story, a skilled artist is able to bring his drawings to life—with catastrophic results! But what starts as a comedy transforms unexpectedly into a poignant story of broken connections and familial reconciliation. In another story, an assassin vows revenge for the child she’s lost, but finds a different kind of resolution after crossing paths with a dragon.
The art is clear and crisp, making effective use of deep blacks and the white of the page. Characters, mythological or otherwise, are drawn expressively, and Kui makes thoughtful use of lines, shapes, and patterns. Like many anthologies, some stories may appeal more than others, but overall, the seven tales make up a strong collection that offers spirited action and small moral lessons, all with a hint of sweetness that stays clear of sentimentality. Those new to manga will find this an accessible and easily digestible entry point.
Fans of the Witch Hat Atelier series will love the beautiful and playful art of Seven Little Sons of the Dragon. Those looking for other comics that veer into the realm of fantasy, myth, and folklore might also enjoy Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s Monstress, Zao Dao’s Cuisine Chinoise: Five Tales of Food and Life, and Trung Le Nguyen’s The Magic Fish.
Victor and Nora: A Gotham Love Story by Lauren Myracle and Isaac Goodhart
Publication Date: November 3, 2020
Victor Fries is mourning the death of his brother. Feeling responsible for the fire that ultimately killed his brother and feeling abandoned by his parents who are in a world of their own, Victor retreats to the graveyard to update his brother on some good news. He feels lucky to have scored an internship at Boyle Labs and revels in full days of science and experiments. Nora Faria is at the graveyard visiting her mom’s grave, and she is mourning something too—the slow loss of her mind and body due to the fatal illness that she has which cannot be cured. She has decided that she is going to commit suicide on her upcoming birthday before she loses everything that means anything to her. It’s at this point Victor and Nora meet in a graveyard, both grieving, but unable to stop the love that starts to blossom between the two of them.
Victor will one day turn into Mr. Freeze—nemesis to Batman and a villain with a heart of ice—but what led him down the path to crime and punishment? The beautiful illustrations are full of dreamy vividity and change throughout the book to reflect both Victor and Nora’s fears, dreams, and realities. Nora’s planned suicide is referenced throughout the book, thus recommenders may need to make potential readers aware of the use of suicide as a plot device. The back matter includes thoughtful information for readers regarding mental health services.
Victor and Nora is perfect for fans of the new examinations of Gotham’s heroes and villains, including Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo’s Teen Titans: Beast Boy and Maggie Stiefvater and Morgan Beem’s Swamp Thing: Twin Branches.