Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2023) Featured Review of Isla to Island by Alexis Castellanos

Isla to Island by Alexis Castellanos
Publication Date: March 15, 2022
ISBN-13: 9781534469242

During the Cuban revolution, Marisol’s parents decide to send her to the United States to get her away from the political unrest. Missing her culture, parents, and Cuba, Marisol’s life and the pages of this book lose all color when she first arrives in New York City. Unable to understand English, all the speech bubbles are either empty or filled with squiggling lines. With a language barrier between them, her caretakers attempt to find ways to make her feel welcomed and included. As time passes, Marisol’s world begins to bloom with color as she learns about her new community and the people who live in it.

Isla to Island is a unique graphic novel depicting the shared experiences of immigrants moving to an unfamiliar place. Marisol is saddened to leave her home country and is angry about her parent’s decision to stay behind. This graphic novel is primarily wordless until the reader is near the end of the book. As Marisol becomes familiar with the language and the people around her, the speech bubbles fill with familiar words. The author-illustrator, Castellanos, uses the disappearance of color to signify Marisol’s feelings of hopelessness and sadness, and then the slow rebuilding of color as she builds a home in her new community. Isla to Island is a fantastic graphic novel to help develop empathy in people of all ages.

Hand Isla to Island to graphic novel fans who enjoyed American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy. Fans of TV shows like Fresh Off the Boat (ABC), Kim’s Convenience (Netflix), and Reservation Dogs (FX) may also enjoy this story. 

—Shaira Rock

Other Nominated Titles:

  • Run on Your New Legs, vol. 1 by Wataru Midori (March 22, 2022)
  • Kisses for Jet: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Joris Bas Backer (May 3, 2022)
  • Look Back by Tatsuki Fujimoto (September 20, 2022)
  • Neil Gaiman’s Chivalry by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran (April 5, 2022) 
  • Alte Zachen: Old Things by Ziggy Hanaor and Benjamin Phillips (September 6, 2022)
  • Harley Quinn: The Animated Series, vol. 1: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour by Tee Franklin and Max Sarin (August 30, 2022)

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Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Great Graphic Novels for Teens Blogging Team @ YALSA's The Hub.