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

Isla to Island by Alexis Castellanos
Atheneum
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.

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2023) Featured Review of City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm by Jaimal Yogis and Vivian Truong

City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm by Jaimal Yogis and Vivian Truong
Graphix / Scholastic
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
ISBN-13: 9781338660432

Ancient dragons plus scrappy, resourceful, empathetic kids are two great tastes that taste great together in City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm. The story introduces the reader to Grace, a grieving young girl who has just moved to Hong Kong with her mother and new stepfather for a fresh start. Exploring her new city on a school field trip places Grace in the path of a mysterious old woman who gifts her with a dragon’s egg. Grace, along with some newfound friends, suddenly find themselves on a race to discover the origins of this dragon and its connection to Grace, while also protecting it and themselves from strange and sinister forces that seem to be following them. 

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2023) Featured Review of Other Ever Afters: New Queer Fairy Tales by Melanie Gillman

Other Ever Afters: New Queer Fairy Tales by Melanie Gillman
RH Graphic/Random House
Publication Date: September 20, 2022
ISBN: 9780593303191

A queen who has everything wants to win the heart of a goose girl; a woman falls in love with a mermaid and will have her heart fed to the mermaid’s children after one year; and another woman seeks a mishap from a mysterious being to get out of her arranged marriage. Other Ever Afters: New Queer Fairy Tales presents seven original fairy tales where the traditional happy endings of marriage and wealth are subverted for endings that focus on all types of love.

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2023) Featured Review of Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy

Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy
Dial Books / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: November 23, 2021
ISBN-13: 9780593324318

Just before Huda starts high school, her family moves to a new town. Although it is exciting to be somewhere with so many other Muslims, she soon realizes that being “The Only Hijabi” is not actually a personality, and she spirals into an identity crisis. On top of it all, the one thing she used to be able to rely on, meeting her parents’ expectations around grades, is moving out of reach due to a teacher who treats the Muslim kids differently and assigns racist essay topics.

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2023) Featured Review of The Witch Owl Parliament: Clockwork Curandera, Vol. 1 by David Bowles and Raúl the Third

The Witch Owl Parliament: Clockwork Curandera, Vol. 1 by David Bowles and Raúl the Third
Tu Books
Publication Date: October 19, 2021
ISBN: 9781620145920

Set in an alternative colonial Mexico of the 1860s, the Franco siblings, Cristina and Enrique, are pulled by tragedy into a mysterious world of conspiracy, alchemy, and witches. Cristina is an apprentice curandera, a Christian-magic based healer, and while at a train station waiting for her brother, she is killed by three lechuzas, witch owls. Enrique uses alchemy, a crime in their society, and robotic parts to bring Cristina back to life. Now an outcast with super strength, Cristina, Enrique, and Enrique’s friend Mateo search for answers about the witch owls’ return, as it has been 300 years since they were wiped out. While the witch owls are taking refugees hostage, the group finds that the return of the witch owls has a connection with the mysterious death of Cristina and Enrique’s parents. 

This volume manages to deliver dense worldbuilding and beautiful artwork in this first, fast paced part of the Franco siblings’ story. Raúl the Third’s artwork has a distinct style and a limited color palette that work well with the age faded look of the pages. The witch owls look truly horrifying, and the artwork sets up the atmosphere of this world very well. The story also includes action and humor at the right moments.David Bowles revels in world building and, in his author’s note, he relays that he wanted to make a steampunk story outside of a euro-centric country and closer to the Mexico/Texas border areas where he grew up. Frankenstein is also a major influence on the story, but takes a unique approach to the classic with the emphasis on family, as well as the impact of colonialism and Christianity on Cristina, Enrique, and society as a whole. 

Hand this graphic novel to fans of Hazards of Love: Bright World by Stan Stanley, as both worlds are influenced by Mexican culture and also provide stories with mystery and horror elements. M is for Monster by Talia Dutton is another read-a-like that is a Frankenstein re-telling that focuses on identity and sisterhood. Finally, fans of the Shadowshaper series by Daniel José Older may want to try this series out, as both feature a Latinx female protagonist with magic unraveling a mystery.  

—Rachel Johannigmeier

Other Nominated Titles:

  • Free Speech Handbook: A Practical Framework for Understanding Our Free Speech Protections by Ian Rosenberg and Mike Cavallaro (November 30, 2021)
  • Coven by Jennifer Dugan and Kit Seaton (September 6, 2022)
  • Eat the Rich by Sarah Gailey and Pius Bak (May 1, 2022)
  • Our Colors by Gengoroh Tagame (June 21, 2022)
  • Static: Season One by Vita Ayala and Nikolas Draper-Ivey (June 7, 2022)
  • Junkwraith by Ellinor Richey (January 18, 2022)

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2023) Featured Review of Nightwing Vol. 1: Leaping into the Light by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo

Nightwing, Vol. 1: Leaping into the Light by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo
DC Comics
Publication Date: December 14, 2021
ISBN-13: 9781779512789

Leaping Into the Light is the first collected edition of Tom Taylor’s current run on DC Comics’ Nightwing. After surviving a gunshot wound in the head and developing amnesia, Dick Grayson, former Robin and sidekick to Batman, is back and once again fighting crime in Bludhaven as the vigilante Nightwing. After coming into a significant inheritance, Dick wants to use the money to help the citizens of Bludhaven, and decides to create a charitable foundation for the city. However, old enemies resurface as well as a powerful new one, and Dick Grayson, along with his persona of Nightwing, finds his life threatened, while learning surprising information about his family and his past.

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2023) Featured Review of Radium Girls by Cy.

Radium Girls by Cy.
Iron Circus Comics
Publication Date: May 3, 2022
ISBN: 9781945820991

In 1918, lucky young women looking for work might be hired at the watch factories, where they were taught to use their lips to moisten the brush they used to paint the radium on watch faces to make them glow. They became “ghost girls”, glowing about town as the life of the party,  but unknowingly ruining their health to the point of death with the radium infused paint they were using.

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2023) Featured Review of Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, vol. 1-4 by Kanehito Tamada and Tsukasa Abe

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, vol. 1-4
by Kanehito Yamada and Tsukasa Abe
VIZ Media
Publication Date: May 17, 2022
ISBN-13: 9781974727254

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, vol. 1-4 is the story of what happens at the end of an epic adventure. Elves in this world live much longer than humans and even dwarves. As the years pass after her world-saving adventure with Himmel the Hero, the corrupt priest Heiter, and dwarven fighter Eisen, Frieren watches her compatriots age and die, sending her on a literal and emotional new journey. Along the way, Frieren must grapple with the concept of mortality while letting new humans get close to her.

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2023) Featured Review of Pixels of You by Ananth Hirsh, Yuko Ota, and J.R. Doyle

Pixels of You by Ananth Hirsh, Yuko Ota and J.R. Doyle
Amulet Books
Publication Date: February 8, 2022
ISBN-13: 9781419749575

Pixels of You is a futuristic story about two photographers completing an internship at an art gallery. Indira, a human girl with a cybernetically augmented eye, and Fawn, an AI who appears human, don’t get along when they first meet. When their conflict leads to a public argument, their mentor assigns their final project to be a cooperative gallery show. Forced to work together on their photography, this is a short but sweet enemies-to-lovers story.

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2023) Featured Review of Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin, Jamal Campbell and Deron Bennet

Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin, Jamal Campbell and Deron Bennet
Young Animal / DC
Publication Date: November 16, 2021
ISBN-13: 9781779512055

Sojourner “Jo” Mullen is a new Green Lantern on a mission far from home, investigating a murder in The City Enduring, a sprawling metropolis that has known peace for 500 years due to the genetic suppression of all emotions. When one murder turns to two, Jo finds herself grasping for answers in a political, ethical, and corrupt quagmire. Can she stay one-step ahead of the forces blocking her path?   

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