Heaven’s Design Team, v. 1–4 by Hebi-zou, Tsuta Suzuki, and Tarako Kodansha Comics / Kodansha USA Publication Date: October 20, 2020; December 9, 2020; February 23, 2021; March 30, 2021 ISBN: 9781645611136, 9781646511297, 9781646511303, 9781646511310
Instead of creating every individual animal, God decided to outsource the work to a design team. The team of angels consists of six designers, an engineer who tests if the animals will function in the real world, and two liaisons who act as project managers. Volume one opens on new liaison Shimoda’s first day, and we follow along as he meets the team and learns how the designers work to create animals that fit God’s often vague specifications. Each chapter closes with a few short encyclopedia entries on the real animals that are featured.
Run: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, L. Fury, and Nate Powell Abrams ComicArts / Abrams Books Publication Date: August 3, 2021 ISBN: 9781419730696
The song “We Shall Overcome” comes to mind as you read the graphic novel memoir of the great John Lewis. His memoir centers on illuminating the reality of our country’s battle with racism. From sharing the history of the Vietnam War to showing the challenges of voting as Black Americans—and the brutal treatment that Black people endure just to advocate for equality—each moment can be felt, seen, and heard as you turn the pages of this memoir. This nonfiction graphic novel is a great tool to supplement textbooks.
That Full Moon Feeling by Ashley Robin Franklin Silver Sprocket Publication Date: February 2, 2021 ISBN: 9781945509562
A witch and a werewolf meet on a dating app in this short, magical, queer romance graphic novel. Suzy and Jada attempt three dates with varying degrees of success. Each date sees something go horribly wrong, whether it’s fantastical villains—such as attacking skeletons and monsters—or more relatably, exes who haven’t gotten over them. The story ends openly, allowing readers to imagine a possible future (or not) for Suzy and Jada.
Himawari House by Harmony Becker First Second / Macmillan Publication Date: October 19, 2021 ISBN: 9781250235565
A young American, Nao, travels across the globe to attend school in Japan and to reconnect with her Japanese heritage. There, she discovers that her desire to fit in is complicated by her Americanness but finds a makeshift sense of belonging with other foreign exchange students Hyejung and Tina, who are also forging their own paths far away from home.
This coming-of-age story accurately captures the joys and pangs of young adulthood and the uncertainty of being caught between two worlds. Teens will find Nao, Hyejung, and Tina’s search for belonging, friendship, and identity both timeless and familiar. The art is at turns humorous and tender, and every character feels fully realized. A strength of this book is Becker‘s effective use of language (often phonetically described) to dismantle reductive and stereotypical ideas of bilingual speakers or speakers with accents. Instead, characters that speak in dialect, with accents, or with uneven syntax are shown to be just as deeply human, complex, and radiant as native or majority language speakers.
The Leak by Kate Reed Petty and Andrea Bell First Second / Macmillan Publication Date: March 16, 2021 ISBN: 9781250217950
Middle school student Ruth Keller is an aspiring news reporter who questions authority at every turn. When she discovers a strange black substance on the banks of her favorite lake, she throws herself into an investigation. As the pieces of the puzzle start to come together, Ruth thinks she has all the answers, but this story is going to put everything she thinks she knows about journalism to the test. When the spotlight finally shines on Ruth, she is forced to consider tough decisions that may impact her reputation as a reporter and even her closest relationships.
The Leak is a compelling title for younger readers with strong middle school appeal. The narrative is excellent at both showing and telling the reader how to evaluate information without sacrificing the story. While Ruth’s investigation is at the heart of the book, she is also navigating changing relationships with family, friends, and a possible romantic interest. She is dismissed and lectured to by some adults, and readers will relate to her frustrations when it seems like no one is listening to or respecting her.
Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal Drawn & Quarterly Publication Date: May 11, 2021 ISBN: 9781770464377
In this thought-provoking and humorous comic, six cyclopes negotiate love, life, and the pressures of being “other” within the dominant “two-eyed” culture. Readers are introduced to characters including Etna, a ground-breaking cover model; Pol and Latea, lonely cyclopes looking for love; Bron, whose self-hatred led him to failed eye surgery; and Pari, a young woman with a two-eyed spouse who’s about to become a mother. The stories take place in everyday spaces of interaction, ranging from dog parks to doctors’ offices, highlighting the subtle bigotry hidden in even the most mundane of places.
Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle Greenwillow / HarperCollins Publication Date: October 5, 2021 ISBN: 9780062943149
Set in a San Francisco suburb, Piedmont High becomes Becca’s new scene to be popular and powerful. A chance meeting in the girls bathroom between Marley and Becca is more than fate; it’s as if Becca was the new choice of prey. All she has to do is learn to dress, act, and party like the ‘group.’ Soon, Amanda, Arianna, and Marley offer Becca the invitation of a lifetime…to join the Squad. Becca doesn’t think twice, she just howls, and it becomes business as usual—until an auspicious night with Thatcher, Arianna’s boyfriend, and the power balance topples…. What will this mean for the Squad? What will happen to Becca?
A Girl Called Echo, v.4: Road Allowance Era by Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk HighWater Press Publication Date: April 27, 2021 ISBN: 9781553799306
Echo, a Métis teenager, embarks on one more trip to the past of her family and heritage. Her mother has returned, and she shares the family tree when Echo realizes she has been seeing her family members in the trips to the past. Echo travels first to 1885 during the trial and execution of Louis Riel after the Northwest Resistance, and she sees how the Métis’ rights to land are not honored by the Canadian government. She continues to travel to several parts of the past to meet her family members. She sees promises reneged on, and Echo wonders what that means for the future. As she heads toward graduation, Echo considers what she can do to stay strong and keep on fighting injustice with support from family and friends.
My Body in Pieces by Marie-Noëlle Hébert Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press Publication Date: April 6, 2021 ISBN: 9781773064840
My Body in Pieces by Marie-Noëlle Hébert is a book that allows many to feel heard. Teenagers today are challenged with taboo issues that our society has finally come to address. This memoir allows one to feel connected by means of learning the importance of self-confidence. Through graphite images, the author shares her journey with low self-esteem along with her desire to have a “perfect” body.
This book is ideal for a library’s graphic novel collection for young adults because any young adult can relate to the many messages that the author shares that center around loving yourself. While the story is intense and indirectly discusses suicide, this book can be read and discussed in the home, during support groups, or in therapy sessions as well. It is a great book to open up a conversation with teens about self-esteem and body image through the challenges of the author. Teens will be able to relate via the black-and-white drawings, and they will also be able to use this as a time to reflect about their own personal self-esteem challenges.
Each quarter, the Selected Lists teams compile the titles that have been officially nominated to date. These books have been suggested by the team or through the title suggestion form, read by multiple members of the team, and received approval to be designated an official nomination. At the end of the year, the final list of nominations and each Selected List’s Top Ten will be chosen from these titles.
The Apothecary Diaries, v.1. By Natsu Hyuuga. Art by Nekokurage. 2020. Square Enix Manga, $10.99 (9781646090709).
Maomao is a palace servant who was sold into service to the Emperor. After saving one of the Emperor’s heirs, she is promoted to food taster, where she is able to use her skills as an apothecary.
Artie and the Wolf Moon. By Olivia Stephens. Lerner Publishing Group / Graphic Universe, $16.99 (9781728420202).
Artie discovers that her mother is a werewolf and that she has abilities of her own. While attempting to discover what happened to her missing father, she comes across other supernatural enemies.
Asadora, v.3.By Naoki Urasawa. VIZ Media / VIZ Signature, $14.99 (9781974720118).
When she was young, Asa survived a devastating typhoon, but on the same day saw a mysterious footprint in the town where she lived with her family. Now older, Asa becomes involved in a mission to stop the creature who made the footprint.