Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Ink Girls by Marieke Nijkamp and Sylvia Bi

  • Ink Girls
  • by Marieke Nijkamp and Sylvia Bi
  • Greenwillow Books 
  • Publication Date: November 21, 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9780063027107

Maestra Aronne is already 11-year-old Printer Apprentice Cinzia’s hero when she gets imprisoned for publishing a story about corruption their city’s government doesn’t want told. Cinzia’s determination to free her maestra is bolstered by the companionship of the other young folks she meets while trying to evade the authorities. Together they hunt down the citizens who can clear Aronne’s name and bring the city towards the justice it deserves.

The color palette is vivid and the illustration style is expressive; both add immensely to the feel of the adventure and intrigue that unfold through the book. Nijkamp and Bi both have a firm grip on the necessity of a fictional world still offering an accurate reflection of the real world in terms of representation. Visible and invisible disabilities play a part in the narrative, variation in gender expression and sexuality are normal parts of life, all sorts of bodies are present, and a variety of ways to feel and build family are depicted throughout the suspenseful twists and turns. Ink Girls will appeal to a wide breadth of readers—intrigue and mystery abound, harrowing escapes are frequent and sometimes hilarious, making it a lovely offering for folks that enjoy a serious plot accompanied by some levity. Fans of Dog Knight and Cardboard Kingdom are sure to enjoy this cross of adventure, friendship, and the power of stories to bend the world towards justice.

-M’issa Fleming

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: October 10, 2023
Release Date: November 14, 2023

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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Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2023) Featured Review of At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp

At the End of Everything
by Marieke Nijkamp
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Imprint: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: January 25, 2022
ISBN: 9781492673156

Teens at the Hope Juvenile Treatment Center are trying to survive within the secured, heavily guarded walls of Hope, but when the guards do not return, inmates take the opportunity to escape.  When met by armed soldiers, they learn a highly contagious disease has the nation on lockdown and they must return to Hope. Survival is no longer about time to serve, but without supplies and a virus now within Hope, this group of incarcerated strangers must decide who to trust if they are going to survive.

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Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Nominations Round-Up, Winter

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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.

A-Okay. By Jarad Greene. HarperCollins Children’s Books/Harper Alley, $12.99 (9780063032859). 

Jay deals with acne, acne medicine side effects, friend drama, and figuring out romantic feelings, during a tumultuous eighth grade year.

Blackout. By Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon. HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books, $19.99 (9780063088092). 

Six distinct but connected stories highlight black resilience and love in the midst of a New York City-wide blackout.

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Nominations Round-Up, Winter

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Featured Review of The Missing Passenger by Jack Heath

The Missing Passenger Cover Art

The Missing Passenger by Jack Heath
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: February 23, 2021
ISBN: 978-1534449893

A plane with no passengers crashes in his hometown and Jarli quickly finds himself in the middle of a mystery. When he gets suspicious of the police working the case and learns that no one can be trusted, Jarli allies himself with his best option: his former bully, Doug. Together they attempt to track down the pilot and outwit a secretive criminal mastermind known as Viper.

The action grabs the reader right away with a plane crash on page one. The pacing is reminiscent of an action movie, with lots of high-risk situations, daring escapes, and chase scenes happening frequently throughout the plot. Short chapters and frequent dialogue help make this an easy read.

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Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, August 6 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp and Manuel Preitano
DC Comics
Publication Date: March 10, 2020
ISBN: 9781401290665

Barbara Gordon is a world-class hacker. Unfortunately, the skills that keep her interested in hacking lead her into dangerous situations. After Barbara survives a gunshot wound that leaves her paralyzed from the waist down, she reluctantly agrees to let her father admit her to the Arkham Center for Independence. At the Center, she will undergo physical and mental therapy and accustom herself to her new normal. Barbara, angry and afraid, starts to wonder if the sounds she hears in her room at night and the mysterious visitor she receives are all the result of her trauma. But then patients start to go missing and Barbara has suspicions that there is something more going on behind the mysterious walls of Arkham Center.

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, August 6 Edition

Booklist: Asexuality and Aromanticism in Young Adult Fiction

In February 2016, the YALSA Hub published a booklist, Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction, as a response to teens wanting to see this kind of representation in books. It was a hard list to create as there were very few books at the time with any mention of asexuality or aromanticism, and most of the representation in the books listed is minimal at best. In that list, most representation was of side characters, or the word asexual was never explicitly mentioned. Over the past three years, some exciting books for teens have been published that center the Ace/Aro experience.

Asexuality in YA Fiction

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Social Justice and Disability – Evaluating Materials and Media with Characters with Disabilities

When we talk about social justice, one of the most often overlooked populations are people with disabilities. The 2014 Disability Status Report for the United States from Cornell University reported that, “In 2014, the overall percentage (prevalence rate) of people with a disability of all ages in the US was 12.6 percent.” The National Health Institute of Mental Health reported in 2015, “Fully 20 percent—1 in 5—of children ages 13-18 currently have and/or previously had a seriously debilitating mental disorder.” These percentages are not reflected in publishing trends.

Social Justice and Disability - Evaluating Materials and Media with Characters with Disabilities

Representation of any marginalized groups accurately and sympathetically can remove some of the prejudice surrounding them, so including books and media with these characters in our collections is essential. Everyone deserves to see their experiences reflected, as well as studies have shown that reading literary fiction improves empathy. People with disabilities experience some of the highest rates of discrimination and microaggressions. Intersect being disabled with also being a person of color, First/Native Nations, LGBTQ, and/or female and the transgressions can increase. Activist and Vlogger Annie Elainey discusses here in a video Why is Disability Representation So White? #DisabilityTooWhite the many issues that people are experiencing because of lack of representation. (Also, be sure to check out her sources.)

Accurate representation can be a tricky thing, especially if it is not a story or experience that is being written by a person with a similar disability. In January, Lee & Low Books reported results of a 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey about the social makeup of the publishing and book reviewing in North America. In the industry overall, 92% identified as nondisabled, so we can assess that a good portion of the writing, editing, and reviewing books with disabled characters are being done by nondisabled folks. Alaina Leary wrote a great piece for The Establishment titled Why The Publishing Industry Can’t Get Disability Right that is also a must read.

Readers, writers, and advocates of young adult literature should be paying attention to the site Disability in Kidlit. Continue reading Social Justice and Disability – Evaluating Materials and Media with Characters with Disabilities

Diversify YA Life: Diverse Debuts

Who says the little man can’t make waves?  No one in the book business can say it, just ask the We Need Diverse Books movement. With every new year comes new authors and with 2016 we are seeing not only debuts of color but characters of color. Below is a list of YA debut authors of color and books from debuts that feature characters of color.

Diversify YA Life diverse debuts 2

Debut Authors of Color

Inspired by Indian Mythology, Maya’s future life of love is cursed with death. When Maya is forced to marry for political reasons, her new reign as the queen of Akaran soon becomes marked with magic and mystery.

Seeking a change and a little adventure, Julie travels to New Orleans with her youth group to build houses.  When she doesn’t find the change she so desperately needs with her group, she sets out on her own to discover the city when she meets and falls in love with Miles.

Reshma is a high school senior and has made it her mission in life to get into Stanford. When a literary agents seeks her out to write a novel, Reshma soon realizes that no one wants to read about a boring over achiever so she sets out to live the life of the average teenager.  Reshma discovers that there’s more to life than studying.

In this steampunk debut, Avrilis changes history and saves a life that she shouldn’t have saved and she finds herself a fugitive in two different worlds.

Taylor’s rep goes from ice queen to the girl who gets around when she’s found drunk and in the bed of the school’s bad boy.  In order to reclaim her good rep, she convinces the bad boy to pretend to be her boyfriend and not just another notch on his belt.


Joss Byrd is just trying to please a demanding director and an overbearing mother in the glamorous world that is Hollywood.

Latoya Williams is a black girl in an all white school and makes a wish to make her life easier and to be white.  Find out what happens when Latoya’s wish comes true.

Paloma High School is shrouded with rumors of a teacher student relationship and everyone begins to find someone to blame.

Vika and Nikolai are enchanters and they are being sought by the Ottoman Empire for political gain.  In order to find the best enchanters, the Tsar announces a duel where the losers must die.  Vika and Nikolai see this as an opportunity of varied reasons but what will happen when they fall in love knowing that they both can’t survive?

After the murder of Sefia’s parents, she’s sent to live with her aunt until her aunt is taken.  Armed with survival and combat skills, Sefia sets out to find her aunt and the answers surrounding her father’s murder.

Set in Victorian London, Rose sets out to find her missing sister and discovers that they both might possess special powers.

Continue reading Diversify YA Life: Diverse Debuts

Diverse YA Books from BEA

I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend BEA (Book Expo America) this week in NYC since I live in NJ.  BEA will be held in Chicago next year, so I think this is the last time I’ll be going for a long time. I thought I would help those of you out who are going – or not going – by highlighting some of the diverse YA books available as ARCs that you might want to be on the lookout for. The need for more diversity in youth literature is ongoing, led largely by the We Need Diverse Books campaign. The following list of books and their descriptions are taken directly from SLJ’s BEA Guide to ARCs & Signings. 

Photo May 25, 4 48 16 PMLizard Radio by Pat Schmatz (Candlewick, 9/8/15, ages 14 & up)

In a futuristic society run by an all-powerful Gov, a bender teen on the cusp of adulthood has choices to make that will change her life – and maybe the world by the author of Blue Fish.



Photo May 25, 4 25 32 PMThe Bamboo Sword by Margi Preus. (Abrams, 9/15/15, ages 10-14)

This is a companion book to Preus’s 2011 Newbery Honor Book Heart of a Samurai. In 1853 in Japan, Yoshi, a Japanese boy who dreams of someday becoming a samurai is taken up by Manjiro and becomes his servant and secret watchdog. Meanwhile, Jack, a cabin boy on Commodore Matthew Perry’s USS Susquehanna, becomes separated from his American companions while on shore. When he and Yoshi cross paths, they set out on a grand adventure to get Jack back to his ship before he is discovered by the shogun’s samurai.

Photo May 25, 6 15 19 PMA Step Towards Falling by Cammie McGovern (HarperCollins, 10/13/15, ages14-17)

Sometimes the worst thing you can do is nothing at all. This honest and heartfelt novel by the author of Say What You Will follows a disabled young adult who is attacked and a fellow student who witnessed the crime but failed to act.



Photo May 25, 7 46 04 PMNot if I See You First by Eric Lindstrom (Little, Brown; 12/1/15, ages 15-18)

Parker Grant is a junior in high school who loves to run, has great friends, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind – especially when it comes to how stupid some people can be around a blind person like her. The only topic to avoid is how Parker feels about the boy who broke her heart in eighth grade…who has just transferred to her school. And as long as she can keep giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago, she’ll be just fine. Right?


Photo May 25, 8 12 04 PMSoundless by Richelle Mead (Pengiun Young Readers, 11/10/15, ages 12 & up)

Fei is from a village where there is no sound. When suddenly the villagers begin to lose their sight and their source of food, Fei, who can suddenly hear, has to save her village from darkness and starvation.  Continue reading Diverse YA Books from BEA