Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Duel by Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley

Fantasy-loving Lucy starts sixth grade in the school where her popular eighth grade sister, GiGi, is a fencing champion. Lucy and GiGi have not always gotten along, but things have gotten worse between them since their fencing instructor father passed away. When GiGi purposefully trips Lucy in the cafeteria, Lucy pulls out GiGi’s foil and challenges her to a duel. Threatened with being pulled from the team, GiGi concocts a plan: she’ll tell the coach that Lucy, who hasn’t fenced since her father’s death, is trying out for the team and needs to compete against her. 

Duel explores the complexities of relationships with family and friends, bullying, and grief. GiGi struggles with perfection, while Lucy is dealing with her sister’s bullying, and both feel abandoned by their mother. Aaron Bagley’s illustrations are highly detailed and brightly colored. Duel is told in both sister’s perspectives: Lucy’s thought boxes are colored in yellow and GiGi’s in purple to help the reader distinguish between the two. Lucy and GiGi are presented as biracial and supporting characters are a variety of different skin tones and body types.

Readers who enjoy stories with sibling rivalries like Sisters by Raina Telgemeier or Twins by Varian Johnson will find much to love here. Action-filled fencing scenes will entice readers of sports comics like Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson and Swim Team by Johnny Christmas.

—Kim Keown Farnsworth

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: 16, 2024
Release Date: February 13, 2024

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2025) Feature Review: Courage to Dream: Tales of Hope in the Holocaust by Neal Shusterman

This well-designed graphic novel features five stories rooted in Jewish folklore and cultural history and set against the backdrop of the Holocaust. Using the mythology of the Jewish people in a more modern setting, it allows for a new generation to learn about what gave many the strength to survive. Each of the stories works together with vivid graphics, to tell the story of a people relying on their own culture against a stronger opponent determined to destroy them all.

Author Neal Shusterman and illustrator Andrés Vera Martínez have collaborated to create several stories that will engage readers from the first page to the last. Mixing fantasy, reality, and mythology, these stories of survival and sacrifice help show what people need to believe to survive the most horrific events. After each story, the creators include great factual information to help all who read it put names and faces to those who may have lost their lives or survived this horrific event.
Give to readers who enjoyed Impossible Escape: A True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Europe by Steve Sheinkin and Challenger Deep and Game Changer by Neal Shusterman.

Lindsay Bailey – Belfast Area High School

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Cooking with Monsters: The Beginner’s Guide to Culinary Combat by Jordan Alsaqa and Vivian Truong

  • Cooking with Monsters: The Beginner’s Guide to Culinary Combat
  • by Jordan Alsaqa and Vivian Truong
  • IDW Publishing
  • Publication Date: September 5, 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9781684059836

Cooking with Monsters takes place in a world filled with food-based monsters. Hana Ozawa and her friends are first year students at the Gourmand Academy of Culinary Combat, training to become warrior chefs. Hana faces self-doubt as her rival and love interest, Olivia, seems to be a step ahead of her, and she feels her mentor Chef Graham isn’t teaching her enough to succeed. But with the support of her friends, as well as her desire to be like the warrior chef who saved her as a child, Hana is determined to get through this first year.

Alsaqa incorporates action, adventure, and romance to provide a fast-paced and fun read. The colorful palette and anime-style art complement the action-packed storyline. Truong’s art style, mixed with Alsaqa’s descriptions, emphasizes the flavor and spices of the food. A well-developed and diverse set of characters will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Fans of Delicious in Dungeon will enjoy Alsaqa’s monster fighting and cooking graphic novel with a similar style of humor. This is also a perfect book for fans who like action-packed storylines and colorful illustrations such as The Witch’s Throne. If you are a foodie fan of such books as Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma then you will enjoy the food displayed in this book. If you are a fan of My Hero Academia then you may enjoy Cooking With Monsters as they share similar heroes’ journeys.

-Kyler Wesner

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: December 12, 2023
Release Date: February 13, 2024

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

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2024) Featured Review: Mascot by Charles Waters and Traci Sorell

  • Mascot
  • by Charles Waters and Traci Sorell
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge
  • Release date: Sept 5, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781623543808

As part of their 8th grade Honors English class, students are asked to consider whether their mascot, an “Indian Brave”, is appropriate and whether it should be changed.  Their assignment: write a research paper and be prepared to debate the topic as partners in class.

Told from the perspectives of the students in the class, their teacher, and community stakeholders, this provides a nuanced discussion of a timely and controversial topic written by #ownvoices authors. Engaging writing with ample white space allows the plot to flow well.  Student voices and perspectives are distinct and realistic, but the language used makes it accessible to teens on the younger end of the age range.
Students who are athletes or are passionate fans, as well as those readers who want to better understand diverse perspectives will connect with this books. Hand this title to young social justice advocates who liked Miles Morales: Suspended by Jason Reynolds or those who want to think deeply about identity and liked Rain Rising by Courtne Comrie.

-Melissa Palmer

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: February 21, 2023
Release Date: May 23, 2023
Release Date: September 12, 2023

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.

The Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee appreciates teen feedback as members evaluate the nominated titles. Teen librarians are encouraged to share the List of Potential Nominees under consideration with their patrons and solicit feedback using the link: https://bit.ly/BFYA24TeenFB

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2024) Featured Review: Miles Morales: Suspended by Jason Reynolds

  • Miles Morales Suspended: A Spider-Man Novel
  • by Jason Reynolds
  • Narrated by Guy Lockard and Nile Bullock
  • Simon and Schuster Audio
  • Publication Date: May 2, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781797145600

Miles must serve a day of in-school suspension as a result of the events in the previous book, where he took down The Wardens and pushed back against his racist history teacher. It seems that his spidey sense is on the fritz again, but Miles is having trouble dodging his detention teacher and figuring out what is happening. Using his powers and sleuthing, Miles determines that super termites have begun attacking the school, specifically the history books with black and brown histories. While these evil termites must be stopped, Miles is going to need to find a way to do that without extending his suspension.

Yet again, Jason Reynolds’s mastery elevates this superhero storyline and plays with the setting by reducing the timeline of events to one day. Narrators Lockard and Bullock expertly match Reynolds’s prowess by providing a layered audio reading of this story. The audible “bzzzs” and “whams” add to the superhero world and Miles’s voice shows how this story matters even beyond the Spiderverse. Even if bugs make you squeamish, this audiobook has so much more to offer. Both fans of superhero comics and Jason Reynolds’s other works will find something awesome in this title.

-Sarah Carpenter

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 (#GGN2024) Featured Review: The Moth Keeper by K. O’Neill

  • The Moth Keeper
  • by K. O’Neill
  • Publisher: Random House Graphic
  • Publication Date: March 7, 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9780593182260

In The Moth Keeper Anya becomes an apprentice to the Moth Keeper for her nocturnal village. Generations ago, the Moon-Spirit gifted her village with the Moon-Moths that pollinate the Night-Flower which grants them blessings that allow the villagers to thrive. The Moth Keeper’s duty is to watch over the Moon-Moths each night in solitude and guide and protect them. As Anya struggles with the isolation during the cold nights and fulfilling her duty, she grows curious about the sun and what daytime is like. Will Anya be able to keep her vow to protect the Moon-Moths and her village?

The Moth Keeper is a magical coming of age story that beautifully illustrates the pressure of living up to expectations and struggling to carry a burden on your own as well as learning to rely on others. The themes of finding yourself and discovering a sense of belonging within a community is something that many can relate to. The art has an ethereal quality that matches the tone of the story and world building. The color palette includes a wide variety of purples and oranges that express the contrast of the desert setting during the night and daytime beautifully.

The Moth Keeper will appeal to fans of magic and fantasy as well as heartfelt coming-of-age stories. Fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s works such as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro will appreciate the whimsical art style and world building of The Moth Keeper. Video game players who enjoy games such as Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Celeste will enjoy Anya’s journey of self-discovery and growth as well as the beautiful illustrations of nature. Readers who enjoy witchy stories such as Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Tidesong by Wendy Xu will likely enjoy The Moth Keeper as well.

—Kaleigh Oldham

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: September 6, 2022
Release Date: October 25, 2022
Release Date: November 8, 2022
Release Date: February 7, 2023

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.

2016 Middle Grade Titles with Teen Appeal

It can be easy to for me to forget that teens are some of the most dexterous readers out there. They can jump from reading adult novels one day, back to a young adult novel the next, and then have no qualms about picking up a book that we consider middle grade after that. I often feel that I need to be pushing older teens to move onward from young adult titles to adult titles, assuming that is what they are “growing into,” but will be surprised when one says how they have just read Sara Pennypacker’s Pax and loved it. Some teens stay loyal to the authors that meant so much to them in the grade school years, authors like Christopher Paul Curtis and Kate DiCamillo, and others will continue to read anything by Rick Riordan, no matter how old they get. Teens can still have an interest in titles that we assume they would feel are “babyish,” but for them can be a break from angst or romance, and to them are just a great story.

We have some great resources when we are looking for adult books for teen appeal. We have YALSA’s Alex Award and their annual vetted list of books and School Library Journal’s column Adult Books for Teens, but we rarely see resources out there for younger books that might have a place in a teen’s reading pile. Here is a list of recent titles, titles that can be both successful with both a 5th-grader and an 11-grader.

middle-grade-re

Realistic Fiction

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

This story starts and ends with a gunshot. Ever since the night his father shot a gun at him and his mother, Castle Cranshaw left running and hasn’t stopped since. Now in seventh-grade, he’s nicknamed himself Ghost after coming upon a track tryout, and without officially entering, taking on one of the most elite runners and winning. Now he is being courted by the coach to join the track team, and learns that you don’t always have to run away from things, but can run towards things too. Track is one of those sports that many kids and teens participate in, but it is rarely the subject of novels. Fans of Friday Night Lights with love this coach in this as much as they do Coach Taylor. This is a character-driven and plot-driven novel with many appeals, but teens that especially love a Gatsby-esque novel laden with imagery and themes will find so much to pore over in this short, but rich, novel.

The Best Man by Richard Peck

This story starts and ends with a wedding. One that is a complete train-wreck, and one that couldn’t be more perfect. This coming-of-age novel is full of snarky humor and hilarious episodes that allow you to see the world of adults through a younger generation’s eyes. Unlike Tom Sawyer and Holden Caulfield, Archer Magill is clueless to the world around him, and his best friend Lynette is always having to explain life’s nuances. Teen’s who have appreciated David Sedaris’ childhood memoir essays will feel at home in how family can be hilarious and still be the best parts of our world.

Booked by Kwame Alexander

Soccer is the backdrop to this coming-of-age novel. Nick Hall, whose father makes him study the dictionary and turn in homework to him, would love to escape the world of words and books. Nick thinks he has the world all-figured out. He lives for soccer, and both he and his best-friend are getting to play in the Dallas Dr. Pepper Open, but on different teams. Just as things seem to be going his way, especially with his crush paying a little of attention to him, bombs start to drop–his mother announces she is leaving to follow her dream of training race horses, but in a different state, and he get appendicitis right before the big tournament. Teens will appreciate how messy life can be, and appreciate those little moments when you realize that you’ve gotten it all wrong.

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

At the start of their eighth grade year both Lily and Dunkin are trying to establish new identities for themselves. Everyone sees Lily as Timothy, but she is ready for the real her to be known, only her father isn’t ready for the the transition. Dunkin, has just moved to Lily’s Florida town to live with his Grandmother, and would love to leave his old name “Norbert”and some painful secrets in the past. This middle grade novel has strong characterization of two young teens navigating their identities. Older teens will identify with the work it takes to let others see the real you, and the hope they will accept you for who you truly are.

middle-grade-fantasy

Fantasy

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

When Peter’s father is heading off to war, he is forced to abandon his pet fox in the woods. Unable to handle the separation, Peter runs away to find his beloved pet, Pax. Told through alternating perspective between Peter and Pax, this book is a sensitive look at grief, man’s relationship with animals, and the marks of war.

When the Sea Turned Silver by Grace Lin

The magic of story will transport readers into a new time and place filled with adventure. Pinmei has to find the Luminous Stone to rescue her grandmother who has been kidnapped by the emperor. Teens that love books of fairytales retold, with love that feeling as Lin weaves new stories that have that classic feeling.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

Young Alice lives in a world that values both magic and color, and she unfortunately seems to be lacking both. She hasn’t seem to exhibit any magical powers similar to those in her community, and she was born with no color in her skin or hair. After her father has been missing for several years, she hears that he might be in the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, and she sets out to find him. Teens will be drawn to this Whimsical, gothic fairy tale with a narrator voice similar to Series of Unfortunate Events.

Goblin’s Puzzle; Being the Adventures of A Boy With No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew S. Chilton

Teen fans of Douglas Adams or Monty Python will love the humorous writing and twists and turns in this adventure. This follows a slave boy with no name as he tries to rescue a princess and a peasant (both named Alice), and discover what his destiny is. He seeks the help of Mennofar, a tiny green goblin, even though he can’t be trusted as everyone knows goblins are sneaky. Continue reading 2016 Middle Grade Titles with Teen Appeal

School Library Journal 2016 Day of Dialog Recap

SLJDOD2016_SLJHeader_900x250Each year, School Library Journal presents a Day of Dialog, which allows librarians, educators, and library students the chance to come together and learn the latest about childrens and teens publishing trends and upcoming releases.  This was the first time I have attended a Day of Dialog and I would definitely recommend future attendance to anyone who works with children and/or teens promoting books and reading. Check out my recap of the middle school/high school panels and speakers from the day! Continue reading School Library Journal 2016 Day of Dialog Recap

Comics for Tweens

Does the tween in your life or your library love comics? Here are a few that need to be on your radar and will make your kids go absolutely nuts.

Awkward

Peppi Torres is just trying to survive her first days middle school. Suddenly she finds herself being both the teased and the teaser, and in the middle of a club war! Can she figure out how to make middle school bearable for both herself and those around her? Continue reading Comics for Tweens