Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2024) Featured Review: The Spirit of Denendeh, Vol. 1: A Blanket of Butterflies by Richard Van Camp, Scott B. Henderson, and Donavan Yaciuk

  • The Spirit of Denendeh, vol. 1: A Blanket of Butterflies
  • by Richard Van Camp, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk
  • Highwater Press
  • Publication Date: September 6, 2022
  • ISBN-13: 9781774920404

In Fort Smith, NWT in Canada, a Japanese man from Nagasaki, Shinobu, finds his family’s samurai armor at a museum, but the sword is missing. He makes an attempt to reclaim the sword from a local criminal, “Benny the Bank,” but is left for dead after a brutal fight. A young Dene boy, Sonny, brings Shinobu back to his Ethsi (grandmother in Tłı̨chǫ) and the two save his life. As he heals, Shinobu learns about Dene culture as well as a way to retrieve his sword without more violence. 

This graphic novel, while short in length, does an excellent job of conveying historical fact, action, and the importance of reconciliation and restitution. Within the story, the history of the atomic bomb on the Dene Tłı̨chǫ and other Indigenous Canadians is explored as well as the impact it has to this day, augmented by an essay at the end of the book. Based on the real-life story of samurai armor found in the Northern Lights Museum, this story explores one possibility for the armor’s presence. Back matter in the book presents a likely theory of the armor’s origin relating to Canada’s history toward Japanese Canadians in World War II. This graphic novel is not all history, though, and action sequences are enhanced by the addition of color in this new edition. The heart of the story is the representation of Dene Laws with regards to respect and love; Shinobu’s sword is not returned through the use of violence, but rather through respect and empathy, even between enemies. 

This graphic novel should do well with readers of other Dene graphic literature, such as Kwändǖr by Cole Pauls or the collection of Indigenous stories, This Place: 150 Years Retold. Fans of the historical manga, The Elusive Samurai by Yusei Matsui, will also enjoy the present-day portrayal of samurai history found here. Finally, this is an excellent resource to share with teens who want to learn more after watching Oppenheimer, as it provides an Indigenous perspective of the history and harm of the atomic bomb that teens may be unfamiliar with.

-Rachel Johannigmeier

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: October 18, 2022
Release Date: January 3, 2023
Release Date: April 4, 2023
Release Date: May 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.

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) 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.

The Apothecary Diaries, v.2. By Natsu Hyuuga. Art by Nekokurage. Square Enix Manga, $10.99 (9781646090716). 

Maomao’s adventures as the official royal test taster continue! In this volume, Maomao faces the intrigues of the royal court while dealing with poisoning attempts against the Emperor’s wives.

Asadora! v.4. By Naoki Urasawa. VIZ Media / VIZ Signature, $14.99 (9781974722969). 

A lighthouse has been attacked by something resembling a giant creature, and Asa is called in by the government to find the monster before the Tokyo Olympics. With the monster’s reappearance, Asa continues the search for her family.

Blue Flag, v.8. By KAITO. VIZ Media, $12.99 (9781974720941). 

The conclusion of Blue Flag sees almost everyone’s secrets revealed and concludes the main characters’ romantic arcs.

Blue Giant Omnibus, v.1-2. By Shinichi Ishizuka. 2020. Seven Seas Entertainment, $19.99 (9781645058649). 

Dai is graduating soon, and while his friends are all cramming for exams, he spends every day playing his sax. Dai is going to be the world’s greatest jazz musician, and to be the best, he will need more than just passion.

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Nominations Round-Up, Winter

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration by Frank Abe, Tamiko Nimura, Ross Ishikawa, and Matt Sasaki

We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration by Frank Abe, Tamiko Nimura, Ross Ishikawa, and Matt Sasaki
Chin Music Press
Publication Date: May 18, 2021
ISBN: 9781634059763

We Hereby Refuse illustrates the experiences of three individuals—Jim Akutsu, Hiroshi Kashiwagi, and Mitsuye Endo—caught up in the US government’s decision during World War II to treat Japanese Americans as traitors. Betrayed and wronged by their country, they fight to keep their families together while struggling against physical and psychological violence and misleading information. However, their decision to challenge the loyalty oath contract causes problems within the US government and the Japanese American community. The choices they make will lead them to life-altering consequences.

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration by Frank Abe, Tamiko Nimura, Ross Ishikawa, and Matt Sasaki

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of A Girl Called Echo, v.4: Road Allowance Era by Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk

A Girl Called Echo Cover Art

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. 

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of A Girl Called Echo, v.4: Road Allowance Era by Katherena Vermette, Scott B. Henderson, and Donovan Yaciuk

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Nominations Round-Up, Fall

Great Graphic Novels Roundup Art
Due to the large number of nominees, not all titles are shown here. See full list below.

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.

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Nominations Round-Up, Fall

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan

Let's Talk About It Cover Art

Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan
Random House Graphic / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: March 9, 2021
ISBN: 9781984893147

Written by a married team of professional cartoonists who focus on sex education, Let’s Talk About It is an open and honest graphic novel guide to sex, consent, relationships, and everything in between and provides teens—or anyone who hasn’t had the chance to examine themselves or their relationships with others fully—an intelligent and easy-to-understand jumping off point to explore. The bright and colorful illustrations show a diverse group of characters representing various body types, genders, and abilities, covering topics which include not just consent, sex, and gender, but also consideration, boundaries, communication, and friendship-things that are needed in order to build positive and lasting relationships, romantic or otherwise.  

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2022) Featured Review of Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan