Archive for Graphic Novels

My Favorite YA Books of 2016


And … we’re back!  To celebrate the start of the new year, here’s a new in-depth episode featuring a list of my favorite YA books of 2016.  Here you’ll find lots of titles that made many other top 10 lists, as well as other books that didn’t make as many lists but which I thought were awesome and which definitely deserve some love!

Here are the titles I selected as my favorites of 2016.  Listen to the episode to find out why!


Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

With Malice by Eileen Cook

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Exit, Pursued By a Bear by E.K. Johnston

When We Collided by Emery Lord

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

Breakfast With Neruda by Laura Moe

The Call by Peadar O’Guilin

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace


How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman with adaptation & artwork by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

The Gods Lie by Kaori Ozaki

Paper Girls 1 by Brian K Vaughan

I Hate Fairyland Vol 1 by Skottie Young


Diary of a Tokyo Teen: A Japanese-American Girl Travels to the Land of Trendy Fashion, High-Tech Toilets and Maid Cafes by Christine Mari Inzer

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings

Ten Days a Madwoman by Deborah Noyes


Booktalk: The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang

The Shadow Hero cover

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang is a great choice both for reluctant readers and for grownups who need to be convinced about the value of graphic novels.

In my booktalk, I mainly promote the connection between Hank and his mother.  But there’s a lot more going on in this story.  There’s the historic setting.  It’s a great choice for educators looking to get some diversity on their shelves.  It’s a book about superheroes and what it means to be a superhero.  Hank has a romantic interest in a woman who might be one of The Bad Guys (isn’t that ALWAYS the way?)  And it’s also laugh-out-loud funny at times.  Share this one with the teens in your life, and with the librarians, teachers, and parents who are looking for great books to share with the teens in their lives.

Note — there is one point that I’m not 100% clear on, and that’s the exact time frame for this story.  I’ve seen it referred to in reviews as taking place in the 1930’s or 1940’s.  The story does span a number of years, but since this character is based on one who originally appeared in a 1940’s comic book I chose to say the 1940’s … but I could be wrong.  In any case, feel free to adjust as necessary!


It’s the 1940’s in Chinatown, and Hank just wants to live a normal life and work in his parents’ grocery store.  But his mother wants him to be a superhero instead, and she won’t take no for an answer.

The problem started when his mother was rescued by a superhero.  You see, her life was in danger because a bank robber was holding a gun to her head.  And then a superhero called the Anchor of Justice flew in to help, and he saved her life.  She was so impressed by this that she decided that her son should be a superhero, too!

This is the story of Hank, also known as the Green Turtle.  It’s the story of a boy who wants to be just like his father, living a quiet, ordinary life.  It’s the story of a boy who doesn’t realize how much strength he really has, and how much potential he has to be much MORE than ordinary.  It’s the story of a boy who becomes a superhero … even if it isn’t his idea.

Revisiting Graphic Novels

Here are some of the best graphic novels I’ve read since last year’s episode!

Nothing Can Possibly Go WrongHyperbole and a HalfShackleton

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Battling Boy by Paul Pope

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll [featuring the short story “His Face All Red”]

Line of Fire: Diary of an Unknown Soldier

Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign by Takaya Kagami

Booktalk: Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign by Takaya Kagami

Seraph of the End cover

Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign by Takaya Kagami is one of the best mangas I’ve read in a long time.  It has a great combination of external and internal conflicts.  We spend a lot of time inside a 12-year-old boy’s head, learning why it’s so hard for him to trust other people and why he reacts so badly to the idea of a family.  But we also get lots of action in the form of vampires, and there are plenty of exciting scenes that will keep readers on the edge of their seats!


In the future, a mysterious virus kills most of the Earth’s population.  It kills the adults but leaves the children alive. With all of the adults gone, human society starts falling apart.

And that’s when the vampires take over.

The vampires capture the human children and bring them underground.  They let the children live, but only to be used as a permanent blood supply.  Yuichiro is a 12-year-old boy who hates vampires.  He dreams of having enough power to fight and defeat them, which is almost impossible because vampires are so much stronger than humans.  But before Yuichiro can defeat the vampires first he must escape the underground city and find his way back to the human world.  He doesn’t know it yet, but the human world is a lot different than he remembered, and a lot different than he expected.

Booktalk: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods cover

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll is kind of difficult to categorize.  It’s definitely a collection of short stories that are all dark and haunting in different ways.  The stories feel like fairy tales and are sometimes loosely connected to fairy tales, but they also stand alone on their own.  And the collection could be categorized as a cross between a graphic novel and a picture book for older readers.  But no matter how you categorize it, this is a great book to share with readers who are ready to try some deeply chilling stories!


There was a girl, and there was a man.  The girl’s father told her that she had to marry that man, and so she did.  And then she traveled by horse and carriage to the man’s enormous home, where there were servants, and silk dresses, and beautiful jewelry, and more food than she could eat.

During the day the house seems perfectly fine, but every night, she hears the sound of someone singing.  Sometimes it’s coming from the walls, sometimes from the floor, or the stairs, or the ceiling.  But each night the song is the same. Each night the voice sings that she married her love in the springtime, but by summer he’d locked her away.  Each night the voice sings about what her husband did to her, and each night the girl lies awake in bed, listening to the song, filled with terror and dread.  But even though she’s afraid, the girl is determined to find out what happened to this woman and to understand why her voice is haunting this house.

“A Lady’s Hands are Cold” is just one of the dark and chilling stories in
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Booktalk: Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Zita the Spacegirl cover

I’d never read Zita the Spacegirl before this week, but I’ve been hearing good things about it for a while.  I was trying to familiarize myself with the books on our summer reading lists, and Zita was an easy choice for me!  It’s a graphic novel, it’s a quick read, and it reminds me both of The Wizard of Oz and Kibuishi’s Amulet graphic novel series.  Check out Ben Hatke’s website for more information about Zita the Spacegirl as well as his other books.


Joseph told her not to push the red button.  The button was part of a device that they found inside a meteor which had fallen from outer space and landed in a field.  Joseph told her not to push the red button, but Zita was feeling curious, and she didn’t think it would do any harm.  So she pushed that red button, and after a moment a bright light suddenly appeared before them.  But this wasn’t exactly a light — it was really more of a doorway.  And through that doorway came something that Zita and Joseph had never seen before.  They couldn’t even see the whole creature.  All they could see were its long dark tentacles … just before those tentacles grabbed Joseph and pulled him through to the other side.

Joseph has been pulled into another world, a place filled with creatures more strange and astounding than he or Zita could ever have imagined.  When Zita follows Joseph into that world, she will meet many of these creatures, and she’ll have to try to figure out which ones she can trust.  She’ll have to figure out who’s good, who’s evil, and who’s somewhere in between.  She’ll also have to figure out who can help her find and rescue Joseph, and who can help both of them get back home to planet Earth.

Booktalk: Picture This by Lynda Barry

Picture This cover

When I was growing up, I used to enjoy reading Lynda Barry’s Marlys comic strip in The Village Voice.  Then years later as a librarian I encountered several books of hers that were tangentially related to those old comic strips but harder to categorize — What it Is and Picture This.

When I share Picture This with classes, I mark off several pages showing different artistic styles and techniques with sticky notes before I start, and then as I talk about the book I hold up those pages for the class to see.  I think what I like the most about this book is that it’s inspiring without being intimidating, so that even those of us who can’t draw much more than stick figures can still use it for good advice.


Picture This by Lynda Barry is a book by an artist who’s been drawing cartoons for years.  It’s a book about the creative process, and it’s also a very UNUSUAL book, so I’m going to show you some of the pages so you can see just how unusual it is.  Picture This is a book about drawing, and painting, and cartooning.  Parts of this book are told as a story, about a girl who wants to be an artist and a near-sighted monkey who is going to inspire her.  It’s about making art in different ways, like drawing or painting or making cut-paper mosaics.  Or creating pictures using dots.  Or scribbling.  Or using brushes to paint.  Or making collages out of old photographs.  Or experimenting with how to create portraits.  Or creating a story with characters who seem so real that it’s almost like they created themselves.  Or re-using different kinds of paper to create new kinds of art.

If you’re an artist, if you think you might like to be an artist, or you’ve always wondered how we draw, WHAT we draw, and WHY we draw, then Picture This is definitely worth checking out.

Booktalk: Jane, the Fox & Me by Fanny Britt

Jane the Fox and Me cover

I’ve been a fan of graphic novels for years, but I usually booktalk them like standard fiction books and keep the covers closed.  However, Jane, the Fox & Me by Fanny Britt was a very unique case.   That’s because the book is larger than most, sturdier than most, and the artwork by Isabelle Arsenault is more unique than most.  So I just HAD to highlight the artwork in my booktalk.

When I’m introducing each of the characters at the beginning of the booktalk, I’m pointing to each of their faces on the cover.  When I say, “This is what Helene’s world looks like in real life,” I’m holding the book open to pages 14-15.  These are black and white drawings showing Helene looking unhappy and alone, both inside at school and outside at a bus stop.  And then when I say, “But THIS is what the world looks like whenever she starts reading Jane Eyre,” I’m holding the book open to pages 28-29.  These pages show examples of how the artwork shifts to a more colorful and detailed style, as Jane is hugged by a little girl in one scene and speaks to Mr. Rochester in another.

Oh, and in an entertaining side-note, when I was holding up those pages during a recent class visit, a sharp-eyed seventh grader pointed at the book and shouted, “Hey, I see the fox!”  Because yes, there is a fox in Mr. Rochester’s study that is a visual foreshadowing of the fox that Helene will meet in real life.


This is Helene.  She’s having a really bad year at school.  The girls who were her friends last year have decided that they’re not going to be her friends any more.  They’ve also decided that she’s fat and ugly, and they make fun of her whenever they can.

This is the fox.  Helene will meet him later.

This is Jane, and she’s the main character in a book called Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  When Helene is feeling sad and lonely, she starts reading this book.  And then suddenly, whenever Helene starts reading, her whole world changes.

This is what Helene’s world looks like in real life.  This is the world in which she’s sad and lonely, in which the girls who used to be her friends now make fun of her.

But THIS is what the world looks like whenever she starts reading Jane Eyre.  Now Jane was plain, and poor, and she didn’t have any friends, either.  But still, she found love, and that love changed the direction of her life.

The more Helene reads Jane Eyre, the more her own life is going to change.

Graphic Novels For Kids, Teens, and Grownups

Robot Dreams coverJane the Fox and Me coverSaturn Apartments cover

Here’s the list of all the graphic novels I discussed in this episode:
Watchmen by Alan Moore
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
Confessions of a Blabbermouth by Mike Carey and Louise Carey
Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima
The Color Trilogy by Dong Hwa Kim
Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel
Revolver by Matt Kindt
Saturn Apartments by Hisae Iwaoka
Gareth Hinds adaptations – Beowulf, The Odyssey, Romeo & Juliet
Rick Geary true crime series (A Treasury of Victorian Murder and A Treasury of XXth Century Murder)
George O’Connor’s Olympians series
Peanut by Ayun Halliday
Jane, the Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt

Booktalk: Maus: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman

Maus cover

As many of you already know, when I choose which booktalks to share with you I alternate between newer titles that I’ve just finished reading and older books from my (ever-diminishing) backlog of booktalks I’ve written over the years.  Today I picked a title from my backlog, and man, is this a classic!

Yes, Maus is written in a graphic novel format, so some libraries shelve it in that section.  But since the focus is on WWII and the Holocaust and it’s at least MOSTLY true, some libraries shelve it in the history section.  And then again, it’s sort of a biography of one man mixed with the autobiography of another.  But still, it’s written within a fictional / allegorical construct.  It’s also a story within a story, and while I always find myself deeply moved by the story that Vladek shares, I also find myself empathazing with his son who’s recording that story.  And so it goes; Maus is a multi-layered story that can speak to many readers at many levels, and both adults and teens can benefit from reading and discussing it.

Maus: My Father Bleeds History tells the first half of Art Spiegelman’s profoundly moving story.  It continues with part 2, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book And Here My Troubles Began.  You can read the two parts separately, or as The Complete Maus.  And if you want to delve even further into this story, then you should also check out MetaMaus, which was released in 2011.


Art Spiegelman interviewed his father Vladek, a Holocaust survivor, about his experiences before, during, and after WWII.  Vladek told his story to his son, who recorded their conversations on paper and on a tape recorder.  Then he filtered the story through his own mind, and came up with Maus, a graphic novel in which Jews were mice and Germans were cats.  This is a story filled with sadness and death.  A story about a community of Jews who fought to survive, even as their rights were taken away one by one.

This is a story told by a man who speaks into his son’s tape recorder, remembering things he’d rather forget.  A man who is still haunted by the thought of those who didn’t make it out alive.  This is also the story of the man doing the recording, because hearing about all of his father’s experiences helped him to really understand his father for the first time.