These are just a few of my favorite graphic narratives of 2013 (and a couple from 2012) — from those for fairly young readers to those only for adults.
I already wrote about Boxers and Saints (the two volume set that really must be read together… and I recommend to read Boxers first, Saints second.) And I also greatly enjoyed Avatar: The Promise and look forward to the second storyline The Search (2013). V Is for Vendetta is a GN classic and richly deserving. Also almost caught up with the Chew series — read #4, #5, and just finished #6 last week. These new story lines just get more and more incredibly “unappetizing” in a most deliciously gross way by these two twisted and talented minds! Panel after panel of shocking new developments and gory images — definitely not for those whose minds crave redemption and hope…
Now.. onto those that I loved but didn’t have time to write about in 2013:
|Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party
by Nathan Hale
What I love most about this detailed historical account of the somewhat gruesome chapter of the American westward expansion history is Hale’s mindfulness of his young readers and their potential emotional reactions to some of the events along the way. The executioner’s extreme sensitivity toward harmed animals and the surprising nonchalance toward human cannibalism added not only humor but relief.
|Mouse Bird Snake Wolf
by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean
This is in between a picture book and a graphic narrative — it’s a poetic allegory, addressing our inner selves. Since I am a huge fan of Dave McKean’s, it’s not surprising that I adore this book!
by Jordan Mechner, illustrated by LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland
I had the pleasure and the privilege to read, advocate for, and annotate this powerful tome as a finalist on the CYBILS YA Graphic Novels slate. It’s historical fiction at its finest: Mechner was compelled to tell an emotionally charged hidden tale of the every day people unrecorded in history texts (in this case, low-ranking Templar Knights). Readers are treated to an ensemble of well drawn (both in words and illustrations) characters set against a sweeping historical landscape and a bitter-sweet story of loyalty, romance, and the tragic futility against the powers that be.
by Matt Phelan
The tone of the text, gentle, nostalgic, reverent to a time and an art form from the past, is perfectly matched by Phelan’s pastoral paintings that capture both the setting of bygone days and the many emotions experienced by our narrator, expressed by aptly drawn facial features and gestures. Definitely a gem.
by Lucy Knisley
This is an energetic, often humorous, and delicious memoir of a new adult — and I do think it is for new or older adults — with a “looking back” and learning something from past experiences quality. Not saying that I don’t think some teens will find the topics (food and cooking and making art and growing up/college life) quite attractive! It is highly enjoyable and leaves a lasting impression.
|Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Gentleman
by Tony Cliff
I fell instantly in love with this book! The art is exquisite in a very traditional, high-end graphic novel fashion, the storyline is exciting and entertaining, and the two delightful main characters Delilah and Selim have great chemistry as pals in a series of misadventures. There is a bit of a gender-stereotype reversal here: Delilah is the dare-devil, with martial arts training and an appetite for dangers while Selim is the solemn gentleman who is courteous and practical but couldn’t help following Delilah on all the risky businesses. I just adored it!
by Greg Ruth
The art is stronger in this strange fantasy/horror tale than the actual storyline which could have been developed neater with more convincing turns of events or final resolutions. However, the black and white artwork is so gorgeous and breathtaking to behold that I was just happy to witness scene after scene visually. I do think there will be many young readers appreciating the slightly nightmarish but ultimately fun and safe tale.
|War Brothers: The Graphic Novel
by Sharon E. McKay, illustrated by Daniel LaFrance
The harrowing, extremely hard to swallow story based on true events involving the terrorist group led by war criminal Joseph Kony that continues to plague young boys in Uganda is important to share with any teen reader! It does not hurt that the artwork for this graphic narrative edition of McKay’s realistic fiction absolutely captures the range of emotions and the lush and dangerous backdrop.
|Monster on the Hill
by Rob Harrell
This is a story to be shared in families with children from ages 4 to 7! The scenarios are just outlandish enough to tickle everyone’s funny bones — while townspeople from village to village are proud to have their own effective Monsters, one village sorely misses the time when they had a scary monster! So the quest is on to cure the Monster on the Hill of its lack of terrorizing abilities or desires! Adorable (yes, adorable) monsters, a befuddled scientist/doctor, and a wiser than his age little boy are indeed wonderful ingredients for this romp. Oh, and the cartoony but detailed artwork definitely works to enhance the reading experience.
|Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite
by Barry Deutsch
I was so thrilled to find that this second installment of Mirka’s story is even more enjoyable than the first one. I wrote the annotation for CYBILS:
Mirka– the 11-year-old, troll fighting, singularly charming Orthodox Jewish girl–appears in her second, even more daring adventure in How Mirka Met a Meteorite, where she has to face a much more dangerous adversary: her own dark side, which manifests as a duplicate of herself. This “copy” is better groomed, more talented, and self-assured, and it means to stay on and obliterate Mirka’s existence. Deutsch and team deliver a humorous and action-packed tale with theatrical facial expressions, effective uses of varied panel designs, and bold strokes and skilled shading techniques.
And there are more stellar aspects to mention: this is a book with a great message that is delivered in such a way that does not feel forced or dryly didactic. Mirka’s experiences will speak to many young readers and give them strengths to be the perhaps “less than perfect” but “full of individual flavors” selves!
by James Turner, illustrated by Jorge Monlongo
I have to admit that I was very skeptical when I received the review copy of this slim volume — it definitely has a supermarket-cheap-impulse-buy-at-the-check-out counter look. But since I loved all the short videos imported from Japan of these weird “beandogs,” I decided to give it a try. And boy were the stories FUN! None of the three stories is really all that original: the Kitchen is Haunted, a Mameshiba is punished for being too self-centered and has to learn a lesson to in humility and compassion, and the magic of stories sucks a host of beandogs into the storybook for them to battle the monsters. But the cute creatures and the often silly remarks just make me smile (or laugh out loud.) So glad it didn’t disappoint!