Notes from the Best and Worst Graphic Novels for Kids panel at ALA
As a convener of the Graphic Novels Member Interest Group, I got to be involved in much of the graphic novel programming at the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco (of which there was a lot). The session that is quickly becoming my favorite is our Best/Worst panel, now in its second year. Last year our theme was Best and Worst Manga, which included titles for children, teens, and adults. This year we went with Best and Worst Graphic Novels for Kids. Children’s librarians, teachers, and parents are getting on board the graphic novel train and we wanted to give them some quality titles to consider.
Our panelists this year were Deb Aoki, proprietress of the review site Manga Comics Manga ; Juliette Capra from Fantastic Comics in Berkeley, CA; and Dave Roman, creator of Astronaut Academy and the webcomic StarBunny, Inc. Here’s how the hour works:
First, find some civilians. By that I mean non-librarian types—either retailers, reviewers, or subject experts. As librarians, we already read reviews in trade journals like School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, etc. Our goal with this panel is to find out what the rest of the world thinks about the titles that have been released recently, and who they think those books are for. Often what retailers are seeing, or non-library book reviewers are recommending, don’t always jibe with what we experience in library settings.
Second, set up your categories and set your panelists loose. We had seven categories this year, from Best New Graphic Novels For Younger Readers to Underrated Graphic Novels That Deserve More Love. There was a little bit of arguing over which panelist would get to present which title, but for the most part, each panelist had very different ideas about which titles were best suited for each list.
Third, set a time limit. We wanted to be sure to talk about every title on our list, so we set a timer. Each panelist had only one minute to present each title—kind of like speed dating for books. This kept the panel quick, lively, and a lot of fun for both those on the panel and those in the audience.
Below is the list we presented. One note about the Worst Graphic Novels for Kids category. There really aren’t many horrible graphic novels for kids out there right now. So our panelists chose two titles to serve as warnings. Assassination Classroom is a series that is clearly rated for older teens and up (mostly for violence), but the cover is cheerful and reminiscent of the cover on Raina Telgemeier’s book Smile. Kids are attracted to the cover, but may not be ready for the contents. The Walking Dead, on the other hand, is a place holder for all those graphic novels that inspire movies and television shows. Parents will pick up these books because they recognize the titles and hand them to their children, not realizing the books are very much not for kids. They also used this title as an opportunity to encourage libraries to not shelve all their graphic novels in one place. Children’s graphic novels belong in children’s sections, teen graphic novels in teen sections, and so on.
Here is the list as presented:
GRAPHIC NOVEL MEMBER INTEREST GROUP PRESENTS
BEST AND WORST GRAPHIC NOVELS FOR KIDS
Best New Graphic Novels for Younger Readers (Grades K-4)
Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre
HOWTOONS: TOOLS OF MASS CONSTRUCTION
Nick Dragotta, Saul Griffith, and Ingrid Dragotta
LEGEND OF ZELDA: LINK TO THE PAST
NATHAN HALE’S HAZARDOUS TALES: THE UNDERGROUD ABDUCTOR
Best New Graphic Novels for Older Readers (Grades 5-8)
IN REAL LIFE
Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
RUTABAGA THE ADVENTURE CHEF
TOMBOY: A GRAPHIC MEMOIR
A SILENT VOICE
Best Continuing Series for Younger Readers (Grades K-4)
CHI’S SWEET HOME
Hidenori Kusaka and
Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin
Best Continuing Series for Older Readers (Grades 5-8)
AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER
Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru
Drew Rausch and Kate Leth
Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschel
PHOEBE AND HER UNICORN: A HEAVENLY NOSTRILS CHRONICLE
Worst Graphic Novels for Kids
THE WALKING DEAD
Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard
Graphic Novels We’re Most Looking Forward to Reading
John Patrick Green
Drawn and Quarterly
Underrated Graphic Novels That Deserve More Love
DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT
FANGBONE: THIRD GRADE BARBARIAN
THE FLYING BEAVER BROTHERS
Maxwell Eaton III
Filed under: All Ages
About Eva Volin
Eva Volin is the Supervising Children's Librarian for the Alameda Free Library in California. She has written about graphic novels for such publications as Booklist, Library Journal, ICv2, Graphic Novel Reporter, and Children & Libraries. She has served on several awards committees including the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Michael L. Printz Award, and the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics. She served on YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee for three years and is currently serving on ALSC's Notable Books for Children committee.
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