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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 Journalrutabaga, 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:gotham

GRAPHIC NOVEL MEMBER INTEREST GROUP PRESENTS
BEST AND WORST GRAPHIC NOVELS FOR KIDS

Best New Graphic Novels for Younger Readers (Grades K-4)
DRAGONS BEWARE!
Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre
First Second
9781596438781

HOWTOONS: TOOLS OF MASS CONSTRUCTION
Nick Dragotta, Saul Griffith, and      Ingrid Dragotta
Image
9781632151018

LEGEND OF ZELDA: LINK TO THE PAST
Shotaro Ishinomori
VIZ/Perfect Square
9781421575414

NATHAN HALE’S HAZARDOUS TALES: THE UNDERGROUD ABDUCTOR
Nathan Hale
Amulet
9781419715365

ROLLER GIRLdelilah
Victoria Jamieson
Penguin
9780803740167

Best New Graphic Novels for Older Readers (Grades 5-8)
IN REAL LIFE
Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
First Second
9781596436589

NIMONA
Noelle Stevenson
HarperCollins
9780062278234

RUTABAGA THE ADVENTURE CHEF
Eric Colossal
Amulet
9781419713804

TOMBOY: A GRAPHIC MEMOIR
Liz Prince
Zest
9781936976553

A SILENT VOICE
Yoshitoki Oima
Kodansha
9781632360564

Best Continuing Series for Younger Readers (Grades K-4)yokai
CHI’S SWEET HOME
Kanata Konami
Vertical
9781934287811

HILDA SERIES
Luke Pearson
Nobrow
9781909263178

MERMIN SERIES
Joey Weiser
Oni Press
9781934964989

POKEMON XY
Hidenori Kusaka and
Satoshi Yamamoto
VIZ/Perfect Square
9781421579801

PRINCELESS
Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin
Action Lab
9781939352545

Best Continuing Series for Older Readers (Grades 5-8)
AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER
Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru
Dark Horse
9781595828118

BLUE EXORCIST
Kazue Kato
VIZ Media
9781421540320

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS
Drew Rausch and Kate Leth
IDW
9781631402609

GOTHAM ACADEMY
Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschel
DC Comics
9781401254728

PHOEBE AND HER UNICORN: A HEAVENLY NOSTRILS CHRONICLE
Dana Simpson
Andrews McMeel
9781449446208

Worst Graphic Novels for Kids
ASSASINATION CLASSROOM
Yousei Matsui
VIZ Media
9781421576077

THE WALKING DEAD
Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard
Image
9781582406190

Graphic Novels We’re Most Looking Forward to Reading
FANTASY SPORTS
Sam Bosma
Nobrow
July 2015

HIPPOPOTAMISTER
John Patrick Green
First Second
Spring 2016

KITARO
Shigeru Mizuki
Drawn and Quarterly
Spring 2016

YO-KAI WATCH
Noriyuki Konishi
Yen/Perfect Square
November 2015

Underrated Graphic Novels That Deserve More Love
CASE CLOSED
Gosho Aoyama
VIZ Media
9781591163275

DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT
Tony Cliff
First Second
9781596438132

FANGBONE: THIRD GRADE BARBARIAN
Michael Rex
Penguin
9780399255212

THE FLYING BEAVER BROTHERS
Maxwell Eaton III
Random House
9780375864476

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Eva Volin 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.

Comments

  1. The Flying Beaver Brothers is never on our shelves at school. The kids love it!

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