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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
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Underrepresented genres: Graphic Novels worth nominating?

With just a one day left for December Heavy Medal nominations, I’m in my usual mad scramble to make sure I haven’t missed anything. As Steven kindly reminds us, we can’t read all the books! However, one category I know I’ve been slacking in is graphic novels and we only have two titles nominated so far: THE LEGEND OF AUNTIE PO and A SHOT IN THE ARM.

Both of these titles were on SLJ’s Best Graphic Novels of 2021 list. And here’s a few more that are on my “maybe nominate” short list.

ALLERGIC by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter

On her tenth birthday, Maggie is excited to get a dog until she learns she’s allergic. When coming to terms, with her allergies Maggie learns about herself and her place in the family. The interpretation of themes and multiple layers of family relationships, and relationships to self is what makes this title shine. Through realistic and pure dialogue, Maggie comes to terms with herself and her future.

That’s so cool that your dad’s an artist.

What do you parents do?

My mom’s a social worker and my dad’s a computer tech for an engineering company.

What about you, what do you want to be when you grow up?

I don’ know… I used to want to be a vet.

CHUNKY by Yehudi Mercado

CHUNKY is a fictionalized memoir of author Yehudi Mercado’s youth. Hudi has a slew of health issues accredited to weight and is thrust into the rocky world of organized sports. The natural title to compare this to is STARFISH and I think both titles have excellent development of plot. I particularly think Mercado’s use of the imaginary friend Chunky, helps move the book along and make it unique.

JUKEBOX by Nidhi Chanani

Music, time-traveling, and social unrest- Jukebox has a lot of themes happening therein another title that has the similar bright colors and relatable characters of ALLERGIC, the SMILE books etc. etc. The abundance of themes can be a bit much in this title, but I appreciate the musical connections and presentation of a not-easy task.

Of these three titles, I think ALLERGIC is the one I’m most likely to nominate tomorrow. But I do keep thinking of CHUNKY and it can be a good comparison to STARFISH. Are there any other graphic novels that you are thinking about?

About Emily Mroczek-Bayci

Emily Mroczek (Bayci) is a freelance children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She served on the 2019 Newbery committee. You can reach her at


  1. I really enjoyed Allergic!

    I read LOTS of middle grade graphic novels this year, but few of them really stood out to be as Newbery-contenders.

  2. Bad Sister, Run, and the previously mentioned Across the Tracks are the most Newbery worthy GNs (of those eligible) I’ve read this year (and I’ve ran the majority of them).

  3. I generally read all the graphic novels that come into our library – and we order a LOT of graphic novels! But things have been slow coming in due to supply line issues, and, while I’ve enjoyed everything I have read, I’ll admit that not many have really jumped out at me that way that Beetle and the Hollowbones and Snapdragon did for me last year. Chunky is very good, and I would be happy to see it win something.

  4. Having read the graphic novels mentioned here, I love “Chunky”. Relatable imperfect and self-deprecating while inspirationally resilient. As one of my students said just yesterday, “It was not what I expected… I loved it.” Another said, “I read it straight through.” I also think “The Legend of Auntie Po” stands out. That being said, there are so many strong novels this year that I’m doubtful graphic novels will see a medal.

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