Comic and graphic novels
▪ “Step Aside, Pops,” by Kate Beaton (Drawn and Quarterly). Comics artist Beaton (of the popular “Hark! A Vagrant” strip) trains her irreverent eye on Brontë characters, saucy suffragettes and dueling composers.
▪ “City of Clowns,” by Daniel Alarcon and Sheila Alvarado (Riverhead). An intriguing coming-of-age tale, this vividly illustrated graphic is a portrait of a young man in Lima, Peru, who makes a stunning discovery about his father and, after a stint as a teen thief, becomes a journalist at one of the vibrant city’s newspapers.
▪ “March: Book Two,” by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions). In the second volume of “March,” the autobiographical graphic novel series by Rep. John Lewis (a Georgia Democrat), we witness how Lewis rolls through D.C. for the first time, endures the terror of Freedom Rides and works his way toward that fateful day in Selma, Ala. A powerful marriage of eloquent, stirring words and artful, gut-punching pictures.
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▪ “Pablo,” by Julie Birmant. Illustrated by Clement Oubrerie. Translated from the French by Edward Gauvin (SelfMadeHero). In almost 350 lush and visually liquid pages, this biography of Pablo Picasso focuses on the master’s early life. The graphic novelists unfold their canvas slowly, letting us bask in the gradually told adventure and take in all these beautiful earth tones.
Children’s and young adult
▪ “Challenger Deep,” by Neal Shusterman. Illustrated by Brendan Shusterman (HarperTeen). This haunting young adult novel, winner of a National Book Award, is based on the author’s son and his descent into the depths of schizophrenia. The reader will ultimately come away with a better understanding of the mental illness.
▪ “The Marvels,” by Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press). A magical story about mystery and family told through hundreds of intricately drawn pictures and a short story.
▪ “Mixed Me!” by Taye Diggs and Shane W. Evans (Feiwel & Friends). An introduction to the conversation about multicultural identity for kids and parents, “Mixed Me!” is a must-have.
▪ “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The Sword of Summer,” by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion). You can always count on Riordan to deliver strong teen heroes, adventure and a lesson in history or, in this case, Norse mythology. Yes, Magnus Chase is the new Percy Jackson. But it works.
▪ “Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” by Jonah Winter and Shane W. Evans (Schwartz & Wade): What a beautiful way to teach children about activism and the right to vote.
▪ “Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer,” by Kelly Jones. Illustrated by Katie Kath (Knopf Books for Young Readers). At first, this middle-grade novel appears to be a realistic story about a young Latina named Sophie whose family moves from Los Angeles to her great-uncle’s farm, and the ensuing challenges. But when the unusual chickens make their appearance, this reality is quite exceptional.
▪ “Wait,” by Antoinette Portis (Roaring Book Press). Only three words appear in this picture book, but the storyline is quite clear: Mom wants to hurry to the train, the child wants to wait and look at the construction site, the ducks, the dog, all the wonders of the world.
▪ “Because Jesus,” by Keion Jackson. When you can take comedy and Christianity and bring them together in a way that’s respectful and entertaining: win. The book by Hallmark writer Jackson is currently sold out online.