Staff Picks: MANGA One and done

Introduction

Want to pick up a new manga but don’t want to end up committed to a 30+ volume story? Try a pick or two from this list, guaranteed to end with just the one book. 

Hana-chan and the Shape of the World

Ryotaro Ueda

Cover Image

This manga features a series of vignettes about a young girl named Hana living in a rural Japanese village in the 80s. The title follows the adventures of Hana, her cat, and her best friend Uta. Some of their exploits include journeying through a storm at night to get a stash of chocolate hidden in a tree, and an attempt by their village to remove weeds from abandoned rice paddy causing some strange changes to the people in the village. While this manga was not originally intended for children, younger readers who like magical realism which is sometimes absurd and sometimes a little scary will enjoy this manga.

Appeals to

Fans of Goosebumps or other stories that are scary with a dash of silly will find this manga right in the wheelhouse.

Content Notes

Mild body horror, Death of a side character implied.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

I Had That Same Dream Again

Yoru Sumino

Idumi Kirihara

Cover Image

This manga is a meditation on the meaning of happiness through the eyes of a grade-schooler. This young girl is not your ordinary young student, her closest friends are a single woman in her 20s, a high schooler who loves to write, and an old woman living out the end of her life alone. When she is given an assignment at school to present on what happiness is, she looks to her unique acquaintances to help her figure it out, and along the way learns a lot about the different people in her life and what can lead someone to unhappiness as well as happiness.

Appeals to

Anyone looking for a though provoking slice-of-life story with a touch of magical realism.

Content Notes

Depictions of self-harm, discussions of suicidal ideation

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Mermaid Scales and the Town of Sand

Yoko Komori

Cover Image

After her parents separate, Tokiko and her father move to her mother’s hometown by the sea. Tokiko wants to find the mermaid who saved her life when she was four years old, but Yosuke, a boy from her class, warns her against talking about it with others. Soon, Tokiko discovers that the town has multiple mysteries.

Appeals to

With lovely black-and-white illustrations and a story that slowly builds, Mermaid Scales and the Town of Sand will appeal to fans of stories that focus on a strong sense of place, big feelings, and blurry realities. I would especially give this title to readers who enjoy Studio Ghibli’s attention to setting details and quiet, yet expansive stories.

Content Notes

Brief nudity, but nothing is really visible

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Never Open It: The Taboo Trilogy

Ken Niimura

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In this manga split into three parts, Niimura explores the Japanese folk tales he was told as a child and what it means for something to be taboo. With inspiration from popular Japanese tales like Urashima Taro and The Crane Wife, Niimura uses his unique storytelling style to explore why there are rules around keeping certain things hidden.

Appeals to

Fans of folklore and literary comics will enjoy this title.

Content Notes

Violence and blood, Death of a parent, Animal cruelty, Manipulation, Kidnapping

Creator Identities:

Spanish-Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Sand Land

Akira Toriyama

Cover Image

It's the distant future and the Earth is now almost entirely a desert, with a small supply of water under the control of a self-styled king. To try and find another source of water and fight back, all things demons are enlisted to help. Thus begins the adventures of Beelzebub, the demon prince, and the ragtag crew cruising the desert for water and fighting the king's army.

Appeals to

First: yes, this manga is out of print. However, the ebook is available, and there have been a lot of recent developments around it (an anime, a game, and a sequel) so it's likely to get a reprint soon.
As a manga recommended for kids, Sand Land falls outside the norm because it does have high drama and darker story points, but it also shows that sometimes bad people can change, and expectations don't always match reality. This is a great read for kids who enjoy series like Dragon Ball because it's the same creator so it has a lot of the same kind of humor, but also for kids who like post-apocalyptic stories or just stories with a little more bite and action.

Content Notes

Though there's no blood or guts, there are a lot of guns, tanks, and fighting, as well as some partial nudity (the main character mostly just wears shorts and no shirt) and depictions of smoking.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Solanin

Inio Asano

Cover Image

Twenty-something Meiko despises her unfulfilling office job and struggles to feel part of the world; her boyfriend Naruo lives with her as he pursues music and works part-time as an illustrator. Follow Meiko as she figures out her life alongside Naruo and her other friends.

Appeals to

With excellent art and a story that skillfully moves between reflective, sad, and funny, Solanin is a powerful coming-of-age story. I first read Solanin in my twenties and found it relatable and comforting as I was also in the process of figuring out my own life. While rereading it for this list, I still found it relevant and especially enjoyed the quirky, funny, and little quiet moments that built up the characters' relationship. Teen and adult readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories and/or are going through a transition period may want to pick up Solanin.

Content Notes

Depictions of alcohol and drinking; character death (with blood); brief discussion of depression and grief

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Bride Was a Boy

Chii

Cover Image

In this heartwarming story, transgender woman Chii tells the story of her transition and marriage. Within the story's bite-sized chapters, Chii uses adorable drawings of herself and loved ones to tell her story and educate readers on various vocabulary surrounding the transgender experience.

Appeals to

Readers looking for a positive story featuring a transgender character will enjoy The Bride Was a Boy. Readers who are curious about transition stories set in other countries will also be interested.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Trans |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Wolf Children

Mamoru Hosoda

Yu

Cover Image

This story begin with Hana meeting a mysterious stranger in one of her college classes. They are quickly enraptured with each other, but this man has a secret, he is a wolfman and can transform into a wolf at will. Hana is undeterred by her lover's secret, and they start what is looking to be a wonderful life together. But soon after the birth of their second child, the wolfman dies in a tragic accident, leaving Hana to raise two children, who are part wolf themselves, on her own. This story is a portrait of the joys and hardships of motherhood.

Appeals to

Anyone who knows a mother who has had to make sacrifices for her children, but still loves them fiercely will enjoy this story.

Content Notes

Depiction of character death, depiction of a dead animal

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

How to Comic: Comics that teach you something

Introduction

When we typically think of comics and manga, we think of fictional stories. A dog who’s a cop or a pirate who can stretch his limbs like rubber. If you are more familiar with comics you’d likely read a graphic memoir, or a comic that is about someone’s real life experiences. But the world of comics is also filled with lots of informational nonfiction, from cookbooks to how-tos there are many comics out there that can help you learn.

A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns

Archie Bongiovanni

Archie Bongiovanni

Cover Image

In the theme of comics that teach, the Quick & Easy Guide series are great, and the Guide to They/Them Pronouns in particular breaks down the idea of pronoun options and how to use them in an approachable format. It's like a conversation with friends that happens to help people better understand the existence and usage of pronouns beyond she and he. Though it's focused of course on they, the lessons it teaches can easily be applied to neopronouns and other gender-neutral pronouns like xie or ey.

Appeals to

This series and this comic in the series in particular is great to have on hand in a classroom, especially since it's available as a bundle, as a resource for anyone with questions on how to be better allies or build empathy, or start learning about a topic they may not want to ask someone about just yet. The smaller size of these comics makes them unobtrusive and approachable as well since it's not a giant academic-looking book. None of the guides are exhaustive, of course, but they have further resources at the back of each comic and can serve as ways to get conversations started.

Creator Identities:

Gay |

Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:

Gay |

Nonbinary |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Embrace Your Size

hara

Cover Image

In an autobiographical story, hara chronicles her struggles with accepting her body and fighting against society's standards of beauty. It's part guide for anyone reading to help them along their own journeys and part confessional of how hara's fight has had its ups and downs. Hara goes over harmful dieting and the mental side effects of being treated as less for her size and is expected to get thinner, but she also shows her process of turning that around and finding joy in her size.

Appeals to

There are few people who wouldn't benefit from reading about how harmful beauty standards are and how important it is to embrace the bodies we have, but this is especially helpful for teens and adults who are facing these struggles. Hara's illustrations are sweet and sad, and though of course there's not one easy answer to these problems, seeing hara's process is beautiful.

Content Notes

Discussions of extreme dieting, mental breakdowns

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Graphic Novel

Cynthia Levinson

Ally Shwed

Cover Image

What’s up with the Electoral College? What powers does the president actually have? Why can it be so difficult to pass laws? These are just a few of the questions Fault Lines in Our Constitution covers! With examples throughout U.S. history up through Trump’s term, Fault Lines in the Constitution explains the framers’ rationale behind the Constitution and the impact their decisions have had on the American government, and, by turn, American society. Fault Lines in the Constitution asks how effective the Constitution has been and what changes might improve our system.
Fault Lines in the Constitution is part of First Second’s World Citizen series, a series of graphic novels focused on political and civic issues, such as voting rights, misinformation, and immigration.

Appeals to

Teens and adults curious about modern politics and civics--specifically the Constitution and its impact on modern politics--will want to check out Fault Lines in the Constitution.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Free Speech Handbook: A Practical Framework for Understanding Our Free Speech Protections

Ian Rosenberg

Mike Cavallaro

Cover Image

Everyone, whether they are correct or not, feels they know what the First Amendment is and what rights it protects, but how many of us actually understand those protections and the Supreme Court cases that have both defined and refined what "free speech" means? Frequently using contemporary comparisons to frame the discussion, this graphic novel takes the reader through 10 Supreme Court cases throughout American history that have shaped how we as a nation understand and interpret the First Amendment.

Appeals to

Required reading for anyone who wants to better understand, defend, and uphold the First Amendment.

Content Notes

Occasional use of profanity.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Hidden Systems: Water, Electricity, the Internet, and the Secrets Behind the Systems We Use Every Day

Dan Nott

Cover Image

Every day, people use the Internet, get water from the tap, flush the toilet, and power all of their gadgets with electricity. But how much do you know about these systems? With illustrations that capture these systems’ massive scale and individual details, Dan Nott tells the story of these three systems and their impact on wider issues such as social inequality and climate change.

Appeals to

Older tweens, teens and adults interested in these essential services’ history and current impact will want to pick this approachable guide.

Creator Identities:

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Let's Make Dumplings: A Comics Book Cookbook

Hugh Armano

Sarah Becan

Cover Image

When was the last time you read a cookbook cover to cover? Probably never, right? Well with "Let's Make Dumplings" you won't want to miss any of the colorful illustrations or interesting tidbits about dumplings across Asia. This cookbook meets graphic novel not only depicts the food, but all the steps along the way, making things like intricate folding techniques easy to understand. Ten Speed Press has put out two other Let's Make titles: "Let's Make Ramen" and Let's Make Bread as well as "Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes".

Appeals to

Aspiring chefs and food lovers of all kinds!

Creator Identities:

Japanese-American |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese-American |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Maker Comics: Draw a Comic!

J P Coovert

Cover Image

Young readers can learn how to bake, make a costume, survive outdoors, and so much more with the Maker Comics series! In Maker Comic: Draw a Comic, Cooverts uses the medium of comics to show reading what goes into making a comic. This title covers planning and storyboarding, creating thumbnails, inking your work, what supplies you'll need to get started, and how to copy your work to share with others. It also encourages readers to practice along with the characters in the book, so by the time they finish they will have made a comic themselves.

Appeals to

Comic fans will love this behind-the-scenes peek at how they are made, whether they are interested in drawing their own or not.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up

Marie Kondo

Yuko Uramoto

Cover Image

Have you been curious about The KonMari Method but the idea of reading a book on cleaning sounds a little...dry to you? Now you can enjoy the wisdom of organization guru Marie Kondo in the form of a manga. In each chapter, our author and tidying consultant takes us from deciding to tidy up our space to keeping our space orderly once we've organized everything. There is even a narrative element to this how-to guide. Marie is helping 20-something Chiaki Suzuki tidy her space so that she can feel better when she's home and even make room in her life for romance.

Appeals to

Anyone who is looking for a little more order in their lives in 2024.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

What the Font?!

Kuniichi Ashiya

Cover Image

Marusu is a sales rep who suddenly has to take over designing logos at her company with no experience dealing with fonts or anything relating to logos. A personification of the Helvetica font appears to guide Marusu through the world of fonts, introducing her to different fonts often used in graphic design or visual art. The reader learns alongside Marusu about the history of different fonts, terminology for typography, and all kinds of factoids about the history of printing, publishing, and design. Learn about serif versus sans serif, what serif even means, and what difference those fonts have when used on a page.

Appeals to

While of course this book can be a helpful way for students of graphic design or visual art to learn a bit more about fonts and maybe more easily remember things about them with the anthropomorphized characters, it can also be a great pick for people who enjoy learning more of the technical side of font choice in comics and manga, or anyone interested in learning more about the history surrounding printing and publishing.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Staff picks: Top Comics of 2023

Introduction

 Another year has come and gone, and the Features Team is proud to share our favorite titles from 2023. We hope you have a chance to revisit some favorites and discover new ones! 

Bea Wolf

Zach Weinersmith

Boulet

Cover Image

Generations of kids have helped build the kingdom that leads to the haven known as Treeheart, a perfect paradise for kids away from adults. But then Grindle, a hater of children, invades their country and starts cleaning house and turning kids into teens. Only the heroic Bea Wolf can stand against Grindle's threat, bearing her brave face against his bold maneuvers. Yes, this is a re-telling of Beowulf set in the modern day, about kids versus adults, and yes it is as delightful as that sounds.

Appeals to

Readers who enjoy tabletop games or adjacent media might enjoy Bea Wolf for the obvious heroic overtones, and the comedy of this comic can appeal to fans of sillier stories. This comic has a pretty wide range of appeal because younger kids might enjoy just looking through the pictures while adults and older kids can appreciate the story and how effectively it adapts the original poem.

Creator Identities:

French |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Boys Weekend

Mattie Lubchansky

Cover Image

Sammie is trans femme and has been out to most of her friends and family for a year when she gets an invite to join her closet college friend Adam on his bachelor party trip to El Campo. At this dystopian Las Vegas-like destination, people can indulge their most hedonistic and aggressive desires with little consequences. The worst part, Adam has named Sammie his best man. Since Adam was Sammie's best man at her wedding, she feels as though she needs to be a good sport to return the favor and try to maintain one of her longest friendships. When Sammie arrives in El Campo, she has to endure rude, dismissive, and sometimes downright transphobic comments from the rest of the groomsmen. To top off an already emotionally fraught weekend, it seems like the group is all getting sucked into this weird cult holding a convention at the hotel they're staying at, and Sammie seems to be the only one clear-headed enough to see what's going on.

Appeals to

Everyone who likes their commentary on toxic masculinity with a side of eldritch horror.

Content Notes

Transphobia, Some scenes containing gore

Creator Identities:

Nonbinary, Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Trans |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Brooms

Jasmine Walls

Teo DuVall

Cover Image

In an alternate United States, people of color are forbidden from practicing magic, unless they manage to secure official permission. Yet many secret practitioners enter unsanctioned flying races, where high risks can result in a big reward. Billie Mae and her teammates Loretta and Cheng Kwan enjoy the races' community while having big dreams. When Mattie and Emma, Black-Choctaw girls who have recently accessed their magic, join the Night Storms, they all have a chance to make their dreams come true.

Appeals to

Brooms captivated me with its action-packed story following a tight-knit group ready to defy the oppressive laws that try to keep them down. The fantastic artwork and worldbuilding work together to convey a well-developed setting. There are little decisions, like using Native American sign language and including a sort of afterward for the main story, that make the whole experience immersive. If you are a fan of witchy stories, you don’t want to miss Brooms.

Content Notes

Mistreatment at a residential school; racism; some violence

Creator Identities:

Mexican-American |

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

Black, Chinese-American |

Queer |

Trans |

First Nations or Indigenous |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

But You Have Friends

Emilia McKenzie

Cover Image

Emilia McKenzie writes about her relationship with her friend C, whom she eventually loses to suicide. Throughout the book, she reflects on her relationship with C, her grief, and all the baggage that comes with loss and grief.

Appeals to

I loved this book for how McKenzie built up the relationship between her and C; she has a knack for showing the little moments that make up a dear friendship and weaves them with her reflection on grappling with the loss. The simple art, which often portrays these little moments and actions, *really* works. If you pick this up, make sure you’re in a place where you can cry freely. I don’t cry much when I read, and I was tearing up!

Content Notes

Suicide; drug overdoses

Creator Identities:

British |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Buzzing

Samuel Sattin

Rye Hickman

Cover Image

Sometimes, it's hard for Isaac to hear much outside of the bees getting in his way. They tell him about his crooked face and nose, about bad things that are going to happen to people he loves, and the noise escalates sometimes. It doesn't hurt that his mom treats him like a time bomb and his sister is frustrated at being ignored while mom continually checks in on Isaac. When Micah enters his life things finally start to look brighter again for the first time in a while, but then Isaac's grades slip. He'll have to learn balance and trust to get through this, and so will his mom.

Appeals to

Since a lot of the story centers around the game Swamps & Sorcery (a parody of Dungeons & Dragons), readers who enjoy comics featuring tabletop games like Just Roll With It or Dungeon Club: Roll Call will likely enjoy Buzzing. The themes of learning trust and making friends might appeal to readers of Freestyle, and the art is so wonderful at setting scenes and showing emotion, it could also be a solid choice for readers new to comics.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam

Thien Pham

Cover Image

Pham uses food, both Vietnamese and American, to take the reader through his family's journey from Vietnam to America as refugees. It begins with their boat ride out of the country and continues with the author's finally becoming a citizen in his middle age. In between is the families' struggle to learn English, get steady work, and achieve the American Dream. Along the way, the author struggles with not feeling American enough to fit in when he first arrives here, to not feeling connected enough to his Vietnamese heritage as he matures into an adult completely in America. This graphic memoir is a moving depiction of what it's like to be an immigrant in America.

Appeals to

Fans of American Born Chinese and The Best We Could Do will enjoy this food-focused take on the immigrant experience.

Content Notes

Racism and Xenophobia

Creator Identities:

Vietnamese, Vietnamese American |

Main Character Identities:

Vietnamese, Vietnamese American |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

In Limbo

Deb JJ Lee

Cover Image

Deb has struggled to find her place in life, feeling caught between identities and obligations. To complicate matters further, Deb's mother is controlling and volatile, sometimes lashing out physically or emotionally. By the time Deb graduates high school, she's managed to communicate her desire to do art, quit music, and learn her own way, but she's also attempted suicide twice. It takes time and work, but Deb starts to become someone she doesn't hate. In Limbo doesn't give easy answers or a neatly wrapped-up ending, but that's part of what makes it great.

Appeals to

Limited color, and dreamy art paired with heavier topics make In Limbo a solid choice for fans of Tillie Walden's work. How candidly the story handles its complexity and darkness could be a good pick for readers who enjoy graphic nonfiction, like Dancing at the Pity Party or Banned Book Club.

Content Notes

Depictions of physical and emotional abuse by a parent, discussions of depression and suicide

Creator Identities:

Korean-American |

Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:

Korean-American |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Monstrous: A Transracial Adoption Story

Sarah Myer

Cover Image

Korean adoptee Sarah Myer tells their story of self-acceptance as they wrestle with their origins and their identity while dealing with difficult, often racist school and social settings.

Appeals to

Thanks to Myer’s powerful drawings that mix reality and images of their imagination and mental state, I found myself sucked into their story. Myer also frames their story well, tracing a trajectory to a better place and ultimately using their story to share a message of hope. It was a difficult read in parts, but I also appreciated the message and the fact it let me reflect on some of my own experiences.

Content Notes

Racism; homophobia; bullying; mental health struggles

Creator Identities:

Korean-American |

Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:

Korean-American |

Nonbinary |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Infinity Particle

Wendy Xu

Cover Image

After moving to Mars to study artificial intelligence with her hero Dr. Lin, Clementine meets Kye, a humanoid robot and Dr. Lin’s assistant As Kye and Clem grow closer, they soon have to contend with Dr. Lin's disapproval and possessiveness and Kye's sudden glitches. As Clem and Kye rush to get to the bottom of the glitches, they find so much more than they expected.

Appeals to

The Infinity Particle is a tender and romantic story about two people finding agency together against a backdrop of questions about AI and what it means to be human. The rich setting details brought me into the story, and I adored Xu’s adorable character and robot designs. Readers who enjoy thoughtful and romantic sci-fi stories like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam and Fiona Ostby's Space Story will likely enjoy Infinity Particle.

Content Notes

Egotistical and bullying boss/parental figure; implied death of a child; abusive parent-child relationship

Creator Identities:

Chinese-American |

Main Character Identities:

Assumed Asian |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Ojja-Wojja

Magdalene Visaggio

Jenn St-Onge

Cover Image

Lanie and Val are best friends, and ready to weather any storm for each other, but Val's obsession with all things supernatural leads her to find out about a local myth of the Ojja-Wojja. Naturally, they end up accidentally summoning it, and things are worse than expected. That is, until Val trusts her instincts about this creature and the host it chooses: the super popular Andrea, who used to be friends with them but lately bullies them instead. Horror but also heartwarming, there's a lot to love in The Ojja-Wojja.

Appeals to

This story's mix of small-town legends and the presence of the supernatural is likely a hit with fans of comics like The Hills of Estrella Roja, Another Kind, or All My Friends Are Ghosts. Because the main cast is queer, it's also a great choice for younger readers looking for queer horror and likely finding stories geared toward older audiences that they may not be ready for yet.

Creator Identities:

Queer |

Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Queer |

Trans |

Autistic Spectrum |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

There Is No Right Way to Meditate

Yumi Sakugawa

Cover Image

Have you read a book on meditation, or listened to a recorded guided meditation and felt like you still weren't quite "getting it"? You are not alone. Sakugawa responds to the confusion, frustration, and judgment that many people bring with them when first trying to establish a meditation practice with "There Is No Right Way to Meditate" She frames the exercises presented in the book as "offerings and invitations" that allow the reader to explore what a meditation practice might look like for them. With an artsy style and sparing use of color, reading this book feels like a meditation in and of itself.

Appeals to

Anyone who is curious about meditation but feels like self-help books are boring and stuffy.

Creator Identities:

Japanese-American |

Gender Nonconforming, Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese-American |

Gender Nonconforming, Nonbinary |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Comics that started as Webcomics

Introduction

In the age where you can read comics from an app on your phone, it’s no surprise that many well-known comics get their start online as webcomics. Comics that started out on Webtoons, Tapas, or sometimes even published on the creator’s own website rise to such popularity that they get a publishing deal and get to have a new life in print. This list includes some of the features team’s favorites.

Crumbs

Danie Stirling

Cover Image

Ray is a seer whose unique gift allows her to clearly see the present, and she dreams of using her abilities to work for the Council. Laurie works at Ray's favorite bakery and has dreams of making it big as a musician. As the couple pursues their dreams, they will have to figure out their obstacles and personal challenges. Can they both reach their dreams and keep their relationship intact?
I was completely taken with Crumbs when I first read it on Webtoon. The artwork is charming, with a warm palette that works to set the overall cozy mood. The worldbuilding creates a magical setting that captures some degree of modernity (cell phone sprites!) that feels both familiar and fresh. Ray and Laurie both have their good and bad points, and their dynamic is handled in a way that emphasizes communication over drama. The result is a story that feels grounded but with plenty of warm whimsy to make you feel cozy and happy.
You can also read Crumbs online at Webtoon: https://www.webtoons.com/en/romance/crumbs/list?title_no=1648

Appeals to

Fans of gentle, healthy romance and cozy fantasy will want to pick up Crumbs.

Content Notes

Brief discussion of parental death

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Fangs

Sarah Andersen

Cover Image

From the mind of Sarah's Scribbles, Fangs started on the popular webcomic website Tapas. In a series of sweet and humorous vignettes, it follows the romance between vampire Elsie and werewolf Jimmy. Though their supernatural experiences are very different, they find common ground and fall in love in a way that will be very relatable to us mere mortals. Read Fangs on Tapas at tapas.io/series/fangscomic/info.

Appeals to

Anyone looking for a sweet romance with a supernatural twist.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Heartstopper

Alice Oseman

Cover Image

Charlie Spring is a sweet and anxious openly gay teenager who is still grappling with the aftermath of being outed. Nick Nelson is a rugby player whose sweeter, more reflective nature places him a bit at odds with his friend group. When they are seated together in their form, Nick and Charlie quickly develop a friendship and then deeper feelings. Follow their ups and downs as Charlie and Nick get through their final years of high school together.
As of publication, the series is still ongoing, and you can read it here: https://www.webtoons.com/en/canvas/heartstopper/list?title_no=329660

Appeals to

With an excellent queer cast, Heartstopper will appeal to readers looking for stories with positive queer relationships; fans of sweet romance that do not place a lot of emphasis on sex will want to pick up this series as well. Oseman succeeds at striking a balance between difficult topics and portrayals of wonderful moments of friendship and romance. Add charming artwork (with adorable fur babies), and you can't go wrong!
A note to libraries: Given the popularity of the Netflix show, I would recommend trying to have at least the first couple of volumes on the shelf.

Content Notes

Discussion/portrayal of an eating disorder, mental illness, homophobia, and bullying

Creator Identities:

Asexual |

Main Character Identities:

Bisexual, Gay |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Hooky

Míriam Bonastre Tur

Cover Image

Twin witches Dani and Dorian have something of a talent for mischief; this time, instead of getting on their way to magic school they maybe steal a dragon's egg and get declared traitors of their kind. But obviously, they can't just go home and admit what happened, so instead they decide they just need to find someone to be their magic mentor and lay low for a while. And as to be expected with these two, things just aren't that simple.

Appeals to

With the central theme of magic and mischief, Hooky can appeal to readers of all kinds of magical stories, such as Sorceline, and the unusual adventure aspect could appeal to readers who enjoy comics like Cursed Princess Club or Misfit Mansion. Hooky could be much darker considering it deals with family and societal secrets, but it mixes in adventure and other hijinks to keep things varied. Hooky is currently available on Webtoon and is considered completed.

Creator Identities:

Spanish |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Magical Boy

The Kao

Cover Image

Max is doing his best to get through life as a trans teen in high school with an unsupportive mother and a quiet but supportive father, and he doesn't need the added complication of coming from a long line of magical girls. But it turns out this is true, and he has to transform to help save the world from monsters that feed on negative emotions. Now he has to juggle his normal life and being magical, and in that, trying to figure out how to be truly Max in all of that.

Appeals to

Magical Boy's exploration of the magical girl genre is one of a kind, but themes of magic and gender or defying expectations is a theme in comics like The Witch Boy series, Galaxy: the Prettiest Star, and Snapdragon, so there's definite cross-appeal to those readers. And of course, because Magical Boy deals with the tropes of magical girl anime, it could be a great pick for readers of series like Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon, or Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Magical Boy is currently available on Tapas and is considered completed.

Content Notes

Because Max's mother is unsupportive, she frequently misgenders him and refers to him by his dead name, which is blurred out in the comic.

Creator Identities:

Taiwanese-American |

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

Gay |

Trans |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Nimona

ND Stevenson

Cover Image

Ballister Blackheart, former hero turned villain, has his life shaken up when he gets a new sidekick. Although she is extremely impulsive, Nimona is a powerful shapeshifter, and together they start pulling off things Ballister could have never done before. When they discover the mysterious Institute is up to no good, they hatch a scheme to save the people. But then Ballister finds out Nimona might not be what she appears to be…

Appeals to

With its mix of science fiction and fantasy, laugh-out-loud humor, and exciting action, Nimona will appeal to readers who love monstrous girls and fantasy stories with powerful symbolism and adventure, such as The Owl House.
Given the positive reception of the Netflix adaption, libraries will want to have Nimona on the shelves. While the show and book diverge, both are great in their own way, and some readers may want to see the source material.

Content Notes

Violence, with some blood; death

Creator Identities:

Queer |

Nonbinary, Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Queer |

Prosthesis |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

On a Sunbeam

Tillie Walden

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Tillie Walden (Spinning, The End of Summer) began publishing On a Sunbeam online in 2016 and completed it the following year. It was published physically in 2018 by First Second. You can read the comic online at www.onasunbeam.com.
This atmospheric sci-fi story follows Mia, in the present-day where she has just joined the crew of the Aktis, and during her days at an all-girls boarding school, where she experiences the bittersweet tastes of first love. In a cold and sometimes harsh universe, is there a way to have a second chance at true love?

Appeals to

Sci-fi fans will enjoy beautifully rendered space exploring the future.

Content Notes

Alcohol use, Bullying, Death, Misgendering, Violence

Creator Identities:

Lesbian |

Main Character Identities:

Lesbian, Queer |

Nonbinary |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

The Tea Dragon Society

Kay O'Neil

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Kay O'Neil's (Princess Princess Ever After and The Moth Keeper) world of Tea Dragons started as a webcomic in 2016. A year later it was published physically by Oni Press. In 2018 it won two Eisner's for Best Publication for Kids and Best Webcomic. Read it online at teadragonsociety.com.
In the first installment of this gentle fantasy, we meet Greta, a blacksmith apprentice who discovers a rare creature in the marketplace one day. This leads her to meet the creature's owner, a tea shop proprietor named Hesekiel. Hesekiel offers to teach her all about the care and keeping of these rare creatures, the tea dragons. Along the way, she grows closer to their ward, Minette, who helps her appreciate how her talents with blacksmithing can help the world around her.

Appeals to

Those of all ages looking for a cozy fantasy with cottage-core vibes will delight in this series.

Creator Identities:

Gender Nonconforming |

Main Character Identities:

Queer |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Witchy

Ariel Slamet Ries

Cover Image

Nyneve's people are witches, and their power is dictated by the length of their hair, and their futures are dictated by that strength. Out of hope for Nyneve to have freedom of choice, her mother helps her keep Nyneve's real hair length hidden until one terrible day when the true length is discovered. Now Nyneve is on the run, her mother is under house arrest, and a weird talking crow won't leave Nyneve alone. Follow this renegade witch through the woods and towards some big realizations and take in the beautiful visuals along the way.

Appeals to

With its unusual magic system and gorgeous environments, Witchy is a solid choice for fans of Wynd and The Moth Keeper. So much of Witchy is spent with Nyneve going on a journey to understand herself and her people so while this might seem like a strange parallel, readers of Garlic & The Vampire may find themselves falling for Nyneve just like Garlic. Witchy is currently available to read at witchycomic.com though is on hiatus while the creator wraps up another project.

Creator Identities:

Australian, Indonesian |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Staff picks: Body image

Introduction

Accepting your body can be hard, especially when it doesn’t match your self-image or fit society’s ideals. The Features Team has compiled this list of comics where the characters navigate their relationship with their bodies, often while also figuring out how to handle other life challenges and society’s judgement. Discussions around body image often involve difficult topics, such as eating disorders, mental illness, dysphoria, and bullying, so we have written descriptions that describe the titles’ overall tone and provide content warnings. Please use the entries to select the titles that are best for you. We hope you find titles that meet your needs, whether you need a mirror to self-reflect or a guide to help you on your journey.

About Betty's Boob

Vero Cazot

Julie Rocheleau

Cover Image

After breast cancer takes her left breast, Elisabeth finds herself without a job and partner. As she struggles to come to terms with her changed body, she meets a cabaret group that sets her on a journey to self-acceptance.

Appeals to

About Betty’s Boob touches on some tough topics, yet its vibrant art and playful, often humorous, storytelling, ultimately give the story a hopeful, joyous tone. It is perfect for readers who want stories that explore body acceptance and will be especially relevant to those who want to explore body acceptance in the wake of illness.

Content Notes

Betty’s Boob has some nudity (much of it contextually appropriate), scenes leading up to intercourse, and some dream sequences that might unnerve some readers.

Creator Identities:

Canadian, French |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Be Gay Do Comics!

Matt Bors (Ed.)

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In this comics anthology from The Nib (RIP), many of the authors grapple with complicated feelings about their bodies that are wrapped up in their queer identities. For comics dealing with big feelings about bodies, check out "Gender Isn't a Binary and Neither is Anatomy"; "Off the Rack"; "Boobs Aren't Binary"; "I Am More Than My Chromosomes"; and "It's All for the Breast".

Appeals to

Anyone looking for thoughtful and deeply personal pieces about the good, the bad, and the so bad you just have to laugh of the queer experience will find something in this anthology.

Content Notes

Discussions of Homophobia and Transphobia. Discussions of Gender Dysphoria.

Creator Identities:

Asexual, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Pansexual, Queer |

Gender Nonconforming, Genderqueer, Intersex, Nonbinary, Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Asexual, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Pansexual, Queer |

Gender Nonconforming, Genderqueer, Intersex, Nonbinary, Trans |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Chunky

Yehudi Mercado

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Hudi's got a lot going on, with doctors telling him to lose weight and parents pushing him to try sports he has no interest in, on top of other health problems and his parents' money issues, oh and also being the only kid in his small town who's Jewish and Mexican. He discovers an imaginary friend who cheers him on through the various attempts, but each sport makes him feel more and more discouraged about his body. But he finally discovers what works for him and his parents learn to trust his instincts on what makes him happy and whole.

Appeals to

Chunky is less specifically about eating disorders and more about being comfortable and healthy in your body, but I feel that this is a great introduction to talking about disordered eating and body dysmorphia with children, among other things. As such, this comic is something for families to read together and discuss, or for children who feel left out by society for who they are.

Creator Identities:

Mexican |

Jewish |

Main Character Identities:

Mexican-American |

Jewish |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Eat, and Love Yourself

Sweeney Boo

Cover Image

Mindy has tried just about any diet or promise a magazine has given her for weight loss, and it always crashes and fails. One lonely night, she finds an odd chocolate bar in the convenience store called "Eat and Love Yourself". Each time she eats a piece, she remembers a moment in her past and with it, slowly heals her relationship with her body and with accepting love from others.

Appeals to

This comic isn't as in-depth or as emotionally difficult as some of the others in this list, so this might be a good starting point for someone wanting to try reading about eating disorders but isn't quite ready for the heavy hitters. It's unusual too in that it has a more magical solution for the very real issues of eating disorders, but the message of learning to love yourself and reflecting on your past to help heal is great.

Content Notes

Discussions of eating disorders, depictions of depression

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Embrace Your Size: My Own Body Positivity

hara

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In this collection, artist Hara describes her own journey toward body acceptance as a plus-sized person. Over the course of the book, she details her own struggles with her weight and society's pressures, the effects her poor body image had on her mental health and art, her sources of inspiration, and recommendations for positive plus-sized representation. With its mix of topics and approachable style, Embrace Your Size feels like you're in a conversation with a friend. Hara's adorable illustrations are an added bonus!

Appeals to

Although Hara addresses difficult topics like disordered eating and bullying, the warm tone and the fact that she focuses on reflections about her journey make Embrace Your Size an overall hopeful read. I would give this to readers who are interested in exploring body acceptance and body positivity but are looking for a gentler read.

Content Notes

Portrayal of bullying, struggles with shopping and clothes as a plus-sized person, and mental health struggles; discussion of disordered eating behaviors

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Galaxy The Prettiest Star

Jadzia Axelrod

Jess Taylor

Cover Image

On the outside, it would seem that Taylor Barzelay had it all. Brains, good looks, and a basketball star, he's what most awkward adolescents dream of being. But on the inside, he's an alien princess hiding as a boy on Earth to escape an intergalactic war that killed the king and queen and ravaged their home world of Cyandii. When Taylor meets the cute and fun Kat, she starts to realize that sacrificing her identity for safety may have been too high of a price to pay. This graphic novel explores the pain of wearing your body as a mask and the joy of being your full and authentic self.

Appeals to

Anyone waiting for a transfemme superhero, she's here and interstellar.

Content Notes

xenophobia and transphobia

Creator Identities:

Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Trans |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Horse Trouble

Kristin Varner

Cover Image

Kate is completely in love with horses and riding, even though some of the barn girls are mean because she keeps falling off! If her barn woes aren’t enough, she is also struggling with being chubby and dealing with bullies and boys. Kate’s riding instructor starts preparing her for a prestigious horse show. Can Kate rise to the occasion?

Appeals to

In addition to being a great read for horse lovers, Horse Trouble also highlights the importance of learning to thrive even if your body is not “perfect”. Even though she struggles with her body image, Kate has friends and acknowledges her own abilities. Horse Trouble could be a great book to help young readers get ideas about managing body insecurity.

Content Notes

Bullying, body insecurity, dieting

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Hungry Ghost

Victoria Ying

Cover Image

All of Valerie's careful control of her life, grades, and most importantly her body, goes out the window when tragedy finds her family. In the wake of loss, things first get worse especially as her mother's toxicity towards Valerie and her body gets more invasive. Her relationships crumble as she lashes out, but with time and reflection Valerie realizes she needs help and the way she lives isn't normal, her mother's attitude isn't normal, and Valerie reaches out for help. Hungry Ghost ends not with a perfect happily ever after, but instead that recovery is a process.

Appeals to

What makes Hungry Ghost particularly great is that it shows how pervasive the thoughts around eating disorders are, and how normalized it can all be for people dealing with them. The way Valerie is written feels true to teens, and with the story being serious and not overly happy, I could see this being a great recommendation for teens. There's also resources in the back, so if they want to do more research they can without having to ask someone.

Content Notes

Depictions of binging and purging, disordered eating

Creator Identities:

Chinese-American |

Main Character Identities:

Chinese-American |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

I'm Kinda Chubby and I'm Your Hero

Nore

Cover Image

Ponjirou is an actor trying to get his big break but is worried his weight will get in the way of his dreams. Mysterious gifts of sweets from a local shop give him a needed pick-me-up. When he meets his secret fan--Konnosuke, a local pastry chef--the two start forming a deep friendship. With each supporting the other, can they achieve their goals?

Appeals to

With a sweet, light plot centered around a great relationship, I’m Kinda Chubby and I’m Your Hero is a charming story that is perfect for readers looking for a positive story featuring a chubby lead. I would especially recommend this to readers who love warm character dynamics similar to those found in Heartstopper.

Content Notes

Some fatphobia and intoxication

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

My Body in Pieces

Marie-Noëlle Hébert

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Written first in her native French and translated for English-speaking audiences by Shelley Tanaka, Marie-Noëlle Hébert's graphic memoir, My Body in Pieces, is an unflinching look at a girl trying to break free of her own self-destruction while those around her only reinforce negative opinions and stereotypes.
Like many young girls, society has convinced young Marie-Noëlle that the solution to all of her problems (her family making fun of her eating habits at the dinner table, the girls at school calling her ugly, the boy she likes not paying her any attention) is to be thin and beautiful. But when she starts a fitness routine to try to change, it sends her down a spiral of obsession with her weight and appearance, and into bouts of depression and suicidal ideation. When a close friend convinces her to try therapy, though, her journey starts to take a turn in the direction of healing and self-confidence.
Hébert's graphite pencil illustrations in a variety of art styles depict both intensely difficult, potentially triggering subjects and the beauty of finding and becoming unapologetically yourself. Told in language easily approachable to teen readers, My Body in Pieces is a moving, important coming-of-age tale,

Appeals to

Teen readers who have enjoyed other graphic memoirs about mental health and/or memoirs about teens in difficult situations who have survived and found their own strength. Also would appeal to adults who enjoy graphic memoirs.

Content Notes

Mentions of suicidal ideation, depression, eating disorder, body dysmorphia.

Recommended by

Maddi Ranieri

Nervosa

Hayley Gold

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In this raw memoir, Hayley Gold explores her quest to make an impact while battling her anorexia.

Appeals to

Nervosa will appeal to readers who like frank narratives that don’t follow conventional narrative patterns for a topic. Gold doesn’t sugarcoat her emotions or condition, and I appreciated her honest discussion of the physical and psychological impacts of her struggle with the disease and the often cruel medical system in which she was a frequently frustrated and reluctant participant.

Content Notes

Nervosa includes several hospital scenes and medical treatments; there are incidents of cruel treatment from staff, including one molestation. It also frankly discusses anorexia’s mental aspects as well as the physical conditions that can result from having the disease. Calorie numbers, as well as eating disorder behaviors (hiding food, tactics to change weight, etc.), are also portrayed. Nervosa also addresses Gold’s difficult upbringing, including Gold’s father’s frequent putdowns of her mother and Gold herself.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Short and Skinny

Mark Tatulli

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This graphic novel is based on the author's experience growing up in the late 70s as a comic-loving kid who dreams of a growth spurt and big muscles. Right before summer vacation, Mark finds an ad that promises all of this with the help of a miracle cure that claims to make you taller and/or stronger in the back of a Mad Magazine. He thinks this is the boon he's been waiting for and sends away for it, hoping to go back to school in the fall completely changed. This is all happening in the summer of 1977, the same summer that the first Star Wars movie came out. Mark quickly falls in love with the movie and wants to create a parody movie. With the help of his friends and family, he spends the whole summer planning, prepping, and filming his Star Wars parody film and learns that people like him for his humor and creativity, even if he didn't get those instant muscles or grow 5 inches taller.

Appeals to

Lovers of Dairy of a Wimpy Kid will love this underdog story.

Content Notes

Bullying

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Smaller Sister

Maggie Edkins Willis

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Lucy loves and looks up to her big sister, Livy, but lately, Livy has been acting differently. Soon Lucy discovers Livy has an eating disorder, and she can’t help Lucy with her problems at her new school. Lately, Lucy has been wondering if her own problems would go away if she changed her body…

Appeals to

This warm story about two sisters wrestling with school challenges and disordered eating strikes a perfect balance of hopeful and honest, and middle-grade and tween readers dealing with the complicated challenges of tween/teen life and body image will want to pick this up. The sisters’ bond is a wonderful centerpiece of the book, and the vibrant art brings the story to life. As a bonus, Edkins Willis offers some resources for those going through similar struggles in her afterword.

Content Notes

Smaller Sister portrays eating disorder thought patterns and behaviors as well as bullying.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Must Have: Dungeons & Dragons

Introduction

Dungeons & Dragons (or D&D) is a game powered by imagination. It allows a group of friends
to enter a fantasy world controlled by a Dungeon Master and interact with this world through
characters born from imagination. They fight monsters, save villages, and make life-changing
(or life-ending) choices based on dice rolls. Any fantasy archetype is available for players, from
the stalwart fighter to the cunning rogue, from a monk who throws hands to a wizard who throws
fireballs. Those who grew up playing D&D currently have a lot to celebrate as their hobby has
now firmly entrenched itself into the cultural zeitgeist, thanks to YouTube shows like Critical
Role that demonstrates how the game is played and how much fun it is to play with friends. The
game’s popularity means that media like graphic novels are bound to be influenced by the game
and its fantasy world.

Critical Role: The Chronicles of Exandria The Mighty Nein.

Critical Role

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Season two of Critical Role features a whole new group of adventurers calling themselves the Mighty Nein, which are featured in Critical Role: The Chronicles of Exandria The Mighty Nein. This group includes a human wizard and goblin rogue who partnered together to perform cons as well as a tiefling cleric with a devilish appearance and a half-orc warlock who serves an ancient sea creature. They travel the high seas smiting sea monsters and avoiding death. Their individual stories are divided up into different books like Critical Role: Origins–Mollymauk Tealeaf written by Jody Houser and Critical Role: Origins–Jester Lavorre written by Sam Maggs.

Appeals to

Older teens/adults who are fans of Critical Role and D&D

Content Notes

Here is the link for the first book:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Role_(campaign_one)

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Library Edition: Series I & II Collection

Matthew Colville

Olivia Samson

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A name that is quite synonymous with D&D is “Critical Role.” This YouTube series went from a group of voice actors showing off their D&D game to becoming a phenomenon that has spawned books based on the group’s characters and the world they inhabit. Season 1 of the series features the adventuring group Vox Machina, who even have their own animated show on Amazon Prime. Graphic novels retelling their adventures include Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Library Edition: Series I & II Collection. This group runs the gamut of archetypes and characters familiar to anyone who’s played D&D, from a massive ax-wielding barbarian to a promiscuous gnome bard. This unlikely group of heroes must save their world from eldritch gods and terrifying dragons.

Appeals to

Older teens and adults who are fans of Critical Role and D&D

Delicious in Dungeon

Ryoko Kui

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Those who like low-stakes, low-stress fantasy adventures while also loving food, should get a taste of Delicious in Dungeon, Vol. 1, a manga written and illustrated by Ryōko Ku. In this world, the fantasy monsters are not only dangerous, but they’re delicious if prepared the right way. Laios and his company are having a tough dungeon crawl. A member of their party has been captured and they are running low on provisions. Luckily, there are plenty of monsters that turn out quite edible. Mixing the fun of D&D and cooking, Delicious in Dungeon is a light-hearted but stomach-filling adventure.

Appeals to

Teen readers who love cooking, manga, and D&D (not necessarily in that order)

Content Notes

Translator's name is Taylor Engel

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

DIE

Kieron Gillen

Stephanie Hans

Cover Image

Die by Kieron Gillen, author of The Wicked + The Divine series, is a more serious dark fantasy story for adults. The story follows seven friends who many years ago played a magical roleplaying game and barely escaped it with their lives. Now that they are adults who are barely surviving their mundane jobs and distant children. Soon, they are all once again pulled into that world and must defeat it once and for all. There are some unique reimaginings of D&D tropes, such as a paladin/knight who uses sadness to power up his attacks and a cleric who bargains with various gods rather than just worship one, and the fantasy world is a combination of science and sorcery. It’s also interesting to see these former friends with their cynical adult sensibilities coming to terms with their very real effects on this world.

Appeals to

For adult fans of D&D but who might not be fans of adulting.

Main Character Identities:

Gender Nonconforming |

Dungeon Critters

Natalie Reiss

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However, there are plenty of D&D-like stories that have a lot of fun with their tropes, even taking them into unsuspecting and adorable places. A great adventure for middle-grade readers, Natalie Riess and Sara Goetter’s Dungeon Critters finds a squad of anthropomorphic animal adventurers fighting fantastic monsters with swords, magic, and heart. These critters follow all the archetypes of wizard, rogue, and barbarian, but they are quick with the one-liners and they even proclaim that the true magic is friendship. Plus, the simple animation style helps add to the childlike appeal of this book, making it perfect for middle-grade readers wanting to dip a toe into the sometimes intimidating world of D&D.

Appeals to

Middle graders who are interested in D&D and any fans of cute animated critters.

Creator Identities:

Lesbian |

Main Character Identities:

Gender Nonconforming |

Dungeons & Dragons: Evil At Baldur's Gate

Jim Zub

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Apart from Critical Role, Wizards of the Coasts (the owners of D&D) have licensed the game to publisher IDW for stories that tell different types of fantasy worlds. One of the most popular worlds is the Forgotten Realms, which was featured in the movie Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and features a great deal of high fantasy. Dungeons & Dragons: Evil at Baldur’s Gate, written by Jim Zub, takes place in that world which has a group of adventurers trying to navigate a port town full of intrigue and monsters. Like many stories that have an ensemble cast of eclectic characters, there is one standout for their comedic relief: the physically powerful yet eternally naive ranger Minsc. Whether it’s his earnest yet confusing proclamations or his conversations with his hamster Boo (who he claims is a space hamster), Minsch’s antics are a great reminder of D&D games where the participants come together to battle monsters and have fun.

Appeals to

Younger teens who love D&D (and possible space hamsters)

Staff Picks: Haunted Places

Introduction

Are there places that give you chills or make you want to leave, for fear of what you will meet? In this newest list, the Features team introduces you to comic about haunted places. From a ghost at a shopping mall to an entity fueled by xenophobia, the list consists of titles with cute and spooky hauntings to those that are downright terrifying. Read on…if you dare!

A Guest in the House

Emily Carroll

Cover Image

Abby knows she's no catch, but she is ready to do her best with her new husband, David, and stepdaughter, Crystal; they live together in a lake house all trying to make a fresh start after the death of David's first wife, Sheila. As she works to support a grieving Crystal, Abby discovers that some things David told her don't add up. Then Sheila starts haunting her.

Appeals to

Carroll's stunning visuals bring to life this twisty, unnerving tale that manages to echo old stories yet be something new. Readers who enjoy horror where plenty is left to interpretation will want to pick up A Guest in the House, perhaps with a warm blanket and beverage to stave off the inevitable chills. Fans of Carroll's previous work will also want to pick this up.

Content Notes

Violence; images of a corpse

Creator Identities:

Lesbian |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Beetle & the Hollowbones

Aliza Layne

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It's hard being stuck in the middle; Beetle is a goblin witch, and as much as she loves her grandmother, she desperately wants to go to the fancy magic school which means learning "real" magic instead of just goblin magic. But it's okay because she has her bestie Blob Ghost (BG) over at the mall! At least, until it turns out that the mall is going to be demolished, and Beetle can't help BG relocate if she can't find the source of BG's haunting. And then even worse, Beetle's old friend and kind of crush Kat is back in town, and acting oddly. How can she save BG, find out what's wrong with Kat, and learn real magic all in the next week?

Appeals to

Beetle's story is likely to resonate with readers who enjoyed The Witch Boy series, Snapdragon, and the Okay Witch series: stories of protagonists pulled between different worlds and desires, trying to be true to themselves. Though we're dealing with goblins and ghosts and skeleton cats, the story and art aren't particularly scary so it's also a great pick for younger readers who like Halloween, but don't want especially spooky or grim stories.

Creator Identities:

Lesbian |

Main Character Identities:

Queer |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Home Sick Pilots

Dan Watters

Caspar Wijngaard

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Take the 90's punk scene of California, add some disenfranchised youth and secret organizations, and stir in haunted objects: this unlikely combination creates Home Sick Pilots. It's also kind of a mech series, but to explain that would be spoilers. Just know that the story follows Ami, who's been missing and may be dead, her bandmates who aren't very good friends, and some interesting mysteries from Ami's past. Regardless, this series is beautiful and strange and sad, and the art helps nail this unusual combination of elements, making it one to absolutely have on the library shelf.

Appeals to

Though they're very different formats, Home Sick Pilots could be a great pick for fans of the surreal horror manga The Summer Hikaru Died. The mix of references to the past with sci-fi tech and an ensemble cast of complicated people means readers of Paper Girls might want to pick this one up too.

Content Notes

No sex or nudity, but plenty of gore and some drug use, as well as cursing.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Infidel

Pornsak Pichetshote

Aaron Campbell

Cover Image

Aisha, an American-Muslim woman, is struggling. Her partner is suspicious of his mother, her fellow tenants are afraid after the bombing in their building, and she is getting little sleep because of the monstrous creatures that keep appearing. Even as Aisha tries to find her way, the monsters she keeps seeing are here to feed upon and stoke the racial tensions in the building.

Appeals to

Fans of thought-provoking horror like Jordan Peele's Get Out will want to snap up Infidel; the story will also appeal to horror fans who like twisting tales that don't play out how you would expect.

Content Notes

Violence and gore; xenophobic language; demonic monsters

Creator Identities:

Thai-American |

Main Character Identities:

Pakistani-American |

Muslim |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Secrets of Camp Whatever

Chris Grine

Cover Image

Willow is reluctantly attending summer camp in her new town; Camp Whatever is on an island, which is said to be crawling with dangerous creatures. As Willow begins to explore, she learns more about the true nature of the inhabitants, putting herself on a collision course with the camp director, who has his own ambitions.

Appeals to

Readers who want some spooky, but not too scary fun; fans of the curious, chaotic kid energy in Gravity Falls

Content Notes

Some violence and blood but is not too graphic

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Autumnal: The Complete Series

Daniel Kras

Chris Shehan

Cover Image

There have been many stories written about haunted houses, but what about a haunted town? Kat left her hometown of Comfort Notch, N.H., home of the most picturesque fall, at just 9 years old. Now, following her mother's death, she and her daughter Sybil make their way back to Comfort Notch. Although this town looks like a quintessential New England small town at the height of its fall-time glory, there is something dark and sinister hiding under the fallen leaves.

Appeals to

Fans of atmospheric horror will find the mix of the fall colors of the leaf motif and the gripping, violent plot a chilling delight.

Content Notes

Violence, Course Language, Body Horror, Drug Use

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

The HIlls of Estrella Roja

Ashley Robin Franklin

Cover Image

Estrella Roja is a small town where few outsiders come and mysterious red lights overlook the town. Kat, a college student with a podcast on the paranormal, shows up to investigate Estrella Roja's mysteries just as Mari, who hasn't been in town in years, arrives for her abuela's funeral. The two team up to investigate, but things become more serious when they discover Mari's family is tightly intertwined with Estrella Roja's secrets.

Appeals to

With illustrations that capture charming characters and creepy scenes alike, The Hills of Estrella Roja is a spooky adventure full of family and queer friendship! Give this to readers who enjoyed the adventure and characters in Emma Steinnkellner's The Okay Witch or Molly Ostertag's Witch Boy series and are ready for some reads from the teen section.

Content Notes

Some close-ups on scorpions and bugs

Creator Identities:

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

Assumed Hispanic or Latine |

Queer |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Me You Love in the Dark

Skottie Young

Jorge Corona

Cover Image

Artist Ro rents a country house to find her new artistic voice, but she gets a lot more than she bargains for when she starts interacting with the entity that haunts the house.

Appeals to

Fans of horror stories that explore art and creativity and/or a good haunted house tale will enjoy the atmospheric art and creeping, shifting monster.

Content Notes

Violence and gore, including manipulation of a corpse

Creator Identities:

Venezuelan |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Unfamiliar

Haley Newsome

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Planchette is the new witch in town, excited to own her very own house! At least, until she starts moving in and realizes why it was so cheap: it's super haunted. But she's a kitchen witch and though she tries a few tactics to get rid of the ghosts, nothing sticks. So she starts asking around town for help from other witches and ends up helping a witch who thinks she doesn't have much power, a cursed girl, and a siren who hates her powers. What could be more bonding than fighting problems together, after all?

Appeals to

The cute and spooky style is ideal for readers who enjoy stories like Creepy Cat or Hooky, both of which also happen to be webcomics with print runs. There's something about it that reminds me of Invader Zim or The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, so I could see Unfamiliar being a hit with readers who prefer a darker story with a sense of humor and distinctive style.

Creator Identities:

Bisexual |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Comics for kids: Graphic Adaptations

Introduction

Graphic adaptations for kids have been around for a long time, originally as adaptations of traditional classics, then as the middle grade graphics genre exploded with Dav Pilkey and Raina Telgemeier, publishers saw a market to expand the reach of popular series. Some adaptations quickly petered out, like the Percy Jackson or Artemis Fowl titles, adapting just one or two of the books in the series, but some series adaptations have taken on a life of their own. Wings of Fire and Babysitters’ Club are popular not only as spin-offs of their original series but as stories in their own right with fans who may or may not have read the originals. Some one-off adaptations, like Hope Larson’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, are labors of love from creators who want to introduce their own favorites to a new audience. The trend of graphic adaptations shows no sign of slowing down and it can be confusing to choose among the many options out there, not to mention making decisions about binding and backlists. Fortunately, we are here to give you the low-down on the best titles to purchase, preferred bindings, and what is most likely to be popular in your library!

A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel

Madeline L' Engle

adapted by Hope Larson

Cover Image

Follow Meg Murray's quest to rescue her father from a dark force in this adaptation of Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time! With a moody blue, black, and white palette, Hope Larson gives readers a faithful adaptation that brings to life the characters' emotions and the science-fiction elements alike.

Appeals to

Adults with fond memories of Meg Murray and the rest of the cast may want to relive their story through the graphic novel. The fact that stays relatively true to the book would make this a great tool to introduce readers to the classic novel.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Animorphs: The Invasion

K.A. Applegate

Chris Grine

Cover Image

Rachel, Jake, Cassie, Marco, and Tobias were walking home one night when what seemed like a shooting star fell incredibly close to them, so naturally they had to go see it. What they find instead of a fallen star is a dying alien, and they are embroiled in an interstellar war. With their new abilities as Animorphs, the friends do what they can to understand what's happening and save their friends and family from the alien invasion.

Appeals to

Adults who grew up on the Animorphs books may enjoy picking up the graphic adaptation as a way to re-visit the series or share it with kids in their lives. Kids who enjoy sci-fi graphic novels like Hilo might enjoy this as a slightly more mature story. The comics do not shy away from the horror elements of the original books, so there is some light body horror but it's well done and doesn't feel too heavy-handed.

Content Notes

Minor body horror

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Anne of West Philly: A Modern Graphic Retelling of Anne of Green Gables

Ivy Noelle Weir

Myisha Haynes

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When Anne first arrives, her foster parents, Marilla and Matthew, are not sure whether the exuberant girl is a good fit for their quiet lifestyle. Soon, Anne, Matthew, and Marilla have formed a close-knit family, and Anne is navigating school and friendships in her own, unique way! With vibrant color illustrations a diverse cast, and a warm story, this modern retelling of Anne of Green Gables should not be missed. If librarians find that paperback copies of graphic novels quickly fall apart at their library, there is a hardcover edition!

Appeals to

Readers seeking a heartwarming story about an adoptive family and/or a story featuring smart, passionate female protagonists should pick up Anne of West Philly.

Creator Identities:

Black |

Main Character Identities:

Assumed Black |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Bea Wolf

Zach Weinersmith

Boulet

Cover Image

Listen! This is the story of a kingdom of children in their tree fort hall, beset by the threat of one particularly awful adult, Grindle! Grindle's joylessness knows no bounds, and he won't let them enjoy life. His attacks on Treeheart are merciless, leading to Bea Wolf's arrival, ready to take this monstrous man down.

Appeals to

This is a delightful read for adults familiar with the original story of Beowulf, and likely are who the interesting essay in the back about how the comic was made is for. The essays can also serve as instruction in the classroom since they talk a bit about Old English and language, how comics work, and other fun topics. Bea Wolf is also a great pick for kids who enjoy a challenging read or comics with dynamic, funny visuals because there's merit in reading this one while focusing on the art rather than the words. Bea Wolf is a comic someone could start reading as a kid and keep re-reading over time, getting something new each time.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly

Jordan Quinn

Glass House Graphics

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Ruskin, a popular dragon character from Quinn's long-running Kingdom of Wrenly series, stars in his own graphic novel spin-off. Previously a pet of the Prince of Wrenly, Ruskin sets out on his own adventures to battle villains and save the kingdom with the encouragement of new friends and allies, including other dragons.

Appeals to

This will appeal to fans of the original print series, but even more to young dragon fans in general, especially those not ready to tackle Wings of Fire. The reading level of these books is an intermediate or beginning chapter book, appealing most to 2nd-3rd graders. It's not necessary to read the original print series, and librarians who don't want to venture into a twenty-volume, traditional fantasy will do just fine purchasing this series on its own. The paperback bindings are sturdy, but the books are available in hardcovers if desired.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Enola Homes: The Graphic Novel

Serena Blasco

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Based on the novels by Nancy Springer, this series follows Sherlock Holmes's younger sister Enola as she tries to chart her chart her own path as a detective and find her missing mother. When Enola's mother disappears on her 14th birthday and not even the illustrious Sherlock Holmes can not crack the case on where she went, her two older brothers decide the best course of action is to send Enola to boarding school. To avoid a fate of corsets, ringlets, and finishing lessons, Enola steals off to London on her own to become a "perditorian" -- the one who divines that which is lost.

Appeals to

Fans of a fierce female sleuth like Goldie Vance will love reading about Enola's adventures.

Content Notes

Mild Violence

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Graystripe's Adventure

Erin Hunter

James L. Barry

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Back in the days of Tokyopop and about five years after the publication of the first Warriors books, the creators and publishers capitalized on the popularity of manga, and a seemingly endless fantasy series about feral cats, to create a number of original English language manga spin-offs. Fast forward about twenty years and Warriors still continues to regularly pop out new adventures of the charismatic cats and the creators have also branched out into multiple other animals. The original Warriors books (and manga) are a staple of many adult's beloved childhood reading and while Tokyopop is no more, HarperCollins has revived and republished the manga spin-offs, now in color. Like anything involved with the Warriors series, it's a little tricky to track down the exact titles, but thankfully the most current editions are now available in collected volumes and in prebound editions, very necessary if you are purchasing the colorized editions.

Appeals to

Warriors fans, of course, will devour these - both those revisiting their childhood favorites and the new generation discovering the addicting series for the first time. The manga, which all consist of short stories spun off from the main books, can also be read as stand-alone by comic fans of animals and fantasy who don't want to tackle the original books.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Heroes in Training

Joan Holub

Glass House Graphics

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This adaptation of Holub and Williams' popular myth-based fantasy starts with Zeus as a boy, going on adventures and getting into trouble, and adds a healthy dose of magic, excitement, and age-appropriate humor. David Campiti adapts an adventure of the (male) Greek heroes in each volume, offering readers an opportunity to revisit a favorite series or discover it for the first time.

Appeals to

Readers who were into the original series, published from 2018 to 2021, have almost certainly moved on to more complex titles. However, new readers who are eager to find a myth-based fantasy on their reading level will be pleased to discover a graphic novel edition on offer. This is strictly for beginning and intermediate readers as it offers little nuance and the main draw, outside of the fast-moving plot, is the heavy dose of Dav Pilkey-style humor.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

I survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871

Lauren Tarshis

Cassie Anderson

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I Survived, a historical fiction series focused on various disasters, was first published in 2010. It took a few years to take off but quickly became a staple of classrooms and chapter book collections. The books are short and packed with action, and the historical events, usually told from the perspective of white male and occasionally female characters, are realistic enough to be dramatic without focusing on any truly uncomfortable or gruesome aspects of history. In 2020, Graphix started producing graphic adaptations of the books in order of their publication, starting with the first and arguably most popular, I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912. It's difficult to find accurate information on who adapted each book and the illustrators vary from title to title. From a literary and historical standpoint, these aren't particularly notable and most librarians will prefer to steer readers to the more historically accurate and inclusive Girls Survive or Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales. However, a major reason for the existence of graphic adaptations of popular series is, quite simply, that they're popular. Kids reluctant to pick up a book will devour these and with the rapid growth of graphic novels for young readers they will naturally look for a comic version of their favorites. Regardless of the actual quality, most librarians will want to have these on hand, preferably in prebound editions.

Appeals to

Reluctant and struggling readers and fans of the original series. Although the length of the books implies beginning chapters, even sanitized, the graphic novels do depict historical disasters and most libraries will want to recommend them to third-grade and up, or middle-grade readers.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Magic Tree House

Mary Pope Osborne

Kelly Matthews

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Readers who grew up with Magic Tree House are unlikely to feel interested in revisiting the series, but new readers hungry for graphic novels will be delighted to have a graphic novel version of the popular beginning chapter series available. The adaptation is faithful to the original series, illustrating the adventures of Jack and Annie as they travel through time and space in the Magic Tree House.

Appeals to

Beginning chapter readers who are also graphic novel fans are the primary audience for this adaptation. Really serious fans might enjoy revisiting Jack and Annie's adventures in graphic format, but most will be content with choosing their preferred reading material and sticking with that, for as many titles as are currently available.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy

Rey Terciero

Bre Indigo

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In this modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy want their father to come back from the Middle East. In the meantime, the sisters all have their personal journeys to take...with the help of their sisters, of course! Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy maintain the close sibling dynamic so central to the original novel while updating the setting and some of the characters' arcs. With vibrant illustrations and a focus on a multiracial family, this fresh new take will help the Little Women's story find a new audience!

Appeals to

Readers seeking strong stories about siblings should pick this one up. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy will also interest readers looking for thoughtful stories about families confronting illness, injury and exploring queer identity.

Content Notes

This story includes racist comments and portrayals of cancer treatment; in both cases, the characters are supported in dealing with these things.

Creator Identities:

Black, Latinx |

Gay |

Agender |

Main Character Identities:

Black, Multiracial |

Lesbian |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Mr. Corbett is in orbit

Dan Gutman

Jim Paillot

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Fans of the long-running My Weird School will be thrilled with an all-new graphic novel version. Featuring all the jokes, goofy adults, and silly situations of the original series, the graphic novels add full-color illustrations. Readers will be excited to see A. J. and his friends from Ella Mentry School in a new medium and handling an even more ridiculous crisis.

Appeals to

Fans of the original My Weird School series and its multiple spin-offs will be quick to grab this new series off the shelf. Die-hard graphic novel fans who have resisted trying the original series are more likely to be willing to tackle this more heavily illustrated version as well.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Sea Sirens

Amy Chu

Janet Lee

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L. Frank Baum, author of the Oz books, wrote many spin-offs but most have (justly) faded into the mists of time. Amy Chu and Janet Lee have managed to take the inspiration of two rather twee characters and create an exuberant and fantastical adventure that overshadows the original. Vietnamese-American Trot and her one-eyed cat, Cap'n Bill, find themselves transported into a fantastic but dangerous underwater world with gorgeous art, exciting adventures, and a contemporary twist of family issues. These are most likely to be of use to libraries with large graphic novel collections who are looking for more variety and diversity in their fantasy offerings.

Appeals to

This will appeal most to kids who like light fantasy comics, not lengthy epics, including fans of Hildafolk, Oz graphic novel adaptations, and Pico's Aster.

Creator Identities:

Vietnamese American |

Main Character Identities:

Vietnamese American |

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Super Turbo

Edgar Powers

Glass House Graphics

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Readers can now follow the wacky adventures of Super Turbo and his class pet sidekicks in graphic novel format. The original series, a mix of text and black and white comic panels is reworked with expanded color illustrations and text adapted primarily as dialogue.

Appeals to

Kids who enjoy goofy adventures but aren't ready for middle-grade titles like Dog Man will be happy with this series. Librarians looking to expand their beginning chapter offerings with a variety of formats will want to consider purchasing the color graphic novels instead of the original, black and white titles.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

The Baby Sitter's Club

Ann M. Martin

Raina Telgemeier

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Adapting the well-known series by Ann M. Martin, The Baby-Sitter's Club graphic novels follow the exploits of Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey, the founding members of the Baby-Sitter's Club as they deal with juggling babysitting gigs, middle school, and family drama. Through it all, the Baby-Sitter's Club has each other!

Appeals to

Older readers looking to revisit a childhood favorite and younger fans of some of the graphic novel giants that have worked on the adaption like Raina Telgemeier and Chan Chau will find something to love here.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

The Dragonet Prophecy

Tui Sutherland

Mike Holmes

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Tui Sutherland knows what kids like, and her wildly popular Wings of Fire fantasy series was a no-brainer to adapt into a graphic novel series. That continuing adaptation, with a seventh book slated for release in 2024, is as popular as the original series, and ardent fans eagerly devour both formats. The graphic adaptation, supervised by the author herself, is faithful to the original plots, fleshing out the colorful dragons, their adventures, wars, families, and friendships with colorful art and brisk dialogue. Librarians with a significant population would do well to purchase these in replaceable prebinds as the heavy use and slick pages limit their shelf life in paperback or hardcover.

Appeals to

While this graphic adaptation will appeal to fantasy comic lovers, and some kids prefer to stick with the comics and pass over the original text books, the main audience is Wings of Fire fans. These are often voracious readers and will reread the original books and adaptations over and over again while waiting for a new installment. Many of these fans cross over with the Warriors series (which also includes graphic adaptations), and that's no coincidence as Sutherland is an editor and occasional author for that long-running franchise as well. These are also a must-have for reference in Wings of Fire-based programming and inspiration for young dragon artists.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

The Giver

Lois Lowry

P. Craig Russell

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Jonas lives in a community that many might be tempted to call utopian; everyone is happy, people do fulfilling work to keep the community happy and well, and children are cared for. When Jonas is given the job assignment of Receiver of Memory though, he starts to question the world he grew up in and whether it actually is so perfect.

Appeals to

While I don't think graphic adaptations should be read instead of the original for the purpose of school assignments, I do think that this adaptation works really well to help readers understand this very visual story and could be used as a partner text. Otherwise, this is a fantastic way to experience the story of The Giver for someone curious about this classic, because Russell's work on the art truly gives weight to the story beats.

Content Notes

Infant death, depictions of war

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

The Lightning Thief

Rick Riordan

Attila Futaki

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The Lightning Thief had been out and about for about 5 years when the first graphic novel adaptation appeared. This was a simple adaptation of a popular property, much like the original film adaptation, created mostly as a bonus for fans and to extend the series' popularity. However, as Riordan's work has continued and expanded, the quality of the adaptations of this series and the Rick Riordan Presents imprint has improved and this original title is slated to be "refreshed" and rereleased in the fall of 2023, coinciding with a new Percy Jackson adventure and the release of a new streaming adaptation.
Whether librarians will want to purchase the new edition depends on their Rick Riordan fans; are they eager for anything connected to the original series or happy to move on to the new worlds (and comics) of Rick Riordan presents like Tristan Strong and Aru Shah? If added, it would be well to wait for a prebound edition to be available as the slick pages of the original did not hold up well to even light use.

Appeals to

Fans of the original Percy Jackson series, spin-offs, and related titles.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

L. Frank Baum

Skottie Young

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Whether or not kids have ever read the original Oz books, Shanower and Young's adaptation, filled with weird characters, truly creepy villains, and all the original flavor of Baum's work, still finds an audience. While staying true to the episodic nature of the originals, Shanower smoothly connects the stories and transfers the prose into comic dialogue while Young's atmospheric art will surprise readers expecting a cute little fantasy world. The original collections are out of print, but the individual-bound issues can still be purchased through prebind publishers like ABDO. The creators adapted the first six Oz books, ending with The Emerald City of Oz.

Appeals to

Middle-grade readers looking for something different, who enjoy quirky fantasy and strong female characters will be happy to pick this up. Hand it also to readers who like a little bit of the creepy in their comics as well as very dry humor.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Hidden Gems: history

Introduction

In this latest installment of Hidden Gems, the Features Team has pulled together a list of history comics. We hope this list will introduce some unknown historical figures and titles that you may have missed.

Bomb: The Race to Build -- And Steal -- The World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Steve Sheinkin

Nick Bertozzi

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In this graphic adaptation of the novel of the same name, Bertozzi and Sheinkin work to emphasize the danger to all involved and the horror of so many parts of the process of creating the atomic bomb. The comic includes perspectives from other countries and breaks down some of the complex espionage that was so much a part of this story and includes a page at the end discussing where some of the major players went after 1950.

Appeals to

A recent movie release might be increasing interest in learning about the atomic bomb, and Bomb is a great way to start their research with something more simplified that still gets a lot of the story across effectively. It's also a good way to help younger readers start to understand the complexity of this moment in history; when they're ready they can then read the novel this is based on, which goes into more depth on aspects of the story.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Ms. Davis: A Graphic Biography

Sybille Titeux de la Croix

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In a saturated art style that harkens back to the golden age of comics, French cartooning duo Améziane and Titeux de la Croix tell the story of Angela Davis, scholar, and political activist for the rights of black Americans. They begin by describing Angela's roots, growing up in Birmingham, Alabama and the novel culminates with her wrongful imprisonment for her suspected involvement in the 1971 Marin County courtroom gunfight and the fight by her and other activists to get her out of prison. This graphic novel shows why Ms. Davis's name should be on the lips of all who want to discuss those who fought to bring about justice for Black America.

Appeals to

Fans of Améziane and Titeux de la Croix's Muhammad Ali will love this new addition to their chronicling of Black leaders.

Content Notes

Gun Violence, Racism, Discussions of conditions in the US prison system

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Queer As All Get Out: 10 People Who've Inspired Me

Shelby Criswell

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Cartoonist Shelby Criswell introduces the reader to ten queer historical figures that have inspired them. As they introduce the reader to more famous figures such as Pauli Murray and Dr. Magnus Hirschfield as well as individuals barely present in the historical record, Criswell reflects on their own journey and the state of queer rights.

Appeals to

Readers looking for an uplifting look at queer historical figures should pick this up. Another plus is that Criswell incorporates a range of nationalities and queer identities, so this is a great read for people who want to learn about non-American queer historical figures!

Content Notes

Mentions of trauma around racism, homophobia, and anti-queer bigotry come up, but Criswell generally keeps things positive and does not dwell on negative images. There is also some violence in some of the chapters and brief nudity intended to humiliate a queer person (although nothing is really visible).

Creator Identities:

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

African-American, Black |

Queer |

Trans |

First Nations or Indigenous |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History

Joel Christian Gill

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A Black Union soldier rescues his child from slavery. Bass Reeves was one of the United States' most skilled marshals. These are just a few of the stories from Black history that Joel Christian Gill covers in his collection, Strange Fruit. With humor and expressive, impactful artwork, Gill brings to life these relatively unknown stories of African American success and triumph in the face of great adversity.

Appeals to

Teenage and adult readers who are interested in lesser-known American history and positive Black representation will find much to enjoy here.

Content Notes

Racism; violence

Creator Identities:

African-American |

Main Character Identities:

Black |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

John Hendrix

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In a dangerous and unjust situation, how should individuals of faith respond? That is the question German priest Dietrich Bonhoeffer must answer when confronted with Adolf Hitler and his atrocities. Vividly drawn and richly researched, illustrator John Hendrix traces Bonhoeffer's personal journey and eventual involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.

Appeals to

Readers looking for historical stories of resistance will find much to enjoy here.

Content Notes

Discussion of death and violence, but little actual violent imagery--Hendrix relies a lot on powerful symbolic imagery to tell Bonhoeffer's story and discuss the historical elements.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

This Place: 150 Years Retold

Alicia Elliott

Natasha Donovon

Cover Image

Reconsider the last 150 years of Canadian history through an Indigenous lens with This Place, and not just one tribe but Métis, Inuit, Dene, Cree, Anishinaabe, Mi’kmaq, and Haudenosaunee perspectives. Each comic takes a different point in history and zooms in, focusing on a particular person or moment, whether external or internal, giving context the history books likely aren't. There's also a bibliography and works cited in the back of the book, for readers interested in taking deeper dives into these moments.

Appeals to

Readers who prefer nonfiction and are getting into comics may find this an approachable way to start, since it is an anthology so each story is told by a different author and artist or art style, so if they don't love one they can move on to another. Readers who already enjoy graphic memoirs will appreciate this entry into the world of nonfiction comics that while still giving a personal perspective, is less focused on one person's story and is instead the chorus of many voices on a similar topic. Also, feels like required purchasing for any school library in North America, to make sure students are getting as many perspectives on what they're learning as possible.

Creator Identities:

Anisinaabe, Cree, Dene, Haudenosaunee, Inuit, Metis, Mi'gmaq |

Anisinaabe, Cree, Dene, Haudenosaunee, Inuit, Metis, Mi'gmaq |

Main Character Identities:

Anisinaabe, Cree, Dene, Inuit, Metis, Mi'gmaq |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Tokyo Rose-Zero Hero: A Japanese American Woman's Persecution and Ultimate Redemption after World War II

Andre Frattino

Kate Kasenow

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If you were stranded in an enemy country, what would you do? Iva Toguri was forced to remain in Japan after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. She refused to renounce her American partnership, and she put a defiant spin on her role as one of the women known as Tokyo Rose, a radio personality intended to demoralize American soldiers fighting the Japanese. When she returned to the United States, Iva was tried for treason.

Appeals to

Readers interested in stories of ordinary people confronting injustice and difficult odds should pick up Tokyo Rose.

Content Notes

Use of a racial slur

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice

Tommie Smith

Cover Image

This graphic memoir tells the story of Tommie Smith, who at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City decided to peacefully protest the treatment of black athletes and black Americans as a whole. This narrative covers Tommie's rise to fame as a track star, his path to the '68 Olympics, and the fallout from his discussion to protest.

Appeals to

Sports fans, young activists, and fans of graphic memoirs will find something to enjoy here.

Content Notes

Racism

Creator Identities:

African-American |

Main Character Identities:

African-American |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts

Rebecca Hall

Hugo Martinez

Cover Image

In this compelling graphic novel, historian Rebecca Hall describes her experiences tracking down the history of women-led slave revolts. Readers follow Rebecca's journey as she struggles to locate resources and reconstruct these brave Black women's stories all the while wrestling with the slave trade's legacy.

Appeals to

Readers who are interested in "hidden" history and the process of researching and reconstructing history will be engaged with Wake. Readers who are interested in stories of Black resistance and the legacy of slavery will also want to read this as well.
Teaching resources and lesson plans are available on Rebecca Hall's website, https://rebhallphd.org/

Content Notes

Frank discussion and portrayal of slavery and the slave trade and the resulting emotional trauma; the portrayal of violence

Creator Identities:

African-American |

Main Character Identities:

Black |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

We Served the People: My Mother's Stories

Emei Burell

Cover Image

Emei Burell's mother was sixteen when she was sent to the countryside as part of China's Down to the Countryside Movement. In We Served the People, Burell shares her mother's stories of life during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution--including working in the countryside before finally returning to her hometown, Beijing, to navigate complicated social pressures and work dynamics and fight for the education she desperately wanted.

Appeals to

We Served the People will appeal to teen and adult readers looking for stories about the Cultural Revolution and/or stories of women who overcame the odds.

Creator Identities:

Swedish |

Main Character Identities:

Chinese |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Yummy: A History of Desserts

Victoria Grace Elliott

Cover Image

Peri, a sprite with a passion for food and excitement for the history of it, guides the reader through the history of some of the most popular desserts with the help of some of her fellow sprites. They wander through each dessert, providing commentary and looking into myths surrounding the desserts, giving readers a wider perspective of where modern desserts came from and how things can happen simultaneously across the world. It's cute, fun, and even has kid-friendly recipes.

Appeals to

Yummy is such a fun comic for young readers, making history approachable and a little silly as well as hands-on since they can try making things they're reading about. This would be a great choice for school libraries, as it could be used in history and science classrooms potentially, or for in-library programs partnering with those classes. It's not comprehensive, but it doesn't try to be; Yummy is focused on a few iconic desserts, and it does that well.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Comics with twists

Introduction

Sometimes knowing where the plot is going is comforting, but if you’re looking for the opposite, try this list! We’ve got comics so full of twists and turns, the end is a complete surprise as well as comics with fun twists on standard genres and tropes. Happy reading!

Assassination Classroom

Yusei Matsui

Cover Image

A surprisingly non-threatening-looking alien appears one day on Earth after having destroyed the moon and is ready to do the same to Earth; after negotiations, he agrees to teach the worst-performing class at Kunugigaoka Junior High and will delay destroying the planet for one year to give the students time to try and kill him. Then over that year, he actually nurtures these students, teaching them to be killers but also how to be kind and true to themselves, embrace their talents, and stand up to bullies. The last few volumes have even more surprises in store, so there's never time to get complacent in this story.

Appeals to

Assassination Classroom has a little bit of everything: comedy, drama, tragedy, action, and even a little horror, so it's got a wide range of appeal depending on the reader. Those who like a comic with a fairly simple/cute style that gets dark like HunterxHunter will appreciate that same dichotomy here, and the silly/serious mix could also pull in readers of SpyxFamily. This particular blend could even be a pull for fans of Five Nights at Freddy's, for the story that keeps going way past what might be expected for what seems like a simple jump scare game.

Content Notes

Violence and use of weapons, discussions of abuse/bullying

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Clean Room

Gail Simone

John Davis-Hunt

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Chloe is determined to find answers after her husband's death about the person and organization he was devoted to: Astrid Miller's Honest World Foundation. So she does what any sensible reporter does and infiltrates this possible cult. What she finds on the inside, what lies in the Clean Room, is far worse and stranger than she could ever have expected or ever prepared for. Also, this group just might be doing what it can to save the world.

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This complex horror is not for the faint of heart, but it's perfect for fans of series like The Department of Truth or The Beauty, with difficult topics being discussed through fantastic, unflinching art and writing. Truly, reading Clean Room was gripping and doesn't hand the answers to the story to the reader; even at the end of volume three there are so many unanswered questions. Part of this is because the series was canceled, but the cliffhanger it leaves the story on could almost be just a very unresolved ending. It's absolutely worth adding to a library collection looking to expand its adult horror options.

Content Notes

Suicide, gore/disturbing imagery, nudity, body horror

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Delicious in Dungeon

Ryoko Kui

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We meet our intrepid heroes (?) at a moment of crisis, fighting and losing against a dragon. From there, they head back to the surface to regroup and plan. Laios plans to go back in because his sister was part of what they lost and he's going to get her back. He also plans to cut costs by cooking and eating monsters, which is a very unpopular decision with the remaining party members. But they meet Senshi on their way back in, who seems very familiar with the concept, and so Chilchuck and Marcille are dragged into trying out the various monstrous inhabitants of this dungeon. The story starts out pretty silly and light but by volume four or five it starts to turn much darker and more intense. Don't be fooled by the layers at the top of the dungeon: darkness lies at its heart.

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Of course, the easy comparison here is to tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons, which has been experiencing a surge in popularity over the last few years. But in the comics world, it's a great pick for fans of less typical fantasy stories, like Frieren or The Ancient Magus' Bride that take unusual perspectives on the expected stories of heroes and fairy tales. It also has an anime adaptation coming out next year, so it's a good idea to get it on the shelves before the rush of requests comes in.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Die

Keiron Gillen

Stephanie Hans

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We've heard the story of a group of young people who set out on an adventure in hopes of excitement and glory. That is just the prelude to this story. This group gets trapped for 2 years in the TTRGP their friend Solomon made when they were teenagers. Solomon never made it out. Now 2 decades later this group is all brought back together when they receive a message in the real world that can only be from Solomon. They are sucked back into this grimdark fantasy world, this time with the whole lives they had all built for themselves to lose in the real world. They are all older and wiser, which means they are all that more aware of how cruel the fantasy world their friend created really is.

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Those who like their D&D games dark and gritty or who are fans of horror TTRPGs like Call of Cthulhu will love the vibe of this story.

Content Notes

Violence, Body Horror, Depictions of War, Emotional manipulation as a magical abilities.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Magic Knight Rayearth

CLAMP

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During a trip to Tokyo Tower, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu are suddenly whisked away to Cephiro, a magical world that has been thrown into chaos! The girls learn that Cephiro's Pillar, Princess Emeraude, has been captured by the evil Zagato, and the girls begin their quest to become the Magic Knights and save Princess Emeraude. Yet, why does a world full of mages and warriors need people from another world to rescue their Pillar?
A note to libraries: Beginning in September 2023, Kodansha will be re-releasing the series with a new translation!

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With gorgeous artwork and superb worldbuilding and story, this classic manga will appeal to fans of fantasy stories with strong female heroes such as She-Ra and Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts

Content Notes

There is some fantasy violence and blood; some of the girls' adventures get pretty emotionally intense, which might upset younger readers.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

My Love Mix-Up!

Wataru Hinekure

Aruko

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It's that classic story of boy likes girl, girl drops eraser, there's an eraser-based miscommunication...boy decides to pretend to like said other boy...and other boy agrees to date? Aoki's crush on Hashimoto fades as he gets to know Ida, and the two quickly become close. Hashimoto on the other hand pursues her crush, a boy unrelated to this initial confusion, and the story settles into being about Aoki and Ida, with Hashimoto's story as a secondary. You'll laugh, you'll cry, but hopefully, you won't get mixed up about this funny and sweet story.

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So clearly My Love Mix-Up is a twist on the usual shojo; by inserting a boys' love story into the world of shojo it's simultaneously using the tropes of both genres and then occasionally turning them on their heads. Readers of Sasaki and Miyano might want to pick this one up for playing with the standards of boys' love, and fans of series like Skip and Loafer will enjoy the funny and tender romance that builds throughout the series.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Project Nought

Chelsey Furedi

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Ren wakes up in the future in the year 2122 and soon finds himself a reluctant participant in a time travel exchange program where students can learn history from those who lived it. Despite Ren’s reluctance, his guide Mars grows on him, but a chance encounter throws everything Chronotech is doing into question. Can Ren figure out how to save himself and his fellow subjects and find a way back to his time?

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Readers who enjoy twisty mysteries and thrillers; readers who want queer sci-fi stories

Content Notes

One instance of a character getting misgendered

Creator Identities:

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

Gay |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Witch Hat Atelier

Kamome Shirahama

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In a world where only certain people may practice magic, Coco desperately wants to be a witch. When she sees a witch practice his magic, she attempts the same spell with disastrous consequences. Determined to undo her mistake, Coco begins training as a witch. However, others want to use her to shake up witch society.

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Witch Hat Atelier is perfect for fantasy fans who like stories with fantastic worldbuilding and nuanced characters and story. The story reveals more about witch society and its impact on the greater world at every turn, and that, alongside Coco's personal arc, makes for a compelling series that will leave readers eager for the next volume!

Content Notes

The last few volumes have been a lot more grim, with a character dealing with a loved one's death and his own injuries. While Kodansha still recommends Witch Hat Atelier for ten years and older, I would recommend these later volumes for teens and older.

Creator Identities:

Japanese |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe