Kat Kan’s Graphic Novels Best List: The Best Graphic Novels of 2009

VOYA‘s Graphically Speaking columnist Katharine Kan compiled this Graphic Novels Best List which was originally published in The Core, H. W. Wilson’ free monthly newsletter for librarians.   Each month they highlight best lists and awards,  best books and other items of interest.  You can subscribe by going to at http://www.corecollections.net/mar10.htm#katkans. This best list includes graphic novels for all ages.

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Long Tail Kitty
Personal Author: Pien, Lark
Publisher: Blue Apple Books/dist. by Chronicle Books
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 51
ISBN: 978-1-934706-44-2, $14.95
Abstract: Long Tail Kitty comes to children’s books from Pien’s webcomic. Pien colored Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese. Here, she uses watercolor washes over precise ink to depict the everyday adventures of Long Tail Kitty. First, he introduces readers to where he lives; then in the meadow near his house, he encounters a bee who stings him on the nose for trying to pick a flower, but they end up making friends with each other and with the friendly wildflowers in the meadow. In the wintertime, Long Tail Kitty meets Good Tall Mouse at the frozen lake and they have fun on the ice. After buying groceries at the market, Long Tail Kitty, Good Tall Mouse, and Bernice the dog get together to cook a feast for dinner. Then Long Tail Kitty’s alien friends come for a visit, and they do all the things on Kitty’s long list of fun. Here, Pien provides a foldout page filled with small panels depicting all the different activities, ranging from doing handstands to folding origami to reading comics to playing ninja and lots more.
Reading Level (Grade): 1 2 3 4

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Binky the space cat
Personal Author: Spires, Ashley
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 64
ISBN: 978-1-55453-309-1, $16.95
1-55453-309-0
978-1-55453-419-7 (paperback), $7.95; 1-55453-419-4 (paperback)
Abstract: Binky the cat lives with two humans (an unnamed mother and son) in what he thinks of as a space station. He’s determined to become a space cat and venture into outer space with his stuffed mousie Ted, and to that end he gets his space cat kit through the mail, complete with instructions to build a space ship.
“Spires’s mix of sly, dry and slapstick humor in her first graphic novel is perfect. . . . Details in the muted watercolor illustrations, like mousie Ted covering his nose as Binky releases ‘space gas,’ will keep readers of all ages giggling, whether they’re cat lovers or not.” (Kirkus)
Reading Level (Grade): 2 3 4 5

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Frankie Pickle and the closet of doom
Responsibility: written and illustrated by Eric Wight
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 79
ISBN: 978-1-4169-6484-1, $9.99; 1-4169-6484-3
Abstract: Fourth-grader Frankie Piccolini has a vivid imagination when it comes to cleaning his disastrously messy room, but eventually even he decides that it is just too dirty. “Wight’s hilarious twists of language are matched with a wicked sense of fun in the illustrations and frequent sequential-paneled episodes of pretend play.” (Kirkus) Note(s):Another title about Frankie Pickle is: Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000 (2010).
Reading Level (Grade): 2 3 4 5

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Personal Author: Shanower, Eric; Young Skottie; Beaulieu, Jean Francios; Eckleberry, Jeff
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 192
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2921-9, $29.99
Abstract: A twister picks up the house Dorothy and her dog Toto are in and carries them from Kansas to the land of Oz; the house lands on top of the Wicked Witch of the East, and the Munchkins, who were her slaves, hail Dorothy as a great sorceress. All the girl wants is to get back home to Kansas, but all anyone can say is that she must go to the Emerald City and ask the Great Wizard Oz to send her home. As she travels along the Yellow Brick Road, she meets a scarecrow who wants brains so people won’t think he’s a dummy, a tin man who wants a heart so he can love, and a great cowardly lion who wants courage so he’ll truly be king of the beasts. However, once they reach the Emerald City and each see the Wizard Oz, they learn they must do what no one, including the Wizard himself, could ever do: kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Shanower’s adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s novel keeps all the charm of the original, while Skottie Young’s art banishes any lingering images of the old Technicolor movie; Beaulieu’s muted color palette works with Young’s art, while Eckleberry’s lettering adds to an overall effect of magic and wonder. This book will appeal to all ages
Reading Level (Grade): 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: The secret alliance and the copycat crook
Personal Author: Davis, Eleanor
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 153
ISBN: 978-1-59990-142-8, $18.99; 1-59990-142-0; 978-1-59990-396-5 (paperback), $10.99 1-59990-396-2 (paperback)
Abstract: Eleven-year-old Julian Calendar thought changing schools would mean leaving his “nerdy” persona behind, but instead he forms an alliance with fellow inventors Greta and Ben and works with them to prevent an adult from using one of their gadgets for nefarious purposes. “With its frenetically eye-catching, full-color panels chock-full of humorous and informative detail, Davis’s first (of many, one hopes) graphic adventure of the SSA pumps new life into the kids’ secret society formula.” (Kirkus)
Reading Level (Grade): 3 4 5 6 7 8

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: The storm in the barn
Personal Author: Phelan, Matt
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 201
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3618-0, $24.99; 0-7636-3618-5
Abstract: In Kansas of 1937, the land has been in the grip of the Dust Bowl for four years, and eleven-year-old Jack Carter has seen his family worn down by it. His older sister Dorothy is ill with what the doctor calls dust pneumonia, his father flails out at the loss of his crops, and the town’s bullies just love to pick on him. But the day Jack outruns a dust storm all the way home from town, he glimpses something . . . odd . . . in the abandoned Talbot barn, and he tries to find the courage to go into the barn and confront what is there. This graphic novel, colored in the browns of dirt and dust, combines historical fiction with excerpts from L. Frank Baum’s Oz and the folklore of the heroic Jacks, as Jack Carter decides to take a stand for his family and his town.
Reading Level (Grade): 4 5 6 7 8 9

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: T-Minus: the race to the moon
Personal Author: Ottaviani, Jim; Cannon, Zander; Cannon, Kevin
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 124
ISBN: 978-1-4169-8682-9, $21.99
1-4169-8682-0
978-1-4169-4960-2 (paperback), $12.99; 1-4169-4960-7 (paperback)
Abstract: Ottaviani, Zander Cannon, and Kevin Cannon show what happened when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. started the space race in the 1950s, and how it progressed to the NASA Apollo 11 mission which landed two men on the moon in July of 1969. “Organized as a countdown, making the outcome seem inevitable, the frequent, prominent sidebars list a type of rocket, the duration of its flight, and whether the mission was a success or a failure. There are more than 30 attempts chronicled, and the shift between Soviet and U.S. successes creates an interesting balance in the narrative. . . . Ottaviani is particular with facts and eager to inspire readers with regard to the scientific process.” (SLJ)
Reading Level (Grade): 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Wolverine: worst day ever
Personal Author: Lyga, Barry; Nauck, Todd
Publisher: Marvel Publishing
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 184
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3757-3, $14.99; 0-7851-3757-2
Abstract:Teenager Eric Mattias has just recently discovered he has mutant powers. Very sucky mutant powers: suddenly no one notices him even when he’s in the same room. He’s not invisible, but he might as well be, and people don’t even notice him when he speaks. Eric decides to follow Wolverine around and see if he can’t pick up a few pointers about living a loner-type life, as the adamantium-clawed mutant tends to do. Only when they end up in a remote forested area does Eric realize he may not have made the smartest move, because someone else has come, someone who is as strong as Wolverine, and maybe meaner: Sabretooth. “It’s a coming-of-age tale with bursts of action that’s sure to appeal to its large, built-in audience.” (Booklist)
Reading Level (Grade): 5 6 7 8 9

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Cat burglar black
Personal Author: Sala, Richard
Publisher: First Second
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 126
ISBN: 978-1-59643-144-7 (paperback), $16.99; 1-59643-144-X (paperback)
Abstract: K.’s aunt, who works at the Bellsong Academy for Girls, has invited K. to attend the school. But as soon as she arrives, K. notices some strange goings-on: her aunt has suddenly taken ill; there are only three other students and no regular classes; and a statue speaks to K. when no one else is around.
“The story is structured like a lighthearted cross between a fable and a horror film, but only ever teetering on the edge of horror without depicting it. This could have resulted in a mishmash, but Sala elegantly dances through the creepy and the sweet.” (SLJ)
Reading Level (Grade): 5 6 7 8 9

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: My mommy is in America and she met Buffalo Bill
Personal Author: Bravo, Emile; Champion, Vanessa; Tierman, Elizabeth
Publisher: Fanfare/Ponent Mon
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 120
ISBN: 978-84-96427-85-3, $25
Abstract: Narrator Jean has just started first grade and has a younger brother, Paul, in kindergarten. They live with their factory boss father and nanny Yvette; Jean says his mother is on a trip. As he talks about his first day at school, meeting a new friend, Alain, and fighting with Paul, he mentions his mother has been away so long he can’t quite remember her. Next door neighbor Michelle claims to be receiving postcards from Jean’s mother and reads them to him; they come from places such as Switzerland and the United States. As the reader sees Jean and Paul spend a day with their mother’s parents and interact with their grandparents’ friends, the reader understands what Jean does not: his mother is dead. This book, translated from its original French, won an award for best comic album for ages eight to thirteen; however, with the essential fact never stated and Jean deciding that he’s getting too old to believe in his mother, just as he’s too old to believe in Father Christmas, makes this more suitable for the upper age range, teens, and adults.
Reading Level (Grade): 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Katman
Personal Author: Pyle, Kevin C.
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 126
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8285-2, $12.99; 0-8050-8285-9
Abstract:It’s summer time, and fifteen-year-old Kit has nowhere to go, but his college-bound older brother kicks him out of the house each day so he can study. Their neighborhood is rundown, and as Kit wanders, he sees stray cats everywhere. He decides someone should take care of them, so he starts feeding them. Jess, who hangs out with heavy-metal headbangers for lack of anyone else, loves manga and drawing her own; she notices Kit and starts drawing a comic with a character she calls Katman. When his single mother stops letting him use their cat food for strays, he starts stealing from the neighborhood shop; but when the store owner catches him and finds out what Kit is doing, he lets Kit work part time to earn the cat food; Vinod, the owner, is Indian and follows Jainism, a religion focused on animals (to put it into extremely simplistic terms). Meanwhile, Jess continues to work on her comic and becomes somewhat estranged from her head-banging pals. Kit names all the cats; then he has to ask the neighborhood’s crazy cat lady to help him when the landlord threatens to evict his mother. He finds that caring for something, even some stray cats, gives some meaning to his life, even as it also causes him a lot of trouble. Pages of Jess’s comic book about Katman, colored in black, white, and red, appear throughout the story. “Beautifully simple and straightforward.” (Voice Youth Advocates)
Reading Level (Grade): 7 8 9 10 11 12

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Pride & prejudice
Personal Author: Austen, Jane; Butler, Nancy, adapter; Petrus, Hugo, il
Responsibility: foreword by Mike Tyler
Publisher: Marvel
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 120
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3915-7, $19.99
Abstract: Jane and Lizzie are the two elder sisters in the Bennet family, with an eccentric father, a ditzy mother, and three younger sisters. When the wealthy Mr. Bingley moves into a nearby mansion, Jane falls in love with him (and he with her), but Mr. Bingley’s friend Mr. Darcy doesn’t think Jane good enough or her sister Lizzie beautiful enough to matter. Throw in a stuffy cousin who will inherit the Bennets’ property due to the estate’s entail, Mr. Bingley’s haughty sister, Mr. Darcy’s extremely haughty aunt, and a rascally young army officer with an eye for the ladies, and readers enjoy a comedy of manners and romance. This graphic novel hits all the high points of Austen’s novel; the original covers of the comic book issues look like teen gossip/fashion magazines.
Reading Level (Grade): 7 8 9 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Outlaw: The legend of Robin Hood: a graphic novel
Responsibility: written by Tony Lee; illustrated by Sam Hart; colored by Artur Fujita
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 120
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4399-7, $21.99; 0-7636-4399-8
978-0-7636-4400-0 (paperback), $11.99; 0-7636-4400-5 (paperback)
Abstract: In this new retelling of the Robin Hood legend, it’s the year 1192, and Robin of Loxley has returned home from the Crusades after receiving news of his father’s death. The Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisburn govern Nottingham at the pleasure of Prince John. When Gisburn treacherously stabs Robin in a murder attempt, Robin escapes to Sherwood Forest, where the outlaws befriend him. With the help of such men as Little John and Friar Tuck, he organizes the outlaws and they start hurting Prince John where it matters, in his moneybags. “Lee’s excellent rendition of the famed selfless hero goes hand-in-hand with Hart’s expressive illustrations, featuring lots of close-ups and dramatic lighting and a beautiful jewel-toned palette. Teens will get caught up in this exciting page-turner.” (SLJ)
Reading Level (Grade):7 8 9 10 11 12

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: I kill Giants
Personal Author: Kelly, Joe; Niimura, JM Ken, il
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Year: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60706-092-5, $15.99
Abstract: Fifth-grader Barbara Thorson appears to be a smart-aleck troublemaker, and she does get into trouble at school, with great regularity. She has no friends, she has to deal with teachers and a principal who don’t understand her, with the bully Taylor, with Sophie, the new girl who wants to be her friend, and now with a school psychologist. She has no time for this nonsense, she is a giant killer, with her mighty weapon she calls Coveleski (after Stanley Coveleski, a baseball player in the early twentieth century). What writer Kelly reveals slowly to the reader is Barbara’s real family situation: her mother is dying, her older sister is trying to keep the family together, and Barbara is convinced that if she can slay the Titan, a huge giant, she can keep her mother alive. While Barbara is young, the story has an emotional intensity better suited for older teens.
Reading Level (Grade): 8 9 10 11 12

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Trotsky: a graphic biography
Personal Author: Geary, Rick
Publisher: Hill and Wang
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 103
ISBN: 978-0-8090-9508-7, $16.95; 0-8090-9508-4
Abstract: Geary provides a graphic biography of Leon Trotsky, the “brain” behind the Russian Revolution of 1917. He was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein in 1879, son of peasant farmers in the Ukraine; he was highly intelligent and always sympathetic to the workers on his father’s farm. As a teenager in school away from home, he soon became a socialist and began his turbulent political life that helped to establish international communism and the creation of the Soviet Union. The book, with its detailed and clear black and white panel art, chronicles Trotsky’s tumultuous relationships with Lenin and Stalin, the contentious debates within the revolutionary movement, Trotsky’s many exiles, and his murder in Mexico in 1940. Geary includes a bibliography of sources.
Reading Level (Grade): 9 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Johnny Hiro
Personal Author: Chao, Fred; Babb, Dylan, il; Post, Jesse, il
Publisher: Adhouse Books
Publication Year: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-9352330-2-2, $14.95
Abstract: Johnny Hiro, a young mixed-race man, lives in New York City with his Japanese girlfriend Mayumi. He works as a busboy in a sushi restaurant, with ambitions to become a sushi chef; she’s an editor. Their New York City is just a bit different, which becomes abundantly clear to the reader in the first story a kaiju (Japanese monster) called Gozadilla has come to the city to get revenge on Mayumi, whose mother helped to defeat him in Tokyo years ago. Johnny goes running to help Mayumi when Gozadilla shatters the outer wall of their apartment and snatches her; she manages to call Mayor Bloomberg, who calls out emergency services, but the Mayor won’t help them fix their apartment wall. In other stories, Johnny fends off forty-seven ronin businessmen seeking revenge on his friend Toshi, whose startup firm caused theirs to fail; Johnny’s boss Masago sends him to steal a Japanese spiny lobster when a famous restaurant critic comes to the restaurant and orders lobster even though it’s not on the menu. Every time, Johnny must use martial arts and deal with crazy chases through Manhattan, the opera, and more. Chao uses black and white with gray tones in his art, which works with his absurdist comedy. He originally published the book in several comics issues, and the series received several Eisner Award nominations in 2008 (Best Single Issue or One-Shot for issue #1, Best New Series, and Best Humor Publication). Johnny and Mayumi are shown in bed, but there’s very little sexual content, very little harsh language, just lots of action.
Reading Level (Grade): 9 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer
Personal Author: Jensen, Van; Higgins, Dusty, il
Publisher: SLG Publishing
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 128
ISBN: 978-1-59362-176-6, $10.99
Abstract: After a brief recap of Collodi’s novel, this graphic novel takes place a few years later. Pinocchio, still a wooden puppet, now finds he has a use for lying and growing his nose: he breaks off the growth and uses it as a wooden stake to destroy vampires. The bloodsuckers have come to the town of Nasolungo, they killed his creator/father Geppetto, and now Pinocchio roams the streets at night, seeking vengeance upon the vampires. The problem is, no one in town except for Master Cherry the carpenter and the old Blue Fairy believes him. Then the ghost of the cricket comes back, and Pinocchio discovers the vampires have much more planned than just sucking the blood of everyone in town. The book includes violence but only mild language (Pinocchio says “crap” a few times). Along with the violence, the book includes a lot of sardonic humor, especially with the puppet trying to come up with lies to grow his nose.
Reading Level (Grade): 9 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Bayou, volume one
Personal Author: Love, Jeremy; Morgan, Patrick, il
Publisher: Zuda Comics/DC Comics
Publication Year: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2382-3, $14.99
Abstract: In a little southern town called Charon in 1933, Lee Wagstaff lives the kind of precarious life that African Americans under Jim Crow laws had to live. She’s friends with white Lily Westmoreland, but that friendship doesn’t protect her when Lily’s mother accuses Lee of theft. Then Lily disappears, victim of a swamp monster, and the town’s white men haul her father off to jail, most likely to face a lynching. Lee has to find Lily to save her father, but when she goes to the swamp where Lily disappeared, she falls into a strange land of monsters. There she meets Bayou, a blues-singing swamp monster who helps her, and Lee faces the evil in the strange land to find and save her friend. This book collects the first four chapters of the webcomic by Love, which was one of the first webcomics from Zuda, run by DC Comics. The book includes disturbing images of hanged people, and a white man hits Lee so hard she flies through the air and lands on her back with her face torn up. The “n” word is represented by “n*****” while other harsh language is plainly written. The book contains enough violence to bother squeamish and sensitive readers.
Reading Level (Grade): 9 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Secret identities: the Asian American superhero anthology.
Personal Author: Yang, Jeff, ed; Shen, Parry, ed; Chow, Keith, ed
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 194
ISBN: 978-1-59558-398-7 (paperback), $21.95
Abstract: Yang, Shen, Chow, and coeditor Jerry Ma have put together a collection of twenty-six stories by Asian American creators about Asian American superheroes. The book is divided into sections: War and Remembrance, Many Masks, When Worlds Collide, Girl Power, Ordinary Heroes, and From Headline to Hero. The Preface, the Prologue, all section introductions, and the Epilogue, are all done in comic book format. Creators include Gene Luen Yang, Greg Pak, Dustin Nguyen, Kazu Kibuishi, Cliff Chiang, Christine Norrie, and many more. Some stories deal with the Nisei soldiers of the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II, others confront the idea that the Asian character can only be the sidekick, still others explore the stereotypical attitudes of some Americans toward Asian Americans. The book includes some violence and some harsh language.
Reading Level (Grade): 9 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer
Personal Author: Stitches: a memoir
Publisher: W.W. Norton
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 329
ISBN: 978-0-393-06857-3, $23.95; 0-393-06857-9
Abstract: David Small grew up in a dysfunctional family, with a radiologist father who was distant, an angry mother who expressed her anger in eloquent silences, and an older brother who played drums a lot to express his frustrations. When he was eleven, he had a lump, a growth, on the side of his neck. Nothing was done until he was fourteen. He thought he was going in for a minor surgery to remove the cyst from his neck; instead, there were two surgeries, and when he woke up, he had no voice—a vocal cord was removed. He later learned he had cancer, something his parents refused to discuss. After he finds his mother in bed with another woman and his father confesses that he exposed him to x-rays when he was very young, Small leaves home at age sixteen, with little except his dreams that his art could be his life. In one early scene, Small shows the indignities wrought upon his body by his father, including an enema. In another scene, young Small and his older brother look at their father’s medical books and see a woman’s breast and a man’s penis; towards the end of the book, Small draws his grandmother stripping all her clothes off and dancing wildly after setting her house on fire. Other than these few images, Small’s depictions of his horrible childhood and teen years are quiet and low-key. “Emotionally raw, artistically compelling and psychologically devastating graphic memoir of childhood trauma.” (Kirkus)
Reading Level (Grade): 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Madame Xanadu: disenchanted
Personal Author: Wagner, Matt; Hadley, Amy Reeder, il; Friend, Richard, il; Major, Guy, il
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Publication Year: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2291-8, $12.99
Abstract: In the days of King Arthur and Camelot, Nimue used woodland magic. Despite her power, the warnings of a stranger with glowing eyes comes too late for her to save the land against the machinations of Merlin and her own sister, Morgana. Using her herb lore to maintain her youth, Nimue next shows up in the court of Kublai Khan, where she is known as the Western Seer. Again, the Phantom Stranger shows up, this time with the party of Marco Polo, who become targets of a plot to discredit the Westerners. Nimue helps, only to learn that it wasn’t enough, and the Stranger abandons her in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Then she appears in France, known there as Madame Xanadu, a favorite of Queen Marie Antoinette. This time, Nimue reads the portents for herself and knows that the Revolution will topple the King; the Phantom Stranger appears again, but because she can’t trust him, she ends up imprisoned, betrayed by the former Queen whom she believed to be a friend, and Nimue has to trick Death herself. In London of the 1880s, Madame Xanadu tries to help the prostitutes of Whitechapel, but the Phantom Stranger says the murders committed by Jack the Ripper serve a larger purpose and he thwarts her again. In New York City of the 1930s, Nimue has found another magician, John Zatara, and they are lovers, but the Phantom Stranger comes again and this time Nimue decides to trap him. What consequences will her actions have upon the people around her, including a heroic policeman named James Corrigan? The book includes some gory violence, some harsh language, some sexual suggestiveness and one not-very-graphic rape scene. This series, in its pamphlet comic issue form, was nominated for four Eisner Awards in 2009: Best Writer, Best Cover Artist, Best New Series, and Best Penciler Inker Team.
Reading Level (Grade): 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, vol. 1
Personal Author: Urasawa, Naoki; Tezuka, Osamu; Nagasaki, Takashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Publication Year: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4215-1918-0 (paperback), $12.99
Abstract: In a future where humans and robots peacefully coexist, someone or something kills the Swiss robot named Mont Blanc, a well-loved, powerful, and famous robot. In Dusseldorf, a robot rights leader named Bernard Lanke has been brutally murdered, and there are some disturbing links to Mont Blanc’s death. A traffic police bot has also been killed, and Inspector Gesicht of Interpol is sent to investigate the murders. When he returns the police bot’s memory chip to his robot wife, she shows Gesicht what her husband saw just before he dies. He realizes that someone is killing the most advanced robots and he’s one of them. This manga series is Urasawa’s take on a classic Astro Boy story by Osamu Tezuka: “The Greatest Robot On Earth.” Tezuka’s famous robot creation, Astro Boy, called Atom in this series (his original name), shows up only in the last panel of this first volume. The book includes violence. Note(s): Original Japanese edition, 2004
Reading Level (Grade): 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Naoki Urasawa’s 20th century boys, vol. 1
Personal Author: Urasawa, Naoki; Wegmuller, Akemi, adapter
Publisher: Viz Media
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 216
ISBN: 978-1-59116-922-2, $12.99
Abstract: In 1997, Kenji has given up his dream of being a rock musician and manages his family’s convenience store. When one of his childhood friends, a science teacher, commits suicide, Kenji starts to think back to 1969, when he and his friends created a hideaway, swore to do what they could to save the world, and buried a time capsule with a symbol they designed drawn on top. In 1997, that symbol starts showing up as grafitti in Kenji’s neighborhood. And a strange cult led by a man who calls himself “Friend” uses that symbol (an eye with a hand pointing upward). As Kenji reunites with his buddies, they talk about what they did in 1969, and they dig up the time capsule. Does it have anything to do with their friend Donkey’s death? The book includes graphic violence and partial nudity.
Reading Level (Grade): 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: The Sandman: the dream hunters
Personal Author: Gaiman, Neil; Russell, P. Craig, il; Kindzierski, Lovern, il; Klein, Todd, il
Publisher: D.C. Comics/Vertigo
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 144
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2424-0, $24.99
Abstract: In old Japan, creatures of myth and legend live among the people. Two such creatures, a badger and a fox, make a wager to force a humble monk to leave the temple he tends alone up in the mountains. Because the young monk can see through their disguises to their true nature, both badger and fox lose the wager, and the fox falls in love with the handsome young man and remains nearby. Meanwhile, a wealthy man who has mastered demons yet cannot find peace in his soul decides to steal the young monk’s inner strength for his own. The fox tries to protect the monk, and even makes a bargain with the great black fox in her dreams, to sacrifice her life for the man she loves. Then, when she suffers the consequences of the evil dreams sent by the wealthy man through his demons, the monk ventures into the Dreaming in a quest to save the fox, whom he finally realizes he loves. When he makes the decision to take back the dream that will kill him, the fox decides to take revenge on the wealthy man, the onmyoji, and comes to him as a beautiful young woman to destroy him. Russell has adapted the novella written by Gaiman and illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano. It includes some nudity.
Reading Level (Grade): 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Sgt. Rock: the lost battalion
Personal Author: Tucci, Billy; Clark Jr., Rob, il
Publisher: D.C. Comics
Publication Year: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2533-9, $24.99
Abstract: After the Allied force landing at Normandy in 1944, Sgt. Frank Rock and his Easy Company are attached to the 141st Infantry and march deep into the Vosges Mountains, their assignment to open an avenue straight into the heart of Germany. However, the German forces have dug in deeply with snipers, Tiger tanks, and elite infantry troops, ready to keep the Americans trapped until reinforcements come to help them destroy the Allies. As Sgt. Rock and his men, along with the rest of the Lost Battalion, try to hang on with dwindling ammunition and rations, American commanders keep trying to send help. Everyone fails, except for the “Little Iron Men” of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. These Japanese American soldiers, many of whom have family forced to live in internment camps, are the only hope for the Lost Battalion; and Hitler has just ordered their execution. This story does portray the violence of war, but Tucci keeps his art fairly subdued and the language pretty clean (dang, nuts, etc.). He heavily researched this book so the facts are there, he just added the fictional Sgt. Rock and Easy Company to the real soldiers. Anyone who wants to get a feeling for what war was like for the everyday Army soldier will get it in this story, with no glorification of fighting or violence.
Reading Level (Grade): 10 11 12 Adult

A Most Highly Recommended Title
Title: Unknown soldier: haunted house
Personal Author: Dysart, Joshua; Ponticelli, Alberto, il; Celestini, Oscar, il; Robins, Clem, il
Publisher: D.C. Comics/Vertigo
Publication Year: 2009
Pages: 144
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2424-0, $24.99
Abstract: In 2002, Northern Uganda is a beautiful country racked by horrible brutality and war, as an insane extremist Christian rebel and his army of children terrorize their own people. Dr. Lwanga Moses had fled Uganda with his family when he was a child and Idi Amin was in power; now, he has returned to Uganda with his Ugandan wife, full of pacifist ideals and plans to bring hope and healing to his home country. Then he falls prey to the child soldiers and something deep within him erupts, and Dr. Moses becomes an unstoppable killing machine. His face disfigured, he covers it in bandages and becomes an unknown soldier, determined to do whatever it takes, however much violence and killing he must do, to stop the war. Meanwhile, his wife keeps up their medical mission, always wondering what happened to make her husband disappear. This book is full of horrific, gory violence, but with this update of the classic Unknown Soldier character, Dysart also carefully researched Ugandan politics and conflicts to make his story as authentic as possible.
Reading Level (Grade): 11 12 Adult

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3 Comments

  1. Will Stein says:

    I am a Librarian in a small community in Virginia. I am looking for a site or discussion list that reviews Graphic Novels. I get a lot of donations, some of them fairly obscure titles and it would help to have some kind of guideline for selection.
    Thanks,
    Will

  2. Hi, Will,
    VOYA features a column, Graphically Speaking, by Kat Kan in every issue. You can search for reviewed titles in our digital VOYA. Click on the turning pages and register.
    Thank you for writing.
    RoseMary Honnold

  3. […] VOYA:  Kat Kan’s Graphic Novels Best Lists (the trick is to find the most up-t0-date list; Kat Kan also has a column, “Graphically Speaking” which is supposed to be in every VOYA issue since 2002, but I had trouble finding it. This article, “Comics On the Library Reference Shelf“  from Publisher’s Weekly also mentions Graphic Novels Core Collection, which is a H.W. Wilson database and like other H.W. Wilson core collection references should be an invaluable tool if you access it. Kat Kan is the editor. […]

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