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Best & Brightest Children's Graphic Novels of 2020


This Best & Brightest list was created by Denver Public Library staff to celebrate our favorite recently published graphic novels. Enjoy!

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Drew And Jot: Dueling Doodles
Baltazar, Art, author, illustrator.
3rd grade & up. “Fifth grade best friends Andrew and Foz are creating the perfect superhero crossover with the power of their imaginations! Andrew's laser-eyed heroes Drew and Jot team up to fight Foz's Doctor Danger, as the pair trade sketchbooks back and forth to create their action epic with new characters and new adventures. But what happens when Andrew's little sister doodles in his sketchbook and changes the world of Drew and Jot forever? Can Andrew and Foz work together to save their creation?” --From the publisher. Andrew and Foz’s delightful, crayon-sketchy universe explodes off the page with color, energy and a gleefully authentic kid sensibility. A non-stop thrill ride jammed with action, humor and collaboration, the compelling digital art and uplifting plot of this zany book might even inspire readers to create comics of their own!
Chick And Brain: Egg Or Eyeball?
Bell, Cece, author, illustrator.
Preschool-3rd grade. “Oh! Oh, oh, oh! Look what Brain found. Chick and Spot say it is an egg. Brain says it is an eyeball. Is it an egg or an eyeball? The inimitable Cece Bell is back with a second hilarious primer on good manners gone awry and arguments run amok. Perfectly pitched to kids just learning to read and loaded with verbal and visual comedy, this offbeat graphic story by a master of the genre builds to an exhilaratingly absurd surprise ending.” --From the publisher. Clever wordplay, silly manners and epic misunderstandings keep the giggles flowing in this equally hilarious sequel. Simple vocabulary, clear font and easy-to-follow watercolor and ink illustrations make this book a great choice for developing readers. Meanwhile, the nonstop slapstick humor will keep a wide age range entertained.
Class Act
Craft, Jerry, author, artist.
4th grade & up. “Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying ‘You have to work twice as hard to be just as good.’ His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted? As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself?” --From the publisher. This absorbing and emotionally honest tale and New Kid sequel deeply and deftly examines Black boys Drew and Jordan’s experiences of difference, race, class, microaggressions and colorism. Witty visual puns, detail-rich illustrations and immensely relatable characters provide new perspectives in this crucially-needed, funny and moving #ownvoices book about coming-of-age, self-identity and friendship.
Johnson, Varian, author.
3rd grade & up. “Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran -- a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister! Maureen and Francine are growing apart and there's nothing Maureen can do to stop it. Are sisters really forever? Or will middle school change things for good?” --From the publisher. Varian Johnson has created a solid and engrossing #ownvoices story about family and beginning middle school that will leave readers examining their own relationships. Illustrator Shannon Wright’s comic art is rich in color, expression and culturally specific details that perfectly highlight the African American characters in the book.
Green Lantern: Legacy
Lê, Minh, 1979- author.
3rd grade & up. “When thirteen-year-old Tai Pham inherits his grandmother’s jade ring, he soon finds out it’s more than it appears. Suddenly he’s being inducted into a group of space cops known as the Green Lanterns, his neighborhood is being overrun by some racist bullies, and every time he puts pen to paper, he’s forced to confront that he might not be creative enough or strong enough to uphold his ba’s legacy. Now Tai must decide what kind of hero he wants to be: will he learn to soar above his insecurities or will the past keep him grounded?” --From the publisher. This riveting, #ownvoices tale subverts audience expectations with its diverse characters, engaging plotline and dedication to exploring a well-known comic story through the lens of Vietnamese culture. The artwork is energetic, striking and culturally specific, with large, dynamic action panels and an irresistibly vivid color palette.
Leyh, Kat, author, artist.
4th grade & up. “Snap's town had a witch. At least, that’s how the rumor goes. But in reality, Jacks is just a crocs-wearing, internet-savvy old lady who sells roadkill skeletons online—after doing a little ritual to put their spirits to rest. It’s creepy, sure, but Snap thinks it’s kind of cool, too. They make a deal: Jacks will teach Snap how to take care of the baby opossums that Snap rescued, and Snap will help Jacks with her work. But as Snap starts to get to know Jacks, she realizes that Jacks may in fact have real magic—and a connection with Snap’s family’s past.” --From the publisher. By turns gripping, surreal, scary and humorous, this exceptional book features a smart, young, Black protagonist who discovers her own inner strengths--both magical and not. Full-color art is gorgeously sweeping and intensely personal, depicting the diversity of Snap’s world including LGBTQ characters and a wide range of skin tones.
Primer: A Superhero Graphic Novel
Muro, Jennifer, author.
3rd grade & up. “Primer introduces a brand-new superhero with a colorful array of superpowers to explore. Thirteen-year-old Ashley Rayburn is an upbeat girl with a decidedly downbeat past. With a criminal father in prison, Ashley has bounced from foster home to foster home with trouble always finding her along the way. Finally settling in with loving and supportive foster parents, Ashley's world is turned upside down again when she stumbles upon a set of body paints that grant the wearer a multitude of superpowers. But the government agency that made those paints wants them back, and now she has to make hard choices to protect her new family while overcoming the shadows of the past.” --From the publisher. Troubled youth turned heroine Ashley receives the chance of a lifetime in this page turner that masterfully combines comedy, action, adventure and a cliffhanger ending. The brightly colored, classic superhero comic-inspired graphics explode throughout the book, pulling readers in for a thrilling ride.
The Deep & Dark Blue
Smith, Niki, author, artist.
4th grade & up. “After a terrible political coup usurps their noble house, Hawke and Grayson flee to stay alive and assume new identities, Hanna and Grayce. Desperation and chance lead them to the Communion of Blue, an order of magical women who spin the threads of reality to their will. As the twins learn more about the Communion, and themselves, they begin to hatch a plan to avenge their family and retake their royal home. While Hawke wants to return to his old life, Grayce struggles to keep the threads of her new life from unraveling, and realizes she wants to stay in the one place that will allow her to finally live as a girl.” --From the publisher. This gripping #ownvoices book boasts impressive representation of transgender and BIPOC individuals that help to weave a fascinating and inclusive narrative. The color indigo dominates the simple, polished artwork to set a mystical, urgent tone, while brisk pacing and an intricate plotline draw readers even more deeply into the story.
The Big Break
Tatulli, Mark, author, illustrator.
4th grade & up. “Andrew and Russ are best friends obsessed with finding the legendary Jersey Devil that supposedly lives in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, right in their own backyards. They're even making a movie about their desperate search for any sign of the mythical creature. But when Russ starts spending less time on their movie, and more time with artsy, first-chair violinist Tara, Andrew feels the cracks in their friendship begin to form...Then a rash of Jersey Devil sightings excite their small town, and the boys are thrown back together on a fevered hunt.” --From the publisher. Amazingly expressive artwork, hilariously spot-on middle school dialogue and a cliffhanger plot make this book a memorable standout. Fast paced and full of both humor and emotional honesty, it features a diverse cast of relatable characters and a refreshing look at middle school male friendships.
Alien Nate
Whamond, Dave, author, illustrator.
1st-5th grade. “Nate's on a mission to Earth from the planet Vega. His goal: eat pizza! Luckily, soon after he crash-lands on Earth he meets Fazel, who helps him create a disguise, learn the ways of Earthlings and most importantly, stuff himself with pizza! Nate quickly discovers there are lots of things to love about Earth and Earthlings besides pizza. He's having a blast! There's only one problem. Two Men in Beige (government agents) are desperate to capture him and bring him to their lab --- and they're starting to close in.” --From the publisher. This alien adventure is short, sweet and hilarious, with fast-paced, episodic action, straightforward text and goofy, cartoon-inspired artwork perfect for early elementary readers. The adorably food-obsessed extraterrestrial protagonist and brown-skinned human best friend whiz readers through this joke-filled romp of a story about the power of imagination, friendship and yummy pizza!

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