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Graphic Novels and Mainstream Awards
By David S. Serchay

El DeafoAs the story goes, when Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" from Sandman #19 in 1991, the rules were changed so that a comic story could never do so again. How times have changed. This June at the American Library Association Annual Conference, two graphic novels will be presented with major awards -- Jillian Tamaki's This One Summer which was an honor book for the Caldecott Medal and Cece Bell's El Deafo which was one of two Newbery Award honor books.

Tamaki's and Bell's awards are just the latest in a recent trend for graphic novels. While there have been early cases of graphic novels winning mainstream awards – such as Maus's Pulitzer Prize in 1992 or Watchmen's 1988 Hugo, these were specialized categories (in Maus's case Special Awards & Citations: Letters and with Watchmen "Other Forms"). Now graphic novels are looked upon as not just a specialized format with titles only judged against similar works. They are judged along with any other work in the fiction and non-fiction categories and in many cases winning or at least being finalists, being named honor books, or some similar "runner-up" position.

Here are examples of some of the awards and the graphic novels that have been considered and/or won then.

This One SummerLibrary Awards: While This One Summer is the first full graphic novel be an Honor Book for the Caldecott Award (which goes to illustrators) some with graphic novel elements such as Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret have won in the past. Besides the Caldecott and the Newbery (for writers), other library-related awards include:

Printz Award – The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature is for the best YA title. Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese won it in 2007, while This One Summer is a 2015 honor book.

Corretta Scott King Award – Given to African American authors and illustrators, and for children's and teen books about the African-American experience. John Lewis's autobiographical March Book One was a 2014 Honor book

Stonewall Book Award – Given to works of "exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience" Judd Winick's Pedro and Me was an honor book in 2001 for non-fiction, a category won in 2007 by Allison Bechdel's Fun Home. In addition, Raina Telgemeier's Drama was a 2013 Honor Book for children's books .

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal – Given awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States. Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel's autobiographical To Dance was a 2007 honor book.

Alex Award – Given to books that are written for adults but appeal to teens. Winners have include Lucy Knisley's Relish, Derf Backderf's My Friend Dahmer, David Small's Stitches, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, Lynda Barry's One Hundred Demons, and Jeff Lemire's Essex County.


Some of the non-library awards that graphic novels have competed for include:

National Book Critics Circle Award – Created by the NBCC to promote "the finest books and reviews published in English." The 2014 award in the Memior/Autobiography category went to Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? making it the first graphic novel to win the award. Besides other awards listed below, Can't We Talk… is also one of the reasons that Chast won the Arts and Humanities category of the Heinz Award which comes with at $250,000 cash prize. Fun Home was a 2006 finalist in the NBCCA Memior Category as well.

American Born ChineseNational Book Award -- Presented by the National Book Foundation and besides the winner there are four additional finalists. Yang's American Born Chinese was a finalist in 2006 in the category of Young People's Literature, the same category that his Boxers & Saints was finalist for in 2013. David Small's Stitches was finalist in that category in 2009 while in 2014 Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? became the first graphic novel to be a finalist in the non-fiction category.

The Kirkus Prize – A newer award, the Kirkus Prize awards $50,000 to authors of fiction, nonfiction and young readers' literature. All titles that received a starred review in Kirkus Reviews are eligible and Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? was the inaugural winner in the Biography and Memoir category. El Deafo was also a finalist in the Children and Teen Category. Potential future winners this year include Godkiller Vol. 1, Here, March Book Two, and Fatherland.

Costa Award. - Originally known as the Whitbread Award, the Costa Award is for British and Irish writers. In 2012 the Biography category was won Mary and Bryan Talbot for Dotter of Her Father's Eyes.

March: Book OneThe Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards – Presented since 1967, 2010 marked the first time that a graphic novel won anything when Raina Telgemeier's Smile was a non-fiction honor book. In 2014 Boxers & Saints was an honor book for ficiton.

The Children's Choice Book Awards were started in 2008 by Every Child a Reader (ECAR) and the Children's Book Council (CBC) and are voted on by children and teens. Two book from Jarrett J. Krosoczka's Lunch Lady series and Jimmy Gownley's The Dumbest Idea Ever won in their categories with runners-up over the years including several books in Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm’s Babymouse series, Telgemeier's Smile and Sisters, Paul Pope's Battling Boy, Doug TenNapel's Bad Island, and Ben Hatke's The Return of Zita the Spacegirl.

Governor General's Literary Award – Presented by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Governor General of Canada to the finest in Canadian literature. Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki's Skim was a nominee in 2008 with their This One Summer winning in 2014.

Tthe AAAS/Subaru Science Books & Films Prize is given to works that promote science literacy by showcasing the importance of good science writing and illustration. Jim Ottaviani's Feynman was a finalist in 2012.

There are other awards as well and no doubt more to come. In addition, many publications include graphic novels along with "non-graphic" ones in various "best" lists. Supporters of graphic novels in libraries have always said that graphic novels should be treated like other books, and now they are.