Katie's Korner Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2012 for Schools and Libraries

Each year the graphic novel world challenges itself to further enhance, further challenge and further push the limits of high-quality 21st century literary-level graphic texts. And 2012 was no exception! To make a top ten list the following graphic novels were selected using four categorical perimeters: three elementary graphic novels, three middle level graphic novels, and three high school graphic novels. Finally, the fourth category was left open in order to preserve an opportunity for any graphic novel, at any level, to get some extra top ten kudos. 

Best Early Reader Graphic Novels of 2012

1. Squish #3: The Power of the Parasite
by Jennifer Holm and Matt Holm
(Random House Books for Young Readers, HC: 978-0-37593-785-9, SC: 978-0-37584-391-4)
Jenni Holm and Matt Holm are simply brilliant. Each year they write early reader comics that find themselves on lists of "Best of _______." This year, continuing their success with a cross content-area focus on Language Arts and Science they published Squish #3: The Power of the Parasite. Beloved, just like their first early reader graphic novel series Babymouse, Jenni and Matt continue the story of their newest hero Squish, an amoeba with a host of other science-based friends, as he ventures off to summer camp . . . only to find out he cannot swim and his new friend "Hydra" has tentacles that can paralyze him. If you want to find out how Squish and his friends survive and thrive at what seems like a doomed summer camp experience pick up Squish #3: The Power of the Parasite. And if you haven't read them already, it goes without saying that Squish's first two adventures are more than worthy of a look as well.

Squish #3
Zig and Wikki in the Cow
2. Zig and Wiki in the Cow
written by Nadja Spiegelman and illustrated by Trade Loeffler
(TOON Books, 978-1-93517-915-3)
Laugh-out-loud silly, you and your students will most likely put Zig and Wiki in the Cow on two of your top ten lists: Top Ten Science-based Best Early Reader Graphic Novel and Top Ten Most Fun Early Reader Graphic Novel. When Zig and Wiki discover that their spaceship is not the best environment for their new pet, a fly from earth, they must return to earth to find the fly its proper home. On their quest to find the fly a proper home, Zig and Wiki meet a host of other characters on an earth farm. And, in doing so, learn a lot about the ecology of farm life. 

3. Chick and Chickie in Play All Day
by Claude Ponti
(TOON Books, 978-1-93517-914-6)
Chick and Chickie are characters that will stay on young readers minds for a long time, probably all the way through their adulthood in my opinion. With witticisms a plenty and silly-playful laughs to be had these two characters charmingly teach early readers some helpful and fun lessons about what it means to play with words and enjoy doing so.
Chick & Chickie Play All Day

 Best Middle Level Readers Graphic Novels of 2012

Amulet Book 5

4. Amulet Book Five: Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi
(Graphix, 978-054520-889-5)
One of my favorite graphic novel series of all-time is Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet. Each year - just when you think it might be impossible for Kibuishi to tell a better story than the last one you read in the series - Amulet amazes and inspires you. First of all, no matter how well you read and are able to predict, it's unpredictable and clever; Kibuishi's storytelling powers seem supernatural, perhaps superheroic. It's also gorgeously illustrated and thoughtfully sequenced, leading the reader's eye gently and fluidly through it's panels and pages. Amulet Book Five: Prince of the Elves continues to follow our heroin Emily, the once-startled and reluctant-to-accept her seemingly predestined future as a Stone Keeper, as she continues to figure out her call to lead and fight for good over evil. As much as her Stone's Voice has helped her prepare and embrace her unique leadership role as a Stone Keeper in earlier editions of the series, however, book number five finds her Stone's Voice a bit more deceptive and sinister. How can she trust her stone during the fifth book's challenges and adventures? Especially when her once-ally but now exposed villain and rival Max Griffin has stolen the Mother Stone and is wreaking havoc along with the evil Elf King.

5. Cardboard by Doug TenNapel
(Graphix, HC: 978-0-54541-872-0, SC: 978-0-54541-873-7)
Cam's dad might be down on his luck, but he's determined to get his son a birthday present he'll never forget. Sure enough, his wish comes true when all he can afford is a cardboard box. But this isn't just any cardboard box. This box literally has some life to it, and when the local bully gets his hands on it things go from "a cardboard box?" to an army of alive and evil cardboard creations determined to destroy everything and everyone. Surely a birthday he will never forgot Cam and his father not only end up with a unique present, but also an unbelievable, real-life birthday adventure.

Resistance Vol. 3 - Victory

6. Victory: Resistance Book 3 by Carla Jablonski and illustrated by Leland Purvis
(First Second, 978-1-59643-293-2)
The third and final installment in this groundbreaking young adult graphic novel series finds siblings Sylvie, Paul, and Marie Tessier continuing their resistance to the Nazi regime during World War II. And even though it may seem as thought the Nazis are beginning to falter, these three siblings are once again willing to face grave danger as they work secretly for the Resistance movement to deliver intelligence that will put an end to the war.


Best High School Graphic Novels of 2012

7. Crogan's Loyalty
by Chris Schweizer
(Oni Press, 978-1-93496-440-8)
Some authors are born to write. Their passion for their stories and their craft oozes off the page. Schweizer is just such an author. His unique and thoughtfully-clever idea to follow the lineage of the Crogan family men from one generation to the next takes readers on a historical and a familial journey that is best labeled as creative nonfiction. Based on nonfiction historical events and situations Schweizer brings his fictional family tree to literary life. In this year's tale, two Crogan brothers must really come to terms with their loyalty. Is their loyalty to their family, brother-to-brother? Or is it to their cause, brother-to-brother? While one brother fights alongside the British and the other brother fights for the revolution these two brothers must negotiate their loyalties and their family honor.

Crogan's Loyalty
Take What You Can Carry


8. Take What You Can Carry by Kevin C. Pyle
(Henry Holt and Co., 978-0-80508-286-9)
From time-to-time I read a graphic novel that stays in my head, sort of like a song that you love and can't get out of your head in a good way. It simply strikes a chord and I can see - without reopening its pages - the images and the text continually working together to tell a moving, memorable story. In Take What You Can Carry Pyle tells two intentionally-parallel stories. During World War II a teenager named Ken is one of over one hundred thousand Japanese Americans told to leave their homes, leave their jobs, and leave their friends. "Take what you can carry," the American government says and move into a relocation camp. A few generations later Kyle will do just about anything to make friends in his new neighborhood. His escapades, however, land him in jail and there are consequences to be paid. Lessons to be learned.


9. The Silence of Our Friends written by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos and illustrated by Nate Powell
(First Second, 978-1-59643-618-3)
Set in Houston, Texas in 1968 one white family and one black family are about to befriend each other. How they go about creating and fostering their friendship in a polarized racial climate, however, proves more than challenging. Local news reporter Jack Long is a white man charged with covering the city's racial issues, and he has befriended Larry Thompson, the local black TSU professor leading the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) efforts on campus. Caught in the middle due to their friendship, Jack and Larry must figure out how to protect themselves and their families. In doing so, what they don't say becomes more meaningful than what they do say. An intimate and heartfelt reminder about the mistakes and the successes of our shared American experiences from the 1960s, this graphic novel sets the bar high and earns its way to the top of the creative nonfiction graphic novel class.

The Silence of Our Friends

Best - Top Individuality Kudos - Graphic Novel of 2012

Harvey Pekar's Cleveland

10. Harvey Pekar's Cleveland written by Harvey Pekar and illustrated by Joseph Remnant
(Top Shelf Productions, 978-1-60309-091-9)
Harvey Pekar played one of the most critical roles in the 20th and 21st century evolution of comic books and graphic novels. His contributions were creative - out of the box - and taught us that even if you weren’t an artist you could write autobiographical stories that were so thoughtful and illustrative both your readers and your artists could see them literally coming to life.  

This year, a few years after his passing, his final graphic novel made its debut and gave us what we all had been craving, just a few more moments with the legendary Harvey Pekar. With the perfect focal point for his parting words Harvey once again hit the nail on the head. Harvey Pekar's Cleveland takes its readers on a walk with Harvey through the streets and the history of his most well-known passion, the city of Cleveland. As readers walk with Harvey through the streets of Cleveland they learn about its history and about its inhabitants. Original and mesmerizingly engaging I couldn't put this graphic novel down. None of us wanted to loose the legendary Harvey Pekar, but his parting gift to us is without competition for best graphic novel of 2012 in my opinion.