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Reviews: Elementary / Middle Grade Graphic Novels (CYBILS Award Finalists)

I had so much fun reading these elementary / middle grade graphic novels. I don't usually read elementary level books since I work in secondary, but there are some wonderful ones out there! The round one judges for the CYBILS did a great job of choosing finalists!

As you can see by my rankings, we had a difficult time choosing just one winner for this category!

Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag WINNER
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Review: This is a clever graphic novel that will appeal to many students. The illustrations are captivating, the story has family, friendship, support, and tension. I like that it shows a boy who is interested in the "girl's" activities of the community and that the story is a metaphor for acceptance and understanding of people who do not fit the mainstream mold; that will appeal to students as well.

Anne of Green Gables by Mariah Marsden
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review: This story is such a classic that I wasn't sure what a rewrite of it as a graphic novel would be like, but I needn't have worried. I still cried in the usual spots while enjoying the illustrations. I do wish the people looked a bit different (they seemed harsh), but the colors were lovely. This is a good adaptation.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review:  Be prepared? I definitely think of the Girl Scouts or safety drills. Could that be interesting? I didn't realize this was the author of Anya's Ghost that I read years ago and enjoyed. This is autobiographical of Vera Brosgol's experience at Russian summer camp when she was 9 years old. It's cute, sad, funny, and most kids can probably relate to her loneliness, homesickness, and yearning for friends (and a clean toilet).
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review: What a lovely graphic novel. It has a touching story of a girl learning to be a blacksmith from her elfin mother as well as making new friends as she discovers tea dragons. The story is gentle, has good diversity, and lovingly shows healthy relationships between parents and children, child to child, and adult to child. Traditions are emphasized as well as the love of learning and helping others. And I LOVE the illustrations!
Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review: The stories in this book made me smile as the kids created costumes and characters, brought more and more kids into the game. It reminded me of doing plays with the neighborhood kids when I was young. I also think it dealt with some good issues: loneliness, fitting in, divorcing parents, multigenerational families, and more.
Escape from Syria by Samya Kullab
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review: This is such an important subject for middle grade students to learn about and reading the story of one girl will help to personalize the news. This book is definitely for a higher level reader than the other finalists with a multi-page prologue and notes at the end explaining the Arabic terms, details of life for refugees, etc.
Mr. Wolf's Class by Aron Nels Steinke
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review: While I like the concept behind this graphic novel: a new teacher and his students as they begin a school year, it seemed to me to try to cover too much. The characters are cute, there is some diversity, and the antics are spot on for 4th grade. I wish the author had played up the concept of the new girl in class, which only surfaced at the very start and the very end.

Challenges for which these books qualify:

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