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CYBILS Reviews: Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels Finalists and Winner

I love being a round 2 judge for the CYBILS, but it feels so strange to have to wait to publish reviews until the winners are announced in mid-February. I purposefully do not read the summaries of these books or any reviews before I read them so that I go in "untainted." So, here are the reviews for the CYBILS finalists for the category of elementary and middle grade graphic novels:

Check out the locations of these books on my 2022 Google Calendar.

Borders by Thomas King

4.5 to 5 stars. I wasn't sure which border this book meant in the title, but it's very clever. Yes, it's the US/Canada border, but it's also the concept of borders and sovereignty. I love that the main character understands the point his mother is trying to make when she won't declare that she is Canadian, but rather that she is Blackfoot. She advocates for herself and stands up for what she knows is right in a quiet and dignified way. The illustrations are lovely as well.  

Chunky by Yehudi Mercado (location: Texas)

3.5 to 4 stars. This one didn't work as well for me as the others, but it is still pretty good. The author is telling his own story (which I didn't know until I finished the book) about growing up fat, asthmatic, not athletic, and funny. I like that he was happy with himself despite the bullying and negative comments from family and that he ends up doing what he loves: the theater.

Cranky Chicken by Katherine Battersby (location: Canada)

4 stars. What a charming book for elementary students! It talks about feelings, making (and keeping) friends, and how to have a positive outlook on life. And, it isn't preachy. Kids will love the simple but expressive drawings.

Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani (location: New York)

4.5 stars. What a fun book! The characters in this graphic novel use a jukebox to travel back in time. Whatever record is playing on the jukebox determines where and when they travel and when the record finishes, they come back to present day. The historical references were interesting, the playlist (listed separately at the back) was filled with fun music, and the characters and illustrations left me feeling positive.

The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor (location: California)

4 stars. I like the historical nature of this graphic novel, especially since it's a topic I don't know much about (1800s Chinese working in the California logging industry). It was a well done book and I didn't even (completely) mind the magical portion of it. I think the story handled the racism well and showed that friendships could exist among different groups at the time. I also think it's nice that they talked about educating their daughters even through college.

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte (Location: Taiwan and California) WINNER

4.5 to 5 stars. I thought this was going to be just about cooking, but it is so much more. It covers family, immigration and fitting in (funny how a character's food that they bring to school is always mentioned), making friends, and following one's dreams. I actually got choked up near the end!

Salt Magic by Hope Larson (Location: Oklahoma)

3.5 stars. I like the setting and characters of this graphic novel, but I am so not good with magical realism. Because of this, the first half of this historical graphic novel worked better for me than the second half when the spirits showed up. 

Challenges for which these books count:

  • Alphabet Soup (title)--C, J, L
  • Alphabet Soup (author)--K, L
  • Literary Escapes--Canada, Taiwan, California, Oklahoma , Texas, Washington
  • Popsugar--Found family, Sapphic, Cutlery on the cover, witches, has a recipe, band or musical group

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