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CYBILS Reviews 2022: Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novel Finalists and Winner

What a fun experience to be a round 2 judge for the CYBILS again. Here are my reviews for the CYBILS finalists for the category of Elementary/Middle Grade graphic novels.

Check out the locations of these books on my 2023 Google Calendar.

Invisible written by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, illustrated by Gabriela EpsteinWINNER

5 stars. I really like this book and think it's a great book for middle grade readers, showing that misunderstandings are vital and can be so hurtful. We should be open to the good in all people, seeing past the facade. The illustrations are fun and I love that it's in both Spanish and English and that it didn't feel forced or fake. In addition, the story deftly touches on many issues such as language, the unhoused, dyslexia, immigrants, and more.

The Flamingo written and illustrated by Guojing(location: )

4 stars. The illustrations in this book are beautiful and heartwarming. Since there is hardly any text, it's a good graphic novel for younger readers. However, I wonder if younger readers would enjoy it. I like the relationship between the child and grandmother.

Little Monarchs written and illustrated by Jonathan Case.

4 stars. There is a lot going on in this book and I think it might be too much for middle grade readers. There is a ton of text, fun illustrations, and an interesting story set in the future when monarch butterflies are the source of a vaccine for sun sickness. So it's a commentary on environmentalism, human greed, caring relationships, and more.

Squire by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh, illustrated by Sara Alfageeh(location: )

4.5 stars. I like the pages at the end where they discuss the author and illustrator discuss their collaboration process and how the work is done, step by step. I also like that they built from their own identities and experiences, but applied it to a different time and place. The story is one of bravery, friendship, and loyalty; I think students will like that.

Swim Team written and illustrated by Johnnie Christmas

5 stars. I really enjoyed this one, it's got friendship, overcoming obstacles, history (racism, redlining, and more), and swimming. I was a swimmer so I could really connect with the characters and the main focus of the story. The illustrations are good and the story is uplifting for African Americans.

Wingbearer by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Teny Issakhanian(location: )

4 stars. Fantasy readers will love this beautiful graphic novel. The illustrations are incredible and the story of a strong girl will surely appeal. For me, it wasn't as good, but that's just because I am not much of a fantasy reader. If you are, however, there are goblins, griffins, talking animals, one girl's power, and a band of disparate beings coming together to save the world. 

The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Stories by Kate Ashwin, Kel McDonald and Alina Pete (editors), contributors as follows: Milo Applejohn, Mercedes Acosta, Jordaan Arledge, Elijah Forbes, Rhael McGregor, Maija Ambrose Plamondon, Alice RI, Izzy Roberts

4.5 stars. What a wonderful set of short stories from various authors and tribes. Each story pulled me into the characters' culture, beliefs, and way of life. I especially liked the Two Spirit story explaining the start of life on earth (Odawa) and the story of the "monster" Rougarou (Métis). All the writers and illustrators are LGBTQIA+ and bring this lens to their work in an important way.

Challenges for which these books count:

  • Alphabet Soup (title)--F, I, L, S, W
  • Alphabet Soup (author)--C, E, I, L, M, P, R
  • Literary Escapes--California, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Canada, Turkey, Jordan
  • Popsugar--2 languages; alliteration in the title; mythical creatures; rabbit on cover; queer lead; map; characters go on a vacation

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