YA Graphic Novel Roundup 7

This is the last roundup for the year. My panel has met, and we’ve talked about all the books and come up with her our lists., which I’m quite proud of. It’s a good list, reflective of all the good graphic novels that have been published hits year We’ll announce it on January 1st!

Victory. Stand!
by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabile
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is racism and depictions of injustice. It’s in the Middle Grade Sports section of the bookstore.

This is the story of how Tommie Smith got to the 1968 Olympics, and the story behind the famous picture of him and John Carlos raising their fists at the medal ceremony. It’s a remarkable story, one full of sacrifice and good luck and determination and support. There is fighting for equality and civil rights, as well as excellence in sports.

I know I’ve seen the photo lots of times, but honestly, I’ve never thought about the story behind it. As a result, this book was incredibly fascinating. I liked hearing Smith’s story and the sacrifices and hardships as well as the opportunities he had on his path toward the Olympics. it was a reminder that racism was (is) everywhere, not just in the South, and that things were (are) much harder for Black people than it needed to be. The amount of racism that Smith faced is astounding, and it’s a little-known civil rights story that deserves to be told. An excellent book.

Tiny Dancer
by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Other ins the “series”: To Dance
Content: There are some mild swearing, divorce, and body image issues. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

About 16 years ago, the Siegels wrote a middle-grade graphic novel about Siena’s experience being a ballerina. It’s a good book, one that talks about the path to being a professional ballerina, and the subsequent injury that derailed Siena’s career. I thought it was a good story, a complete story, but the Siegels must have thought there was more to tell. EnterĀ Tiny Dancer, where Siena goes deeper into what it takes to be a ballerina on the highest level and the consequences and aftermath of her injury. I don’t know if this book was necessary, but I found it interesting and worth reading. It hits some of the same beats asĀ To Dance, but it adds another, deeper layer to the story. And, as usual, Mark Siegel’s art is beautiful, capturing the elegance of the dancers as well as the pain and indecision post-injury. A good book, overall.

Slip
by Marika McCoola and Aatmata Pandya
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is talk of mental illness, as well attempted suicide, and some swearing, including a couple f-bombs.

Jade has gotten into a prestigious art camp, a place for her to hone her art and get ready for art school. Right before she leaves, she finds out that her best friend Phoebe has attempted suicide and has been hospitalized. Jade still goes to the camp, but finds that she can’t focus because she’s worried about Phoebe. She also feels guilty as she develops feelings for another camper, Mary. It’s compliated dealing with everything, and Jade is not quite sure how to move on.

I really liked this one. I liked the discussion of mental illness and the difficulty it is when friends don’t know what to do when their friends are sick. I liked the art aspect, and the slight magical realism in it. It’s beautifully drawn, and I think it opens up an avenue for discussions of suicide and how to deal with friends who are suffering. Really really good.

To Dance

by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the author.
Content: It’s pretty basic, text-wise, even if the print is small. It is in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

This is Siena’s story of how she went from a child in Puerto Rico to being a ballerina a the School of American Ballet in New York. While she never really worked with Balanchine and Baryshnikov and Suzanne Farrell, she saw them and watched them dance from the wings. She worked incredibly hard, devoting her life to ballet, but eventually had to give it up because of an ankle injury at age 18. (Which is tragic, if you think about it.) It’s a really fascinating look into what it takes to be a prima ballerina. (Stick around for the back matter: it was full of pictures and clippings from Siena’s childhood.)

I really liked Mark’s art as well. It’s different from the 5 Worlds series, but he really did capture both the work and the grace and elegance in ballet. They didn’t brush over the pain; there were depictions of aches and pains and bloody toes. It made me remember a time in my life when I adored ballet and wished I could be a ballerina (but was never willing to put in the work).

I’m glad I read this.