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May 27, 2015

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On the Radar: Top Teen Picks from the Editors at Junior Library Guild: Two Parts Make a Whole: Using Graphic Novels in Your Common Core Classroom

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If you’re looking for an official justification to buy graphic novels, look no further than the Common Core (CC) State Standards. Students in grades 6 to 12 will be required to apply CC’s reading standards to a variety of different types of texts, including graphic novels. For mature readers, this fall’s releases offer stories of war, madness, gangs, and failed dreams. Young adults will have much to think and talk about after reading these selections.

A Game for SwallowsABIRACHED, Zeina. A Game for Swallows. Graphic Universe, 2012. ISBN 9780761385684. JLG Level: GH : Graphic Novels High

Gr 9 Up—Based on her grandmother’s story, Abirached tells the tale of one long night in Beirut, when the parents of two children cross the line between East and West and get caught in a bombing. Told with simple black-and-white illustrations, in the tone of Persepolis, the children are comforted by their neighbors in their building’s foyer while the world is crashing down all around them. This beautiful story illustrates Florian’s words: To die to leave to return / It’s a game for swallows.

ANTHONY, Jessica and Rodrigo Corral. Chopsticks: A Novel. Razorbill, 2012. ISBN 9781595144355. JLG Level: GH : Graphic Novels High

ChopsticksGr 9 Up—If there was ever a book that didn’t fit into any particular mold, it’s Chopsticks. More of a mixed-media novel, the story is told through photographs, ticket stubs, postcards, and other ephemera, with a little text in-between. Glory is a child prodigy―a pianist of amazing talent. Her teacher and father books a European tour after she becomes romantically involved with Franco, the new boy next door. As Franco begins to fail out of school, Glory begins to descend into what appears to be madness as she interrupts her playing with “Chopsticks.” In a hauntingly ambiguous ending, readers will have to decide for themselves what really happened in the disappearance of Glory. What is reality? What is madness?

I WitnessMCCLINTOCK, Norah and Mike Deas. I, Witness. Orca, 2012. ISBN 9781554697892. JLG Level: GH : Graphic Novels High

Gr 9 Up—Being a teenager is hard enough, but when you witness a murder and the next thing you know your best friend is killed in a drive-by shooting, life gets really complicated. Boone’s friends begin to drop like leaves as the dead bodies pile up around him. Thinking that it’s better to keep his mouth shut, he walks into another situation that makes him think twice about not getting involved.

Blood-red ink is used to highlight the mostly black-and-white graphic novel, and with all of those deaths, there’s a fair amount of red. Canadian novelist McClintock enters the teenage world and mixes it with violence and conscience-driven actions. Teens will wonder what they would do if they knew more than they wanted to know.

PETTY, J.T. and Hilary Florido. Bloody Chester. First Second, 2012. ISBN 9781596431003. JLG Level: GH : Graphic Novels High

Bloody ChesterGr 9 Up—Petty’s young adult graphic novel debut is a mix of horror, mystery, and the Wild West. Filled with coarse language (and racial slurs), the story tells the tale of a teenage boy who grasps at the chance to start over. Called Bloody Chester (because he constantly gets a beating), Chester must burn down a plague-ridden ghost town in order to earn his salary. It seems, though, that it’s much more complicated than that. He falls for a girl who’s still in town because her crazy, holed-up, treasure-hoarding father won’t leave. Then there are the ghosts or zombies or plague-ridden souls that haunt the town. Chester is determined to do his job and discovers that no one seems to be telling the truth.

From humor to horror, Petty and Florido create an interesting tale with full-color illustrations. A few sketches of the work in progress are also included. There’s even a bit of reflection in the story’s secrets that will cause the reader to ponder.

SumoPHAM, Thien. Sumo. First Second, 2012. ISBN 9781596435810. JLG Level: GH : Graphic Novels High

Gr 9 Up—When his chance for a career in pro football is eliminated and a long-term romance ends, Scott chooses to start over in Japan as a sumo wrestler. Though it’s harder than he expects, his past experiences help him give it his best shot.

Using color to indicate the time and setting, Pham tells a powerful three-part story that builds until the final wordless conclusion. Readers may be able to read it quickly, but will want to reread to absorb the brilliance of the telling.

For ideas about how to use these books and links to supportive sites, check out the Junior Library Guild blog, Shelf Life.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, JLG’s book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit them at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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