Best Graphic Novels 2020 | SLJ Best Books

Fifteen books made SLJ's list of the best graphic novels for children and teens published in 2020. 


Graphic Novels


Be Gay, Do Comics: Queer History, Memoir, and Satire from the Nib

ed. by various. illus. by various. IDW. ISBN 9781684057771.
Gr 8 Up –In the disturbingly recent past, YA lit’s queer stories have been cautionary tales, rife with unhappy endings; by contrast, this anthology resounds with triumph. Hilarious, poignant, and enlightening, it offers a nuanced look at queer history—one that starts far earlier than the Stonewall riots—and intimate perspectives from cartoonists grappling with identity.


Consent (for Kids!): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of You

by Rachel Brian. illus. by author. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316457736.
Gr 2-5 –Engaging and emotive stick figure friends expound on bodily autonomy in this simply drawn but unexpectedly thorough guide. Straightforward, green-tone artwork and a respectful but humorous narrative keep the content light, accessible, and age-appropriate.


Class Act

by Jerry Craft. illus. by author. HarperAlley/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780062885517.
Gr 4-8 –The fast-paced, riotously funny sequel to New Kid follows aspiring artist Jordan and best friends Liam and Drew as they begin eighth grade at New York City’s upscale Riverdale Academy Day School. This time, the narrative prioritizes darker-skinned Drew’s perspective, juxtaposing full-color artwork with Jordan’s grayscale cartoons to illustrate issues of race, class, and plain old pubescence.



by Jared Cullum. illus. by author. Top Shelf. ISBN 9781603094672.
Gr 3-5 –An outcast named Katya stumbles upon a bear, Kodi, who is caught in a trap. After Kodi is saved, he returns the favor to his lonely friend. Dreamy watercolors set the tone in this intimate, touching read about discovering friendship and belonging in unexpected places.



by Mike Curato. illus. by author. Holt. ISBN 9781627796415.
Gr 8 Up –Boy Scout camp is a double-edged sword for Aiden, a gay, biracial teen—though he finds friendship and a crush, the racism and homophobia of his fellow campers cut deeply. Relying on raw, grayscale art, “Little Elliot” author Curato’s visceral graphic novel debut urges teens to look for slivers of hope even amid despair.


Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir

by Tyler Feder. illus. by author. Dial. ISBN 9780525553021.
Gr 8 Up –Feder manages the near impossible—a memoir about joining “the Dead Moms Club” that’s palpable in its depiction of grief yet also exuberant, uplifting, and funny. Using a pastel-infused palette and creatively placed lists, asides, and diagrams, she lovingly remembers her mother, explores the less talked about aspects of loss, and offers a balm to anyone confronting the death of a parent.


Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir

by Robin Ha. illus. by author. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062685100.
Gr 7 Up –When Chuna’s mother moved them from South Korea to the American South, the teen’s life became a seemingly hopeless struggle to regain her footing. An enduring love of art led the newly named Robin to social lifelines, confidence, and a maturing appreciation of the highs and lows of American and Korean culture. An intimate, contemplative take on forging identity.


The Last Halloween: Book 1; Children

by Abby Howard. illus. by author. Iron Circus. ISBN 9781945820663.
Gr 9 Up –Left home alone during an apocalyptic Halloween, 10-year-old Mona stumbles into an unlikely alliance with some morbidly strange friends. With sarcasm, grit, and some magical assists, they fight back against the monstrosities that emerge during the violent night. Black-and-white artwork mixes visual gags and constant guffaws with thrilling turns into horror.


When Stars Are Scattered

by Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed. illus. by Victoria Jamieson. Dial. ISBN 9780525553915.
Gr 4-8 –Based on Mohamed’s experiences, this honest yet hopeful story of Somali brothers Omar and Hassan sheds light on the life in limbo they faced in the Kenyan camps of Dadaab after being uprooted by civil war. A varied and colorful palette lightens, though never undermines, the uncertainty of the boys’ future as they long for a reunion with their mother and a chance to escape the monotony and dangers of the refugee camp.



by Varian Johnson. illus. by Shannon Wright. Scholastic/Graphix. ISBN 9781338236132.
Gr 3-7 –Bold artwork accompanies authentic characters in this pitch-perfect look at sibling rivalry and adolescent self-discovery during the dreaded middle school years. Heading into sixth grade with different hopes and expectations, twins Maureen and Francine find their once close relationship threatened—but their biggest challenge arrives when both decide to run for class president.


Beetle & the Hollowbones

by Aliza Layne. illus. by author. S. & S/Atheneum. ISBN 9781534441538.
Gr 4-8 –This spook-tacularly sweet, anime-inspired story follows 12-year-old goblin/witch Beetle and her best friend Blob Ghost, who uses they/ them pronouns and cannot leave a soon-to-be-demolished mall. Life grows more complicated when Beetle’s former best friend, Kat Hollowbone, resurfaces and feelings—yes, those feelings!—bubble over. Narratives overlap like gentle waves across a sumptuous orange and purple palette in this silly, life-affirming LGBTQIA+ romance.



by Kat Leyh. illus. by author. First Second. ISBN 9781250171115.
Gr 5-8 –Spunky and empathetic teenager Snapdragon becomes an apprentice to a local witch, Jacks, gaining responsibility and learning magic, all of which comes in handy as she faces changes, including her friend’s gender transition, bullies at school, and the discovery that Jacks was once romantically involved with Snap’s grandmother. Vibrant colors bring a lovable cast and more than a few spells to life.


Pea, Bee, & Jay: Stuck Together

by Brian “Smitty” Smith  illus. by author. HarperCollins/HarperAlley. ISBN 9780062981172.
Gr 2-4 –A rebellious pea rolls away from the familiarity of his farm on a dare and gets lost, finding help from a bespectacled, know-it-all honeybee and a blue jay who’s a nervous flier. Smith infuses his gentle tale of friendship with wordplay, a sense of the absurd, and a smattering of the subversive.


Dragon Hoops

by Gene Luen Yang. illus. by author. First Second. ISBN 9781626720794.
Gr 8 Up –Yang’s memoir–cum–sports odyssey follows twin narratives: The author, mired in writer’s block, returns for his 17th year as a math teacher at Bishop O’Dowd High School while its basketball squad pursues its first state championship. This backboard-shattering slam dunk examines art, sports, politics, identity, storytelling ethics, and more with sharp, animated artwork sure to draw cheering readers out of their seats.


Superman Smashes the Klan

by Gene Luen Yang. illus. by Gurihiru. DC Comics. ISBN 9781779504210.
Gr 7 Up –Roberta and Tommy Lee’s family moves from Chinatown to Metropolis only to encounter threats from the Klan of the Fiery Kross. The Lees have a friend in Superman, who grapples with his own sense of belonging, but they’ll need more than superpowers to prevent their community from falling under the sway of xenophobia. Nuanced writing and fluid artwork sell the bombastic moments as well as the heartfelt ones.

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Emily Schneider

I would like to point out that several of these books are not novels. It would be better to just use the term "graphic books" when you are including other genres.

Posted : Nov 21, 2019 05:24

Liliana Ramirez

I loved the book Guts by Raina Telgemier!

Posted : Nov 21, 2019 07:17



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