Reviews and Coverage of the 2021 Eisner Award Nominations

Check out the SLJ reviews of the Eisner-nominated graphic novels aimed at young people, as well as our coverage of these innovative and inspired titles.


Three Eisner nominated books


Though most in-person events have been canceled or put on hold over the past year, nothing could stop the Eisner nominations. This year, veteran artist Gene Luen Yang is honored (twice, actually), but newcomers are spotlighted, too, like debut graphic novelists Kiku Hughes for Displacement, a dynamic blend of fact and fiction centering on the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and Kat Leyh for Snapdragon, a tale of a snarky teenager coming into her own magical powers. See below for a full list of the Eisner nominations of books for children and teens, with links to our reviews and coverage—11 of the 18 nominated books received SLJ stars, and seven were named Best Books. 


Eisner nominationed titles-Early Readers

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)

Bear by Ben Queen. illus. by Joe Todd-Stanton. Archaia/BOOM! ISBN 9781684155316.
Gr 3-6–Bear, a guide dog, and Patrick, the young blind man he assists, work well together until Bear suddenly and inexplicably loses his sight. Depressed and vulnerable, he falls prey to the neighborhood raccoons, who lure him into the woods with the suggestion of a magical cure that will restore his sight. Though the ending wraps up a little too neatly, the main characters are well developed, and the artwork is attractive and clear, with different colors conveying Bear’s perspective as he loses his vision.

Cat Kid Comic Club by Dav Pilkey. illus. by author. Scholastic/Graphix. ISBN 9781338712766.
Gr 2-5–When Cat Kid and his sidekick Molly run a comic club for Flippy Frog’s many children, hilarity ensues as the kids produce action-packed ninja sketches filled with poop jokes; merry mayhem; and cutely morbid comics. Sure to be immensely popular, this title serves as a great introduction to the creative process and to the evolving question: “What is a comic?” Every elementary school library needs this graphic novel.

Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song. illus. by author. Random/Graphic. ISBN 9781984895837.
K-Gr 2–Having burned their pancakes, squirrels Norma and Belly are lured outside of their tree-trunk domicile by the sweet scent of a doughnut truck that’s set up shop. Onomatopoeia brings the squirrels’ antics to life: Thunk, boing, splat, crash, screech, woosh, spritz, ding, and shhhhh accompany the silly animal slapstick and the sounds of the truck’s automated machinery. Independent readers will devour this sweet and scrumptious heist story.

Kodi 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.

[Read: Kodi was named a 2020 SLJ Best Graphic Novel]

Lift by Minh Lê. illus. by Dan Santat. Little, Brown. ISBN 9781368036924.
Gr 1-3–Panel art and spare text bring to vivid life the many meanings of the word lift, from an elevator to weightlessness in a space station to the act of picking up and soothing a new sibling.

[Read: Lift was named a 2020 SLJ Best Picture Book]

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki. illus. by author. Abrams. ISBN 9781419746550.
Gr 1-3–One can almost smell it cooking, as the ingredients and steps for making vegetable soup precede a tantalizing swirl of steam that leads to the title page and introduction to a small community kitchen. Friends of all ages and ethnicities come together in “our little kitchen, a tiny, small place” as all prep the kitchen to receive “what we’ve got, what we’ve grown.” Whether for appetizing story hours, classroom cooking, or inspiration to do good works, this book flows with a love for food and community.


Eisner nominationed titles-Middle Grade

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)

Doodleville by Chad Sell. illus. by author. Knopf. ISBN 9781984894700.
Gr 3-6–After Drew’s doodles—magical creatures that pop off the page and often cause mischief—run amok on a field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, she is racked with guilt, and the destruction of her newest doodle, a leviathan, further ramps up her anxiety. Sell has crafted a tender yet action-packed tale of a young girl who uses her creativity as an outlet for her emotions and learns to draw strength from those around her.

Go with the Flow by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann. illus. by Lily Williams. First Second. ISBN 9781250305725.
Gr 4-8–When new student Sasha gets her period, best friends Abby, Brit, and Christine shepherd her to the bathroom—only to find that their school doesn’t stock bathroom hygiene dispensers. This warm, candid friendship story isn’t shy about the message it’s trying to send—that periods need not be a dirty secret.

[Read: Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann discuss the power of protest in “YA Books Reflect the Activism of Real-Life Teens]

Mister Invincible: Local Hero by Pascal Jousselin. illus. by author. Magnetic. ISBN 9781942367611.
Gr 3-5–Masked superhero Mister Invincible tries to live a mundane life but often gets drawn into crime-fighting escapades. Cleverly, and often paradoxically, Mister Invincible breaks the fourth wall to outmaneuver wrongdoers and solve problems—in one tale, he saves himself from being shot by crossing panels to future scenes, where he disarms the gunman. This mind-bending and fun escape from the confines of reality will entice readers looking for a collection with a hint of newspaper comics nostalgia.

Snapdragon 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.

[Read: Snapdragon was named a 2020 SLJ Best Graphic Novel]

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.

[Read: Superman Smashes the Klan was named a 2020 SLJ Best Graphic Novel]

Twins 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.

[Read: Twins was named a 2020 SLJ Best Graphic Novel]


Eisner nominationed titles-for Teens

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)

Sticks & Scones by Ngozi Ukazu. illus. by author. First Second. (Check, Please!: Bk. 2). ISBN 9781250179500.
Gr 10 Up–Ukazu continues the saga of small-town Georgia boy Eric “Bitty” Bittle as he begins his junior year at Samwell University and strives to balance his studies with baking, hockey, and his new long-distance relationship with former teammate and current pro hockey player Jack Zimmerman.

[Read: Ngozi Ukazu on Hockey, Queer Romance, and Her New Graphic Novel]

Displacement by Kiku Hughes. illus. by author. First Second. ISBN 9781250193537.
Gr 6 Up–On a visit to San Francisco in 2016, Kiku, a biracial teen from Seattle, gains a better understanding of her heritage and the power of memory when she is thrust back in time to the 1940s and, alongside her grandmother and many other Japanese people and Japanese Americans, imprisoned in incarceration camps. Hughes has crafted a compelling look at this moment in history, relying on a blend of research and family memory.

[Read: Kiku Hughes muses on Displacement, a mix of fiction and family history, in “4 YA Authors Discuss Their #OwnVoices Debuts”]

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.

[Read: Dragon Hoops was named a 2020 SLJ Best Graphic Novel]
[Read: Gene Luen Yang on His Unlikely Journey to Sports Fan]

Fights: One Boy’s Triumph over Violence by Joel Christian Gill. illus. by author. Oni. ISBN 9781549303357.
Gr 7 Up–As a child, Gill endured physical and sexual abuse and neglect. School provided no refuge; he was bullied by other children and mistreated by teachers, and eventually he became like those around him, a perpetrator of violence, responding to frustration by lashing out at others. Despite the heartbreak, however, this expressive, devastating work leaves readers with a message of hope—that anyone living with trauma can find a way out.

[Read: 28 Days Are Not Enough: Joel Christian Gill on Adapting Black History into Graphic Novel Format]

A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong. illus. by author. First Second. ISBN 9781250146687.
Gr 9 Up–Best friends Luna and Ren are reunited after a long separation; both girls grapple with their reignited friendship and a mountain of other troubles. Leong offers an intricate exploration of camaraderie, teamwork, friendship, and expression with a BIPOC cast of characters. The color work is gorgeous, with dreamy greens, purples, and yellows setting a breathtaking, surreal backdrop for the realistic story. A vivid explosion of color, this tale shines.

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.

[Read: When Stars Are Scattered was named a 2020 SLJ Best Graphic Novel]

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing