The 2019 Eisner Award Nominations, Reviewed

The Eisner Award nominations aimed at kids and teens are a varied bunch, from Vera Brosgol's Be Prepared! to Chad Sell's The Cardboard Kingdom.

This year's Eisner Award nominations are a varied assortment, from Vera Brosgol's memoir about being a not-so-happy camper to debut author Chad Sell's inspired collection of intertwined tales of children who channel their fears and hopes into a vivid fantasy life. See below for a full listing of the nominations for children and teens, many accompanied by an SLJ review.


Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)

KOCHALKA, James. Johnny Boo and the Ice Cream Computer. illus. by James Kochalka. 40p. Top Shelf.  Jun. 2018. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9781603094351.

BORGES, Gustavo. Petals. illus. by Gustavo Borges & Cris Peter. 48p. KaBOOM! Sept. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781684152346.

Gr 3–5–Hoping to help his ill father, a young fox in the snowy forest searches for firewood when he encounters a tall, thin bird. Although both animals are anthropomorphic and wear clothes, the bird looks extra dapper in his suit. The bird helps carry the sticks back to the foxes' cabin. The bird's top hat is like a magician's, full of endless surprises, and he uses petals from the flower on his lapel to create a drink to cure the father fox. The three animals enjoy their time together in both sickness and health. It is easy to fly through this short, wordless graphic novel from Brazil, but it truly is one to savor. Stunning art and coloring depict cute, cozy scenes, and the panels and story are easy to follow. An abrupt sad moment near the end may startle some readers, but it is sweetened a little by the final panel, which stresses that our good deeds live on after us. VERDICT A moving story of community. Educators will want to share and discuss this one with young readers.–Jenna Friebel, Oak Park Public Library, IL  

redstar ANNABLE, Graham. Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths. illus. by Graham Annable. 128p. First Second. Apr. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626725614.
Gr 1-4–Peter and Ernesto are sloths who enjoy a placid life of hibiscus munching and cloud watching. Ernesto declares that he wants to see the sky and sets off, eventually making it to the Arctic to see the northern lights, with the help of a gentle whale. Peter, meanwhile, distraught at being left behind and fearful for his friend’s safety among many imagined perils, goes after him, guided by other creatures. This is a funny, touching tale. The sloths are thickly outlined, hill-like creatures with big eyes and occasionally flailing limbs. Their exaggerated movements and expressions will help emerging readers decode the vocabulary and connect with the emotions conveyed by the text. The characters’ different notions of adventure and bravery recall other odd couple friendships, such as Mo Willems’s “Elephant and Piggie” and Holly Hobbie’s “Toot and Puddle.” ­VERDICT Recommended for beginning reader shelves and elementary graphic novel collections.–­Jennifer Costa, Cambridge Public Library, MA

CANGELOSE, Andrew. This Is a Taco! illus. by Josh Shipley. 32p. Lion Forge/CubHouse. May 2018. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781941302729.

redstar TETRI, Emily. Tiger vs. Nightmare. illus. by Emily Tetri. 64p. First Second. Nov. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626725355.
Gr 1-3–In this endearing graphic novel, an anthropomorphic tiger cub’s best friend is the monster under her bed. Tiger’s parents think Monster is imaginary, but every evening, they let Tiger bring Monster dinner. Monster eats, the two of them play games, and when Tiger goes to sleep, Monster scares the nightmares away and makes sure the little cub gets a good night’s rest. But when a nightmare that even Monster can’t handle appears, Tiger has to learn to face her fears herself. The characters are adorable, and Tiger’s world is original and futuristic, with flying vehicles and industrial-style buildings. The graphics are in gorgeous full color, with an almost blurred watercolor effect, beautifully conveying both delightfully creepy nightmare scenes and vibrant daytime illustrations. An image of intrepid little Tiger staring up at the nightmare, a creature with a shadowy body and a horned skull, is especially striking. The use of panels of a multitude of sizes enriches the narrative. The speech balloons are particularly well done, adding dimension to every mood or situation. The vocabulary is approachable—kids will enjoy reading this on their own or with an adult. VERDICT Tetri has crafted a sweet, uplifting tale of best friends, imagination, bravery, and teamwork. Highly recommended for fans of Lorena Alvarez’s Nightlights and anyone who has, or remembers having, nighttime terrors.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT


Best Publication for Kids (ages 9–12)

OrangeReviewStarO'NEILL, Katie. Aquicorn Cove. illus. by Katie O'Neill. 96p. Oni. Oct. 2018. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781620105290.

Gr 3–6–An enchanting and allegorical modern fairy tale with an environmentalist message. Lana and her father return to their seaside hometown to visit her aunt Mae and help clean up after a bad storm. At the beach, Lana finds a hurt baby aquicorn (think: seahorse/unicorn combo) and gains the favor of the adult aquicorns in the cove by assisting it. Lana learns more about the magical beings who live in the coral reef, Mae's connection to them, and the factors that threaten both the reef and the humans' way of life in the village. Much of the book is devoted to Mae's backstory and her evolving relationship with Aure, the humanoid guardian of the reef, and there are hints of romance here. O'Neill balances the protagonists well as young Lana also has a satisfying character arc and active role in the story as she copes with her mother's death. The illustrations feature a palette that's just a shade too beautiful and vibrant, which makes the aquicorns and Lana and Mae's quick acceptance of the fantastical seem more normal. VERDICT Highly recommended for all-ages graphic novel collections, especially those where O'Neill's earlier works are popular.–Kacy Helwick, New Orleans Public Library

redstar BROSGOL, Vera. Be Prepared. illus. by Vera Brosgol. 256p. First Second. Apr. 2018. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781626724440; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781626724457.
Gr 5-8–Brosgol has worked on acclaimed animated films, but she was once a lonely nine-year-old aching for friendship. Here, she relates the story of her monthlong experience at Russian summer camp, where she coped with the horrors of outhouses, feral wildlife, and bug bites, as well as with mean older cabinmates and alienation from her fellow campers. The author/illustrator reprises her cartoony character art and her detailed yet subtle background work. The book eschews the plot-driven and suspenseful storytelling of Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost in lieu of a slice-of-life narrative in which problems aren’t always neatly resolved. This lends a hard realism to the memoir, in spite of the adorable art style, as young Vera earns small victories and an understanding of herself rather than soaring triumph. The text is simple and accessible, but the relaxed pacing, characters who go often unpunished for cruel behavior, and the brief inclusion of an ill-fated romance set this title apart from more gentle middle grade works. VERDICT A gorgeous, emotional memoir worthy of any graphic novel collection.–Matisse Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library

redstar SELL, Chad & others. The Cardboard Kingdom. illus. by Chad Sell. 288p. Knopf. Jun. 2018. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9781524719371; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781524719388.
Gr 4-7–A diverse group of neighborhood children use cardboard, tape, and other materials to create a pretend fantasy world. When Jack puts on his purple robe and cardboard hair, he becomes the powerful and evil Sorceress. Though Sophie’s grandmother tells her that girls shouldn’t be loud, Sophie feels like her true self when she transforms into the boisterous Big Banshee, a green, Hulk-like monster. And when Seth, whose parents are divorcing, dons a purple mask and cape and turns into the Gargoyle, he feels strong enough to stand up to his increasingly erratic and aggressive father. The chapters each focus on a different character and deftly build on one another. The art is bold and cartoonlike. Panels seamlessly transition between what characters look like in their makeshift costumes and how they appear in their imagination. While the tone is light, Sell and several contributors (each of whom is responsible for a different character and chapter) tackle serious issues, such as gender stereotypes, bullying, and divorce, that will resonate with kids. The children’s playacting is not only fun—it also gives them a safe space to express themselves. Readers may be inspired to craft their own cardboard kingdom after finishing the book. VERDICT A must-have for middle grade collections.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

RedReviewStarCHMAKOVA, Svetlana. Crush. illus. by Svetlana Chmakova. 240p. Yen. Oct. 2018. Tr $24. ISBN 9780316363235; pap. $11. ISBN 9780316363242.
Gr 5–8–The third installment of the series set at Berrybrook Middle School centers on Jorge, whom readers met in Chmakova's Brave as "the sheriff," the big, scary dude (who's actually very sweet) who patrols the halls and intimidates bullies into leaving their victims alone. This year, students are obsessed with who's dating whom and who's asking whom out—which Jorge finds annoying, especially when he begins noticing one particular girl and can't seem to remember how to use words around her. The character development is wonderful. With each page turn, everyone becomes more complex, and the situations they experience are timely and real. The artwork tends toward colorful pastels, and the backgrounds lighten and darken to reflect characters' emotions in a lovely, subtle way. Panels featuring well-placed, expressive speech balloons and creative fonts move the action along. Mr. Raccoon continues to sneak into the background, and the author has a fun cameo. VERDICT This compelling continuation to a fabulous middle grade graphic series also stands on its own and is every bit as strong as the first two books. For all collections.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT 

HICKS, Faith Erin. The Divided Earth. illus. by Faith Erin Hicks. 272p. First Second. Sept. 2018. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781626721616. 

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13–17)

LARSON, Hope. All Summer Long. illus. by Hope Larson. 176p. Farrar. May 2018. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780374304850; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780374310714.
Gr 5-8–It’s a summer of changes for 13-year-old Bina. Her best friend Austin is off to soccer camp, her oldest brother and his husband are adopting a baby, and nobody has time for Bina. An aspiring guitarist, she takes solace in music; it grounds her when she feels adrift. Over the course of long weeks filled with babysitting, mini-golf, concerts, and family, Bina experiences a full range of emotions as feelings are easily hurt, moods are topsy-turvy, and friendships are formed, broken, and reshaped in different ways. This sensitive, relatable graphic novel explores many familiar touchstones of adolescence as Bina seeks her place in the world. Constantly looking up to the older, more accomplished people in her life, Bina finds it hugely satisfying when she realizes that she, too, has something to offer. A limited palette keeps the focus on the story and character development, and Larson’s expressive drawings add to the emotional resonance of the teen’s journey to self-discovery. VERDICT Fans of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile and Shannon Hale’s Real Friends will eagerly embrace this work. A charming addition to any graphic novel collection.–Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

OrangeReviewStarNATIONS, Erin. Gumballs. illus. by Erin Nations. 160p. Top Shelf. May 2018. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781603094313.

Part autobiography and part visual diary, this anthology collects the first four issues of the serialized comic of the same name. The volume includes nearly 80 short works separated into eight different categories using a color-coded key. In stories coded "Tales of Being Trans," which make up the bulk of the book, Nations chronicles his transition, documenting everything from the physical effects of testosterone injections to the reactions of those around him as he came out. In other autobiographical entries, he recounts interactions with siblings, encounters with rude patrons at work, and miscellaneous observations about life (for instance, how redheads protect themselves from the sun). Serialized comics about Tobias—a lone teenager who desperately longs for a boyfriend—and short dating ads for other fictional characters add dashes of quirky humor to the raw honesty of Nations's more painful memories. Since some readers will have to flip back and forth to decode the types of stories, the table of contents is slightly more cumbersome than helpful. Still, the thematic exploration of humanity weaves into a cohesive whole. References to Portland, OR, and other Pacific Northwest locales firmly establish a sense of place. Nations's trademark style combines angular black lines with a limited palette of bright colors. Most characters present as white, but there is some racial diversity among the supporting players. VERDICT This candy-colored treat is an essential addition to graphic novel collections.–Alec Chunn, Eugene Public Library, OR 

YOUNG, Skottie & Jorge Corona. Middlewest: Book 1. illus. by Mike Huddleston. 160p. Image. May 2019. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781534312173.

SEATON, Cat. The Black Bull of Norroway. illus. by Kit Seaton. 224p. (Norroway: Bk. 1). Image. Nov. 2018. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781534308558.

Gr 7 Up–This first installment of a reimagined classic Scottish fairy tale opens as young Sibylla and her two sisters race through the forest to have their fortunes told by the witch woman. While her sisters want to learn about their future husbands, Sibylla is more interested in adventure. She begrudgingly inquires after her marital prospects only to discover that she is intended as the Black Bull of Norroway's betrothed. Blunt Sibylla's lack of patience for mysterious riddles results in humor as she faces strange trials. Mimicking the convoluted voyage of Sibylla and her bull, the progression of the art panels is somewhat confusing, with jarring transitions that make it difficult to follow the plot at times. Although audiences must read carefully, the panels are beautifully illustrated with rich, sweeping details and magical elements. There are exciting moments where the illustrations are more telling than the dialogue and hint at events to come. A gripping cliff-hanger will have readers excited to pick up the next volume. VERDICT Recommended for graphic novel collections where stories of fantasy and adventure are popular.–Michael Marie Jacobs, Darlington School, GA 

RedReviewStarWANG, Jen. The Prince and the Dressmaker. illus. by Jen Wang. 288p. First Second. Feb. 2018. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781626723634.

Gr 6 Up–Set in France, this work of historical fiction centers on Frances, a lowly dressmaker in a shop. A wayward teenager commissions Frances to fashion a dress that will make her "look like the devil's wench." She complies, and her creation catches the eye of a mysterious wealthy benefactor, for whom she is hired to work exclusively. Her patron is Prince Sebastian, who is mortified by his predilection for occasionally wearing dresses. Frances encourages Sebastian to be himself, and together the two create Lady Crystallia, the most fabulous fashion icon Paris has ever seen. In this well-crafted coming-of-age story, both Frances and Sebastian struggle to understand themselves and to embrace their identities. There's a hint of romance between Frances and Sebastian, but the emphasis is on their friendship. Wang doesn't dive deeply into Sebastian's sexual or gender identity, instead focusing on the message of self-acceptance. As Sebastian puts it, "This is who I am. I'm a prince who likes to wear dresses." The full-color artwork is gorgeous, featuring a variety of over-the-top dresses that fashionistas will envy. Facial expressions and the overall movement of the art enhance the enticing narrative; fans beginning to age out of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson will find a new favorite in Wang. VERDICT With inviting illustrations and a relatable story line, this tender tale of friendship and identity is sure to delight even readers who aren't fans of the graphic novel format.–Ellen Conlin, Naperville Public Library, IL 

SANDOVAL, Tony. Watersnakes. tr. by Lucas Marangon. illus. by Tony Sandoval. 144p. Lion Forge/Magnetic. Nov. 2018. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781942367758.

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Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar ( is Reference and Professional Reading Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.

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