I am here with more reviews of the 2021 Cybils Graphic Novel Finalists. (I reviewed four of them earlier.) I only read two more of the teen books – I’d already read Girl from the Sea – and my life is unfortunately not in a place to deal with the heavy topics in the other four finalists just now. I’m still posting the full graphic with all the covers – if you do have the brainspace for them, I trust the committee to have made excellent choices.
Cranky Chicken by Katherine Battersby. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2021. ISBN 9781534469884 Read from library copy.
This is an adorable beginning graphic novel, suitable for readers who loved Elephant and Piggie or Frog and Toad. Chicken is determined to be cranky. Worm is determined to make friends with Chicken. Can Chicken believe herself worthy of a friend? Can Chicken and Worm figure out what makes best friends? This is an excellent and hilarious choice to introduce young readers to graphic novels, or to get reluctant readers hooked on books.
The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor. Kokila, 2021. ISBN 978-0525554882. Read from library copy.
Thirteen-year-old Mei is growing up in a logging camp in 1885, where her father is the assistant cook. Inside the camp, all the children play with each other, regardless of ethnicity, all of them gathering to listen to Mei tell stories of the giant logger Aunti Po and her giant blue buffalo. Discrimination is already evident, as the Chinese loggers receive lower wages and don’t receive lodging as the white workers do. But as the Chinese Exclusion Act is passed, things get even worse. Meanwhile, Mei must deal with the hard working conditions and her growing crush on her best friend, Bee. And when disaster strikes, will Auntie Po really be there? This is illustrated with beautiful watercolor, and hollow-eyed characters reminiscent of Orphan Annie. I really enjoyed it, and wish that I could take it back in time to give to my junior high self.
Cheer Up!: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Fraiser. Illustrated by Val Wise. Oni Press, 2021. ISBN 9781620109557. Read from library copy.
High school senior Annie is fine staying home by herself, but her parents push her to do something – anything – social. Very reluctantly, she signs up for cheerleading, along with her old friend BeBe, who’s recently transitioned. Both teens are under a lot of pressure for different reasons, and Annie starts to realize how much BeBe is struggling behind her now-perfect makeup. Slowly, this blossoms into a totally squee-worthy romance. Classic pen-and-ink art makes this feel like it could be any other teen graphic novel, despite the groundbreaking content. This is another one my daughter found perfection.
Nubia: Real One by L.L. McKinney and Robyn Smyth. DC Comics, 2021. ISBN 978-1401296407. Read from library copy.
All of her life, teenaged Nubia and her moms have moved whenever she’s accidentally used her super strength, because while Wonder Woman can be strong and seen as awesome, that’s just not the case for a super-strong Black girl. But now that she’s in high school, when she ruffles feathers by stopping a convenience store hold-up (in front of her crush, no less! The horror!), they all decide to stick up for Nubia instead. There’s also gun violence, police prejudice, a racist classmate who won’t accept Nubia’s best friend’s rejection, and a visit from a superhero Nubia had no idea her parents knew. It’s illustrated with loose, expressive pictures that do a great job of conveying the many emotions on display here. My daughter loved this so much that she was reduced to one-word ejaculations while waving the book in the air with one hand and gesticulating wildly with the other.