Author/Illustrator: Shaun Tan
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Date of Publication: 2006
Awards: Hugo Award Nominee for Best Related Book 2008, Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for Best Comic Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award 2008
Age Range: 7 – 14
Grade Level: 2 – 9th
The Arrival is a wordless graphic novel that follows an immigrant leaving his home for a new life in another country, the setting parallels the history of 1900s American immigration, but nothing is ever specified. Shaun Tan communicates wordlessly through his realistic and powerful sepia-toned illustrations. I love the symbolism that is laced throughout the book. The illustrations look like they’re straight out of sci-fi and fantasy, but that is only to convey the alien like world that must be stepping off a ship onto new land. It is one thing to read about the immigrant experience, but through his illustrations Shaun Tan masterfully expresses the lost confusion and at times scary environment of a foreign home. Through this unique method of storytelling you are able to feel these emotions in such a genuine and visceral way. This book is for the reader who wants to understand their immigrant ancestors, whether separated by one or several more generations, all of us have an immigrant history other than the Native Americans.
Author/Illustrator: Ben Hatke
Publisher: First Second
Date of Publication: September 1, 2015
Awards: Illinois Gryphon Award, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year, Eisner Award Winner
Age Range: 6 – 10 years
Grade Level: 1 – 5
This is an imaginative and captivating story told through barely any dialogue at all, uncommon for most graphic novels. Unique characteristics don’t end there, the nameless female protagonist is very diverse: non-white, lives in a trailer park, is skilled with tools and invention, and without caring or attentive parents. Upon exploring a local dump ground our protagonist finds a little robot. A lovely friendship forms and she works hard to take care of her only friend and shows him the world he inhabits, but the little robot yearns for creature like him. Readers who have ever felt lonely and isolated in the world will relate to the joy and excitement of finding a true friend. Small lovely moments are plenty in this graphic novel, enhanced by Hatke’s sweet and expressive illustrations. The two friends sit and enjoy a sunset together, stopped to listen and feel the rumble of a passing train, and observed a vulnerable squirrel who has passed away. This book isn’t not only chock full of fantastical adventure, it’s also a genuine look into the beauty and small details of our world.
Author/Illustrator: Aaron Becker
Date of Publication: August 6, 2013
Awards: 2014 Caldecott Honor Book, Kirkus starred review, Publisher’s Weekly starred review, School Library Journal starred review, Booklist starred review
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3
With a red marker clutched in her hand a lonely girl draws a door on her wall, this begins a fantastical journey into a world full of adventure, and danger. This is a wordless picture book, and because of this the story is told in an unconventional way through its colorful and imaginative illustrations. Readers of all ages will delight in this flawless depiction of a child’s imagination, as most everyone has had a boring day made special and exciting by one’s creative journeys through their mind. It is also a wonderful homage to the classic Harold and the Purple. Crayon. On the back jacket flap we learn about the author and his diverse destinations. He’s lived in rural Japan and East Africa, backpacked through Sweden and the South Pacific. It is clear these vivid illustrations are inspired by real locations all over the world!
Author: Kelly Barnhill
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
Date of Publication: August 9, 2016
Awards: 2017 NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children, 2017 Newbery Medal, 2017 Kids Wings Top Flight Award Book, Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominee, Entertainment Weekly Best Middle Grade Book of 2016, New York Times Best Seller
Age Range: 10-14 years
Grade Level: 5 – 9
When Luna was a baby she was taken from her family offered up as the annual sacrifice, but what the elders don’t know is that a good witch saves all of the babies and raises them with love. Xan, the good witch, accidentally embues Luna with magical powers, but does not let them manifest before her 13th birthday. Multiple storylines weave as Luna discovers and harnesses her powers. This is a classic fantasy book, it is about witches and magic after all, but Kelly Barnhill writes with impeccable lyrical flow. She also writes with a varied vocabulary, often including words the audience most likely has not come across yet which builds and strengthens young vocabulary in a fun way. The story also follows a diverse protagonist, Luna is described as having amber skin and curly black hair. Both good and evil characters are explored, paralleling the realities of the real world. This is for readers who love fantasy elements of magic, and who believe in the triumph of good over evil.
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Publisher: Viking/Penguin Books
Date of Publication: April 14, 2011
Awards: Finalist for the Andre Norton Award for Best Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, a YALSA 2011 Best Book of the Year
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 6 – 9
- Review by Kirkus Reviews
- Review and suggestions on teaching multicultural book
Akata Witch is a novel about a 13-year-old girl living in Nigeria named Sunny Nwazue. She is ridiculed at school not only because of her albinism, but also because of her American born status. She also finds isolation at home, trying to keep up with her brothers, and a father who does not accept her. She finds her place in the world when she strikes up a friendship with Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha. They soon bring to her knowledge that she is a part of the mystical Leopard People community. She then juggles not only her regular school, but also Leopard training and keeping her abilities secret to the outside world. The theme of coming of age is prominent, Sunny’s life changes forever. One of her primary mystical abilities is to cross between the physical and spirit world. Together the four young friends take on many challenges, including deciphering Sunny’s prophetic nightmares of earthly ruin, and tracking down the Black Hat Killer, a Leopard person who has succumbed to power and corruption. Akata Witch will help people rethink the YA genre as something only for the middle and high school age. The writing is smart, clever, and engaging. It is a somewhat familiar story and often likened to Harry Potter, but entirely different in important cultural ways. The familiarity of the fantasy elements will entice readers, but the jump into the unfamiliar will keep them around until the very last page. Okorafor’s place in the speculative fiction world is also one of great importance, as she is a African American female writer dominated by white men. Readers who are seeking their place in their world will find comfort in Sunny’s journey.