THE 2022 NERDIES: GRAPHIC NOVELS ANNOUNCED BY KATHERINE SOKOLOWSKI
For the past twelve years I have been honored to write up the graphic novel winners for the Nerdy Book Club awards. Graphic novels are often the most circulated books in my classroom, so I’m always excited to see which books have received a nod from so many of you each year. It never fails, when I get the list of winners from Donalyn, I see favorites of my students and new titles I’m excited to share with them. That’s been true in past years and remains true this year as well. Thanks to all of you who nominated your favorite books and congratulations to all of the winners. Without future ado, here we go!
*Book descriptions taken from Goodreads*
The 2022 Nerdies for Graphic Novels go to…
The Aquanaut: A Graphic Novel written and illustrated by Don Brown
Ever since her father was lost at sea, Sophia has been moping around Aqualand, the marine theme park her dad and uncle created. But Sophia’s world is turned upside down when an “aquanaut” breaks into the park’s research lab.
To her amazement, Sophia discovers that the aquanaut is not what it seems — inside lives a band of four goofy sea creatures! And when they all realize that Aqualand has evolved into something much darker than Sophia’s dad had envisioned, Sophia is determined to help the aquanaut crew free the park’s captive marine life before it’s too late.
Cat Kid Comic Club: On Purpose written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
The comic club is going in all different directions! Naomi, Melvin, and siblings are each trying to find their purpose. Naomi has an idea to get rich quick that causes a lot of commotion and emotion. And when faced with rejections, the friends try and try again to stay true to their vision. To top it off, a surprise visitor comes to class to stir things up. Will a desire for money and power cloud Naomi’s purpose? Is it quitting time? Will the club ever be the same?
The hilarity is nonstop as the baby frogs navigate sibling relationships, follow their path, and create art — with purpose! Featured as stories-within-the-story, the mini comics showcase each baby frog’s perspective and individual art style.
Frizzy written by Claribel A Ortega, illustrated by Rose Bousamra
Marlene loves three things: books, her cool Tía Ruby and hanging out with her best friend Camila. But according to her mother, Paola, the only thing she needs to focus on is school and “growing up.” That means straightening her hair every weekend so she could have “presentable”, “good hair”.
But Marlene hates being in the salon and doesn’t understand why her curls are not considered pretty by those around her. With a few hiccups, a dash of embarrassment, and the much-needed help of Camila and Tia Ruby—she slowly starts a journey to learn to appreciate and proudly wear her curly hair.
Growing Pangs written by Kathryn Ormsbee, illustrated by Molly Brooks
Katie knows there’s stuff that makes her different. She’s homeschooled, she has freckles, and her teeth are really crooked. But none of these things matter to Kacey. They’re best friends forever–just like their necklaces say. But when they go to summer camp, Kacey starts acting weird. What happened to the “forever”? And when Katie gets home, she can’t stop worrying. About getting braces. About 6th grade. About friends. She knows tapping three times or opening and closing a drawer won’t make everything better . . . but sometimes it helps stop the worrying. Is something wrong with her? And will anyone want to be friends with her if they find out?
Invisible written by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, illustrated by Gabriela Epstein
How can you be yourself when no one sees the real you?
Five students meet in the school cafeteria when they’re forced to complete their school community service hours.
There’s George: the brain
Sara: the loner
Dayara: the tough kid
Nico: the rich kid
They immediately know that they have nothing in common with each other… even though their school administration has decided that they all belong together.
None of the kids wants to be there, and each has their own issues they’re dealing with in their life outside of school. But when they encounter someone who truly needs their help, they might just be able to come together to work as a team—and help their community—after all.
Isla to Island written and illustrated by Alexis Catsellanos
Marisol loves her colorful island home. Cuba is vibrant with flowers and food and people…but things are changing. The home Marisol loves is no longer safe—and then it’s no longer her home at all. Her parents are sending her to the United States. Alone.
Nothing about Marisol’s new life in cold, gray Brooklyn feels like home—not the language, school, or even her foster parents. But Marisol starts to realize that home isn’t always a place. And finding her way can be as simple as staying true to herself.
Leviathan written and illustrated by Jason Shiga
Adventuregame Comics is a new series of interactive graphic novels in the vein of Jason Shiga’s hit graphic novel Meanwhile. Readers follow the story from panel to panel using tubes that connect them, and sometimes the path will split, giving readers the chance to choose how the story unfolds.
Leviathan is set in a medieval coastal village, where residents live in fear of a giant sea creature. Your goal as a reader is simple: defeat the Leviathan! As you wander through the open world, the town’s backstory is revealed. You can attempt to visit the library to try and learn why the Leviathan destroyed it years ago. You can stop by the castle to discover the town was once riddled with crime and theft—and how that’s stopped as the Leviathan will wreak havoc on the town for the smallest misdeeds. If you’re lucky, you may find your way to the old wizard who may possess the one thing that could keep the Leviathan at bay. But not everything is as it appears in this village. Can you discover the secrets and stop the Leviathan before it’s too late?
Little Monarchs written and illustrated by Jonathan Chase
It’s been fifty years since a sun shift wiped out nearly all mammal life across the earth.
Towns and cities are abandoned relics, autonomous machines maintain roadways, and the world is slowly being reclaimed by nature. Isolated pockets of survivors keep to themselves in underground sites, hiding from the lethal sunlight by day and coming above ground at night.
10-year-old Elvie and her caretaker, Flora, a biologist, are the only two humans who can survive during daylight because Flora made an incredible discovery – a way to make an antidote to sun sickness using the scales from monarch butterfly wings. Unfortunately, it can only be made in small quantities and has a short shelf life.
Free to travel during the day, Elvie and Flora follow monarchs as they migrate across the former Western United States, constantly making new medicine for themselves while trying to find a way to make a vaccine they can share with everyone. Will they discover a way to go from a treatment to a cure and preserve what remains of humanity, or will their efforts be thwarted by disaster and the very people they are trying to save?
Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American written and illustrated by Laura Gao
After spending her early years in Wuhan, China, riding water buffalos and devouring stinky tofu, Laura immigrates to Texas, where her hometown is as foreign as Mars–at least until 2020, when COVID-19 makes Wuhan a household name.
In Messy Roots, Laura illustrates her coming-of-age as the girl who simply wants to make the basketball team, escape Chinese school, and figure out why girls make her heart flutter.
Miss Quinces written and illustrated by Kat Fajardo
Sue just wants to spend the summer reading and making comics at sleepaway camp with her friends, but instead she gets stuck going to Honduras to visit relatives with her parents and two sisters. They live way out in the country, which means no texting, no cable, and no Internet! The trip takes a turn for the worse when Sue’s mother announces that they’ll be having a surprise quinceañera for Sue, which is the last thing she wants. She can’t imagine wearing a big, floofy, colorful dress! What is Sue going to do? And how will she survive all this “quality” time with her rambunctious family?
Play Like a Girl: A Graphic Memoir written by Misty Wilson, illustrated by David Wilson
Misty never shies away from a challenge, on or off the field. So when the boys tell her she can’t play football, there’s only one thing to do: join their team and show them what she’s got.
But the training is rougher than she thought—and so are the other guys, who aren’t thrilled about having a girl on their team.
Middle school isn’t so easy, either. Misty wants to fit in with the popular kids, but they think a girl playing football is “weird.” Even her best friend doesn’t get it.
Can Misty find a way to score points with her teammates, make new friends, and show everyone—including herself—what it means to play like a girl?
Ride On written and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
Victoria has always loved horses. But riding in competitions is high stakes, high stress, and shockingly expensive. And even though Victoria’s best friend Taylor loves competing, Victoria has lost her taste for it.
After a heartbreaking fight with Taylor, Victoria needs a new start―at a new stables. A place where she doesn’t have to worry about anything other than riding. No competition, no drama, no friends.
Edgewood Stables seems ideal. There are plenty of horses to ride, and Victoria is perfectly happy giving the other riders the cold shoulder.
But can she truly be happy with no friends?
Squire by Sara Alfaggeh and Nadia Shammas
Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It’s the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training program.
It’s not how she imagined it, though. Aiza must navigate new friendships, rivalries, and rigorous training under the unyielding General Hende, all while hiding her Ornu background. As the pressure mounts, Aiza realizes that the “greater good” that Bayt-Sajji’s military promises might not include her, and that the recruits might be in greater danger than she ever imagined.
Aiza will have to choose, once and for all: loyalty to her heart and heritage, or loyalty to the Empire.
Swim Team by Jonnie Christmas
Bree can’t wait for her first day at her new middle school, Enith Brigitha, home to the Mighty Manatees–until she’s stuck with the only elective that fits her schedule, the dreaded Swim 101. The thought of swimming makes Bree more than a little queasy, yet she’s forced to dive headfirst into one of her greatest fears. Lucky for her, Etta, an elderly occupant of her apartment building and former swim team captain, is willing to help.
With Etta’s training and a lot of hard work, Bree suddenly finds her swim-crazed community counting on her to turn the school’s failing team around. But that’s easier said than done, especially when their rival, the prestigious Holyoke Prep, has everything they need to leave the Mighty Manatees in their wake.
Can Bree defy the odds and guide her team to a state championship, or have the Manatees swum their last lap–for good?
The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Shawn Harris
Something terrible is happening in the skies! Rats are eating the MOON!
There’s only ONE hero for the job, a bold and fearsome beast bioengineered in a secret lab to be the moon’s savior and Earth’s last hope! And that hero is . . . a cat. A cat who will be blasted into space!
Accompanied by the imperious Moon Queen and LOZ 4000, a toenail clipping robot, the First Cat in Space journeys across a fantastic lunar landscape in a quest to save the world. Will these unlikely heroes save the moon in time? Can a toenail-clipping robot find its purpose in the vast universe? And will the First Cat in Space ever eat some pizza?
History Comics: The National Parks: Preserving America’s Wild Places by Falynn Koch
In this volume, The National Parks: Preserving America’s Wild Places, turn back the clock to 1872, when Congress established Yellowstone National Park as an area of unspoiled beauty for the “benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Meet the visionaries, artists, and lovers of the American wilderness who fought against corruption and self-interest to carve out and protect these spaces for future generations. See for yourself how the idea of National Parks began, how they’ve changed, and how they continue to define America.
The Tryout written by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Johanna Cacao
When cheerleading tryouts are announced, Christina and her best friend, Megan, literally jump at the chance to join the squad. As two of the only kids of color in the school, they have always yearned to fit in-and the middle school cheerleaders are popular and accepted by everyone. But will the girls survive the terrifying tryouts, with their whole grade watching? And will their friendship withstand the pressures of competition?
Twin Cities by Jose Pimienta
Luis Fernando and Luisa Teresa are twins, and they finally have the chance to stand on their own. Fernando is staying local in Mexicali, Mexico, and Teresa is planning to cross the border every day so she can go to a private school in Calexico, California.
Suddenly on his own, Fernando realizes that without his twin around. Desperate to not be alone in middle school, he finds himself making friends with the first kid who’s willing to give him a chance . . . only this new friend says and does a lot of things that Fernando isn’t too sure about.
Teresa is ready to thrive and stand on her own two feet, but she soon finds herself failing under the pressure of crossing the US/Mexico border every day. She no longer has to worry about being compared to her brother — but now she doesn’t have his support when she could really use it.
At home, both twins have a chance to reconnect. But instead, they find themselves pushing each other away. After all, being on their own is what they always wanted . . . right?
Victory. Stand! Raising my Fist for Justice by Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile
On October 16, 1968, during the medal ceremony at the Mexico City Olympics, Tommie Smith, the gold medal winner in the 200-meter sprint, and John Carlos, the bronze medal winner, stood on the podium in black socks and raised their black-gloved fists to protest racial injustice inflicted upon African Americans. Both men were forced to leave the Olympics, received death threats, and faced ostracism and continuing economic hardships.
In his first-ever memoir for young readers, Tommie Smith looks back on his childhood growing up in rural Texas through to his stellar athletic career, culminating in his historic victory and Olympic podium protest. Cowritten with Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Honor recipient Derrick Barnes and illustrated with bold and muscular artwork from Emmy Award–winning illustrator Dawud Anyabwile, Victory. Stand! paints a stirring portrait of an iconic moment in Olympic history that still resonates today.
Your Pal Fred written and illustrated by Michael Rex
He’s a super-nice kid in an ultra-mean world.
He believes even the worst people are good inside.
He’ll always be there for you… even if you boot him out of your castle, pit him against a mechanical giant, put him on top of a pole in a lightning storm, and trap him in a booming dance party that lasts all night long.
He’s Your Pal Fred.
In a brutal world far in the future where only the savage survive, a life-size toy suddenly activates. Fred was built to be a best buddy, and his relentless kindness never fades, even when everyone else is rude. Determined to make the world a better place, he has the bright idea to talk the two most powerful and battle-hungry warlords, Lord Bonkers and Papa Mayhem, into being friends. It’s a mission doomed to fail, unless Fred can find a way to inspire everyone to play nice!
Congratulations to all of the 2022 Nerdy Book Club award winners for best graphic novels.
Katherine Sokolowski has taught for over twenty years and currently teaches seventh grade in Monticello, Illinois. She is passionate about reading both in her classroom and also with her two sons. You can find her online at http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter as @katsok.