Did you know that during the 1950s comics were used to help teach young people about the Civil Rights movement? American hero John Lewi, opens a new windows was inspired to join the Civil Rights movement after reading Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, opens a new window , so it’s fitting that years later Congressman Lewis wrote a graphic novel to tell his own story in March, opens a new window. I have recommended March to readers of all ages, even those that have never read a graphic novel in their life. The March trilogy is a must read for everyone.
To celebrate Black History Month, here are some of my favorite graphic novels for tweens and teens from Black authors:
In 2020 New Kid, opens a new window by Jerry Craft was honored with both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Book Award, a feat that very few graphic novels achieve. That’s because Jerry Craft delivered an honest portrayal of being the new kid. and the struggle to fit in at school and at home. Seventh grader Jordan Banks wishes his parents sent him to the art school of his dreams, rather than his new prestigious private school that is known for their academics than their diversity. Jordan struggles to stay true to himself as he navigates between his upscale school life and his home in Washington Heights. A poignant and likeable graphic novel for readers of all ages.
Author Varian Johnson, known for his middle school novels The Great Parker Inheritance, opens a new window and The Great Greene Heist, opens a new window, has ventured into graphic novels. In his debut graphic novel Twins, opens a new window, Johnson delivers a delightful read about twin sisters Maureen and Francine Carter. Maureen and Francine are more than sisters, they are each other’s best friends, but at the start of middle school a rift threatens to tear these two sisters apart. Can Maureen and Francine go back to the way they were or will middle school change everything forever? After all, sisters are forever. This is the perfect read for anyone that knows the hardships of having a sister and for fans of Raina Telgemeier.
When the phrase “Once upon a time” is read images of sleeping beauties and glassed slippers immediately come to mind, but what about the skull that tries to trick the village beauty? Or the spider that tried to steal wisdom? In The Girl Who Married a Skull and Other African Stories, opens a new window, fifteen authentic African fairy tales are retold in black and white illustrations by today’s best cartoonists. These playful modern interpretations are fantastic introduction to Africa’s “once upon a time”.
Adapted from Jason Reynold’s award-winning young adult novel, opens a new window Long Way Down, opens a new window, illustrator Danica Novgordoff brings Reynold’s prose to life with vivid watercolors. Fifteen-year-old Will wants revenge. He knows the rules, he must find the person responsible for his brother Shawn’s fatal shooting. With his mind made, Will boards the elevator but finds himself delayed at each floor with ghosts that knew his brother. As the truth is slowly revealed, Will must decide his next move. This heart wrenching read is not to be missed!
Author Rodney Barnes has written characters we know and love in Star Wars: Lando - Double or Nothing , opens a new windowand Falcon: Take Flight, opens a new window, but in Quincredible. Volume 1, Quest to be the Best!, opens a new window, Barnes introduces us to a fresh new story of a young hero. Sophomore Quin dreams about being a superhero. Maybe if he was, he wouldn’t get bullied and maybe, just maybe, his crush would notice him. When Quin is unexpectedly gifted with the enhanced ability of invulnerability, he learns that his super ability does not make navigating adolescence any easier. Fans of Miles Morales will enjoy this story of an unlikely hero.
Best known for her novels Binti, opens a new window and Akata Witch, opens a new window, author Nnedi Okorafor brings her Afrofuturist storytelling to Marvel in Shuri: The Search for Black Panther, opens a new window. T’Challa has disappeared and now Wakanda looks to his younger sister Shuri to become the next Black Panther to protect and lead their great nation. However Shuri prefers to be in her lab, surrounded by her inventions, so it’s up to her to rescue her big brother and save Africa. With appearances from Storm, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Iron Man, Shuri is non-stop action fun and a must read for Marvel fans.
Check out even more graphic novels by Black authors.
This blog first appeared February 2021.