Things We Love – The Graphic Novel Gift Guide

These are the graphic novels I’ve recommended all year to my friends and family.  Some are oldies but goodies and others I stumbled onto recently.  Each infused my time with a page turning wonder, teary-eyed empathy, or filled it with a joyful fright (I know that seems odd, but I’m assuming you haven’t read Through the Woods yet). Whether you’re filling up a stocking or trying hard to receive the word ‘covet’ in your thank you card – you can’t miss with these gems.

“Comics aren’t visual art, and they’re not prose. They’re a medium that exists in the tension between images and text.”—Glen Weldon, NPR


This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

“This One Summer” is a graphic novel by Mariko Tamaki with charcoal-and-ink art by Jillian Tamaki, a team of cousins whose first collaboration, Skim, won a New York Times Illustrated Children’s Book Award. “Summer” tells the complex and ultimately edifying story of Rose, a tween who deals with family tensions and—vicariously, by watching the local teens in the town where her family vacations—explores the mysterious world of near-adulthood.  Heads up gift givers, at times the subject matter does veer off into references to porn, and sex. You know, in case you hadn’t planned on talking to the kiddies about this stuff just yet. You’ve been warned.


The Wrenchies

I cannot recommend this book enough.  Farel Dalrymple brings his literary and artistic powers to this sprawling ‘dark’ science fiction graphic novel about regret, obsession, and the uncertainty of growing up.  Let’s talk about the countless hours you will stare at the illustrations in this novel- both gorgeous and grotesque.  The detail is mind-blowing, as is the fact that you’ll find yourself reading a book within a book.  I promise I won’t ruin anything else, I’ll leave you to discover the subtle pop culture and literary references throughout.


Through The Woods


I can’t remember the last time I read with a flashlight under the covers.  Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods are horror stories for your dreary literary soul.   A terrifying world in the woods lay in wait in this collection of five hauntingly beautiful graphic stories of fairy tales gone wrong (the wolf at the window is enough to keep me inside for good).  Where else are you going to experience a Victorian gothic playground haunted by Mary Shelley & Edward Gorey? Maybe not for the kiddies, unless their bedtime stories consist of Edgar Allan Poe and Gaiman – then this might delight their senses or scare the bejesus out of them. Hey, it’s all good.



Skim is an overweight, Japanese-Canadian, gothic, Wiccan, and high school social outcast.  As the reader becomes familiar with Skim, he/she soon discovers that she is just another misunderstood high school student who is trying to find her niche will still retaining some of her identity. Canadian cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki explore complex experiences with grace and honesty in this thoughtful coming-of-age story.


The Arrival


Someone else said it better…”Tan captures the displacement and awe with which immigrants respond to their new surroundings in this wordless graphic novel. It depicts the journey of one man, threatened by dark shapes that cast shadows on his family’s life, to a new country. The only writing is in an invented alphabet, which creates the sensation immigrants must feel when they encounter a strange new language and way of life. A wide variety of ethnicities is represented in Tan’s hyper-realistic style, and the sense of warmth and caring for others, regardless of race, age, or background, is present on nearly every page. Young readers will be fascinated by the strange new world the artist creates, complete with floating elevators and unusual creatures, but may not realize the depth of meaning or understand what the man’s journey symbolizes. More sophisticated readers, however, will grasp the sense of strangeness and find themselves participating in the man’s experiences. They will linger over the details in the beautiful sepia pictures and will likely pick up the book to pore over it again and again.”—Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT


Killing and Dying

The graphic novel by Adrian Tomine comprises a collection of 6 melancholy stories that explore loss, creative ambition, identity, and family dynamics through gorgeous artwork and writing that reads more like modern American literature than a short burst of comics.