14 February 2008

2007 Cybils for Graphic Novels

The kidlit blogosphere's Valentine's cards to new books, the 2007 Cybils Awards, were conferred this morning. I was one of the judges in the Graphic Novels category, and here are those winners and their accompanying analyses.

21fv7sxv6ml_aa_sl160_Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel
written by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin
illustrated by Giovanni Rigano and Paolo Lamanna
The comics format proves a good match for Eoin Colfer's tale of war between fairies and an obsessed young genius, already popular around the world in novel form. The energetic, manga-influenced drawings capture the book's technologically heavy action and many magical creatures. The book's creative team uses comics techniques from character profiles to changes in lettering to lead readers through the novel's shifting points of view and sympathies. A truly over-the-top adventure.

21hkbxs1dgl_aa_sl160_The Professor's Daughter
written by Joann Sfar
illustrated by Emmanuel Guibert
First Second
In late Victorian London, the frustrated daughter of an archaeologist and the repressed son of an Egyptian pharaoh fall in love. That he's been dead for many centuries is the least of their problems. The twisting, fast-paced story that follows takes readers to many landmarks of classic English adventure tales, from the British Museum and Scotland Yard and into the private study of Queen Victoria herself. While the panel layout is the same on nearly every page, the scenes inside those boxes jump from slapstick action to tender reminiscences to deadly danger.

You can find announcements of all the winners at the Cybils website.

Over the next coupla weeks I’ll post more thoughts about the two winners and the eight other nominated titles. Today I’ll close with some thoughts on the judging process. Last year, I was a Fantasy and Science Fiction judge, which meant reading five rather thick books, many of them excellent. Nonetheless, it proved very easy for the judges to reach consensus on the one that stood out as the winner. (That was Ptolemy's Gate, by Jonathan Stroud, lest we forget.)

This year, each of the winning books commanded a majority from the start of our discussions, but each also was one of the least favorites of at least one judge. And the runners-up also had some vocal detractors as well as supporters. Furthermore, we spent a lot of time discussing what those age categories meant (while ultimately sticking with how the nominating committee had sorted out the titles after their own long discussion).

I suspect that graphic novels are particularly challenging to assign ages to. What's the reading level of a book with no words? Do pictures instead of words make a story easier or harder to follow? If a book features anthropomorphic animals drawn in a simple style, or the gentle adventures of a preschooler, does that mean it's created for young children? If a book features a grumpy adolescent, does that mean it's created for older children? Is an anthology with stories about people ranging from late-elementary-school kids to adults Young Adult literature? And does America's prejudice that comics are for kids influence those classifications?

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