My personal bookshelves are replete with many of these literary and artistic gems.
In honor of ten years, below are ten of those gems. There are so many many more. This represents just a sample.
Here's to the next ten years of great graphic novels from First Second Books.
1 I first encountered the immensely talented Jessica Abel with Life Sucks, her graphic novel for teens. Long before the vampire craze reached its zenith, Abel captured the angst-laden humor of love with a vampire.
She and Matt Madden followed up with this definitive treatise on the art and science of comics with Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, a must-have for anyone interested in learning more about the creation of comics.
2 Oh Laika, the book that broke my heart in a way that can never be mended. Nick Abadzis uses visual images to their fullest advantage to capture this moment in history. It is more than science, more than the space race, more than a political move. It's a heartbreaking story of love and trust.
The poignancy of the moment is exquisitely brought to readers who will never be the same after reading this skillful fictional recreation of a historical event.
3 Adventures in Cartooning by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost
continues to be my go-to recommendation for all would-be young comic creators. The story-within-story format: learning how to draw comics by following along a rollicking adventure with a knight and a fire-breathing dragon is classic.
Learning the basics of creating a story with panels and art has never been more informative and engaging.
The perfect launching point for creating your own adventure.
4 Can anyone create more charming characters with unique adventures that Sara Varon? I think not. While the characters and storylines may seem simple, each conveys deeper thoughtful explorations of ideas.
That's the beauty of her work. It can be enjoyed by the very youngest to the most sophisticated readers.
Thanks Sara for Robot Dreams, Odd Duck, Bake Sale, and Sweater Weather.
I love, love, love them all.
5 Just one look at the cover of Tony Cliff's Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant and I was hooked.
Just look at that action, that sword, and those amazing boots!
The wit and charm of two unlikely companions: a mild-mannered and somewhat timid staff member and a feisty daring young world traveler brings the tale to life.
The dialog sparkles with the tension between the two. Visual pacing heightens the drama.
Fans of this book have reason to rejoice as the story continues in the soon-to-be-released Delilah Dirk and the King's Schilling.
Be prepared: Delilah returns to her homeland for more thrilling adventures.
6 It's obvious why scores of young readers love to dress up in white tunics and green capes. She is the kind of intrepid adventurer that every child dreams of becoming.
Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl three volume series is loved by kids everywhere.
What's not to love?
Hatke fills Zita's world with characters both charming and slightly bizarre: an oversized mouse, a pile of bones and rags, a robot, and even a blob figure into the story.
The dialogue is rich with word play which holds up well under multiple rereadings.
Pure reading enchantment.
7 I will never forget my first encounter with Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang.
It went like this: I was on a train and so absorbed in the book that when I got to the end of the line the conductor had to come and tap me on the shoulder.
The blend of history, religion, mysticism, war, and personal conflict completely absorbed my attention.
Little wonder that he has been selected as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.
These personally signed copies with drawings by Mr. Yang are one of my shelf's prized acquisitions.
8 As previously stated on this blog, Maris Wicks Human Body Theater is the book that convinced a young reader that nonfiction could be pretty cool reading.
Who knew that basic anatomy and physiology for kids could have all the comedy and entertainment of a vaudeville production?
It's all carefully presented and accurate human biology information in a most appealing format.
Kudos to Ms Wicks for making science so much fun.
9 A peek inside the cover reveals that my copy of Foiled is signed by both author Jane Yolen and artist Mike Cavallaro.
I have wonderful memories of hearing presentations from both Jane and Mike at a literature conference. They shared secrets of creating both the story and the images for a tale which involves a determined young girl who knows how to wield a foil. In true Jane Yolen fashion, there is also an important element of magic.
Together Yolen and Cavallaro create a great introduction to the art of fencing and belief in oneself that is magical.
Be sure to check out the follow-up book Curses! Foiled Again.
10 First Second Books recently made its foray into the world of picture books. I was delighted with Ben Hatke's Julia's House for Lost Creatures and can't wait for the publication of Nobody Likes a Goblin.
It's a charming tale of friendship, and loyalty among the most unlikely of heroes.
Hatke's trademark creation of the unusual creatures is in rich supply. His gentle storytelling skills make what would seem to be most-unlovable absolutely endearing . This a story that youngsters will immediately implore "read it again". and again and again