Visual learning

These four books for middle- and high school readers range from graphic memoir to graphic fantasy and science fiction, but all with a basis in true events. For more, see our Graphic Novels tag and the Guide/Reviews Database subject tag Graphic novels.

Run and Hide
by Don Brown; illus. by the author
Middle School, High School    Clarion/HarperCollins    192 pp.
10/23    9780358538165    $22.99
e-book ed.  9780358538608    $10.99

Brown (recently 83 Days in Mariupol, rev. 7/23) applies his signature graphic-nonfiction approach to the rescue of ­Jewish young people during the Holocaust through various means, including hiding and evacuation. Sequences about broader historical events set the scene before Brown turns focus to individual human stories, showing poignant moments as parents and children say what may be final goodbyes. The varied panel layouts in Brown’s digital illustrations employ a muted palette, making the occasional exceptions (red Nazi armbands and flags; the Reichstag fire) especially striking. Real quotes shown in speech bubbles lend immediacy. Though there are hopeful elements in the stories of people helping one another, the book doesn’t shy away from painful truths; several powerful wordless spreads near the end depict the fate of many of those left behind. Back matter includes an afterword, source notes, and a bibliography. SHOSHANA FLAX

Monstrous: A Transracial Adoption Story
by Sarah Myer; illus. by the author
High School    First Second    272 pp.
6/23    9781250268792    $25.99
Paper ed.  9781250268808    $17.99
e-book ed.  9781250337238    $11.99

Myer’s graphic memoir is a welcome transracial adoption story told from the adoptee’s point of view. Adopted from South Korea by a white couple, Sarah (who now uses they/them pronouns) basically knows nothing about their birth parents and wonders: “Did they WANT me? Why did they let me go?” An outsider in basically every way in their rural Maryland town, Sarah has a rough time at school. Artistic abilities that help them gain popularity with elementary-school classmates can’t shield them from race- and gender-based bullying during adolescence. Though they often fight back both verbally and physically, the years of abuse take their toll; at moments when Sarah is feeling especially bad about themself, and during retaliation, Myer imagines themself as a monster. Sarah finds solace through a love of anime: “cosplaying male characters with whom I identified was my sole means of expressing my queerness.” Myer uses color, shading, and line effectively, and varies panel size with excellent results. Those who stick with the unflinching depictions of the bullying Myer endured will be rewarded with an engaging — and ultimately hopeful — narrative­ of a young artist developing their own true identity. Back matter includes websites for resources and support, an author’s note, and photos. SAM BLOOM

Courage to Dream: Tales of Hope in the Holocaust
by Neal Shusterman; illus. by Andrés Vera Martínez
Middle School, High School    Graphix/Scholastic    256 pp.
10/23    9780545313476    $24.99
Paper ed.  9780545313483    $14.99

In this innovative book, five stories, all in graphic format, address aspects of the Holocaust and incorporate fantasy elements, including some, aptly, from Jewish and Eastern European folklore. A golem resists the guards in Auschwitz. Baba Yaga and the fools of Chelm build a bridge for children hiding from the “nasties.” Generations later, a teen gets a chance to see what the world would have looked like if the Holocaust hadn’t occurred. Informational spreads following most stories provide historical and, when relevant, folkloric context. Amid the brutality depicted, the creatively applied magical elements give power back to the Holocaust-victim characters. The muted palette of the panel illustrations changes slightly with each story, and the varied layouts keep the momentum going. Back matter includes notes from Shusterman (Challenger Deep, rev. 3/15, and many other novels) and Martínez (Little White Duck, rev. 9/12), a bibliography, and spiritual interpretations of the Hebrew letters that open each story. SHOSHANA FLAX

The Bodyguard Unit: Edith Garrud, Women’s Suffrage, and Jujitsu
by Clément Xavier; illus. by Lisa Lugrin; color by Albertine Ralenti; trans. from French by Edward Gauvin
Middle School, High School    Graphic Universe/Lerner    136 pp.
8/23    9781728445656    $22.99
Paper ed.  9798765607473    $17.99

This immersive comic introduces readers to the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), a group of radical, real-life early-twentieth-century English feminists led by Emmeline Pankhurst. Needing to mitigate the physical harm faced by members, the militant activists of WSPU coordinated a self-defense and security unit and recruited jujitsu expert Edith Garrud to train them. Garrud’s life and perspective ground the absorbing, dialogue-heavy, and fast-paced fictionalized narrative as “jujitsuffragettes” learn, strategize, build solidarity, and engage in aggressive direct action together (“Deeds, not words!”). Embedded primary sources such as political cartoons and black-and-white newspaper images pull the facts and narrative together with striking, powerful clarity. The cartooning, beautifully rendered in muted, old-timey hues, presents information about jujitsu, the inner workings and tensions of the WSPU, and everyday indignities faced by the subjects. Frenetic sound effect and motion lines accentuate setting and mood. While enduring themes such as resisting oppression and asserting autonomy abound, the book remains centered on its specific time, place, and people. Pair with Chambers’s Finish the Fight! and Dionne’s Lifting as We Climb (both rev. 9/20) for perspectives from suffragists of color and broader coverage of gender justice. Back matter includes a timeline, citations, and additional historical information. ELISA GALL

From the March 2024 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Horn Book
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