Friday, July 24, 2015

Female Graphic Novelists on the Rise

Cherie Priest

With the explosion of illustrated books in general, and graphic novels in particular, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, illustrated by Kali Ciesemier, demonstrates even more innovation with this melding of prose and comics.

The prose portion describes a friendship between two girls who invent a comics character, Princess X, at recess one day and who become inseparable--until the day one of them disappears. The comics featuring Princess X provide the clues to the missing collaborator's whereabouts. The innovation here is the book's hybrid aspect. Like Brian Selznick's work in The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, readers must immerse themselves in the visual narrative as well as the prose narrative in order to get the full story.

I Am Princess X--a story bout a strong female character, invented by two fictional female friends, and brought to life by a female writer and female graphic artist--is a kind of microcosm of what's happening in graphic novels overall right now. On Tuesday, I got to be part of a panel hosted by the Children's Book Council called "The Rise of Illustrated Books," and Gina Gagliano, associate marketing & publicity manager at First Second Books (an imprint dedicated to graphic novels), had just returned from San Diego Comic Con, where the 2015 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were announced. Gina pointed out that, for the first time, women were beginning to infiltrate the awards.
Kali Ciesemier

Best Writer/Artist went to Raina Telgemeier for Sisters (Graphix/Scholastic); Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12) was awarded to El Deafo by Cece Bell (Amulet/Abrams); and the top award, for Best Graphic Album–New, went to This One Summer by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki (published by First Second).

It's worth pointing out that El Deafo also received a 2015 Newbery Honor (the first graphic novel to do so), and This One Summer was named both a 2015 Caldecott Honor (the first graphic novel to do so) and a 2015 Printz Award. Graphic novels are on the rise, women creators of graphic novels are on the rise, and graphic novels have earned their well-deserved accolades in the literary establishment.

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