“Superman Smashes the Klan,” written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Gurihiru
The award-winning Yang reworks a 1946 Superman radio serial and makes it startlingly relevant to today’s teens in this graphic novel. The story revolves around the Chinese American Lee family, which has just moved from Chinatown to Metropolis. But it quickly appears that the Lees are unwelcome when Klan of the Fiery Kross members burn a cross on their lawn. Yang’s story moves quickly, and seamlessly incorporates Superman’s efforts to rout the racists of Metropolis as he tries to come to grips with his own background as an outsider. The art by Gurihiru, a Japanese illustration team, does a stellar job of heightening the story’s drama.
“Almost American Girl,” written and illustrated by Robin Ha
In this illustrated memoir, Ha details her experience as a reluctant immigrant to the United States. She was doing just fine as a typical teen in her native Seoul when her divorced mother suddenly uprooted them to Huntsville, Ala., so she could marry a Korean American man. Devastated by the move, Ha has to find her own way with little English and amid challenges with her stepfamily. Eventually, she enrolls in a local comics class, which providesa lifeline and a future direction. Ha’s illustrations expressively portray both her misery and eventual acceptance of her new life.
“Clap When You Land,” by Elizabeth Acevedo
Acevedo tells the story of two teen sisters who have no idea the other exists until their father dies and his secret — having two families, one in New York, the other in the Dominican Republic — is exposed. Using the novel-in-verse style that she employed so brilliantly in her National Book Award-winning “The Poet X,” Acevedo shows how the sisters discover that they have much in common, despite their very different homes and upbringing.
“Kent State,” by Deborah Wiles
Wiles uses an unusual format of multiple viewpoints to relate the terrible events of May 4, 1970, when four Kent State University students were killed by National Guardsmen during a campus protest of the Vietnam War. Well-researched and riveting, “Kent State” will speak to teens today who are working for social justice.
Karen MacPherson is the children’s and teen services coordinator for the library in Takoma Park, Md.