Claremont C. (1984, 1990, 1991, 2000) X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga NY: Marvel Characters, Inc.
A volume with the collection of Uncanny X-Men comic book numbers 129 through 137, Chris Claremont’s X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga is a graphic novel that shows the evolution of superheroine Jean Grey (more commonly known as Phoenix from seemingly the X-Mens’ most weakest member, to the dark and most powerful member. A physical manifestation of the Phoenix Force—which enables her to have telepathic/telekinetic powers, resurrect from death, and manipulate time—Jean finds herself encompassed by absolute power, giving in to an evil side in which she deems herself as the Dark Phoenix. Although throughout this graphic novel we see Jean as the Dark Phoenix, it is made known in the end that Jean is the Dark Phoenix, and one can not exist without the other—leading into Jean’s self-sacrifice. While many may find this dismal ending to be inappropriate for young adults who read graphic novels, it is more important to assess the surrounding theme of Jean’s story, and what young adult readers can learn from it. If one does not realize the power they hold and if it is worth sacrificing, that power they hold so dear may corrupt them.
Joffo, Joseph. (2013). A Bag of Marbles. Minneapolis: Graphic Universe.
Based on the 1973 memoir by Joseph Joffo, this graphic novel recounts and visualizes the true story of Joseph and his older brother Maurice’s dangerous journey from Nazi-occupied Paris to a free zone in which their other brothers reside. Through the use of watercolor and narrative blurbs, this visualization reads more like a comic and less like a picture book, however it does not make its contents any less endearing. By following the journey of these two young boys, not only does this book provide a visual experience for children who are learning about historical occurrences such as the Holocaust and WWII, but may appeal to those who also feel they are trying to find a way to be true to themselves while still trying to understand perceptions of their identity.
Angelou, Maya (2008) Amazing Peace:A Christmas Poem. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books
This work by Maya Angelou, first read at the White House tree lighting ceremony in 2005, becomes an illustrated children’s book that expresses the true meaning behind the concept of the holidays; a time where people of different ages, religions (believers and non-believers), and classes come together and celebrate communal peace. While this specific publication is illustrated more for the interpretation and enjoyment of children, these pictures illicit a beautiful representation of different individuals within the community coming away from rancor, and reveling in the abundant sound of peace which brings comfort, security, and harmony. What’s most interesting about this work, is the way in which although the word “Christmas” is used to describe this celebratory time of the year, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslims, etc., revel in this time of holiday celebration and peace. Christmas, here, I believe is being used as a word to denote a time of year, rather than being used as a sort of “religious umbrella”.
Lyga, Barry (2009) Boy Toy Boston: HMH Books for Young Readers
Now eighteen years old and still dealing with the aftermath from his child molestation suit involving his teacher–Eve–five years ago, Josh Mendel spends his senior year of high-school grappling with thoughts that he caused his own molestation. Written in present tense and flashbacks, Boy Toy is a moving piece that presents itself in a most didactic way, teaching young adults that even if their problems are not similar to that of Josh’s, there are other ways to cope with various difficulties. Pushing the limits on the themes of sexual assault, this novel was not written just for shock-value. Books of the past that have skimmed the topic of molestation, have not only been challenged by concerned and outraged member of society, but have been banned from libraries–deemed as “crude” and “vulgar”. However, Boy Toy is a novel so eloquently written, that we find ourselves not only being shown a sexual assault victim who overcomes his past, but we take a journey that results in the main character taking the first step to realizing it was not his fault. With this, Barry Lyga’s Boy Toy is a story that extends young adults understanding of the world, and is not just sensationalism
Beaty, Daniel (2013) Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream For Me. New York: Little Brown and Company.
This children’s book tells a powerful and moving story of a young boy’s growth into a man when his father does not knock on his bedroom door as expected. What makes this book so intriguing in the realm of diverse children’s books, is that it explores the emotions and strength development a child goes through when experiencing the loss or absence of a parent. Here I feel that loss and/or absence is interchangeable. When first reading this book, I interpreted the situation to be that the father voluntarily left the boy and his mother, and that he had either decided to write and send the response letter himself, or that the boy’s mother had written it posing as his father. But now I see that there are other interpretations that can be gained from this reading–perhaps the father died, was incarcerated, etc. It makes the story flexible so that children that are dealing with loss such as this can relate.