Graphic Novels: TCAF Team & Staff Picks for the 2019 Reading Challenge

May 3, 2019 | Book Buzz

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Are you taking our 2019 Reading Challenge? So are library staff all across the city. With the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) coming up next weekend, we decided to ask the TCAF team for some of their favourite graphic novel recommendations.

Hosted annually in the Toronto Reference Library (and several other nearby locations), TCAF is a free event for comic and graphic book fans of all ages. Find out more on the TCAF website,

Dates and times:

  • Saturday May 11, 9 am - 5 pm
  • Sunday May 12, 10 am - 5 pm

We hope to see you there!

Recommendations from the TCAF Planning Team

We asked the graphic book experts to share some of their favourites with us, and here's what they picked!


Christopher's recommendation: Operatic by Kyo Maclear. (Ages 10+)

Why does Christopher recommend it?

"Celebrated children’s author Kyo Maclear’s first full-length graphic novel is such a solid outing that I needed to double check that it was, in fact, her first. Aided by Byron Eggenschweiler’s lovely, lush art, this middlegrade story of complicated friendships and finding solace in music will really resonate with both younger readers and those of us who can remember when we were young. In particular, the gorgeous visual representations of music are among the best ever illustrated in comics, and add incredible richness to the work."



Miles' recommendation: Uzumaki by Junji Ito. (Ages 13+)

Why does Miles recommend it?

"High schooler Kirie Goshima begins to notice a series of strange phenomenon in her in the fictional small town of Kurōzu-cho -- all of which connect to cursed spiral imagery! Originally released 20 years ago, Uzumaki hasn't lost a step in its ability to completely creep out international audiences. Ito's line work depicts horrific and impossible body horror in a way that is both unsettling and incredibly beautiful."

What other categories could you use it for?

  • A book in translation


The Girl from the Other Side

Jocelyn's first recommendation: The Girl from the Other Side by Nagabe. (Ages 13+)

Why does Jocelyn recommend it?

"In this dark and beautifully subdued fairy tale about insiders and outsiders, the fate of the world hinges on one small girl who has only one strange outsider on her side. A prophecy has foretold that she will be the one to end the strange curse on the land that turns people into monsters. Nagabe uses this fairytale structure to explore the arbitrary nature of “us” and “them” and how divisive and hurtful it can be."

What other categories could you use it for?

  • A book in translation



Jocelyn's second recommendation: Frankenstein by Junji Ito. (Ages 13+)

Why does Jocelyn recommend it?

"This classic tale is reinterpreted by modern horror master Ito, who brings new depth and nuance to the familiar story of the doctor and his monster. But given that this is Junji Ito, he also adds extra chills and terror to an already frightening narrative. The book also includes a series of short stories about Oshikiri, a boy for whom everything goes terrifyingly wrong. For horror fans, this is a must-read, but literature fans will find something to love here, too."

What other categories could you use it for?

  • A book in translation

Helter Skelter Fashion Unfriendly

Jocelyn's third recommendation: Helter Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly by Kyoko Okazaki.

Why does Jocelyn recommend it?

"Ririko is the undisputed queen of the cutthroat modelling world and she’ll do whatever it takes to stay there, including radical surgery to remake her entire body. Okazaki tackles the absurd societal expectations placed on women and offers a critique of the excesses of capitalism in this modern classic. It’s both a narrative of mental illness and a crime story at the same time, an enticing mixture of different genres."

What other categories could you use it for?

  • A book in translation


Recommendations from Toronto Public Library Staff

Thor Goddess of Thunder

Alice's first recommendation: Thor Vol. 1, Thor: Goddess of Thunder by Jason Aaron.

Why does Alice recommend it?

"The art is gorgeous, and I love how we see the new Thor move from uncertain and confused to claiming her new role and name. At the same time, Thor comes to respect her and cedes it to her after his initial anger. Watching her rise to her powers is impressive."


Heavy vinyl

Alice's second recommendation: Heavy Vinyl Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin.

Why does Alice recommend it?

"I also really enjoyed Heavy Vinyl's first volume. Young girl trying to fit in with the cool girls at her record shop who discovers that there is more going on there and once accepted, gets drafted into their all-girl fight club and sort-of-heroes side gig? Yes, please!"

What other categories could you use it for?


Upgrade Soul

Mike's recommendation: Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels.

Why does Mike recommend it?

"An elderly couple undergo an experimental procedure to become young again, but things go awry and the procedure creates clones of them instead. What makes this stand out are really great characters that are attempting to live in the chaos of what has happened to their lives. And really excellent art work!"


Take it as a compliment

Myrna's recommendation: Take it as a Compliment by Maria Stoian.

Why does Myrna recommend it?

"This might not be my favourite but definitely one I think more people should read. Take It as a Compliment is a collection of twenty anonymous stories from both women and men about their experiences with sexual assault, harassment, and intimate partner violence. Stoian illustrates all the the stories and she does an amazing job using her varied illustration style to allow each story its own unique voice."

Anxiety is really strange

Amy's recommendation: Anxiety is Really Strange by Steve Haines.

Why does Amy recommend it?

"This book is a fascinating look at why we experience anxiety and what anxiety does to our minds and bodies. It has a lot of research – make sure to read the footnotes! – as well as some really great strategies for working with and coping with anxiety."

What other categories could you use it for?

Other Recommendations:

Both staff and members of the Reading Challenge Facebook group have given additional recommendations of graphic books:

We have received – and continue to receive – so many amazing suggestions. You don't need a Facebook account to view the discussion, although you do need one to add your own suggestions.


Other Graphic Novel Reading Lists: