#WorldKidLit Wednesday: The 2021 Eisner Award Nominations

Known as the Oscars of the comics world, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards are traditionally given every summer at San Diego Comic Con. Due to COVID-19, the ceremony was virtual in 2021, when the awards featured 33 categories. Books for children in translation can be found in a number of them. The pickings were amazingly good, and there are stellar choices throughout the nominees, whether in translation or not. Below are thumbnail sketches of my four favorite graphic novels in translation for children from among the nominees.

Mister Invincible: Local Hero

A French GN for middle grade readers, Mister Invincible: Local Hero was my favorite of all the Eisner-nominated books in translation for children. “The one and only true comic book superhero,” Mister Invincible captures his villains by moving himself backwards and forwards, bending time and space and breaking the conventions of panels and pages with a vengeance as well as with clever wit, a marvelously snarky attitude, and a fondness for the truth. As the unassuming masked crusader says in a sly adage about physics, “Time is space and space is time.” A Junior Library Guild Selection, the book won the Bologna Ragazzi Comics Award in 2020—and deservedly so.  I loved this one!

Irena, Books 2-3

Irena is a deeply moving French 3-volume GN series for YA readers about Polish social worker Irena Sendlerowa (1910-2008). Often called the female Schindler, she saved about 2500 children during WWII by gradually smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto, a remarkable achievement that earned her the postwar title of “Righteous Among Nations” and nominations for the Nobel Prize in 2007 and 2008. While Sendlerowa (also known as Sendler) has been the subject of a number of biographies, this well-researched, beautifully executed trilogy is the only GN treatment I’m aware of.  The books cover her wartime actions, her capture—and torture—by the Gestapo, her postwar struggles to reunite the children with their birth families, and her feelings of guilt for not having been able to save more of them. Although only the second and third volumes could be nominated this year (the first was released in 2019), you really need to read all three, and in order, as the first focuses on the war years and the second and third continue her story via flashbacks to the war. Highly recommended, Irena was a close second to Mr. Invincible for me.

Gamayun Tales I, An Anthology of Modern Russian Folktales

Greetings, Best Beloved, My name is Gamayun. I am a magical human-faced bird from Slavic mythology. I can predict the future and I know the past. Believe it or not, I know everything. But what I really like is to tell stories! Tales of courage, love and wisdom… Turn the page and we shall begin.”

So begins Gamayun Tales I, a vividly colored, imaginative retelling of Russian folk tales. The spirit of Rudyard Kipling meets that of Walt Disney in these gorgeously illustrated stories, filled with enticing strangeness, magical creatures, fierce talking animals, treasure, and a marvelous narrational voice.  Originally published in three separate volumes in 2018-2019, the anthology assembles the stories into one wonderful collection. Both upper middle grade and younger YA readers will enjoy this GN, which received a special mention in the YA Comics category from the 2021 Bologna Ragazzi Awards—and, much as is the case with Mr. Invincible: Local Hero, deservedly so.

Spy X Family vol. 1-3

In this zany YA manga translated from Japanese, master spy Twilight is ordered to infiltrate a most exclusive private school, Eden Academy. Single due to his profession, he must create an instant family, which he sets about accomplishing under the alias of Loid Forger. Unbeknownst to him, Anya, the 4-year-old girl he adopts, is a telepath who gained her psychic abilities from a government experiment, and Yor, his brand new wife, is a trained assassin who goes by the code name of Thorn Princess and agrees to be his make-believe wife due to complications with her family and at work. Unlikely, right?  Yet it works hilariously well. Only the telepathic Anya knows everyone’s secret—but with a four-year-old’s filter…  All sorts of complications ensue as the pseudo-family hiccups along.

You can see the entire list of Eisner nominations here. Read your way through a category or three and see if you can handicap the winner before watching the awards ceremony or checking out the winners. But don’t feel bad if your favs didn’t win: this year’s field was studded with GN gems!

Mister Invincible: Local Hero
Written and illustrated by Pascal Jousselin
Translated from the French by David Bryon, James Hogan and Ivanka T. Hahnenberger
2020, Magnetic Press
Watch the trailer.
Reviews: Kirkus starred review; Publishers Weekly starred review
ISBN: 978-1-942367-61-1

You can purchase the book here.*

Irena (Books 2-3)
Written by Jean-David Morvan and Séverine Tréfouël
Illustrated by David Evrard and Walter
Translated from the French by Dan Christensen
2020, Magnetic Press
ISBN: Book 2: 978-1-5493-0680-8 Book 3: 978-1-942367-81-9

You can purchase the books here.*

Gamayun Tales I, An Anthology of Modern Russian Folktales
Written and illustrated by Alexander Utkin
Translated from the Russian by Lada Morozova
2020, NoBrow Press
Reviews: Publishers Weekly
ISBN: 978-1910620670

You can buy the book here.*

Spy X Family (vols. 1-3):
Written and illustrated by Tasuya Endo
Translated from the Japanese by Casey Loe
2020, Viz Media
Watch the trailer.
Read a preview.
ISBN: Vol. 1: 978-1974715466 Vol. 2: 978-1974717248 Vol 3: 978-1974718160

You can buy the books here.*

*Book purchases made via our affiliate link may earn GLLI a small commission at no cost to you.

Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 60 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, German and Spanish into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her translations, Luisa: Now and Then and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book. Her translations released thus far in 2021 are For Justice: The Serge and Beate Klarsfeld StoryThe Sisters #7: Lucky BratChloe & Cartoon, LGBTQ YA manga Alter Ego, and A House Without Windows.

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