Jenny McCluskey, MSIS, Collection Development Librarian
After almost two years of labor, the inaugural Excellence in Graphic Literature (EGL) awards were announced last month at Denver Comic Con. The idea behind the awards is to further recognize the format’s value and importance as literature. John Shableski, VP of Sales at Udon Entertainment, explains, “One of the goals of the awards is to create an annual event that all publishers, authors, librarians, and educators will celebrate, much as they do the ALA Midwinter awards.” Thomas Maluck (Richmond Public Library) reacted positively to the EGL awards. He points out, “The increasing prominence of comics narratives in libraries and syllabi means more opportunities than ever for great reading experiences. Strong reviews, professional recognition of quality, and diversity of content go a long way toward book selections.” The EGL awards are yet another way to recognize quality in graphic literature.
The organization behind the awards is Pop Culture Classroom, a Colorado-based educational non-profit focused on “enhancing and improving a student’s learning experience through the use of comic book media.” Pop Culture Classroom also created Denver Comic Con, first held in 2012, all proceeds from which fund aspects of their program. The program’s curriculum, Storytelling Through Comics (STC), is a literacy and arts curriculum using comic books and is provided free of charge to local area schools.
Following a brief submission period last winter, finalists were announced in the spring for each of five categories: Children’s Books, Middle Grade Books, Young Adult Books, Adult Books, and the Mosaic Award, which “recognizes the ever-growing number of talented storytellers and rich content that come from our diverse communities, ethnicities, nationalities, faiths, genders, and orientations.” Nominees for all categories automatically enter the Book of the Year competition, which represents the best in graphic literature. Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland won the prize this year with Spill Zone (First Second).
Maluck remarks, “I am especially heartened at the inclusion of the Mosaic Award and its focus on excellent diverse content in comics.” This year the Mosaic was bestowed on Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do (Abrams), an intimate portrayal of Bui’s family’s immigration from war-torn Vietnam to the United States in the 1970s.
Many notable librarians, educators, and other comics professionals served on the advisory board and the juries this year. Committee Chairs included Betsy Bird (Collection Development Manager, Evanston Public Library), Mike Pawuk (Teen Librarian, Cuyahoga County Public Library), Dr. Katie Monnin (University of North Florida), and Alicia Holston (Adult Services Librarian, Roanoke [TX] Public Library). Shableski explains, “When we built this program, we invited veteran librarians and educators who have been involved with other award programs to help us shape this in a way that gives a credible foundation.” He reports the number of publishers’ submissions greatly surpassed their expectations for this first year with almost 250 titles, but they’d like to see more nonfiction titles in 2019. Maluck sees it as a big-picture win: “The more visibility great comics receive, the better off the comics format, industry, and community become.” When asked about other librarian and educator reactions to the awards, Shableski says, “As these awards grow, so too will that excitement and support from the librarians and educators.” Personally, I have high hopes for next year’s title selections and am thrilled that the EGL awards are finally here!
To receive a list of finalist and/or award-winning titles automatically each year, enroll in the Awards *Book Clubs* State Lists standing order program.