Books can be an endless source of entertainment, knowledge, and, when you really need it: distraction. January is arguably THE month for losing yourself in a good story (i.e. directing your attention away from the dark and cold gloom that currently has no end in sight!). Our friends at the Brooklyn Public Library have saved us the hassle of picking up fresh reads with this expertly curated reading list by youth librarian, Lisa Goldstein. Get them below!

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Lisa: As a youth librarian, I frequently make a case for graphic novels to parents and caregivers. Graphic novels count as books too, and are no less of a reading experience than a dense, assigned prose novel. They are also an ideal format for busy adults. I don’t have time to read everything I want to, but can always make time for graphic novels. Let your kids read graphic novels, but try them yourself, too. Here are five published for children and teens that adults will also enjoy.

Speak: The Graphic Novel
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Melinda Sordino starts her freshman year of high school as an outcast: why did she call the police at the party last summer? Melinda won’t say, and no one wants to listen. Carroll’s black and white illustrations of spidery trees look like invasive, grasping hands, interspersed with smudged gray depictions of Melinda’s drab and lonely day-to-day. Boldly framed panels slice the action into abrupt, startling shards, reflecting the trauma that Melinda can hold at bay for only so long. In the end, an art project helps her to come to terms with what happened to her: she was raped by a fellow student. Laurie Halse Anderson adapted her 1999 novel Speak herself for this graphic novel version, an ideal format to underline the book’s message that art can aid in expressing what can seem unspeakable.

Hey, Kiddo
by Jarrett Krosoczka
Children’s author and illustrator Krosoczka tells the complicated, painful story of his development as an artist in this graphic novel memoir. From the age of three Jarrett was raised by his grandparents, who finally told him when he was in the fourth grade that his often absent mother, most present through her lively letters and drawings, was addicted to heroin. The palette of muted grays and oranges is a change from Krosockzka’s exuberant comics and picture books for children but in some panels the orange burns a little brighter, indicating an ember of hope.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide
by Isabel Quintero
Graciela Iturbide was born in Mexico City in 1942 and became a black and white photographer, capturing everyday life in Mexico with an increased focus on the lives of indigenous cultures and people. Lyrical prose and expressive black and white illustrations combine to provide a full portrait of Iturbide, nothing less than what she wanted for her subjects.

On a Sunbeam
by Tillie Walden
This is a webcomic, first published in print this year. We follow Mia through two points in time. In the first she is a teenager, attending boarding school in space and falling in love with fellow student Grace. The second timeline finds Mia five years later, beginning a job restoring architecture across space. All characters are women and many are queer, one genderfluid. The illustrations contain expanses of inky darkness, punctuated with glowing white stars, warm beams of light, and sudden bursts of color. This space story offers plenty of space for its characters to develop into rich personalities with complex relationships.

The Prince and the Dressmaker
by Jen Wang
Prince Sebastian wants to wear dresses, and the hero who comes to his rescue is Frances, his dressmaker. Full of gorgeous, frilly fashions and illustrated with soft pinks and yellows, reading this joyful fairy tale is like eating an ice cream sundae.

Lisa Goldstein is the manager of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Youth Wing, which serves youth from birth through high school. When not working with books and people, she bikes, swims, drums, cooks, and attempts to manage her ever growing to-be-read pile.

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