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Entertainment, Engagement, and Empathy

The CBC Graphic Novel Committee returned to San Diego Comic-Con International (SDCCI) this year to host six awesome panels at the San Diego Public Library. For this series, we are going over each panel and sharing insights from authors, teachers, librarians, and more. CBC’s Sommer Wissner and John McCormack were on hand for the entire day.

To kick things off, we are starting with our first panel, Entertainment, Engagement, and Empathy.

This panel was all about how books can teach empathy while engaging readers, adding some entertainment along the way. Each of these authors brought these themes into their books, discussing character anxieties, the struggles of race and culture clashes, and the growth of the character from beginning to end.

Moderator Matthew Noe brought the group of panelists together, introducing them and their books. The crowd was engaged with the easy-going nature of the authors. Of course, a joke here and there at the occasional silly comment got a laugh and smile.

Each of the authors was given topics to speak to, discussing their lives and motivations.

Sophie Yanow said that “you can have compassion at any age,” commenting that “life isn’t about doing things right, just have some self-compassion.” While we may not all struggle with introversion and making friends, Sophie, also the name of the protagonist in The Contradictions, has a strong desire for friends when feeling lonely as well as the compassion that she shares with others as comfort when someone is new to an environment.

Rebecca Mock (illustrator of Salt Magic) was able to add about their experiences in drawing and learning the characters in their and Hope Larson’s book, Salt Magic. “The theme of their story is connecting with a feeling” and “through fantasy and magic, one can take control of their life.” Hope Larson discussed that along with the fantasy world in Salt Magic, the young protagonist has to come to terms with her older brother being a different person after coming home from the war. There is a balance in handling magic and the turmoil, but the character can still be relatable and demonstrate how she adapted to take on everything thrown at her, becoming stronger for it.

Jose Pimienta shared the nature of the location in his book, Twin Cities. He was interested “in learning and exploring a border town with the differences in characters and their different points of view.” He mentioned that walking in another’s shoes can showcase how another is feeling. The perspective in this novel doesn’t stand still; the reader is bounced between twins who each have different lives, despite looking similar. Both are handling middle school in the best way that they can, but as many of us may already know, that time in life is not a shared and equal experience when it comes to juggling different pressures and anxieties.

Jerry Craft explained that he liked to “balance humor and empathy. Nothing too depressing, but nothing too overwhelming for readers to digest.” It seemed if he could get a reader laughing and relating to Class Act, then he was successful. Acceptance is something we can all struggle with, so sometimes that means working outside the expectations of what others want from you and being true to yourself.

Find the info on the moderators and panelists with links to their digital platforms. Click on each book title to see how to get a copy of your own.


  • Matthew Noe – Past-President for ALA’s Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table


We thank the San Diego Public Library for sending us the video footage so we can share these wonderful panels with all of you!

Next week: a recap of the Adventure Beyond the Screen panel.

See all of the panels we presented at SDCCI this year.

Learn more about the CBC Graphic Novel Committee.

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