Don’t #%?$ My Graphic Novels: Conquering Challenges and Protecting the Right to Read

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 | 6:00 p.m. Central

We strive to create inclusive library collections that reflect a diverse global community. But what happens when members of the school community challenge or attempt to ban such inclusive materials?

In 2018, 38% of reported book challenges took place in schools. Among the challenged works were those in illustrated format, including Persepolis, Drama, This One Summer, Captain Underpants, Bad Kitty, and Bone. As we celebrate School Library Month, join us in advocating for and defending books that incorporate art with Bad Kitty author and illustrator Nick Bruel and librarians Mariela Siegert, Martha Hickson, and Suzanna Panter. They will share their experiences with censorship and navigating a graphic novel challenge. Moderated by Kristin Pekoll, assistant director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, with resources and tools to support inclusion of all types of learning resources.

Learning Outcomes

  • Commit to inclusiveness and respect for diversity in the learning community
  • Gain awareness of the experiences and struggles of school librarian colleagues
  • Understand school-based challenge cases and the strategies used to defend resources & services
  • Recognize the tools and support available to promote intellectual freedom

Who Should Attend

School library professionals and those interested in the topic.


Nick BruelNick Bruel is the author and illustrator of New York Times bestseller Boing, Bad Kitty, Bad Kitty Gets a Bath and Bad Kitty Meets the Baby, among others. Nick is a freelance illustrator and cartoonist, and during his down time, he collects PEZ dispensers and grows tomatoes in the backyard. He lives in Pleasantville, NY with his wife Carina, their daughter Izzy, and their sometimes good, sometimes bad cat Esmerelda.


Martha HicksonMartha Hickson has been a librarian at North Hunterdon High School in Annandale, NJ, since 2005. She has also worked as a Youth Services Librarian at the Somerset County Library in Bridgewater, NJ. She is a recipient of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians’ Future Leader Award. Her work has been recognized by the Gale/Library Media Connection TEAMS Award and the NJ School Boards Association School Leader Award, and has been featured in the NJEA Review and School Librarian’s Workshop.

Nick BruelSuzanna Panter is the new Innovator Facilitator for Libraries in Tacoma Public Schools. Prior to this position she served three years as the Educational Specialist for Library Services in Henrico County Virginia Public Schools, winner of AASL’s 2011 National School Library of the Year. Suzanna was an elementary educator and school librarian for 10 years. She was an ALA Emerging Leader in 2009 and was chosen to attend the first ALA Leading to the Future Institute in 2013. In 2012, her school library won the Virginia Association of School Librarian’s: Library Program of the Year award, becoming the first elementary school to do so.


Mariela SiegertMariela Siegert is a middle school librarian who thinks she has more than 24 hours in a day. She loves to read Children and YA books, but she has a soft spot in her heart for different formats such as audiobooks, comics, and graphic novels. When she is not trying to convince kids to read, she adjuncts at Dominican University where she teaches a technology class for future librarians. Mariela is also involved with her state school library organization (AISLE), AASL, YALSA, and the newly formed GNCRT where she is the chair for the Eisner Grant. You can follow her at @marris116

Kristin PekollKristin Pekoll is the assistant director of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom. She started her career as a youth librarian in Wisconsin and in 2009, endured a book challenge to over eighty YA LGBTQ books. This experience taught her the indispensable value of support and education for librarians.  Now in Chicago, when she’s not advocating for access to information and the freedom to read through blogs, newsletters, social media and webinars, Kristin is watching her beloved Green Bay Packers, putting together jigsaw puzzles or playing with her two rowdy kids.




Attendance during the live webinar is complimentary and open to all.

Complimentary access to the webinar archive is reserved for AASL members and subscribers of AASL eCOLLAB. Non-members and non-subscribers may purchase the webinar archive via AASL eCOLLAB. The archive is typically available within 1–3 business days of the live event.

How to Register

Register via Zoom. To join the webinar, use the personalized access link included in your registration confirmation or webinar reminders. (Review ALA’s personal data notification [PDN] before proceeding.)

As a webinar registrant, you will receive follow-up correspondence from AASL specifically related to this webinar (including, but not limited to, instructions for accessing both the live webinar and its archived recording) as well as information about other upcoming AASL eLearning. 

Tech Requirements

Internet connection and web browser.


A certificate of participation will be provided to attendees of the live webinar by request. To request a certificate of participation after the webinar, please email Jennifer Habley. Certificates will be sent as PDFs via email within one week of the webinar.


Jennifer Habley
AASL Manager, Web Communications


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