LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Rainbow, a Round Table of the American Library Association, has recognized author-illustrator Rachel Elliott, lecturer in the Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies Department of the University of Kentucky’s College of Arts & Sciences, for her debut graphic novel, “The Real Riley Mayes.”
The novel, published in May 2022 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins, was named a Stonewall Honor Book for 2023. The Stonewall Book Awards recognize English-language books that relate to the LGBTQIA+ experience.
“I’m very grateful to all the librarians supporting books for LGBTQ youth," said Elliott, who received an MFA from the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.
In addition, the New York Public Library named “Riley Mayes” as a Best Book of 2022, and the Junior Library Guild listed it as a Gold Standard Selection.
While teaching classes for Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies, Elliott worked to translate her expertise from painting to writing and illustrating comics. Last semester, Elliott arranged to have her students visit with authors Stephanie Williams and artist Erin O’Neill Jones.
“The students asked great questions, and they learned a lot about the joys of collaboration in the comics world,” she said.
Students in WRD 307: Writing Comics learn how words and pictures work together to tell a well-paced story, a skill that’s useful for playwriting, screenwriting and social media messaging.
Written for readers ages 8 through 12, Elliott’s book addresses what it means to grow up in a small, close-knit community and feel like an outsider.
According to Publishers Weekly, the author’s art conveys the tensions experienced by a fifth-grader: “In fine lines and citrus hues, Elliott renders a sunny external world that juxtaposes Riley’s internal worries and confusion in a story of self-discovery that’s messy and full of heart.”
Elliott will receive her award at a ceremony during the American Library Association convention in Chicago in June.