Travis Dandro's 'King of King Court' wins 2020 Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize

May 08, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — "King of King Court" by Travis Dandro, published by Drawn & Quarterly, has won the 2020 Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year. Penn State University Libraries sponsors the juried award and its administrator, the Pennsylvania Center for the Book.

King of King Court, cover art

"King of King Court" by Travis Dandro, published by Drawn & Quarterly, has won the 2020 Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year.

IMAGE: Drawn & Quarterly

"A heartbreaking, masterful debut graphic memoir from Travis Dandro, 'King of King Court' grapples with the complexities of abuse and trauma while still leaving space for childhood innocence, play, and discovery," the 2020 Lynd Ward Prize jury said. "Dandro's life is punctuated by moments of violence and shrouded in omnipresent tension that center around his biological father, 'Dad Dave.' … Dandro's deft intermingling of word and image exemplifies what a graphic novel can do by conveying a deeply personal story that could not be told as effectively in any other form. With his economy of words and his deceptively simple artwork, he leads us through a slow and quiet [tale]…

"Ultimately, Dandro creates a multilayered narrative that is both understanding of Dad Dave's struggles and critical of his abusive actions, resulting in an honest story that invites the reader to sit with discomfort and to contend with ambiguity."

The Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize is presented annually to the best graphic novel, fiction or nonfiction, published in the previous calendar year by a living U.S. or Canadian citizen or resident. It honors Ward's influence in the development of the graphic novel and celebrates the gift of an extensive collection of Ward’s wood engravings, original book illustrations and other graphic art donated to Penn State’s University Libraries by his daughters Robin Ward Savage and Nanda Weedon Ward. Between 1929 and 1937, Ward published his six groundbreaking wordless novels: "Gods' Man," "Madman’s Drum," "Wild Pilgrimage," "Prelude to a Million Years," "Song without Words" and "Vertigo."

Dandro will receive $2,500 and, courtesy of Library of America, the two-volume set of "Lynd Ward: Six Novels in Woodcuts" at a future ceremony, with date and place to be announced.

The jury also awarded the honor book: "New Kid" by Jerry Craft, published by Quill Tree Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. The jury said of Craft's 'New Kid,' "Craft presents a nuanced representation of an African-American boy by moving away from a reductive black-white binary that essentializes African American experiences. … As we travel with Jordan through the different spaces in his life — from his home in the city to his new private middle school and to the homes of his new friends — we can perceive a subtle critique on class, race, privilege and access. … Craft knows how to 'show, not tell,' and uses the visual aspect of the graphic novel not only to deliver well-placed gags, but also to illustrate how prejudice can be grounded in the visual and to reveal how toxic our ways of 'reading the other' can be. …"

The award is selected by a diverse panel with graphic novel expertise, including individuals with significant ties to Penn State University. Here is the selection jury for the 2020 Lynd Ward Prize:

— Irenae Aigbedion is a doctoral candidate in comparative literature at Penn State whose research focuses on representations of race and ethnicity in contemporary comics from the Americas. She also teaches courses using comics in order to challenge her students to think about the ways that they have been taught to see and to read.

— Megan Baughman is a Penn State undergraduate majoring in English who has studied both reading and creating graphic novels in her coursework.

— Jason Griffith is an assistant professor of Language and Literacy Education at Penn State. Griffith has a particular interest in graphic memoir and has written about visual composition in his column for the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Voices from the Middle.

— James McCready is an actor, writer and musician living in State College, Pennsylvania. He received a master of fine arts in creative writing with a focus on experimental prose and mixed media writing from Fairfield University. He was recently published in the anthology "Nothing Short Of: Selected Tales from 100 Word Story."  

— Colette Slagle is a dual degree doctoral candidate in curriculum and instruction and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Penn State. She studies girls' quests in fantasy, examining both novellas and graphic novels in her research, and also teaches comics in her literature courses.  

Co-sponsors of this award include Barbara Dewey, dean of Penn State University Libraries and Scholarly Communications; the Penn State University Libraries, Library Learning Services and the Eberly Family Special Collections Library; the Department of English in the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State; and the College of the Liberal Arts.

The Pennsylvania Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, encourages Pennsylvania's citizens and residents to study, honor, celebrate and promote books, reading, libraries and literacy. In addition to the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, it also administers the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award; Public Poetry Project; A Baker’s Dozen: The Best Children’s Books for Family Literacy; Poems from Life; Wordstruck: Micro Essays on Literature that Redefined You; and the interactive Literary & Cultural Heritage Map of Pennsylvania.

For more information about the selection criteria and how to submit books for consideration for the 2021 Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, contact Ellysa Cahoy at or 814-865-9696, or visit the Pennsylvania Center for the Book's website.

  • New Kid, cover art

    Chosen as an honor book by the 2020 Lynd Ward Prize Jury, "New Kid" by Jerry Craft is published by Quill Tree Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. 

    IMAGE: Quill Tree Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • Jerry Craft, bio photo

    Jerry Craft is a bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator who has worked on numerous picture books, graphic novels and middle grade novels, including "New Kid,' winner of the John Newberry Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature and the Coretta Scott King Award for an outstanding work by an African American writer, both in the same year (2020).  

    IMAGE: Quill Tree Books
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Last Updated May 12, 2020