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Lynn Ward Graphic Novel Prize Background


The Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize (also the Lynd Ward Prize for the Best Graphic Novel of the Year) honors Mr. Ward’s formative influence in the development of the graphic novel and celebrates an extensive collection of Ward’s wood engravings, original book illustrations, and other graphic art donated to Penn State University Libraries by his daughters, Robin Ward Savage and Nanda Weedon Ward. Between 1929 and 1937 Ward published his six ground-breaking wordless novels— Gods’ Man, Madman’s Drum, Wild Pilgrimage, Prelude to a Million Years, Song without Words, and Vertigo—which have been re-issued by The Library of America in a two-volume boxed set entitled Lynd Ward: Six Novels in Woodcuts, the first time the nonprofit publisher has included a graphic novelist in its award-winning series.

First issued in 2011, sponsored by Penn State University Libraries and administered by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize is presented annually to the best graphic novel, fiction or non-fiction, published in the previous calendar year by a living U.S. or Canadian citizen or resident. The award announcement is made in the spring, and the $2500 prize is presented to the creator(s) of the award-winning book at a ceremony held at Penn State in the fall. The winner and honor winners will receive the two-volume boxed set Lynd Ward: Six Novels in Woodcuts courtesy of the Library of America.


A graphic novel is a narrative work of fiction or non-fiction in which the story is conveyed to the reader using images arranged in sequential form such as the traditional comic form. Integrated or incidental text may be incorporated in the work, but a graphic novel is, by definition, a visual work rather than an illustrated text-driven novel. The term suggests a complete self-contained work.

Graphic novels are bound using the same materials and methods as printed books and are generally sold in bookstores as well as specialty comic book shops.


In identifying the best graphic novel of the year, the selection jury will consider:

  • Originality
  • Creative use of form or content
  • Artistic and literary quality, ambition, or innovation
  • Engaging story or narrative or descriptive text
  • Collaborative integration of word and image that results in an equitable partnership and a sum exceeding its respective components
  • Impact on the reader
  • Reprinted or reissued works are ineligible for the prize, but a new or a substantial adaption of an original work may be eligible. A new or reissued collection of comic strips would only be considered eligible for the award if the collection contained an overarching story arc.
  • Books designed primarily for adults and young adults will be considered for the prize, but there is no age limit imposed upon the potential readers of the winning book. Books designed primarily for children below 13 years of age—the traditional picture book or picture storybook—would be ineligible.  All eligibility issues will be resolved by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book.
  • Books must be published within the assigned calendar year, January 1 to December 31, but when a book with a copyright is not available in the year of its copyright (due to publisher delays, for example), the book may be considered the year it is actually available for purchase. No book may be considered more than once.
  • Nominations for the Lynd Ward prize may be made by readers, creators, and publishers as long as books are submitted by December 31st of the consideration year. 
  • Award Submission Information

Thanks to the Library of America for their generosity in providing the donation of the Ward novel prizes.

Advisory Board

  • Ellysa Stern Cahoy, ex-officio, is an Education Librarian and an Assistant Director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book in the Pennsylvania State University Libraries. A former school and children's librarian, she administers the Pennsylvania Public Poetry Project and the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book.
  • Clara Drummond is a curator and exhibitions coordinator in the Eberly Family Special Collections Library in the Penn State University Libraries.
  • John Meier is a Science Librarian in the Penn State University Libraries.  He has published on science graphic novel collections in academic libraries, is a former Lynd Ward Prize juror, and served as a juror on the EBSCO / CBC SEE-IT Graphic Novel Award.
  • Rebecca K. Miller leads efforts related to information literacy, instruction, and student engagement as the Head of Library Learning Services at the Pennsylvania State University Libraries.  She holds state and national leadership positions in professional organizations, and is the co-author of the forthcoming monograph "The New Instruction Librarian."
  • Joel Priddy is an award-winning graphic novelist and Associate Professor of Graphic Design in the College of Arts and Architecture at Pennsylvania State University.
  • J. Harlan Ritchey is a freelance illustrator, designer, and videographer, and library assistant at the Engineering Library in the Pennsylvania State University Libraries.
  • Scott T. Smith is an Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature in the College of the Liberal Arts at Pennsylvania State University.