Thomas Allen & Son is Canada’s leading independent distributor of books, stationery and calendars


The Girl Who Owned a City

The Graphic Novel

The Girl Who Owned a City
Joëlle Jones Illustrated by
Order Qty:
Review Order

Lerner Publishing Group

Limited ***

6.0 X 8.5 in
128 pg

JUVENILE FICTION / Comics & Graphic Novels / General
JUVENILE FICTION / Social Themes / Violence
JUVENILE FICTION / Readers / Intermediate


Texas Maverick Graphic Novels Reading List — 2012 — Winner


A deadly virus killed every adult on Earth, leaving only the kids behind. With her parents gone, Lisa is responsible for her little brother, Todd. She has to make sure they stay alive. Many kids are sick or starving, and fierce gangs are stealing and destroying everything they find. Lots of people have given up, but on Grand Avenue, some kids are surviving. Because of Lisa.

Lisa figured out how to give the kids on Grand Avenue food, homes, and protection against the gangs. But Tom Logan and his army are determined to take that away and rule the streets themselves. How long can Lisa's group keep fighting them off? They need to find a place to live safely. A strong place. A secret place.

In a world like this, someone has to take charge. But does Lisa have the strength to take charge of a whole city?


"Based on O.T. Nelson's 1975 novel, Dan Jolley's graphic novel adaptation will attract readers with its enticing cover. The graphics inside are equally attractive and effectively support the storyline. The story is set around a plague-ravaged earth where the only survivors are children aged 12 and under. Lisa Nelson uses common sense and street smarts to help her and her younger brother survive. Lisa realizes she will need the support of other children and creates her own city. The post-apocalyptic setting soon becomes hostile and life becomes a struggle for ultimate survival against rival gangs. The strong-willed, resourceful main character sets an excellent example for girls of all ages and the ingenuity of the children shows the virtues of perseverance and resiliency in the face of disaster. Overall, this is an entertaining read with great artwork that is sure to attract fans of graphic novels." —Library Media ConnectionJournal

"When a virus kills all adults, practical preteen Lisa takes charge and turns a school into a city, offering protection from gangs but insisting on obedience. This graphic novel adaptation of Nelson’s 1975 story maintains the original tension and finds room for political discourse. Gritty drawings use enough light to convey the note of hopefulness in this dark story." --The Horn Book Guide Journal

"This is a graphic-format retelling of Nelson's 1975 novel, but it feels like a contemporary offering from the camp of postapocalyptic adventure. Ten-year-old Lisa Nelson leads all the kids in her town to find new ways to prosper after a virus kills everyone on earth over the age of thirteen. Quick-thinking Lisa is the only one who thinks to gather fruits, vegetables, and medical supplies while the rest of the world gorges on candy. Soon the world is amok with thieves, looters, and goons, like the Chidester Gang, who bully and steal from the starving and the weak. Lisa takes groups under her wing, first forming her own town and eventually moving into a former high school (her eponymous 'city') complex to develop a whole new society, fending off the warlike advances of would-be marauders.Nelson's original story could have been a precursor to the popular graphic novel series and now TV show The Walking Dead, minus the zombies. Despite the age of the original source material, everything feels fresh, even if precocious Lisa sounds like she has been reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged while she promotes hard work and grapples with the occasional dissenter. (Apparently Nelson subscribes to Rand's objectivist philosophy.) Whether the fantasy of rebuilding a grown-up-less society balances out the rhetoric or not, Jones's gorgeous illustrations will suck readers in. It is an overall engaging story that could spark some lively debate over the true meaning of sharing and leadership." --VOYA


"When a virus kills off all the adults on earth, 10-year-old Lisa manages to keep herself and the other kids on her block alive by moving her charges to a nearby high school, fortifying it, stocking it with supplies, forming the children into a militia, and proclaiming the new city hers. But when Lisa is captured while defending the city from a rival street gang, will the citizens continue to recognize her as their leader when someone else takes her place? Jones' artwork effectively conveys Lisa's determination to succeed in this graphic novelization, adapted by Jolley, of Nelson's book of the same title. At times the plotting is choppy, and the book's ending is anticlimactic, but the questions of leadership and might over right will resonate with contemporary teen readers as strongly as they did in the original 1975 novel." --BooklistJournal

"This adaptation of O. T. Nelson's 1975 novel by the same title (Lerner) tells a story that will intrigue young readers everywhere: what would happen if all of the adults were gone? As the book opens, a mysterious virus has killed everyone over the age of 12. Lisa is foraging for supplies and bringing them home to her younger brother. When a local gang starts attacking kids for their supplies, Lisa brainstorms about how to protect what she has and how to recruit other kids on her street to form a better defense against the gangs. Eventually, she gathers the kids together, moves them into a local school, and calls the building the City of Glenbard. Much of the story is about the kids teaching one another basic survival skills like driving cars and shooting guns while the City's population grows. The characterization starts out being about the 'good kids' against the gangs, but Lisa proves to be more complicated than that. In addition to the conflicts with marauding gangs, she is frequently challenged by her trusted allies because she keeps calling it my instead of our City. Jones's illustrations are shaded in brown and green earth tones and are filled with movement and life. The faces of the children are angular and interesting, looking realistically like kids who have been struggling to survive. This will be an ideal recommendation for readers looking for a dystopian story in which young people need to step up and be their own heroes." --School Library JournalJournal

"In the opening scene of this comics adaptation of the Nelson's YA novel of the same name, the main character, Lisa Nelson, calls out to the owner of a home she has just broken into. She apologizes for her intrusion as she scours the house for food, but finds nothing there but dust. The opening scene says a lot about this character. All adults have been killed by a plague, leaving children to fend for themselves, but Lisa has not yet given up on basic civilities. This sensibility leads her to unite her neighborhood at a school, which they turn into the titular city. Like the original—first published in 1975—this is a fast-paced story with philosophical underpinnings, moving through time with effective montages of work and children's drawings as the survivors attempt to create a new society. Jones's art is colorful, bold, and lively, with sharply drawn characters. While the main conflict wraps up with an unsatisfying resolution, it's still a powerful commentary on the ways that power breeds jealousy and war." --Publishers WeeklyJournal

"Just as ideologically unsettling—and patchwork—as ever, Nelson's 1975 post-apocalyptic tale gets a noir graphic adaptation. Seeing the danger in trying to live apart after a virus kills off every adult and adolescent, Lisa organizes a growing crowd of the less-aggressive surviving children into an armed militia. Declaiming dictatorially that the new community is her property because 'if the city belonged to no one in particular… Everyone would just squabble all the time,' she insists that it be run her way, by her autocratic rules. By the same token, when, after several increasingly violent skirmishes, the brutal Chidester Gang invades, she heroically confronts their hideously disfigured leader and through force of personality singlehandedly drives the bandits off. In the dark but sharply drawn art, Lisa's scowling, angular features amply convey hardnosed determination as she draws crowds of worshipful followers and defeats the toughs by claiming the moral high ground. Whether she merits it is a matter for discussion—but though this doesn't equal Jennifer Armstrong and Nancy Butcher's Fire-us series (not to mention Lord of the Flies) for credibility, the premise is a proven one for young audiences." --Kirkus ReviewsJournal

Author Bio

O. T. Nelson has said that he wrote The Girl Who Owned a City because he wanted "children to realize that they are important and that they have the ability to think and make a difference." Mr. Nelson is an artist and writer who lives in Minnesota with his wife. He has two adult children.
Joëlle Jones launched her artistic career in 2006. Among her varied projects are the illustrations for three titles by Jamie S. Rich—12 Reasons Why I Love Her, You Have Killed Me, and Spell Checkers; the comic-book spinoff of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog; the Iron Man story in Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man #150 by Brian Michael Bendis; and Janet Evanovich's bestselling graphic novel Troublemaker. She lives in Oregon.