December 06, 2004 12:00 PM

Once the domain of teens and Japanese commuters, these art-and-literature hybrids have gone mainstream. The top of the current crop includes haunting memoirs, political comedy and a pair of novellas for kids.

HARD TIME

When a high school prank ends in tragedy, a smart-mouthed teenager named Ethan Harrow is sentenced to prison in this witty serial. To survive in this den of addicts, predators and psychopaths, Harrow summons MacGyver-level resourcefulness—and previously untapped supernatural powers.

JANET & ME

Cartoonist Stan Mack’s memoir of his longtime love and coauthor Janet Bode, who died of cancer in 1999, is poignant and powerful. His love for her shines through on every page.

BIRTH OF A NATION

From the creator of the comic strip The Boondocks (Aaron McGruder) and the writer-director of House Party (Reginald Hudlin), this satire centers on the chaos that erupts after the votes of predominantly black East St. Louis, III., are voided in a presidential election.

IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS

New Yorker Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the seminal graphic novel Maus, created the disturbing No Towers in response to the destruction of the World Trade Center near his home.

OWLY

A saucer-eyed owl given to exploits like harvesting nectar for migrating hummingbirds appeals to all ages in Andy Runton’s charming novellas. Equally noteworthy are the expressive drawings and universal lessons of persistence, kindness and loyalty.—ANNE MARIE CRUZ

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