80 Best Graphic Novels for Kids (+ Printable)
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There are so many good graphic novels, how can you pick the best graphic novels for kids? This created book list of recommendations and reviews will help you find the right book for each kid in your life, whether you’re a parent, teacher, librarian, or grandparent. Let’s dive into the best graphic novels for early readers, chapter books, middle grade, and YA!
The graphic novel format entices kids into stories with illustrated comics and compelling plots told primarily through dialogue. I love that kids (mine included) get excited to read, read, read because they love the illustrated format. Don’t you?
What is a graphic novel?
While I do have graphic novels under my genre drop-down menu for ease of navigation, graphic novels are not actually a genre, they’re a format! They’re defined as a longer-form comic book (comics are the medium) and can be in any genre of fiction or non-fiction, from science fiction to adventure, realistic narrative stories, classic novels, or short stories.
If you remember your Marvel comics or those favorite Archie comic books in those small little paperback magazine-type books, those were comic books. They were short serial stories that were part of a larger story.
Meanwhile, a graphic novel is bigger in size because it is an entire story with a complete story arc, complex characters, and a problem and resolution –all in one book.
And in case you’re wondering about manga — that’s the Japanese term for a comic format featuring specific art styles. Manga is read from right to left, not right to left. Mangas are becoming increasingly popular with teens and you’ll find many bookstores with enormous sections of manga. (I just bought my first manga and hope it will become easier to read as I dive into it.) If you’re interested in manga, you might like to know that there are many television series based on mangas.
Do graphic novels count as real reading?
YES! Graphic novels count as reading! And they aren’t just for reluctant readers as some may think, they are for everyone. Every child deserves the chance to read graphic novels–they’re so much fun to read!
Plus, kids need variety and choice to become good readers — and that means reading outside of the typical prose novel format. I recommend all sorts of reading beyond typical novels, including graphic novels, magazines, audiobooks, how-to books, poetry, and so forth.
So if you want to get your kids reading more, try one of the top graphic novel book recommendations in the list below for ages 6 to 16, including beginning chapter books, middle grade books, and YA books.
How do graphic novels build literacy skills?
And if you still don’t believe that graphic novels count as real reading, let me illuminate all the reading and literacy benefits of reading graphic novels.
- Graphic novels build a reader’s knowledge of story elements such as setting, plot, characters, character arc, problem and solution, theme, and conflict.
- You aren’t told all the details, you must make inferences about all the nuances of what’s happening, what the characters are feeling, and anything else the illustrations show that the text doesn’t describe.
- With the exception of some learning disability situations, almost always more reading means improved reading comprehension skills.
What are the best graphic novels?
The quality of graphic novels continues to impress me. In the last ten years especially, there have been more amazing stories, better representation, and topics and themes for every interest. These high-quality books contain all the same literary devices that you would find in a prose book, too.
To find the best book for your reader, pick a book from this list that sounds good to you! That’s a great place to start. See what you like and keep trying new books to refine your interests.
Here’s a list of graphic novel chapter books for beginning readers ages 6 to 9.
If you’re looking for a graphic novel series, visit this list of 38 graphic novel series.
Do your readers like graphic novels with boy main characters? What about graphic novels with girl main characters?
Finally, if you have a favorite book in prose, you might be surprised to learn how many prose books are getting turned into graphic novels. The Wings of Fire graphic novels are hugely popular as are the Babysitters Club graphic novels, Percy Jackson graphic novels, and the I Survived books. For young adults, Heartstoper #1: a Graphic Novel is a huge best seller.
Where can I get free or cheap graphic novels?
The library! Use the Libby app to find eBooks or the Overdrive website to put a physical book on hold.
Download a free pdf printable list
The Best Graphic Novels for Kids
Beginning Graphic Novels (for Readers Ages 6 – 9)
Zoe and Robot – Let’s Pretend by Ryan SiasPRETEND
Zoe really wants Robot to understand how to pretend in this cute first graphic novel from Balloon Toons!
Barry’s Best Buddy by Renee FrenchFRIENDSHIP
I LOVE this book and its many clever details. Polarhog takes his grumpy friend, Barry the Bird, for a walk. The walk and surprise at the end will entertain your kids – and you, too.
The Real Poop on Pigeons! by Kevin McCloskey
Learn how fast pigeons can fly (faster than a car!) and more fun facts. Readers will be convinced that pigeons are pretty great.
A Goofy Guide to Penguins by Jean-Luc Coudray & Philippe Coudray
A mix of groan-worthy penguin jokes and cool penguin facts, this is a delightful nonfiction graphic novel for beginning readers. The illustrations often answer the questions posed by the narrator penguin and are almost always silly.
Do You Like My Bike? (Hello, Hedgehog!) by Norm Feuti
A supportive first graphic novel experience. Hedgehog can’t wait to show his friend Harry his new bike. Kids will love these darling stories of friendship and bike riding.
Owly: The Way Home by Andy Runton
It‘s hard for a predator like Owly to make friends. But when he saves a worm from a rainstorm, he makes a friend for life. His kindness and gentle spirit help him befriend more new friends after that.
Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye by Colleen AF Venable, Stephanie Yue
This is a hilarious early chapter book /graphic novel about a detective who just happens to be a guinea pig and solve mysteries in the pet store.
We Dig Worms! by Kevin McCloskey
I love, love, love this early reader book with eye-popping illustrations and one sentence of text per page that explains something about the worms. The author painted on recycled grocery bags giving this book a gorgeous, earthy feeling throughout.
Scaredy Squirrel in a Nutshell by Melanie Watt
Scaredy Squirrel has many fears and therefore, elaborate coping strategies. In the first story, the scariest thing is an adorable pom-pom-tailed creature–a rabbit.
Zita the Spacegirl by Ben HatkeSCI-FI
One of our favorite graphic novels, Zita the Spacegirl is a true friend who not only saves her best friend from aliens but the galaxy as well!
Bird and Squirrel on Ice by James Burks
Hysterical! In this first book, Bird’s over-confident, laissez-faire character pairs perfectly with Squirrel’s logical, fearful one. The duo crash land in the Penguin world where Bird is dubbed the “Chosen One” meant to save the penguins from the Great Whale.
Expedition Backyard by Rosemary Mosco, illustrated by Binglin Hu
Two best friends, Mole and Vole, go on adventures together in nature. When the two friends accidentally move to the city, they make the best of it. In the city, they have exciting new city nature adventures and discover new animal friends, sights, and sounds!
Cat Ninja by Matthew Cody, illustrated by Yehudi Mercado
By day Claude is Leon’s pet, but by night, he’s Cat Ninja, Metro City’s protector! His nemesis is Leon’s sister’s evil hamster, Master Hamster. Learn the Cat Ninja’s origin story then follow his perilous, exciting, and humorous adventures!
Cat Kid Comic Club by Dav Pilkey
WRITING / HUMOR
Cat Kid teaches a class for the tadpoles about making your own comic books…which doesn’t go well until the tadpoles get excited about failure and get started writing and drawing. If you like a lot of silliness (including potty humor) with great messages about writing, creativity, and persistence, read this book next.
Jop and Blip Wanna Know #1 by Jim Benton
STEM / HUMOR
If you like kooky stories, playful characters, and random facts, this beginning graphic novel for ages 6 to 10 is a hilarious and informative reading experience. Jop and Blip ponder topics like farts, words that begin with silent letters, perspective, dragons, and more — and as they discuss, you’ll learn a thing or ten.
Mr. Wolf’s Class: Mystery Club by Aron Nels Steinke
The kids in Mr. Wolf’s class start a birthday and mystery club. First, they’ll investigate what happened to Mr. Green. Then Aziza’s frisbee. And also, if the girls’ bathroom really is haunted. Relatable friendship and school situations are told in graphic format. This new series is VERY popular with growing readers.
Magic Tree House The Graphic Novel Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne, adapted by Jenny Laird, illustrated by Kelly & Nichole Matthews
In this exceptional graphic novel adaptation of the best selling prose series, brother and sister Jack and Annie, find a magical treehouse filled with books. Jack begins a book on dinosaurs and wishes that he could travel to see them and zoom, they do! Annie befriends a flying dinosaur and they help save some baby dinosaurs.
Smell My Foot (Chick and Brain) by Cece Bell
Written in comic panels, you’ll crack up at the hilarious and weird conversations between Chick and Brain and eventually, Spot. Chick tries to teach Brain about polite conversation and Brain demands that Chick smells his foot. Which Chick won’t do until…Brain says please. It’s friendship, fun, and frivolity.
Pup Detectives by Felix Gumpaw
Someone keeps stealing all the lunches at Pawston Elementary, and it’s up to this group of mystery-solving dogs to investigate! Join Rider and her friends as they crack this lunchroom case once and for all.
The Misadventures of Salem Hyde Spelling Trouble by Frank Cammuso
What a hilarious character! Salem Hyde is an impulsive but very cute little witch who gets spelling words and spells mixed up. Fantastic!
Ninjago “Warriors of Stone” by Greg Farshtey and Jolyon YatesSCI-FI
Another fun comic adventure with Jay, Cole, Zane, Kai, and Sensei. They find themselves in a world of stone — even the people are made of stone. If you have a Ninjago or LEGO fan, they’ll love this series of graphic novels.
Babymouse #1 Queen of the World! by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
These crack-you-up stories will resonate with young readers as they follow Babymouse through her days at school and at home, frustrations with friends, and more.
Hilo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick
Hilo can’t remember what happened to him before D.J. finds him crashed landed on Earth. Hilo does remember an evil monster robot that has followed him to Earth. This graphic novel ends on a cliff-hanger but is worth it — it’s a great page-turning adventure!
The Sleepover and Other Stories (Fox + Chick) by Sergio Ruzzier
Fox is serious and kind while Chick is goofy and playful. In this group of stories, they have a sleepover where Chick is scared of kangaroos but needs his stuffed kangaroo to sleep. Fox is puzzled by this. In another story, Chick asks Fox for a surprise birthday party — which is hilarious because it turns out that it’s not even Chick’s birthday.
Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre illustrated by Rafael RosadoFANTASY
Claudette is a dragon-slaying, mischievous girl who tricks her little brother and her best friend (a princess) into questing to kill the dragon. And, don’t worry, there are no killing of any dragons in this story!
Dragon Kindom of Wrenly: The Coldfire Curse by Jordan Quinn
When Cinder’s father crashes, it’s clear that he’s sick from the dreaded “cold curse” so Cinder must ask the king for help. Cinder meets a red dragon named Ruskin, the pet of the human king. Cinder, Ruskin, and their friend Groth travel to the fairies in order to get the ingredients to cure the curse. It’s a fast-paced and excellent story with a hook that will keep you reading the series!
Mr. Pants It’s Go Time! by Scott McCormick, illustrated by R.H. Lazzell
Mr. Pants really wants to go to laser tag but since he didn’t clean his room, his sister picks a visit to Fairy Princess Dream Factory. Fun and entertaining.
Mimi and the Cutie Catastrophe by Shauna J. Grant
Mimi doesn’t want to be called cute, so she asks her magical plush friend Penelope to transform her into a superhero! She gets a superhero outfit. Next, she tries to be a teacher, and after that, a “cool kid”. Finally, Mimi realizes that being herself is best! Expressive and charming pink and purple-centric illustrations add so much cuteness.
Mal and Chad by Stephen McCranie
A hilarious graphic novel book series about Mal, a young inventor, and his best sidekick, his dog, Chad. Perfect for growing readers and reminds me a little of the beloved comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.
Mellybean and the Giant Monster by Mike White
Run out to buy this graphic novel series — it’s heartwarming and adventurous. Mellybean is a happy dog whose outlook on life is positive and innocent. Outside in her yard, she falls into a hole that leads to another world. There, a greedy king is hunting a large, lovable monster who Melly and her new friends rescue from the king’s knights. She shows the so-called monster that not all humans are mean like the king. And, Melly saves the entire kingdom!! (Guess who will be the new king? Hint: It’s not Melly.)
Dog Man by Dav Pinkey
Weird. Quirky. Funny. I think all three describe this new graphic novel from the creator of Captain Underpants. In this story, a police officer and a dog are joined together — the top from the dog, the bottom from the officer to make: Dog Man. Dog Man solves crimes and has adventures, the likes of which will entertain you for hours.
Banana Fox and the Secret Sour Society by James Kochalka
If you’re about 7 years old and like very weird and wild stories that ONLY make sense to kids, you must meet Banana Fox. The book is filled with totally ridiculous humor (not potty humor) about Banana Fox whose goofy antics to stop the Secret Sour Society will keep you laughing the book.
Hound Heroes: Beware the Claw by Todd H. Doodler, illustrated by Todd Goldman
SUPERHERO DOGS / HUMOR
When a spaceship crash lands, it gives a group of dog friends superpowers…and superhero outfits. Each dog in the group has a unique personality but none of the dogs take their powers seriously at first because they’re too busy wreaking havoc and goofing around. Until…the evil kitties TAKE OVER THE CITY!! Can the Hound Heroes save the day?
Two-Headed Chicken by Tom Angleberger
One of the most hilarious graphic novels on this list– read this book next if you like wacky, bizarre humor This is a story about the multiverse in which you are a two-headed chicken being chased by a moose…and it’s probably one of the top five funniest books I’ve ever read. (And I’ve read a lot of books.) Also funny quizzes, a fish with deep feelings, and lawyers… I laughed out loud throughout this book.
King of the Birds by Elise Gravel
Arlo is the self-proclaimed king of the birds who befriends a cute yellow bird named Pip. Arlo explains his many talents to his new friend as they go on many adventures like visiting the big city and hunting for shiny things. Interspersed in the story are impressive crow facts (big brains, counting up to 6 objects, etc.).
Kitty Quest by Phil Corbett
First-time monster hunter cats embark on their first job. The job is hilarious because it’s only a plumbing problem, not a monster. Then, they face a dragon, a tower of slime with a ghost, and a wizard. The big question is who is controlling the monsters and if there is a real villain they must defeat.
Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song
Norma and Belly are squirrel friends who really, really want a donut. Can they work together, sneak in a food truck, and have the biggest ever donut party ever? Minimal text, plenty of silliness, and a lovely surprise ending!
The Bailey School Kids Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots by Pearl Low based on the novel by Marcia Thronton Jones and Debbie Dadey
After the misbehaving kids ran off the last teacher, the new teacher seems much worse — she seems like a vampire. Eddie is scared but continues to behave badly until Mrs. Jeepers pulls him out of class and stops his bad behavior once and for all. Graphic novels based on the prose books.
Baloney and Friends Going Up! by Greg Pizzoli
From writing a theme song to sleepovers to thinking deep thoughts, this book of stories showcases characters you can’t help but love like Baloney the pig, Bizz the bumblebee, Peanut the horse, and Krabbit the rabbit. Plus, read directions for drawing the characters with emotions in the back.
Sparks by Ian Boothby, illustrated by Nina Matsumoto
After escaping the evil laboratory, cats August and Charlie help others in a “Super Dog” dog disguise. But their evil scientist nemesis, a diaper-wearing baby named Princess, will stop at nothing to recapture the escaped cats…and conquer the entire world. Grab these superhero graphic novels with adventure, friendship, and humor!
Fitz and Cleo by Jonathan Stutzman, illustrated by Heather Fox
Want a new graphic novel for readers around ages 8 to 10? In this new book, two ghost siblings adopt a cat, go to the beach, play baseball, and more. Silliness abounds in the stories, but their heartwarming relationship steals the show.
Blue, Barry, & Pancakes by Dan & Jason
Blue the worm doesn’t want to share the beach ball with Barry and Pancakes because of what inevitably happens– they lose it. (Well, it’s swallowed by a whale.) The misadventures continue a silly cause & effect story, where one disaster leads to another even into outer space and a volcano but ends with a sweet celebration of friendship.
Middle-Grade Graphic Novels (for Readers Ages 9 – 12)
First Cat in Space by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Shawn Harris
Absurdly hysterical, this is a bizarrely perfect adventure in space with a cat and a toenail-clipping robot who journey into space to stop the rats from eating the moon. Silly adventures ensue –like befriending a whale, becoming pirates, and answering a sphynx’s riddle — plus plenty of drama and creative world-building.
Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi
When two siblings and their mom move into a creepy inherited house after losing their father, they discover a magical amulet that warns them of danger. But their mom gets kidnapped, and the siblings embark on an epic adventure to save their mom in an underground world of elves, demons, robots, and talking animals. One of the most popular graphic novels of all time!
Your Pal Fred by Michael Rex
Fred is a robot who brings kindness (and STICKERS!) to a dystopian world he makes better in this funny, warmhearted, and interesting story. When Fred discovers that two warlords are capturing innocent people to fight as soldiers for them, Fred knows what he has to do–ask the two bad guys to try peace. Will Fred succeed on his seemingly impossible mission?
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
6th grade is hard enough for Raina but it’s even worse with braces, headgear, and friend troubles. My 10-year-old daughter loves this series that starts with Smile. She read Sisters four times the first week she owned it — they’re all excellent graphic novels and quite addictive. ALSO READ: Drama, Sisters
Travis Daventhorpe by Wes Molebash
Travis is a science-loving kid who accidentally pulls out a sword from the stone and learns that he’s the prophesied hero who will defeat the evil Nol Invictus. Add in a black-hand birthmark, portals between the worlds, video-game-like character profiles, and intelligent dialogue! and you have a super-compelling, totally funny story.
Leviathan: Adventures in Comics by Jason Shiga
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
Original and interactive, this choose-your-own-adventure graphic novel takes readers on a quest for a magic wand that will stop the Leviathan. But what is the history of the coastal town and the Leviathan? And how did Leviathan’s attacks stop crime in the village? I predict kids will totally enjoy this captivating adventure/mystery!
Aquanaut by Dan Santat
Wildly imaginative and enthralling, this is a heartfelt story of family, legacy, and protecting animals. When a lumbering “aquanaut” controlled by sea creatures stumbles into the Aqualand theme park, Sophia and the creatures uncover a nefarious plot by greedy investors. To save the park’s creatures, Sophia and the Aquanaut release them back into the wild. But will her uncle see the truth about his investors and about his brother’s last wishes?
Act by Kyla Miller
Olive is upset when she learns that a classmate can’t afford the fees for a class field trip. Her aunt suggests that Olive organize a protest. After researching, she starts a petition and organizes a sit-in. Then she runs for student council and she learns about other big issues students face that should be changed and works hard to make a difference.
Big Nate Welcome to My World by Lincoln Peirce
Big Nate’s life at school and home will keep kids laughing through the entire book. Hilarious!
Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Stephanie Yue
Katie desperately wants to join her friends at their summer camp. To earn money, she gets a job for her neighbor Madeline catsitting 217 super-smart cats with destructive behaviors and powerful abilities. Just when she realizes that her neighbor might be the supervillain, Moustress, Moustress gets captured. Katie decides she and the cats must save their friend.
Crabgrass Comic Adventures by Tauhid Bondia
You will LOVE the friendship adventures of Kevin and Miles. These stories are fun, hilarious, relatable, and entertaining.
All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson
Growing up, Imogene (aka. Impy) always loved her family’s part in the Renaissance Faire . . . that is, until middle school. Even though she gets her dream to work in the faire as a squire, she also just wants to be like the other girls at her school. Her journey is painful and honest as she figures out who she wants to be.
I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 (Graphic Novel) by Lauren Tarshis, Georgina Ball, illustrated by Haus Studio
Retold in a graphic novel format, this tells the story of a boy on the Titanic who is traveling with his mom and sister to reunite with his father in the United States. If you have a reader who prefers graphic novels, give this historical fiction book a try.
My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder by Nie Jun
Four sweet stories of Yu’er and her grandpa show their warm bond and Yu’er’s adventures around their Beijing, Japan neighborhood. The first story is about Yu’er’s desire to compete in the Special Olympics. Other stories include defending herself from bullies with the help of a new friend as well as a magical old mailbox that transports Yu’er through time. This is a beautifully illustrated book of stories that feels nostalgic and heartwarming.
The Baby-Sitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin, illustrated by Raina Telemeter
This classic chapter book series is now retold in graphic novels! Four best friends work together to handle all sorts of issues — from babysitting to emergencies, to competition from other babysitters. Your kids will love these excellent, addictive stories. ALSO READ: (The Truth About Stacey #2, Mary Ann Saves the Day #3)
Phoebe and Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle by Dana Simpson
Sarcastic and hilarious, this is a laugh-out-loud comic book series about a precocious young girl and her reluctant unicorn “best friend.” My kids and I adore these characters and love this new book. It’s one we’ll read over and over again. BOXED SET
Click by Kayla Miller
Click is an excellent, relatable book about friendships and finding your place. When the talent show is announced, everyone in Olive’s friend group groups up without her, and she feels left out. Olive’s cool aunt helps Olive get ideas for something on her own — and she decides to be the host of the talent show!
Camp by Kayla Miller
SUMMER CAMP / GROWING UP
A story not just about a summer camp experience but also about the challenges of friendship, particularly when you have a friend who is clingy, wants to be your only friend and is jealous of other people. That is hard for Olive! She wants to be Willow’s friend but she also likes other people. Honest and relatable, this is helpful road map to how you might handle your own friendships.
5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun
SCIENCE FICTION (series)
Gorgeous artwork sets the tone for an otherworldly story of five worlds falling into chaos. When one world attacks another, Oona Lee, a sand dancer, rescues two boys and they journey on a mission to light the unlit Beacons in order to save the worlds. But they face a dark force and a devastating betrayal.
Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas
Bree and her dad move to Florida where she has to take Swim 101 at school. But, she ditches because she can’t swim and is afraid. luckily, her neighbor and babysitter is a former swim team captain, and she teaches Bree how to swim. When Bree accidentally makes the swim team, she learns about teamwork and friendship. This is a wonderful feel-good story about failure, perseverance, and teamwork.
Ride On by Faith Erin Hicks
Norrie loves horses and connects with a new friend named Victoria who also likes horses and a science fiction show. They find common ground, forgiveness, and mutual support. It’s a beautifully knit-together, relatable story of friendship, horses, being yourself, and growing in confidence.
Phenomena: The Golden City of Eyes by Brian Micahel Bendis and Andre Lima Araujo
In a wildly unique world, this is a journey of a boy and a cyper named Spike who travel towards a mysterious city. They follow a deceitful girl who stole Spike’s blade. As they venture north, they experience new places, creatures, and methods of travel, including the girl’s flying abilities. When they arrive at the fallen Golden City, they fight the invaders, which reveals Spike’s true purpose. Exceptional artwork and storytelling — a must-read graphic novel triumph!
Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, illustrated by Gabriela Epstein
Spanish-speaking kids are thrown together to complete before-school community service hours. When the kids notice the homeless mom and her child living in a van, they try to help with leftover food. But they get into trouble with the mean cafeteria lady who thinks they’re stealing and watches them like they’re delinquents. This is an award-winning graphic novel about kindness, racism, differences, and marginalized individuals — both non-English speakers and homeless individuals.
Leon the Extraordinary by Jamar Nicholas
In a world of Supers, Leon isn’t a Super, but he still wears goggles and a homemade cape to stand up to bullies like Clementine, a mean girl who likes to take lunch money and humiliate Leon. When the other kids with phones turn into zombies from a game app, Leon and Clementine are the only kids who don’t have phones and aren’t affected. So they must work together to stop the evil game creator. And in an unexpected ending, after Leon saves the world, he discovers the biggest surprise of his life!
Animal Rescue Friends by Meika Hashimoto, Gina Loveless, and Genevieve Kote
Interconnected stories of children’s lives show how they find solace and purpose through the Animal Rescue Friends shelter. Each child’s character is well-developed and we feel connected to their story and to their life. Kids who love animals will fall in love with this beautiful, appealing graphic novel.
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
My 10-year-old found this graphic novel SO RELATABLE — just like she struggles with confidence and speaking up, so does the main character, Peppi. This well-done graphic novel tackles the issues of friendships and confidence, among other things. (So glad I’m not in middle school anymore.) We highly recommend this graphic novel.
Brave by Svetlana Chmakova
Jensen is the miserable target of the school’s bullies. His friends Jenny and Akilah decide to write newspaper articles to help him, but their plans made without Jensen’s consent hurt their friendship. The ups and downs and challenges of Jensen’s life (which he relates to a video game) show how he finds his confidence, stops the bullies, and grows into who he is.
Twin Cities by Jose Pimienta
Twins who live on the Mexico-US border make two different choices in middle school, separating for the first time. Fernando stays in Mexicali, Mexico and Teresa cross the border daily to go to school in Calexico, United States. Their choices lead them down different paths with Fernando finding a friend who is a bad influence with prejudices and a drug business and Teresa commuting for hours and spending more hours doing homework.
Frizzy by Claribel A. Ortega, illustrated by Rose Bousamra
In a family with good hair and bad hair, Marlene’s mom and relatives judge her hair as bad. Marlene dreads Sundays when she’s forced to spend all day at the salon getting her hair straightened to look presentable in her mom’s eyes. On a weekend sleepover, her tía shows Marlene how to properly take care of her hair and the right products to use so she can wear her naturally curly hair. It’s a fantastic journey of empowerment and self-love!
Squished by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter
REALISTIC GRAPHIC NOVEL
Avery has six siblings — and she’s responsible for watching the littles a lot. She really wants her own room but instead of getting her own room, she and her sister Pearl also share a room with her baby brother Max. Max has trouble with sleeping, and starts escaping his crib, even climbing up to her top bunk. Despite the challenges of a large family and a move to a new town, ultimately, Avery learns to value her close-knit family.
Santiago! Santiago Ramón y Cajal–Artist, Scientist, Troublemaker by Jay Hosler
Hosler writes a sequential narrative that shows us Santiago as a young child and mischief maker and aspiring artist with a demanding dad who forbids his art and sends Santiago to medical school. Santiago applies his love for art and observation to medicine, eventually winning the Nobel Prize. He’s known as the father of modern neuroscience.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale
Boy readers especially like these graphic novels much more than me with the sarcastic tone and the violence. No doubt, these books introduce kids to history and can motivate kids to read but they’re not my favorite. This particular story takes place during the American Civil War focusing on the ironclad steam warships with the battles, other military aspects of the war, and real people like William Cushing.
Major Impossible by Nathan Hale
After the Civil War, Major John Wesley Powell sets off on a perilous expedition through the Grand Canyon. The story begins with his life as a child and is 100% action and dialogue.
The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner
The other kids bully Moth when she dresses up as a witch for Halloween prompting a reaction that can only be MAGIC! Her mom reluctantly reveals to Moth that her family of witches gets their powers around age 13. Even though Moth wants to learn more, her mom won’t teach her. She’s helped by a talking cat and her mom’s magical diary.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
GROWING UP / RACISM
Jordan’s parents make him go to a private school across town where he’s one of the only kids of color. Besides having the tricky business of navigating friendships, he now must deal with the two separate worlds of his neighborhood and his school along with racism and balancing academics with his art. This story feels truthful, relatable, and important.
Barb The Last Berzerker by Dan & Jason
ADVENTURE / NORSE MYTHOLOGY (ish)
Join Barb on a funny, gross, and adventurous quest to find the northern tribe of Zerks so they can help rescue her clan from the Witch Head has captured. Barb steals a special magical sword to help her become a Berzerker. She and her yeti friend named Porkchopface snot goblins, a giant, and vampire goat fiends, eventually finding their way to the Northern Zerks to rescue her clan.
Bunnicula by James Howe and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin
Narrated by Harold the dog, learn about the events that transpire when his family brings home a bunny they find at a Dracula movie. The cat Chester believes Bunnicula is a vampire bunny. And why else would he suck out the juices from vegetables and turn them white? But Harold likes his new friend even though Chester still believes the bunny is a vampire and shares his suspicions and evidence. What will you think?
Growing Pangs by Kathryn Ormsbee, illustrated by Molly Brooks
I love this story– the author (and illustrator) skillfully shows realistic friendship changes and the challenges of a mental health issue. Katie’s struggling with friendships and is having buzzing thoughts that tell her to do repetitive things. As her best friendship deteriorates, she makes new friends and tries new things like theater. Eventually, Katie tells her parents about the buzzing and they get her help for what she learns are obsessive-compulsive thoughts.
Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley
GROWING UP / DIVORCE
After her parents’ divorce, Jen moves to a farm with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend whose kids visit on the weekends. It’s a huge transition — she doesn’t love how bossy and whiney her stepsisters are and how annoying her mom’s boyfriend is. But she loves the chicks she takes care of and the farmer’s market. Well, she loves it until her math skills aren’t good enough to be helpful. This story gently shows the ups and downs of living with a new family in a new place.
Twins by Varian Johnson, illustrated by Shannon Wright
SIBLINGS / GROWING UP
This year in sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran and wants to do different things than her twin Maureen. Maureen doesn’t understand, but at least she has her other friends, right? Then, Fran decides to run for school president and so does Maureen. Will their relationship ever be the same? This book takes readers inside the world of twins, middle school, and changing friendships.
Super Sidekicks #1: No Adults Allowed by Gavin Aung Than
Sick and tired of their superheroes, the kid sidekicks form their own team including a villain’s sidekick named Goo. When the superheroes find their sidekicks and the evil Dr. Enok kidnaps back Goo, the sidekicks take action to rescue their new friend. Kid-power, friendship, teamwork, and adventure, this graphic novel is sure to be a hit with 8 to 12-year-old readers!
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
Pashmina is about a girl finding her place in the world. She travels to India to meet her extended family and finds answers about the magical shawl her mother owns. This is a lovely coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel conveyed in incredible, irresistible art.
Guts by Raina Telgemeier
An amazing, honest, and relatable memoir about a topic that is very necessary for children’s literature– anxiety. As in her previous books, Raina shares her own life story, how in elementary school, her fears and anxieties led to terrible stomach aches, days of missed school, and time in therapy. Guts sensitively delves into the mind-body connection, showing therapy in a positive light. When Raina shares her big secret of going to therapy, her friends aren’t judgmental.
Living with Viola by Rosena Fung
Fung masterfully shows us inside Livy’s mind so we can understand what it’s like to have an anxiety disorder named Viola. Livy’s family are Chinese immigrants in Canada and she feels a lot of pressure from her extended family about being an exceptional student and good daughter. Then with friendship struggles, Viola’s voice is stronger than ever. Livy finally tells her parents and gets a diagnosis and support. Moving, profound, and empathy-building.
Green Lantern Legacy by Minh Le, illustrated by Angie Tong
Excellent! Before Tai’s Vietnamese grandmother dies, she gives him her Jade ring. He wears it and discovers that he’s a Green Lantern who must protect the earth from evil like Sinesteo. Not long after, he discovers that the rich guy trying to take over the neighborhood for redevelopment turns out to be a Yellow Lantern working for Sinesteo. Lots of action, intrigue, and humor!
Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter
A well-done middle-grade graphic novel about a child with allergies! Maggie is devastated that she’s allergic to the puppy she’s finally allowed to get but even sadder when her new neighbor gets a puppy. Eventually, the two friends work out a solution for hanging out that won’t be a problem for Maggie’s allergies. The story ends with Maggie helping with her new baby sister and feeling like she doesn’t need an animal pet anymore.
Strubble Town Squirrel Do Bad by Stephan Pastis
Because of her overprotective dad, Wendy the Wanderer is stuck inside all day–until her dad takes a trip and she gets an inattentive teenage babysitter. You might be able to predict that this story will be a cascade of funny cause and effect.
Apocalypse Taco by Nathan Hale
Hale hits it out of the park in this quirky, wild sci-fi adventure! Three theater friends take a weird trip to a taco drive-through that turns into oozing mutant creatures taking over the world. They meet a weird-looking creature of many arms and legs named Wendy who tells them that it was her roommate who started the world-ending disaster. Crazy mutant science experiments never looked so good.
Ham Helsing Vampire Hunter by Rich Moyer
FANTASY / HUMOR / ADVENTURE
If you like adventure, potty humor, surprising plot twists, and quirky characters, then do not miss this entertaining story with heart and humor. And instead of vampire hunting, the hunter and vampire team up to fight the evil spider-woman who has been terrorizing the town, becoming friends instead of enemies. And the ending?–Perfection!
Big Hero 6 #1: The Series by Hong Gyun An
Hiro’s new life as both a college student and superhero with his friends Baymax, Go Go, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred is complicated. As superheroes, they’re trying to defeat a mother/daughter villain team called High Voltage. But at school, Hiro is assigned a mentor who hates him. It helps when Hiro learns from Baymax how his older brother also failed but continued to persevere. Adventurous and fun to read!
Glitch by Sarah Graley
Izzy gets sucked into her new video game, learning she’s the chosen one who must save Dungeon City. She struggles to balance her virtual task and new friend Rae with her real life with school, her family, and best friend Eric. It’s an action-packed adventure with relatable characters, humor, and good vs. evil.
This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews
A compelling graphic novel adventure filled with curiosity, magic, and friendship –as well as a talking bear, a map-drawing crow, and a special journey to the stars. Every year for Autumn Equinox, the town sends lanterns down the river to join the stars in the sky. Curious, Ben and Nathaniel, follow the lanterns on their bikes. Soon, they meet a talking fisherbear and are imprisoned by a potions maker before they eventually learn the unexpected, magical truth about the stars.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dawud Anybwile
A fast-paced read that packs a big punch visually and emotionally. Kids love Alexander’s lyrical writing and how he seems to just “get” the teenage human condition. Basketball player and twin Josh narrates his life in quarters, just like the game he plays. He writes about missing his twin when his twin, Jordan, gets a girlfriend. He shares about getting into trouble when he hits Jordan in the face with a basketball. And he reveals the pain of watching his father as his heart fails.
Bone #1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith
Adventure, excitement, and humor fill these captivating stories of a young bone boy named Bone and his cousins who are banned from Boneville. The illustrations capture each character’s depth so well, and the dialogue will crack you up.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Roller Girl shows the struggles of friendship and finding your place in the world as Astrid works hard to become a better roller derby skater, reconcile that her best friendship has ended, and develop a new one. (I recommend going to a roller derby event with your kids to help them know more about this cool sport for girls — it’s such a blast and would be helpful for reading this book, but not essential.) Well-written and relatable.
Science Comics The Periodic Table of Elements Understanding the Building Blocks of Everything by Jon Chad
Mel is a middle schooler who freezes up on tests even though she knows the material. She enters the Land of Elements, where she must overcome fear and use her knowledge to defeat Elementor, the villain who wants to poison the world. Mel teaches what she knows to her new friend Hydrogen and the readers will learn about the building blocks of the elements of the periodic table as well. Educational with a storytelling adventure!
Rosa Parks & Claudette Colvin: Civil Rights Heroes by Tracey Baptiste, illustrated by Shauna J. Grant
CIVIL RIGHTS HISTORY
This is a must-read, compelling historical look at the important contributions of Black women like Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, and Jo Ann Robinson to the Civil Rights Movement. Before Mrs. Parks, there was a girl named Claudette Colvin who also refused to move to the back of the bus and was arrested. When Rosa Parks also got arrested for not moving to the back of the bus, another woman named Jo Ann Robinson thought of the bus boycott idea. The bus boycott dragged on and on, but eventually, the persistence of many brave individuals helped change the unjust system.
Kyle’s Little Sister by BonHyung Jeong
Grace constantly lives in her brother’s shadow, only having two friends who like her for her. But when the trio gets into a big fight, will their friendship be able to survive? And when will everybody stop comparing her to Kyle!?
Cucumber Quest 1: The Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G.
When the kingdoms of Dreamside need a hero, his parents send Cucumber, a not-adventurous or brave magician. Fortunately, his heroically inclined little sister, Almond, arrives just in the nick of time to save Cucumber from the first of many dangers. Together, they set off to find the Dream Sword and stop the evil queen and her Nightmare Knight. Adapted from the Cucumber Quest webcomic.
Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen
Willow’s uncomfortable emotions are monsters in bottles who keep escaping in bursts of mean words. In the woods, she meets a runaway Magnolia tree spirit named Pilu. Eventually, as Willow and Pilu talk, Willow realizes that the uncomfortable emotional monsters are a part of her; that if she is kind and listens to them, they won’t be as big. Introspective, sensitive, and important– this is a dazzling openhearted journey of self-discovery and healthy emotional growth.
Miles Morales: Shock Waves by Justin A. Reynolds & Pablo Leon
In this Spider-Man graphic novel adventure, Miles Morales is faced with a problem. As he struggles to juggle both his superhero and civilian lives at the same time, a fellow student’s father suddenly goes missing with just a few too many connections to strange supernatural activity in the area. Can he figure out what’s going on and save this innocent civilian?
Miles Morales Stranger Tides by Justin A. Reynolds, illustrated by Pablo Leon
Miles discovers a new villain in town— the Stranger, who freezes people using a video game, including Miles’ best friend and parents. The Stranger has judged humans lacking so he plans to destroy half the population. To defeat the Stranger, Miles gets help from an old nemesis, Trinity, and Mr. G., who use their time travel and electric superpowers to send The Stranger far away from Earth. It’s another exciting adventure for readers who love superheroes.
Hera: The Goddess and her Glory by George O’Conner
Both my kids love O’Conner’s graphic novels and can’t wait for his next book, Hades. If you’re big Greek mythology fans, check out his other books, Athena and Zeus: King of the Gods.
The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks with Jordie Bellaire
First in an Asian-influenced graphic novel series about an occupied city, two kids from different clans and backgrounds become unlikely friends. Kaidu is a Dao and new to the Nameless City where he’s studying to be a soldier. Rat is a street girl who teaches Kaidu how to survive in the city. Together they save the city’s leader from an assassination plot. The action and characters are compelling.
Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola, illustrated by Emily Carroll
Courageous and adventurous Masha knows Baba Yaga from her grandmother’s stories. After her grandmother dies, and her father remarries, Masha decides to become Baba Yaga’s assistant. To pass Baba Yaga’s tests, Masha uses her wits and the stories from her grandmother. She thinks she will fail when she rescues three children from Baba Yaga’s cage but she passes. Excellent storytelling and illustrations kept me totally enthralled in this not-your-average-fairy tale story.
Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
A fascinating, informative look at the difficult road that women faced in their journey to become astronauts. Despite facing misogynistic attitudes, American women persisted in their quest to become astronauts. Meanwhile, the Russians started a female space program and launched a woman astronaut long before the U.S. did. Eventually, the U.S. caught up and you’ll be inspired by the stories of these fascinating trailblazers.
Black Heroes of the Wild West by James Otis Smith
This exceptional graphic novel contains three compelling biographies of little-known individuals who lived during the Old West. Smith is an exceptional storyteller and you’ll be pulled into the stories immediately. Read about Stagecoach Mary, a former slave who had the most interesting life that included many jobs, and Bob Lemmons whose horse training skills helped him capture a wild mustang stallion.
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, illustrated by Victoria Jamieson and Iman Geddy
In an emotional true story of a Somali boy and his brother who grow up in a Kenyan refugee camp, readers are transported into their day-to-day lives filled with hunger and boredom. Omar doesn’t attend the dusty camp school until age 11 because he cares for his younger brother Hassan with special needs until their kind older guardian takes over. When the brothers get an interview with the UN, Omar gets his hopes up…but they’re not approved. Years pass with many struggles until the book ends with a bittersweet new beginning.
The Croc Ate My Homework by Stephan Pastis
This graphic novels is so funny I can hardly stand it. My kids LOVED this book, too. The crocs are not the smartest and their stupidity will keep you thoroughly entertained. You’ll be sharing page after page with your family, friends, and neighbors.
Human Body Theater: A Nonfiction Revue by Maris Wicks
This nonfiction graphic novel ROCKS! It should be required reading for students studying the human body because the information presented this way is so memorable and understandable. I love Skeleton’s narration and the awesomely cute illustrations of every body system from the smallest cell parts to the biggest organs.
Maker Comics Design a Game by Bree Wolf and Jesse Fuchs
Kids from all over the galaxy attend the summer camp for game design. As the teacher guides the students step by step to think about what they like, the basics of a good game, scoring, and more, kids and readers get to play games and learn design principles. Even though it’s instructional, kids will love it too because it’s got a storyline, interesting characters, and reliability.
The Bright Family by Matthew Cody and Carol Burrell, illustrated by Derick Brooks
It’s a wild trip into new worlds when Jayden sneaks into his dad’s lab and accidentally sends his mom and dad into a dimensional portal, then jumps in after them with his sister, Nia, and their robot nanny, Dusty. The siblings work together to face beasts, weather perils, and an entire species before they eventually reunite with their parents. If you like epic adventures in space and relatable characters with heart, don’t miss this first book in a new series.
Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale & Dale Hale
One of the BEST books, not just graphic novels, EVER! This Rapunzel uses her long braids to lasso the bad guys in the wild west.
Ms. Marvel Stretched Thin by Nadia Shammas, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali
Juggling school, family, and being a secret superhero is tiring and stressful for Kamala Khan, aka. Ms. Marvel. When a robot attacks Avengers Tower, Kamala’s stretched too thin (literally) and learns to rely on her team which helps her become more confident in her problem-solving abilities. A great read with a likable main character.
Conspiracy of Ravens by Leah Moore, John Reppion, and Sally Jane Thompson
An action-packed fantasy graphic novel about a girl named Anne who inherits an estate called Ravenhall and a magical locket from a long-lost relative. Anne discovers that the locket connects her to the power of ravens; she can transport from one place to another. Not only that, Anne learns that other girls also are also descendants of the first group of magical women, each connected to magical jewelry and specific birds.
Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks
Sanity and Tallulah are two good friends who live on a space station. Sanity is a brilliant inventor — but her newest (illegal) creation, a three-headed kitten named Princess Destroyer of Worlds has escaped and is living up to her name — destroyer. The friends look for their missing kitten but instead discover a big problem that will destroy the space station. I love the space station setting, the super-smart problem-solving main characters, and the non-stop action.
Anti/Hero by Kate Karyus Quinn & Demitria Lunetta, illustrated by Maca Gil
Piper and Sloan are girls who are opposite in almost every way– super-strong Piper is a superhero and genius Sloane is a villain. But when Piper catches Sloane with a stolen device, it switches them into each other’s body. Besides developing empathy about each other’s lives and struggles, it’s really tricky for them to pretend to be the other person. The girls work together to stop the Bear and switch back into their correct bodies. It’s an AWESOME story with an empowering message of empathy and friendship.
Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence
Not fitting in and finding your place in the world never was so out of this world! Avani hates her new school and the girls in her Flower Scouts troop who talk about makeup and boys. When she’s accidentally abducted by a friendly alien named Mabel, Avani joins Mabel’s Star Scout troop– a more crazy and adventurous group than her human troop, just like she wants. It’s always important to find your tribe of friends, even if they’re aliens. This is a fantastic romp through space with stunning illustrations.
Agent 9 by James Burkes
Agent 9 is a cat secret agent who’s currently on probation for how reckless she is on her missions. What will she do when the entire rest of her organization gets captured by the evil King Crab, and only she can help?
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
Russian summer camp is not what Vera was hoping … at least until she finds a new friend. (Which takes a while, lots of valuable life lessons, and many mishaps.) This is a slice-of-life glimpse into the author’s own summer camp experience. The illustrations are in green, black, and white, not full color.
Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert
I’ll admit that it took me a few chapters to embrace the cursive font used to write the diary entries that often punctuate the action and dialogue of the panels. Once I did, I could fully immerse myself in the story. And I’m so glad — because it was excellent! The book shows both Annie and Helen’s strengths and weaknesses as well as really significant character arcs. If you don’t know the story, or even if you do, read this book. You’ll be entranced with how laborious it was to teach Helen yet how Annie’s persistence paid off.
Fibbed by Elizabeth Agyemang
Everyone accuses Nana of lying and, as a result, she’s sent to visit relatives in Ghana. There, she meets Anase, the trickster spider god and father of stories. He can relate to not being believed for his stories either. When her disbelieving cousins realize that Nana’s stories have been true all along, they join Nana and Anase to expose the company that is secretly destroying the protected forest. Magic, folktales, advocacy, African culture, and the power of stories, this is a unique, beautifully illustrated graphic novel adventure.
Science Comics: Bats Learning to Fly by Falynn Koch
Factual information is embedded within this fantastic graphic novel nonfiction story about a lost little bat who observes a tour group in the desert learning about bats from a tour guide. When the little bat gets hurt, he’s taken to a wild animal hospital where he meets other kinds of bats. At the hospital, the bats lively conversations help the little brown bat learn more about bats — what they eat, how they fly, different species, echolocation, and where they live.
Smaller Sister by Maggie Edkins Willis
Based on her own experience, this graphic novel story addresses body image and eating disorders within a family of two sisters. Lucy’s older sister Olivia is diagnosed with anorexia and gets all the attention. Soon, Olivia develops an eating disorder, too. I’m not sure if it’s a cautionary tale — but think it would be an important book to discuss. At the end of the story, Olivia and Lucy are in recovery and Oliva’s crush turns into a boyfriend — an addition I thought was unnecessary to the plot.
Lupin Leaps In: A Breaking Cat News Adventure by Georgia Dunn
Get the news that matters (to cats) as reported by three cats including one named Lupin. My daughter laughed her way through these funny cartoons. She stopped repeatedly to show me her favorite pages. Because when something is funny, you just want to share it! (Don’t miss the previous graphic novel book, Breaking Cat News.)
Cub by Cynthia L. Copeland
In this historical memoir, Cynthia Copeland shares about the time in her life when she got to be a “cub” reporter, a time when middle school was composed of predators and prey (she was prey), and she discovered her strength. While a mentor reporter helps Cynthia become interested in local and national politics and events like equal rights for women and Watergate, we also see Cynthia going “steady” with a boy and making new friends when her best friend dumped her. A snapshot of a girl coming into her own. (*Sensitive readers, this book includes the word cr*p.)
Prisoner of Shiverstone by Linette Moore
In a mysterious “all is not as it seems” story, shipwrecked Helga sneaks onto a remote island where mad scientists are kept separate from mainlanders. Her goal is to rescue her grandfather from his imprisonment inside a giant crystal. With the help of a specialized robot, she searches the island for components to make a crystal-breaking machine. The writing is excellent plus I loved the world-building and wanted to know what would happen next. This is a fast-paced graphic novel of science and adventure!
Legend of Brightblade by Ethan M. Alddridge
While his mom negotiates a peace treaty with the trolls, Elf prince Alto runs away to become a bard. He witnesses a sinister magical bard. Alto with his bard group including Ebbe and Clarabel know they must warn Alto’s family and stop the bad magic before it’s too late. If you like magical fantasy worlds, you’ll love this story about pursuing your passion, making friends who become family, and the magic of music.
Secret Coders: Get with the Program by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes
What’s happening at Hopper’s new school? She and her friends discover robotic birds that can be controlled by numbers. Which leads the kids to go up against the scheming, evil janitor. Readers learn some basics of how to use the programming language Logo with sequence, iteration, and selection, and must apply their knowledge to help the characters. I love the interactivity, the diverse main characters, and the progressive way the authors teach the logical thinking of programming.
Black Canary Ignite by Meg Cabot, illustrated by Cara McGee
Dinah Lance keeps breaking things with her voice–and getting in big trouble at school. She learns that she’s the daughter of the famous superhero, Black Canary. And that she has a power she better learn how to control. But, she thinks it’s a dumb gift and is mad that her parents kept her mom’s superhero identity a secret. Then her bandmates kick her out of the band and her mom gets kidnapped by Bonfire. How will Dinah find a solution? She’ll embrace her powers and become the new Black Canary.
Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis
An atmospheric historical fiction graphic novel about the early years of Queen Elizabeth the First of England. Margaret is an orphan who grows up in an island convent. She doesn’t learn that she is a secret princess until her half-sister, Eleanor, is banished to the island. Eleanor is the former queen. On the island, she’s both kind and manipulative and yet bonds with Margaret so much so that when she escapes at the end of the story, Margaret joins her.
Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz
Perfect for anyone who loves a good mystery story with themes of friendship and helping others. Unlikely friends, Jamily and Shirley aka. Bones join forces so they’ll be able to do what they want over the summer. Bones is observant and smart and while Jamila plays basketball, kids come to Bones with their mysteries. Jamila wants to be part of Bones’ crime-solving and together they investigate a stolen gecko at the swimming pool, finding that misunderstanding and jealousy can turn into understanding and friendship.
Bomb by Steve Sheinkin, illustrated by Nick Bertozzi
Three major storylines depict the significant historical events around the making of the atomic bomb: the Germans breaking the atom, the spy who was caught after giving the Russians the American plans for a nuclear bomb, and the American scientists working in New Mexico at a secret site to develop the atomic bomb. The stories are fascinating, more so because they’re based on actual events, but I did get bogged down with some of the science. *some bad language
The Boy Who Became a Dragon: A Bruce Lee Story by Jim Di Bartolo
You don’t have to love martial arts to enjoy this engaging biography about the martial artist and movie star legend Bruce Lee. Bruce was a troubled kid who got into lots of trouble yet even as a child, he managed to work as an actor like his father. He experienced racism for having mixed-race heritage so Bruce leaft his home in Hong Kong for the U.S. In the U.S., he opens up several martial artist studios, falls in love, and becomes a movie star.
The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor DavisSTEM
A group of unlikely science-geek friends solves a mystery in order to thwart a museum robbery. This is a fantastic (STEM) story.
Primer by Jennifer Muro and Thomas Krajewski, illustrated by Gretel Lusky
SUPERHERO / ART
16-year-old Ashley hopes her latest foster home will be a fit — they’re funny, quirky, and really accepting. Then, Ashley finds very special lab-created body paints in her foster mom’s closet and quickly learns that they give her superpowers when applied to her body. Meanwhile, her not-very-nice incarcerated dad is giving her trouble and the government lab and military will stop at nothing to find the missing paints. EXCELLENT!
History Comics: The Roanoke Colony: America’s First Mystery by Chris Schweizer
Learn about the Native American nations that occupied the land in and around Roanoke including their life and culture as well as the politics of England and Spain that led to Europeans arriving to settle the land already occupied by Native Americans. We do know about the unscrupulous English colonial leaders, a pirate captain with an agenda, and the initial colonial settlement(s). But did you know that all the European colonists of Roanoke vanished? More than once? This historical comic book brings early American history to life, in an intriguing, interesting, and seemingly three-dimensional way.
Doodleville by Chad Sell
Drew is an artist whose mischievous doodles don’t seem artistic enough compared to the other art club students’ work. Her doubt turns into a destructive Leviathan doodle. The art club members rescue her other doodles and help them power up to stop the Leviathan from taking over and eating everything. As Drew gains confidence in herself and her abilities, we see the connection between her monster and her inner thoughts. An action-packed adventure featuring the personification of emotions and creativity!
Anne of West Philly by Ivy Noelle Weir, illustrated by Myisha Haynes
REALISTIC (ages 10+)
This is an updated Anne of Green Gables story with a modern Anne who is a foster child in the 8th grade. Anne talks non-stop (which is a bit much for her new foster mom) and occasionally loses her temper. But she’s a smart girl who learns from her mistakes. She loves having a room of her own, a best friend, and soon, a forever family. And she even makes friends with her nemesis, Gilbert, when they work on a robotics team together.
A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat
MEMOIR (ages 10+)
In this memoir, Dan describes a transformative trip during the summer before high school that helped him grow from awkward and insecure to confident and outgoing. The trip gave the students lots of freedom. He tries beer and cigarettes. He meets a cute girl and finds the courage to get to know her, even sharing a kiss. He falls in love with the cultures and languages, too. Readers will probably want their own European experiences, too.
DC Super Hero Girls: Powerless by Amy Wofram, illustrated by Agnes Garbowska
The electric grid and computer cloud go out which is a huge change for our superhero girls who aren’t used to life without technology. But it becomes a good learning experience with lessons of teamwork, friendship, and family. Of course, the girls also find the culprit and restore power to Metropolis.
Captain America The Ghost Army by Alan Gratz, illustrated by Brent Schoonover
Set during WWII, Captain America and Bucky fight against an evil magician who has created a ghost army that has the power to kill. The only way to stop the ghosts temporarily is with water, but how can they defeat the ghosts for good? It’s an exciting, dangerous, and action-packed story.
The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw by Mark Crilley
A boy named David asks a young woman named Becky to give him drawing lessons. She reluctantly agrees and she continues (reluctantly) to give him lessons on shadowing, loose sketching, negative space, proportions, and more. The Drawing Lesson is a marvelous graphic novel that both entertains and teaches.
Hoops by Matt Tavares
Judi is growing up in the 1970s. She loves playing basketball so she’s excited when her school starts a girls’ basketball team. Unfortunately, they’re not treated the same as the boy’s team. The girls make their own uniforms, practice at 7 pm, and don’t get a bus to away games. After the girls push through and keep playing to victory, they change the mind of the high school athletic director. It’s an atmospheric story that shows the struggles for gender equality in sports.
Primates The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks
Well-written, this graphic novel captures the intersecting stories and scientific advancements of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas who have spent their lives studying primates.
Around the World by Matt Phelan
Around the World shares the stories of three historical individuals who traveled around the world post-Verne. Thomas Stevens bicycled around the world with an early prototype of the bicycle, the kind with one large wheel and one small. (Lots of falling.) Famous for being a daring female reporter, Nellie Bly tried to beat Jules Verne’s record. Finally, Joshua Slocum sailed around the world in his old sailboat.
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
Sunny’s summer vacation is spending time with her grandfather at his retirement home. (Not exactly her idea of fun.) Luckily, she meets the caretaker’s son, Buzz, and as their friendship and love of comic books develop, she also starts to deal with the real reason she’s there — her brother’s drug use. Well-written with an enjoyable narrative.
Camp by Kayla Miller
Both my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed this meaningful graphic novel from the author of Click. It’s not just about a summer camp experience but also about the challenges of friendship, particularly when you have a friend who is clingy, wants to be your only friend, and is jealous of other people. The story feels honest and relatable as well as being a helpful road map to how you might handle your own friendships.
Real Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Kids will relate to the ups and downs of Shannon’s friendship in elementary and middle school in this true-to-life graphic novel with incredible artwork. We see Shannon struggle with friends, the popular girls, and even her own behavior, we watch as she discovers her passion — using her big imagination to make up stories.
Catherine’s War by Julia Billet, illustrated by Claire Fauvel
When World War II comes to France, Rachel, a Jewish girl, must change her name and go into hiding. She moves frequently to avoid Germans but one thing stays the same, her love for photography. Using her camera, she documents the war from her perspective. Based on the author’s mother’s life, this is a beautiful story of WWII that focuses on growing up, the kindness of strangers, and art.
Batman Overdrive by Shea Fontana, illustrated by Marcelo DiChiara
You’ll zip through this exciting DC Batman origin story! Almost 16-year-old Bruce Wayne is angry at the world and doesn’t believe the story of his parent’s murder. At the same time, he also wants to restore his dad’s first car. Both the car restoration and his quest for truth help Bruce to realize the truth about Alfred and allow him to make his first friends, Mateo and Selina.
Plants vs. Zombies by Paul Tobin and Ron Chan
I wasn’t expecting these books to be so funny in an ironic way that you don’t see in children’s books. Yes, there are zombies and kids with plants trying to kill the zombies (just like the video game) but you’ll be surprised (as I was) to read comic panels like these: a man calling the police saying, “This is a mysterious call” or a woman reading her notebook with the words “no choice” and remarking, “This leaves me no choice,” HA.
Artemis Fowl The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin
Also available as a full-text novel, this series is about an anti-hero evil genius kid named Artemis. He plots to steal the fairies’ gold which leads him to kidnap a fairy cop and hold her for ransom. Very entertaining.
Fable Comics edited by Chris Duffy
My kids and I ADORE this book as well as the series’ previously published books, Nursery Rhyme Comics and Fairy Tale Comics. We love that 17 different cartoonists created one or more of the 28 illustrated fables, sometimes retelling a traditional, often unknown fable, and sometimes retelling with their own twist. The neat thing about this diversity in cartoonists is seeing what the artist envisions for the style and tone of the art for each story.
Cici’s Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-In-Training by Joris Chamblain and Aurelie Neyret
Because Cici is always observing people, she’s good at finding mysteries, too. First, she discovers an old man who visits the long-abandoned zoo and paints murals of the animals that used to live there. Cici learns to let people in and fix the relationship problems she’s created. Entertaining with an excellent story arc and valuable life lessons.
Red’s Planet by Eddie Pittman
Gorgeous drawings share the story of a foster girl named Red who is kidnapped by a UFO and marooned on a planet with her fellow UFO alien companions where a grumpy planet guardian lives. Red finds that with her new friends, anywhere can be a home.
Zatanna and the House of Secrets by Matthew Cody, illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani
In a day of huge events, Zatanna stands up to a bully he turns red, Zatanna’s father disappears, and an evil witch tries to take over their home, a home that turns out to be magical and sentient. Crazy day, right? Zatanna, along with the witch’s son and her dad’s magical familiar pooka, searches for her father and how to stop the witch. It’s a fun, girl-powered book filled with adventure and magic.
Escape at 1,000 Feet by Tom Sullivan
This nonfiction graphic novel story with comic panels, documents, photos, and sidebars with facts recounts D.B. Cooper’s infamous plane hijacking from 1971–-a feat in which he escaped with $200,000 dollars and mysteriously dropped off the face of the earth.
Bluebeard by Metaphrog
In a small village shadowed by Bluebeard’s castle is a richly illustrated retelling of a classic, macabre fairy tale by Charles Perrault. When Bluebeard invites the starving villagers to his country home, he takes Eve as his wife and imprisons her with magic. Eve soon discovers a terrifying secret room filled with Bluebeard’s dead previous wives and buckets of blood. With the help of her sister and her childhood love, Eve defeats Bluebird.
Young Adult Readers Ages 13+
Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds
An illustrated version of Jason Reynolds’ free verse book about Will, a teenager who witnesses his own brother get shot. He needs to follow The Rules and take revenge on the killer. But, as he travels seven floors in an elevator, each level provides an encounter with a deceased person, and their conversations halt Will’s plans and reveal to him the bigger story of what really happened with his brother.
Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation adapted by Ari Folman, illustrated by David Polonsky
SOOOO good! Initially, I felt skeptical that an adaptation could work but it really does. The diary bits and dialogue are well-balanced into a cohesive story that feels seamless, well-written, and insightful. Anne’s personality really shines through as she sets the historical context and describes her daily life in hiding which isn’t always very exciting but does result in a romance with the boy her age who lives there, too.
Go With the Flow by Karen Schneemann, illustrated by Lily Williams
GROWING UP / ACTIVISM
This graphic novel about periods, women’s rights, friendship, and activism is SO good! Sasha is a new high school girl who is helped by other girls when she gets her first period— and they all become friends. But one of the friends is outraged that the bathrooms aren’t stocked with female supplies. She and her friends take action writing a blog, creating art, and even “vandalizing” the school to make a statement. Meanwhile, we see the ups and downs of high school life, too.
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
YA MEMOIR / KOREAN – AMERICAN CULTURE / IMMIGRATION
Robin’s mom moves them from Korea to the Alabama with her mom’s boyfriend’s family. It’s a tough transition. Robin doesn’t speak English and her new step-family is unfriendly not to mention she has no way to contact her friends back home. But she finds solace and a new friend in a comic-drawing art class. It’s a realistic, heartwarming memoir that shows the challenges of immigration.
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, & Steven Scott, illustrated by Harmony Becker
George’s family is sent to a cramped, smelly horse stable and then to a bare-bones, overcrowded barracks surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. George and his brother adapt well –mostly because they have amazing parents but this story also shows the reality for the adults in their new, unfair situation. It shows George’s parents’ resiliency and perseverance. When World War II ended, leaving the camps isn’t an easy, happy ending for any of the detained families.
Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn, illustrated by Nicole Goux
You are going to LOVE this DC Comic origin story of Cassandra Cain, an abused Asian American girl trained as a killer who, in an incredible character arc, ends up becoming Batgirl. Not only is Cass illiterate but she barely understands any spoken words. She realizes that there might be a different way to live and runs away to the library where she discovers the meaning of friendship, choices, and heroism.
The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp, illustrated by Manuel Preitano
Hacker teen Barbara Gordon is paralyzed after she tries to stop a robbery. Now she’s in a strange rehab facility to get used to her wheelchair where she realizes something is very wrong— some of the kids are disappearing. As she tries to figure out what’s happening, she learns to trust both herself and other people again. This helps her unravel the secret behind the missing kids. Excellent character development and a suspenseful plot.
Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Lieu
This is an origin story of the Green Turtle, a 1940’s masked Asian-American superhero. I loved everything about this man who is a reluctant vigilante! His overbearing mother pushes him to become a hero and is disappointed in him, thinks him a failure. There’s a cool element of Chinese mythology (the turtle spirit) that comes into play, affecting Hank, who steps up to fight the Chinatown gangs, a hero at last.
Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan
I adore this reimagined graphic novel about Snow White set in New York City in the 1920s. Snow White’s dad is a Wall Street king, her stepmother is a Zigfield Follies star, and her seven small protectors are street kids. It’s interesting how Phelan uses this historical setting to retell a familiar fairy tale. The black and white illustrations set the tone for this dark story with a happy ending.
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu
Brazen stands with its colorful, visually appealing biographies. Some of these stories will be familiar (Temple Grandin) but most of them will be new to you (Clementine Delait, Nzinga, or Sonita Alizadeh.)
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Shape-shifter, Nimona, appoints herself the sidekick to villain, Lord Ballister Blackhart. But Nimona is way more serious about real villainy than Lord Blackhart. She kills and creates chaos whenever possible which distresses Lord Blackhart. Nimona thinks Lord Blackhart’s rules are weird and totally unnecessary. But, despite Nimona’s dark side, together they set out to prove that the heroes are not really heroic. The main characters are very well-developed and both have back-stories that make them really interesting.
Messenger The Legend of Joan of Arc A Graphic Novel by Tony Lee and Sam Hart
Tween and teen readers probably don’t know the true story of Joan of Arc. While the authors don’t claim that this is anything but fiction, I would say it’s closer to nonfiction since it’s only based on historical facts. It’s amazing to see Joan never waver in her convictions and stand strong in the face of doubt and eventually death. This is an excellent depiction of her life.
Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Alex Puvilland
Great artistry and suspense! The Spill was an event we can only guess about but seems radioactive with monsters and floating bodies. Now, afterward, two sisters live alone. The oldest, Addison, earns money by photographing inside the spill zone, a glowing area of the city where her parents and many others died. Addison decides to put herself in more danger (getting off her motorcycle) when a rich benefactor makes Addison a lucrative but dangerous offer for different photographs. The plot thickens when a mysterious man with Spill-based powers arrives in the country — and then the story abruptly ends on a cliffhanger.
Wonder Woman Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Leila Del Duca
In this reimagined refugee origin story, Diana leaves the safety of her island to rescue drowning children then gets stuck outside the island’s secret border. She arrives in a refugee camp where she befriends two Americans who help her get to the US. All the while, she feels lost and displaced. In her new home, Diana stops a child trafficking scheme and realizes that helping others on the outside of her island is where she belongs.
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