…and why it’s fine if your kid wants to read them all the time.
The Get Book Smart conversation series is a chance for parents and caregivers to connect with the Library’s experts and get help choosing books for children.
This month we discuss Graphic Novels and Comic Books.
We answer parents’ concerns, clear up misconceptions, and highlight some of the unique qualities found in graphic novels that support children’s learning and reading for pleasure:
“Those aren’t real books.” Actually, they are. Graphic novels foster critical reading skills: the ability to follow a narrative structure and understanding literary devices such as similes and metaphors. They have as many different themes as any other format of story.
“Aren’t graphic novels just for reluctant readers?” The vocabulary used in graphic novels is often complex and many graphic novels have long and rich narratives.
“Comic books are too violent.” The world we live in is filled with images that we need to understand and information that is presented graphically. Graphic novels support the ability to infer meaning from pictures. Sometimes the combination of word with image is greater than the sum of its parts – the meaning is more than either the words or image alone can convey.
If you missed “Get Book Smart: You Say Graphic Novel, I Say Comic Book,” here’s our complete list of great graphic novels for kids and teens.
Kindergarten – 1st Grade
by Cecile Castellucci, Sara Varon
Theodora is a perfectly normal duck. She may swim with a teacup balanced on her head and stay north when the rest of the ducks fly south for the winter, but there’s nothing so odd about that. Chad, on the other hand, is one strange bird. Theodora quite likes him, but she can’t overlook his odd habits. It’s a good thing Chad has a normal friend like Theodora to set a good example for him. But who exactly is the odd duck here? Theodora may not like the answer.
by Andy Runton
Owly is a kind-hearted little owl who knows what it means to be human. Relying on a mixture of symbols and expressions,these animated and heartwarming tales are a perfect read for all ages!
“The Big No-No” – Two mice meet their new neighbor and discover that she is not as scary as they feared.
Bird Cat Dog
by Lee Nordling, Meritxell Bosch
This cleverly formatted wordless graphic story follows three adventures?those of a bird, a cat, and a dog?over the course of one day. All three stories’ panels appear in rows across each page, so little ones can choose to follow each individual story (with a unique color palette for each animal), or they can read each page as a whole and see the larger narrative that unfolds across the three animals’ experiences.
The Zoo Box
by Ariel Cohn and Aron Nels Steinke
When Erika and Patrick’s parents leave them home alone for the night, they head straight to the attic to explore. When they open a mysterious box, hundreds of animals come pouring out. Soon the town is awash in more and more zoo animals, until Erika and Patrick discover that the tables have been turned–and the animals now run a zoo full of humans.
2nd – 3rd Grade
Chi’s Sweet Home
by Kanata Konami
Chi is a mischievous newborn kitten who, while on a leisurely stroll with her family, finds herself lost. Overcome with loneliness she breaks into tears in a large park meadow, where she is rescued by a young boy named Yohei and his mother. The little kitty is then quickly and quietly whisked away into the warm and inviting Yamada apartment…where pets are strictly not permitted.
by Sara Varon
The enduring friendship between a dog and a robot is portrayed in this wordless graphic novel.
by James Kochalka
Johnny Boo is the best little ghost in the whole world, because he’s got Boo Power. This means that he can go “BOO” really loudly. His pet ghost named Squiggle has Squiggle Power, which means that he can fly and do really fast loop-the-loops. Together they have the world’s greatest ghost adventures!
Ernest and Rebecca
by Guillaume Bianca and Antonella Dalena
Rebecca is a six and a half year-old girl who is out of luck and her parents are on the verge of divorce and she is always getting sick due to a weak immune system. One rainy day Rebecca’s luck changes when she meets a magical microbe named Ernest, who becomes her best friend! Ernest is no regular germ–he is about the same height as Rebecca and he can talk. Can Rebecca keep her parents together with the help of her new friend? And can anyone really have a friend who belongs in a Petri dish?–From publisher’s website.
by Michael Townsend
Mr. Ball is delighted when he takes on a giant fire-breathing bird as his new pet. He is also completely oblivious to that fact that the bird has taken on Mr. Ball as her egg. Hilarity ensues, as throughout, Mr. Ball attempts to train his pet. Finally, Mr. Ball’s faithful friends come to his rescue.
A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle, Hope Larson
A graphic novel adaptation of the classic tale in which Meg Murry and her friends become involved with unearthly strangers and a search for Meg’s father, who has disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government.
by John Chad
Armed with scientific knowledge and a magic dagger, Leo is determined to outwit man-eating Quadclops giants and Malvisors and travel to the center of the earth.
by Kean Soo
Portia is bright beyond her years, which means it difficult to make friends in her new school, and her single mother is preoccupied, so when Portia sneaks into the woods after midnight and discovers a shy and sweet purple monster, she is delighted by her new friend–but Jellaby has secrets of his own.
Young Miss Holmes
by Kaoru Shintani
Shintani has cleverly reconfigured classic Holmes-Watson plots, incorporating pint-sized ten-year-old Christie who plays cop to her Uncle Sherlock’s sleuthing.
Lowriders in Space
by Cathy Camper and Raúl the Third
Lupe, Flapjack, and Elirio customize their car into a lowrider for the Universal Car Competition to win the cash prize that’ll enable them to buy their own garage.
5th – 6th Grades
by Raina Telgemeier
Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgey, embarassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached! And on top of all that, there’s still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly. Raina’s story takes us from middle school to high school, where she discovers her artistic voice, finds out what true friendship really means, and where she can finally…smile.
by Shannon, Dean and Nathan Hale
Rapunzel is raised in a grand villa surrounded by towering walls. Rapunzel dreams of a different mother than Gothel, the woman she calls Mother. She climbs over the wall and finds out the truth. Her real mother, Kate, is a slave in Gothel’s gold mine. In this Old West retelling, Rapunzel uses her hair as a lasso and to take on outlaws–including Gothel.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales
by Nathan Hale
Nathan Hale, the author’s historical namesake, was America’s first spy, a Revolutionary War hero who famously said ‘I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” before being hanged by the British. In the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, author Nathan Hale channels his namesake to present history’s roughest, toughest, and craziest stories in the graphic novel format.
by John Allison
Jack, Sonny, Linton, Shauna, Charlotte, and Mildred– six kids navigating the treacherous waters of school and adolesence while diving into the whirlpool of mysteries that swirls around the peculiar English town of Tackleford.
Hikaru no Go
by Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata
Hiraku Shindo is like any sixth-grader in Japan: a pretty normal school boy with a two-tone head of hair and a penchant for antics. One day, he finds an old bloodstained Go board in his grandfather’s attic– and that’s when things get really interesting. Trapped inside the Go board is Fujiwara-no-Sai, the ghost of an ancient Go master who taught the strategically complex board game to the Emperor of Japan many centuries ago.
Ouran High School Host Club
by Bisco Hatori
In this screwball romantic comedy, a poor girl at a rich kids’ school ends up working for the school’s swankiest club – and gets mistaken for a boy!
by Faith Erin Hicks, Susan Kim, Laurance Klavan
Lucas and Jenna are chosen to attend a camp that promises to turn delinquents into high achieving students, but when they arrive, they realize that the camp is not what it seems.
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
A vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
The Shadow Hero
by Gene Luen Yang, Sonny Liew
In the comics boom of the 1940s, a legend was born: the Green Turtle. He solved crimes and fought injustice just like the other comics characters. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding something more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity: the Green Turtle was the first Asian American super hero. The comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but Gene Luen Yang has revived this character in Shadow Hero, a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the Green Turtle.
by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona
Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City – until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, New York!
by Gene Yuen Lang, Thiem Pham
Dennis, the son of Chinese immigrants, yearns to play video games like his friends and, upon his strict father’s death, becomes obsessed with them but later, realizing how his father sacrificed for him, he chooses a nobler path.
by Liz Prince
Eschewing female stereotypes throughout her early years and failing to gain acceptance on the boys’ baseball team, Liz learns to embrace her own views on gender as she comes of age, in an anecdotal graphic novel memoir.
Attack on Titan
by Hajime Isayama
Cut alive from his mother’s womb afer she had been eaten by a rampaging Titan, Kuklo has spent his entire life in chains as a freakish curiosity and a feared abomination. Eventually the boy they call the “Titan’s son” finds hemself sold to wealthy merchant Dario Inocencio as a plaything for his cruel and ambitious son Xavi. Kuklo knows nothing but abuse and neglect but help may come from the most unexpected place.
by Sharon E. McKay and Daniel Lafrance
Jacob is a 14-year-old Ugandan who is sent away to a boys’ school. Once there, he assures his friend Tony that they need not be afraid – they will be safe. But not long after, in the shadow of the night, the boys are abducted. Marched into the jungle, they are brought to an encampment of the feared rebel soldiers. They are told they must kill or be killed, and their world turns into a terrifying struggle to endure and survive.
The Silence of Our Friends
by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos and Nate Powell
Set in Houston in 1968, this graphic novel is based on Long’s childhood memories of the events surrounding a little-remembered incident from the civil rights movement. As the students of Texas Southern University gear up for a demonstration involving Stokely Carmichael’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, smaller satellite confrontations around town hint at the violence to come. The story unfolds from two sets of eyes, those of a white TV reporter (Long’s father) and a black demonstration leader. Deciding that “men of conscience have got to join together,” the two forge a friendship that crosses the color line, is not looked upon favorably by either of their communities, and gets tested when the demonstration turns ugly.
Learn More about Graphic Novel Storytelling
by Scott McCloud
Traces the 3,000 year history of storytelling through pictures, discussing the language and images usedPraised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, this innovative comic book provides a detailed look at the history, meaning, and art of comics and cartooning.
by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden
Filled with clear, engaging, and exact instructions; examples from well- and lesser-known comics; and loads of exercises meant to help both the prospective writer and potential artist flourish, the book leaves literally no area of the process unexamined. Beyond this comprehensive treatment, attention is given to modern platforms (e.g., webcomics) as well as to plumbing the understanding and practice of handcrafting things that are now generally done digitally, such as coloring and lettering.
Adventures in Cartooning
by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, Alexis Frederick-Frost
Once upon a time…a princess tried to make a comic. And with the help of a magical cartooning elf, she learned how–well enough to draw her way out of an encounter with a dangerous dragon, near-death by drowning, and into her very own adventure!–From publisher description.