I shared all about our daily reading hour and suggestions for good summer reading choices for young readers last month. But I thought I’d follow it up with a post about good graphic novels.
To be honest, I haven’t always been excited about graphic novels. Captain Underpants and Dog Man make me want to tear my hair out. I have a visceral reaction! And I think because of some of the twaddle that’s out there, I have been ignoring really good graphic novels as a great option for young readers! Mea culpa.
Graphic novels can be great for transitioning from picture books to chapter books OR overcoming a reading slump when a kid just can’t seem to get motivated to pick up a new book. And they can be incredible works of art. No wonder they’re gaining so much popularity!
So I put together a list of seven great options that I think are good quality, beautiful, and engaging for young readers.
Caveats: My kids are 1, 7, 8, and 11. I’m going to be sharing books they’ve loved that I have read myself or that come highly recommended but I cannot guarantee that every book will be right for your family.
So here’s some great ideas to get you going!
(All links are to bookshop.org which allows you to shop online and support local bookshops–now more important than ever–instead of sending your money to Am*z*n. You can access this full list over there, too, by clicking here.)
Zita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke
Ben Hatke has been one of our favorite illustrators for ages and his Zita books are a huge hit over here!
The Mighty Jack books are also much beloved.
Anne of Green Gables adapted by Mariah Marsden, illustrated by Brenna Thummler
I am a bit of an Anne nut and have passed my love for Anne on to the kids so we were delighted to discover this absolute gem! It’s simply beautiful.
The Giver adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell
My 11yo recently listened to the audiobook of Lois Lowry’s The Giver and he also enjoyed this graphic novel version.
The Hobbit adapted by Charles Dixon and illustrated by David Wenzel
We’re big Tolkien fans over here but the girls (ages 7 and 8) are a little intimidated by starting The Hobbit so this gorgeous graphic novel version was a good introduction until they’re ready for Tolkien’s original.
Maximilian Kolbe: The Saint of Auschwitz by Jean-Francois Vivier
I’m always excited for my kids to learn about the saints and St. Maximilian Kolbe is one of my favorites. This graphic novel version begins at Auschwitz and the narrative is flashbacks of his life leading up to his martyrdom.
Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis
This one we got from the library and somehow, we didn’t finish it before it was due back, but I was entranced by it and it is absolutely stunning (and LONG!). A copy to keep is on its way to our mailbox as we speak.
Access this full list here at Bookshop.org and happy reading!
In related news, I shared a 20 minute talk about educating very young children through participation in daily family life as part of the virtual Catholic Homeschool Conference in late June.
The conference is over, but the talks are still available for purchase! If you are a seasoned homeschooler who needs some inspiration or if you were thrown into crisis schooling unexpectedly this spring and are discerning whether homeschooling in the fall might work for your family considering the Covid situation, this is a great resource! There are 60+ speakers and you can watch from your laptop.
My talk is about how simple homeschooling very little ones can. It’s a pep talk of encouragement to show you that you are capable of taking on this journey of homeschooling. You can buy a lifetime pass to all the content here.
Thanks for sharing! We recently enjoyed Max and the Midknights. Fun and quick for elementary kids.
Bless you, Haley!
S. A. Cox says
I just finished working a stint at a middle school library. None of the below recommendations are for young children, but I never had any hesitation recommending them to kids 11+. which is the age our middle schoolers were. And, ahem, it was WORK to read those graphic novels it was. I wasn’t enjoying them at all. 😉
(Hope this doesn’t count as a threadjack.)
One note: I don’t generally appreciate cussing, violence, or anything beyond extremely mild romance in my stories, and these are indeed books I felt comfortable reading. BUT I’m aware that each household has different comfort levels. I’ve tried to mark what I remember of what people might object to, but it’s been at least a year since I read any of these, so I encourage you to check them out of the library, borrow them from a friend, or at the very least check out another review before you rush out to buy them.
I have quite enjoyed Faith Erin Hicks’ graphic novels (Friends with Boys, One Year at Ellsmere) and also found Gene Yeung Lang’s extremely weird Saints to be surprisingly uplifting (about a young woman finding Christianity in China during the Boxer Rebellion who starts seeing visions of Joan of Arc). All of FEH’s stories have some mild cussing, and since Saints is set during a war, yeah, it has some violence. But not so graphic that it bothered me.
John Lewis just barely died, and the first volume of his three-volume set March was extremely approachable because there was so much of his personal story in it. By the third volume it seemed like he felt compelled to tell the entire story of the civil rights movement because he was personally there for so much of it, and without his personal narrative linking it that got a little hard for me to follow. But the first volume I would recommend to anyone who wants some approachable nonfiction about the topic. I don’t remember there being any content warnings on this other than if you consider the Civil Rights movement itself to be controversial–in which case, you have been warned.
Since I studied Arabic while attending a (Christian) religious university and while doing so lived with the second woman on campus who wore the hijab (headscarf), I’ve been attuned for a long time to the fact that religious freedom for one leads to religious freedom for many. Thus, I consumed with enthusiasm G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel, in which a Pakistani American teenager living in Jersey City, well, becomes Ms. Marvel. I loved how it portrayed her best friend wearing a hijab and that NOT everyone in their community is OK with that choice. I think it’s easy to think that there is some kind of Muslim consensus about how to be Muslim, but it’s just as lively a discussion in the Muslim community as it is among Christians. But this is the book on the list which pushes my boundaries the most– no cussing, as far as I remember, but literally cartoon violence, and a couple of romantic storylines. And while it was nice to see religious people included as normal humans, I didn’t love how that was quickly shoved aside as not-the-thing-our-heroine-would-ever-do. I guess you could say my relationship with this series is complicated. But content-warning wise, if you’re OK with superhero movies, you’ll be just fine with this, and it is admittedly a very fun read.
I’ve only read the first two (Awkward and Brave) of the so-far four volume Berrybrook Middle School series, but my memory of it is that it was mild, sweet, and very fun. The very first one, Awkward, deals in part with what happens when you are sort of accidentally are rude to someone because of social pressure. My memory is that Awkward was almost never checked in, so I was not the only human in the school who appreciated it. 🙂
I have a couple more, but I am trying not to threadjack. Happy reading! I loved Zita the Spacegirl, and even got to meet Ben Hatke (and the real Zita, who is one of his daughters.) He’s very nice!
My five-year-old is especially drawn to the Maximilian Kolbe graphic novel and asks for it frequently!
Here are three graphic novels we have enjoyed at home in addition to the ones listed are:
– Shannon Hale’s Rapunzel’s Revenge, fractured fairy tale retelling of Rapunzel set in the Wild, Wild West: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2626492-rapunzel-s-revenge
(There is a sequel, Calamity Jack: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6327801-calamity-jack)
– Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts, telling the story Catrina and her little sister Maya, who suffers from Cystic fibrosis:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25903764-ghosts?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=GNIPmVFI5O&rank=3
– Cece Bell’s El Deafo, a memoir with anthropomorphic rabbits about the author’s experience of growing up with a hearing aide: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20701984-el-deafo
– Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, a graphic novel without words about the experience of immigration in a steam punk setting: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/920607.The_Arrival?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=w8vGpxH6XK&rank=1
At my Catholic high school library, the following nonfiction graphic novels are popular with the students or are used in the curriculum:
– Many titles by Gareth Hinds, particularly his retellings of the Odyssee and the Iliad:
– Anne Frank’s diary in graphic novel form: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36625142-anne-frank-s-diary?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=08RW1mqTV5&rank=1
Thanks Haley! We are too trying to move beyond Dog Man and Diary of A Wimpy Kid as well! I recently got my kiddos some new graphic novels for summer reading, that they love and have been sharing (age 8 & 11): LumberJanes Series, Invisible Emmie (Emmie & Friends), Stepping Stones (Peapod Farm), New Kid by Craft, Jerry. I will be adding some of your recommendations to my list!
I got my 11 year old the pretty cover version of Anne of Green Gables (Puffin in Bloom), but it is a little too much for her right now to keep up. So I am thinking to start with the graphic novel version first. Perhaps that will lead her to the next version. I just love the cover so much and had to get it!
Thank you for all of your suggestions!
I can’t wait to check these out! My oldest loves graphic novels, but we run out of ideas quickly. I’m going to have to get the Anne of Green Gables book for myself!