Graphic novels are exploding in popularity, and there's good reason behind this phenomenon.
This sometimes misunderstood type of book is a full-length story told in paneled, sequential, graphic format - different from book-length collections of comic strips or wordless picture books.
Graphic novels are great for "reluctant readers" and kids just learning to read. They're generally fast paced, and the word-to-picture correlation provides an easy way to expand children's vocabularies. Perhaps more importantly, graphic novels tend to be more engaging than other "early reader" books. Another plus: the number of titles is expanding rapidly every year, so there's something for every child's interests. Last, but not least, graphic novels positively impact children’s visual literacy skills, which are more essential than ever in the digital age.
Here's a "best of the best" list of graphic novels for children developed as a collection development tool for librarians by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC).
Check them out @ your library and talk to your local librarian to find more titles.
Visit the Connect with your kids @ your library Family Activity Guide to discover more fun ideas for spending quality time with your family at the library.
The Adventures of Polo
by Régis Faller, (2006).
Little dog Polo takes up his backpack and umbrella and sets out in his boat to explore exciting new places.
by Cari Meister. illus. by Marilyn Janovitz. Stone Arch, (2010).
Anna and Juan are going to Mexico to visit their grandmother in this introduction to the graphic novel format. Instructions for how to read a graphic novel introduce this book and discussion questions and writing prompts are listed at its conclusion. One of the My 1st Graphic Novel series.
Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!
by Geoffrey Hayes. TOON, 2009. ISBN: 9780979923890.
Two mice meet their new neighbor and discover that she is not as scary as they feared. First of the Benny and Penny series.
Blinky to the Rescue
by Ashley Spires, (2010).
The antics of Binky the official certified space cat will be sure to make you laugh as he falls out the window into "outer space." One of the A Binky Adventure series.
Captain Raptor and the Space Pirates
by Kevin O'Malley and Patrick O'Brien. illus. by Patrick O'Brien. Walker, (2007).
In his second action-packed adventure, Captain Raptor, a superhero and a dinosaur, arrives just in time to save his planet from space pirates. One of the Captain Raptor series.
A Day at the Fire Station
by Lori Mortensen. illus. by Jeffrey Thompson. Capstone, (2011).
Explains the everyday life of fire fighters in the station house as well as the quick actions they take when a call comes in. A glossary and a bibliography for additional reading and internet sites are appended. One of the First Graphics: My Community series.
Hamster and Cheese by Colleen Venable. illus. by Stephanie Yue. Lerner/Graphic Universe, (2010).
Sasspants the guinea pig and his sidekick, Hamisher the hamster get to the bottom of the case of the missing sandwiches. First of the Pet Shop Private Eye series.
Johnny Boo: The Best Little Ghost in the World! by James Kochalka. Top Shelf Productions, (2008).
Boo Power makes Johnny Boo the best and together with his pet ghost Squiggle and his amazing Squiggle Power, they have the world’s greatest adventures. First of the Johnny Boo series.
Korgi: Book 1
by Christian Slade. Top Shelf Productions, (2007).
Ivy and her Korgi cub Sprout learn some amazing things about themselves as they encounter danger and adventure in Korgi Hollow. First of the Korgi series.
Little Mouse Gets Ready
by Jeff Smith. TOON, (2009).
Little Mouse hurries to get ready for a trip to the barn, carefully dressing himself piece by piece until his mother reminds him that mice don't wear clothes.
Luke on the Loose
by Harry Bliss. TOON, (2009).
A young boy's fascination with pigeons soon erupts into a full-blown chase around Central Park, across the Brooklyn Bridge, through a fancy restaurant, and into the sky.
by Brigitte Luciani. illus. by Eve Tharlet. Lerner/Graphic Universe, (2010).
Having lost their home, a fox and her daughter move in with a badger and his three children, but when the youngsters throw a big party hoping to prove that they are incompatible, their plan backfires. First of the Mr. Badger and Mrs. Fox series.
Otto's Orange Day
by Jay Lynch. illus. by Frank Cammuso. TOON, (2008). After a genie fulfills Otto the cat's wish by turning the whole world orange, Otto realizes that his favorite color is not the best color for everything.
Owly: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer
by Andy Runton. Top Shelf Productions, (2004).
Owly, a kind, lonely owl, helps and then befriends first a worm and then a pair of hummingbirds in these two nearly wordless stories. First in the Owly series.
Patrick in a Teddy Bear's Picnic and Other Stories
by Geoffrey Hayes. TOON, (2010).
In these cozy stories for young readers, Patrick goes on a picnic with his mother, faces down a bully, and resists taking a nap.
You Can't Take a Balloon into the Museum of Fine Arts
by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman. illus. by Robin Preiss Glasser. Dial, (2002).
The green balloon escapes from grandma while the children are visiting the Museum of Fine Arts causing a series of mishaps around Boston. Illustrated scenes from around the town are juxtaposed with photographic representations of famous works of art that the children are viewing in the museum. Companion books include You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1998) and You Can't Take a Balloon into the National Gallery (2000).
Rick & Rack and the Great Outdoors
by Ethan Long. Blue Apple, (2010).
Rick the raccoon and Rack the moose spend a day fishing, tracking wild animals, and canoeing on a lake.
Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons
by Agnès Rosenstiehl. TOON, (2008).
A young girl named Lilly enjoys different activities during each season of the year, from dancing in the park in the spring to throwing snowballs in the winter.
The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future
by Dav Pilkey. Scholastic/Blue Sky, (2010).
Boys got into trouble even in the time of cavemen, and Ook and Gluk prove it by getting on the wrong side of Chief Goppernopper. Fortunately, the boys travel to the future, learn kung-fu, and return in time to save the day.
Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles into Comics
by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost. Roaring Brook/First Second, (2009).
An amazing adventure as well as a tutorial into the basic elements of cartooning, this is fun and unique.
The Secret of the Unicorn
by Hergé. Little, Brown, (1974).
Young journalist Tintin is hot on the trail of a secret hidden in a model ship in this classic. First in the Adventures of Tintin series.
Ancient Egypt: Tales of Gods and Pharaohs
by Marcia Williams. Candlewick, 2011.
Tales of Isis, Tutankhamen, and the important figures of Egyptian myth and history are given humorous treatment.
Art Panels, BAM! Speech Bubbles, POW! Writing Your Own Graphic Novel
by Trisha Speed Shaskan. illus. by Stephen Shaskan. Picture Window, (2011).
A young girl explains how to create your own graphic novel including the tools, techniques and conventions of the format. Some exercises are included to get started. One of the Writer's Toolbox series.
by Sara Varon. Roaring Book/First Second, 2011.
Cupcake runs a successful bakery with his best friend, Eggplant, but dreams of going abroad to meet his idol, Turkish Delight, who is the most famous pastry chef in the world.
Bone: Out from Boneville
by Jeff Smith. Scholastic/Graphix, (2005).
The adventure starts when cousins Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone are run out of Boneville and later get separated and lost in the wilderness, meeting monsters and making friends as they attempt to return home. First of the Bone series.
The Boxcar Children
by Shannon Eric Denton. illus. by Mike Dubisch. Magic Wagon, 2009.
The graphic novel adaption of the ever popular Boxcar Mystery Series about Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny Alden. First of the Boxcar Children Graphic Novels series.
Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman
by Marc Tyler Nobleman. illus. by Ross MacDonald. Knopf, (2008).
Part picture book, part graphic novel, this is the fascinating story of how two high school friends created a superhero that endures to this day.
Creepy Crawly Crime
by Aaron Reynolds. illus. by Neil Numberman. Holt, (2009).
Joey Fly and his scorpion sidekick Sammy Stingtail must solve the case of the butterfly Delilah's missing diamond pencil box in this noir-style detective story. First of the Joey Fly, Private Eye series.
Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dodgeball Chronicles
by Frank Cammuso. Scholastic/Graphix, (2008).
Arthurian legend reimagined for middle grade readers. Artie King finds that making enemies at Camelot Middle School is a lot easier than making friends when he challenges the Horde to a game of dodgeball. First of the Knights of the Lunch Table series.
Fashion Kitty and the Unlikely Hero
by Charise Mericle Harper. Hyperion, (2008).
Kiki turns into super Fashion Kitty whenever a fashion crisis occurs. What will happen, then, when boring uniforms are required for school? First in the Fashion Kitty series.
by Scott Christian Sava. illus. by Joseph Bergin III. IDW/Worthwhile, (2008).
Joey seems to have some sort of freakish happening that makes him super super fast. Adventures galore follow.
Into the Volcano
by Don Wood. Scholastic/Blue Sky, (2008).
While their parents are away doing research, brothers Duffy and Sumo Pugg go with their cousin, Mister Come-and-Go, to Kokalaha Island, where they meet Aunt Lulu and become trapped in an erupting volcano.
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Knopf, (2009).
Lunch Lady and Betty, her assistant in both the cafeteria and her role of wrong-righting super sleuth, investigate the strange case of an absent teacher, his creepy substitute, and a plan to grab the Teacher of the Year Award by truly foul means. First of the Lunch Lady series.
by Scott Morse. Scholastic/Graphix, (2008).
A secret experiment turned superhero, Magic Pickle does battle with his arch foes, the Brotherhood of Evil Produce. First in the Magic Pickle series.
Mal and Chad: The Biggest Bestest Time Ever
by Stephen McCranie. Philomel, (2011).
Mal tries to hide his intellect in school but he and his talking-dog pal Chad are very inventive—especially when their time machine takes them back to the time of the dinosaurs. First of the Mal and Chad series.
The Purple Smurfs
by Yvan Delporte. illus. by Peyo. Papercutz, (2010).
When a strange purple fly bites one of the Smurfs, a full-on purple epidemic develops in the Smurf village! It's up to Papa Smurf to find a cure and save Smurf Village before all the Smurfs lose their minds for good! First in The Smurfs series, which is the original comic that inspired the 1980s cartoon.
Babymouse: Queen of the World!
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Random,
Meet Babymouse, a sassy young mouse who dreams of glamour, excitement, adventure, straight whiskers, being queen of the world, and of course, being invited to Felicia Furrypaws's oh-so-exclusive party. First of the Babymouse series.
by Sara Varon. Roaring Brook/First Second, (2007).
In a wordless graphic novel, a rusty robot, abandoned on a beach, dreams of rescue while its former companion, a dog, tries various means to save it with an outcome that surprises both.
Sardine in Outer Space
by Emmanuel Guibert. illus. by Joann Sfar. Roaring Brook/First Second, (2006).
Space pirate girl Sardine and her crew battle dimwitted galactic dictator Supermuscleman and evil genius Doc Krok in these adventures filled with lots of low-brow humor, translated from the French. First of the Sardine series.
Salt Water Taffy: The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny: The Legend of Old Salty
by Matthew Loux. Oni Press, (2008).
Two city brothers end up on the Maine seacoast for the summer, much to their disgust. But when old Angus befriends them, and tells the story of Old Salty, a sea monster, their summer is full of adventure. First of the Salt Water Taffy: The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny series.
Scratch 9: The Pet Project
by Rob M. Worley. illus. by Jason T. Kruse. Ape Entertainment. (2010).
Mad science gives an ordinary house cat named Scratch the ability to summon any of his nine lives. He needs all these powers to save his friends from the Cruel Corporation. One of the Scratch 9 series.
Sticky Burr: Adventures in Burrwood Forest
by John Lechner. Candlewick, (2007).
He's small, he's prickly, he's the hero of Burrwood Forest. A little burr shares his first person fantastical natural history adventure.
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Random, (2011).
Navigating school, friendships, and family is never easy, but if you are an amoeba, it's especially challenging. But with the help of his hero, Super Amoeba, Squish is prepared for anything. First of the Squish series.
by Kazu Kibuishi. Scholastic/Graphix, (2008).
After moving to their dead great-grandfather's house, Emily and her brother Navin must enter a strange alternate land to rescue their mother. First in the Amulet series.
Super Chicken Nugget Boy and the Furious Fry
by Josh Lewis. illus. by Douglas Holgate. Hyperion, (2010).
Fern is perfectly normal. Or he was, until he fell into a vat of radioactive goop. His new superpowers come in handy when an evil French fry attacks the school. First of the Super Chicken Nugget Boy series.
To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel
by Sienna Cherson Siegel. illus. by Mark Siegel. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, (2006).
A young dancer tells about her passion for ballet from her first dreams at the age of six through all her years of dance lessons.
The Unsinkable Walker Bean
by Aaron Renier. Roaring Brook/First Second, (2010). Walker Bean grew up listening to his grandfather's tales of life on the seas. Soon it's Walker's turn for adventure.
The Whole World's Crazy
by Jimmy Gownley. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, (2011).
Life is tough for Amelia: Her mother is newly divorced, and they are living with her cool aunt Tanner. Amelia survives with the help of her Gathering of Awesome Superpals and some attitude. First of the Amelia Rules! series.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by Eric Shanower and L. Frank Baum. illus. by Skottie Young. Marvel, (2009).
Kansas farm girl Dorothy flies away to the magical Land of Oz, but despite her adventures there, all she wants is to find a way home.
Zeus: King of the Gods
by George O'Connor. First Second, (2010).
The story of Zeus adapted nicely to graphic format. First in the Olympians series.
Zita the Spacegirl
by Ben Hatke. Roaring Brook/First Second, (2010).
Zita finds a small package in a meteoroid crater and is suddenly catapulted to another world when. Her bravery and derring-do make her a heroine in the strange land when she dons her superhero cape.
9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation
by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón. Farrar/Hill and Wang, (2006).
This accurate and accessible version of the 9/11 Report captures its investigative thoroughness, and covers its entire scope including the Commission's final report card. Colón's stunning artwork powerfully conveys the facts, insights, and urgency of the original.
Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography
by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón. Farrar/Hill and Wang, (2010).
Drawing on the unique historical sites, archives and expertise of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, this authorized biography is the complete account of the lives of Anne's parents, her first years in Frankfurt, the rise of Nazism, the family's immigration to Amsterdam, her life in the annex, and her arrest and tragic death in Bergen-Belsen.
by Shaun Tan. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, (2007).
A wordless but very moving story about a lonely man who has just arrived in a new city.
by Neil Gaiman. illus. by P. Craig Russel. HarperCollins, (2008).
When Coraline steps through a secret door in her house, she finds a marvelous new world much better than her own. However, when her "other mother" wants to keep her there forever, she must use her wits and the help of an all-knowing cat to return to the real world, in this graphic novel version of Gaiman's popular title.
The Demon of River Heights
by Stefan Petrucha. illus. by Sho Murase. Papercutz, (2005).
Nancy Drew is joined by her best friends Bess and George to find a missing student. The graphic novels are new stories using classic characters. First of the Nancy Drew: Girl Detective series.
by Jane Yolen. illus. by Mike Cavallaro. Roaring Brook/First Second, (2010).
Aliera is a star at fencing, but at school no one notices her—until her new lab partner Avery begins flirting with her. Aliera's mother just bought her a foil from a garage sale, and it has a strange jewel attached to the hilt. Will Aliera's first date be ruined when magical creatures try to steal her foil?
by Doug TenNapel. Scholastic/Graphix, (2010).
Garth Hale is accidentally zapped to the spirit world by a washed-out ghost wrangler. Suddenly Garth finds he has powers the ghosts don't have, and he's stuck in a world run by the evil ruler of Ghostopolis, who would use Garth's newfound abilities to rule the ghostly kingdom.
Houdini: The Handcuff King
by Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi. Hyperion, (2008).
In bold graphics, and drawing on respected sources, author and artist formulate a living picture of this greatest of Americans and show how time and morals shaped him and his art.
by Lat. Roaring Brook/First Second, (2006).
Lat, a noted Malaysian cartoonist, tells the story of the early life of a Muslim boy growing up on a rural rubber plantation during the 1950s. The sequel is Town Boy (2007).
Lewis & Clark
by Nick Bertozzi. Roaring Brook/First Second, (2011).
Historically accurate, this excellent example of graphic novel nonfiction begins with President Jefferson's call to explore the western region and continues beyond the conclusion of the expedition.
by Jason Shiga. Abrams/Amulet, (2010).
Jimmy explores the lab of a mad scientist in this “Choose Your Own Adventure” style graphic novel.
by Gene Luen Yang. Roaring Brook/First Second, (2010).
When Thaddeus discovers his baby sister Maddie is the gateway to an alien invasion, his resentment of her presences turns to delight at the opportunity this presents: Superhero Thaddeus will save the planet from an extraterrestrial threat!
by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. illus. by Nathan Hale. Bloomsbury, (2008).
Two traditional fairy tales—"Rapunzel" and "Jack and the Beanstalk"—merge in a fresh and funny adventure with a Western flair.
by Raina Telgemeier. Scholastic/Graphix, (2010).
From sixth grade through tenth, Raina copes with a variety of dental problems that affect her appearance and how she feels about herself.
The Storm in the Barn
by Matt Phelan. Candlewick, (2009).
It's Kansas in 1937 and life is bleak during the dust bowl. Jack is left to his imagination in this graphic novel that is part historical fiction, part tall tale.
Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection
edited by Matt Dembicki. Fulcrum, (2010).
This collaborative effort by more than 40 writers and artists presents 21 Native American trickster tales in graphic novel format.
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty
by G. Neri. illus. by Randy DuBurke. Lee & Low, (2010).
Based on true events, this graphic novel, told through the eyes of a younger boy, tells the story of Robert (Yummy) as he tries to navigate the dangerous world of a Chicago neighborhood.
by Sharon Emerson. illus. by Renée Kurilla. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, (2010).
Vita and the members of her rock band Zebrafish raise money to help the children's hospital where one band member is receiving cancer treatments.
ALSC, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. With a network of more than 4,000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty, ALSC is committed to creating a better future for children through libraries. To learn more about ALSC, visit ALSC’s website at www.ala.org/alsc.