Graphic Novels for Every Reader
What comes to mind when you think of graphic novels? Maybe it’s superhero comics, easy reading, or books not written for me. Though it’s true that some graphic novels have superheroes, there are many narratives including manga, coming of age, environmental justice, fantasy, and non-fiction. Today I want to recommend a few to dispel the myth that graphic novels are just one thing or meant for certain types of readers. Rather, they are one more way to explore new ideas and read about relatable characters, while also presenting a different narrative format that helps bolster reading comprehension and storytelling skills.
Putuguq & Kublu and the Qalupalik! - written by Roselynn Akulujuk and Danny Christopher, illustrated by Astrid Arijanto
In Arviq Bay, siblings Putuguq and Kublu find themselves on a make-believe adventure that quickly turns into a suspenseful and bone-tingling mystery…that could be true? The truth lies under the ice and that’s no place Putuguq wants to look even though Kublu says there’s nothing to be scared about. Just enough spookiness to keep kids reading while learning about an Inuit folktale. Bold illustrations and easy-to-follow dialogue make this a great introduction to the page layout of graphic novels. Recommended for ages 5-8.
Green Lantern: Legacy - written by Minh Lê, illustrated by Andie Tong
Tai navigates every day, ordinary kid struggles like bullies at school, family dynamics, and arguments with friends, but what he doesn’t know is that his world is about to become extraordinary when he learns about his titular family legacy. Tai loves drawing and it is his creativity and the support of his family to “be curious” that ultimately fuels his powers and saves the day. Lê writes believable dialogue that creates distinctive characters with a surprising amount of depth for such a short read. Tong adeptly conveys emotional changes and action sequences. Themes and subplots of microaggressions, gentrification and the power of working together is intricately sewn throughout. Whether you’re a fan of Green Lantern or not, you’re not going to be able to put this book down. Recommended for ages 8-12.
Operatic - written by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler
You will be immediately pulled into Charlotte’s middle school life where she navigates friendship circles, first crush feelings, self-reflection, and compassion. Middle school isn’t always easy and this story exposes many of the darker sides (homophobia, depression), but instead of offering neat solutions, it offers in the illustrations and texts the space to just be with whatever is going on. That space allows the reader to consider how they feel - at that point in the book and in their own lives. Maclear's exquisite pencil-drawn illustrations highlight the details and emotions in every scene with their use of different colors to delineate between perspectives - Charlotte’s, Luka’s, and Maria’s. Readers will be wondering: what is my song for this moment in my life? Whether that’s a well-known genre like punk rock or the sound of cicadas, this story reminds us that music is the salve that heals and a catalyst for growth. Recommended ages 10-13.
Little Robot- by Ben Hatke
A shy, young kid with a penchant for engineering makes an unlikely friend when they find a box that fell off a truck. The box contains a friendly robot. The child immediately wants to hang out with the robot and explore the junkyard and the woods together. They have lots of fun day after day, but danger looms when a large and angry robot from the factory goes looking for the friendly robot. With Hatke’s emotive illustrations and masterful cell layout you’ll remain captivated by their adventures and friendship trials. The story is so captivating, a found family friendship à la Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, that you may not realize right away that it is a mostly wordless graphic novel. You’ll be cheering for them and relating to their struggles as they navigate feelings of loss, trust, and anger, culminating in a battle-tested friendship. Recommended ages 7-10.