Graphic Novels

All kinds of stories are being told in graphic novel format, a style that mixes illustrations and text to create a unique reading experience. From adaptations of classics and modern favorites, to new work in fiction and nonfiction for all ages, graphic novels are for reluctant and avid readers alike, providing a different way to read. Reading graphic novels can benefit readers in different ways, such as creating empathy, allowing readers to read above their independent reading level, leveling the academic playing field, and building comprehension and critical reading skills. Novelist, comic book writer, and former teacher Kami Garcia goes into further detail and explains the importance of graphic novels in an article for TODAY. 

In honor of Free Comic Book Day on May 1st, we put together a list of graphic novels for you to enjoy throughout the month of May and beyond! From introductory comics for young readers to graphic novels for every age level to enjoy whether you’re new or old to the medium, as well as a short list of some graphic novels adapted from popular novels, we hope this list gives you either a new appreciation for the format or expands your already large list of graphic novels to read.

Curato, Mike
Flamer. 2020 (Teen).
It’s the summer between middle school and high school, and Aiden Navarro is nervous; he worries that he’ll just be trading one set of bullies for another. In middle school, bullies called him gay, and made fun of him for being pudgy, not being very athletic, and for being half-Filipino. Aiden was always on guard and is scared high school will just be the same. But for now, Aiden is in his happy place: scouting camp. Camp is a place where he feels like he’s good at things and is wanted. But this year, there are bullies at camp too, and it’s causing Aiden to doubt himself. Not to mention, he can’t stop thinking about his friend Elias, and it’s making things weird for Aiden – and it threatens to ruin their friendship and Aiden’s whole summer.
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Ha, Robin.
Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir. 2020 (Nonfiction Teen).
It’s always been Robin and her mom against the world; growing up in the 1990s as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded the two fiercely. So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama unexpectantly becomes a permanent relocation and Robin’s mom announces that she’s getting married, Robin is devastated. Her life completely changes overnight: she’s dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language; she’s completely cut off from her friends at home; she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily; and she’s furious with the one person she’s closest to – her mother. Then, one day, Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, and it opens the window to a future Robin could have never imagined.
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Hatke, Ben.
Little Robot. 2015 (Children).
One night, a large truck trundles over a bridge, on its way to deliver robots. An unexpected bump jars open the door and out plunges a box into the river. The next day, a five-year-old girl, armed with her tool belt and wrench, runs across the robot in the woods. When she presses its button, the robot comes alive. Though the two can’t communicate with words, they quickly develop their own language and become friends. But the new friends are in danger; once the factory discovers one of the robots is missing, a big bad robot is sent out to retrieve the little robot. In this nearly wordless picture book, these two characters learn boundaries and how to deal with disagreements and acceptance and navigating a new friendship when communicating is hard. This is a great introduction to graphic novels for the littles!
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Jamieson, Victoria.
When Stars Are Scattered. 2020 (Middle Grade).
Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother’s needs make life hard at the camp. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future, but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day. Told by a Somali refugee who lived the story, this graphic novel is an intimate, important look at the day-to-day life of a refugee.
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Medina, Tony
Illustrated by: Stacey Robinson and John Jennings
I Am Alfonso Jones. 2017 (Teen).
Alfonso Jones can’t wait to play the role of Hamlet in his school’s hip-hop rendition of the classic Shakespearean play. He also wants to let his best friend, Danetta, know how he really feels about her. But as he’s buying his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun and fatally shoots Alfonso. When Alfonso wakes up in the afterlife, he’s on a ghost train guided by well-known victims of police shootings, who teach him what he needs to know about this subterranean spiritual world. Meanwhile, Alfonso’s family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice for Alfonso in the streets. As they confront their realities, both Alfonso and those he loves realize the work that lies ahead in the fight for justice.
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Nguyen, Trung Le
The Magic Fish. 2020 (Teen).
Fairy tales are Tiến’s way of navigating through life. But real life isn’t a fairy tale. However, Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through? What about a way to tell them he’s gay?
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O’Neill, Katie.
The Tea Dragon Society. 2017 (Middle Grade).
Apprentice blacksmith Greta is leaving her mother’s forge one day when she comes across a lost little dragon. When Greta rescues the dragon and finds out who it belongs to, she sets off to return the dragon – only to get an invitation from the owner, Hesekiel, to come and learn all about the tea dragons he cares for. Greta learns how to care for the tea dragons and how to create the tea these dragons grow on their back. Along the way, Greta gets closer to Hesekiel and his husband, Erik, and makes friends with Minette, a young girl who was training to be a prophetess and is now having trouble remembering things. Together, this group of individuals caring for tea dragons becomes a society that was once dying.
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Stevenson, Noelle.
The Fire Never Goes Out: A Memoir in Pictures. 2020 (Nonfiction Teen).
In a collection of essays and personal mini-comics that span eight years of her young adult life, author-illustrator Noelle Stevenson charts the highs and lows of being a creative human in the world. Whether it’s hearing the wrong name called at her art school graduation ceremony or becoming a National Book Award finalist for her debut graphic novel, navigating fame and recognition or struggling with mental health and identity issues, Noelle captures the little and big moments, the great and the tough, that have made up her life.
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Weisner, David.
Mr. Wuffles! 2013 (Children).
A cat names Mr. Wuffles doesn’t care about toy mice or toy goldfish. He’s much more interested in playing with a little spaceship full of actual aliens – but the ship wasn’t designed for this kind of rough treatment. Between motion sickness and damaged equipment, the aliens are in deep trouble. When the space visitors dodge the cat and take shelter behind the radiator to repair the damage, they make a host of insect friends. This completely wordless picture book is a great way to introduce children to graphic novels.
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Yee, Reimena
Séance Tea Party. 2020 (Middle Grade).
Lora is reaching an age where she feels her friends drifting apart, especially from her as their interests turn towards those of typical teenagers, while Lora still enjoys things she fears her friends view as childish. A lover of all things spooky, Lora holds a séance with her imaginary fairy creatures, and she summons Alexa, the ghost who haunts her house. While Lora is fearful of the future and growing up, Alexa has missed the opportunity to grow up and has watched as generations of children pass her by. Is someone who can’t grow up, who will always be around for her, exactly what Lora needs?
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Popular Adaptations

Palacio, R.J.
White Bird: A Wonder Story. 2019 (Middle Grade).
Have you read and loved Wonder? This graphic novel spin-off from the same universe follows Julian, who has an assignment at school to ask his grandmother to tell a story. Julian calls Grandmère, who tells a story of herself as a young Jewish girl hidden away by family in Nazi-occupied France during World War II.
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Reynolds, Jason.
Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel. 2020 (Teen).
This graphic novel adaptation of the bestselling and award-winning novel, Long Way Down, uses a different medium to reach new and old readers alike. Fifteen-year-old Will has shoved a gun in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother was just murdered. And Will knows the rules: No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will is now heading, with the gun that was his brother’s gun. Will gets on the elevator, knowing where he’s going and who he’s after. Or does he? The story takes place within the sixty seconds he’s on the elevator, where he comes across people Will knows died, people his brother was connected to — people who give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows about his brother’s death.
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Russel, Craig P. and Neil Gaiman.
The Graveyard Book. 2014 (Teen).
Nobody “Bod” Owens is an orphan, taken in by residents of a graveyard after his parents are brutally murdered. Well, dead residents. Bod has been raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the world of the dead. There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard: the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer; a gravestone entrance to a desert that leads to the city of ghouls; friendship with a witch, and much more. But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks, for it is there that the man Jack lives – and he has already killed Bod’s family. This graphic novel is an adaption of the bestselling and award-winning novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, available for new and old readers alike.
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