Graphic Novels

What are some excellent graphic novels?
Before we get to the answer, we need to ask another question:
What are graphic novels?
Answer: comic books (or sometimes novels with pictures that help tell the story)

Comic books are stories that are told using pictures. Most of the time, there are also words but the pictures are essential if you really want to know what is happening in the stories. These stories can be fiction or nonfiction, made-up or factual. But they all include pictures that do more than illustrate or portray the words. The pictures help tell the stories.

Of course, if you’re in middle school, you already know of other books that tell a story in words and pictures. They’re called ‘picture books’. Think of Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. If you only saw the words, you wouldn’t know that the baby grows up to be a man who carries his elderly mother to bed. Think of The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. If you only saw the words, you would miss much of the happiness and humour..

Graphic novels are comic books that tell stories. Like any other form of writing – nonfiction books, novels or articles – some graphic novels are considered better written than other.  

Here are some of my favourites:

The Only ChildGuojing. The Only Child. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015.

“In this wordless graphic novel, a young girl traveling from her city apartment to her grandmother’s country home becomes lost and enters a fantastical world in the clouds.” – CIP. Recommended for readers 8-years-old and up.  [Adventure stories; Missing Children] 

Liu, Na and Andrés Vera Martínez. Little White Duck: a Childhood in China. Minneapolis: Graphic Universe, 2012.
Da Qin and her younger sister live with their parents in the city of Wuhan, China. This thought-provoking graphic novel – composed of 8 short stories – describes the author’s childhood in the 1970s. Emotive illustrations by the author’s husband – Andrés Vera Martínez – help to create a powerful portrait of life for two little girls in a changing world. Recommended for competent readers 9 years old and up.

Tolstikova, Dasha. A Year Without Mom. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2015.
Twelve-year-old Dasha remains with her grandparents when her mother moves to the U.S. to attend university. She spends time with her friends, falls in love, studies for exams, and attends art classes on the weekends. This autobiographical graphic novel is humorous in its vivid depiction of the emotional life of an adolescent. Dasha might live in Russia but her turmoils are similar to those of seventh-graders in the U.S. and Canada. Recommended for readers 11 to 16 years old. [Moscow; Mothers and daughters; Schools; Tolstikova, Dasha]

Here are some graphic novels suitable for middle school students:

The Adventures of Tintin series by Herge
– the Bone books by Jeff Smith


Briggs, Raymond. Ug : Boy Genius of the Stone Age and His Search for Soft TrousersNew York: Knopf, 2002.

“To the dismay of his parents and friends, a prehistoric boy continually thinks of making things softer, warmer, and nicer, rather than being content in a world of stone.” – CIP. (Note that the mother in the story is topless, although rather formless.)

There are also many non-fiction books that are written as graphic novels:
– the Graphic Library series of biographies of important people in history such as Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Franklin, Jane Goodall and Helen Keller
– the Max Axiom series about all sorts of science topics such as global warming
The Strongest Man in the World by Nicolas Debon, a biography about a strongman and circus owner from Quebec
T-Minus: the Race to the Moon by Jim Ottaviani about the first human lunar landing. A Junior Literery Guild Selection.

Humphries, Jessica Dee and Michel Chikwanine. Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used in War. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2015.

This graphic novel tells the true story of author Michel Chikwanine who came to Canada from the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa when he was 16 years old. Additional information and suggested resources for further research accompany this powerful autobiography recommended for readers 11 years old and up.

Many of the classics have been turned into graphic novels:
Gulliver’s Travels retold by John Malam (Barrons Educational Series, 2009)
– the No Fear Shakespeare series which provides the original text of Shakespeare’s plays alongside a modern illustrated version
The Odyssey retold by Fiona Macdonald (Barrons Educational Series, 2009)

– Dracula retold by Fiona Macdonald (Barrons Educational, 2007)

Doctor Dollittle

Chwast, Seymour. Doctor Dolittle. Mankato, Minn.: Creative Editions, 2015.

“A man learns to talk to animals and becomes their champion around the world, in this graphic novel retelling of Hugh Lofting’s Story of Doctor Dolittle.” – CIP.

There are also some completely wordless graphic novels:
The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007)
No! by David McPhail (Roaring Book Press, 2009)
The Other Side by Istvan Banyai (Chronicle Books, 2005)

And more and more novels are being turned into graphic novels:
Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan
Good-bye Marianne by Irene N. Watts
Redwall by Brian Jacques
Return to the Clans by Erin Hunter
The Rise of Scourge by Erin Hunter
Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz

Here are some graphic novels that are suitable for younger readers:
Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2007)
Red Ted and the Lost Things by Michael Rosen (Candlewick Press, 2009).

Hrab, Naseem. Otis & Peanut. Toronto: Owlkids Books, 2023.
Otis and Peanut, a guinea pig and a mole rat join the pantheon of fictional best friends in three little stories told in graphic novel format. They go shopping together. They play on the swings together. They remember happy times with their friend Pearl and talk about their sadness now that she’s gone. They encourage each other and learn how to find joy in life again. A wonderful book – with a recipe for baked potatoes at the end – for readers seven to ten years old. 

Here is a list of some of graphic novels that have AR tests:
523.1 Bai Bailey, Jacqui. The Birth Of the Earth. (AR 5.1)
534 Soh Sohn, Emily. Adventures in sound with Max Axiom. (AR 3.9)
591.3 Bai Bailey, Jacqui. The Stick and Stone Age. (AR 5.4)
F Smi Smith Jeff. Eyes of the Storm. (AR 2.6)
F Smi Smith, Jeff. Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border. (AR 2.2)
F Smi Smith, Jeff. Old Man’s Cave. (AR 2.7)
F Smi Smith, Jeff. Out from Boneville. (AR 2.4)
F Smi Smith, Jeff. The Dragonslayer. (AR 2.6)
F Smi Smith, Jeff. The Great Cow Race Adventure. (AR 2.4)
B Car Olson, Nathan. George Washington Carver: Ingenious Inventor. (AR 4.2)
B Col Wade, Mary. Christopher Columbus: Famous Explorer. (AR 2.7)
B Nig Robbins, Trina. Florence Nightingale. (AR 4.2)
B Pol Smalley, Roger. The Adventures of Marco Polo. (AR 4.1)
B Kel Welvaert, Scott. Helen Keller: Courageous Advocate. (AR 3.7)
B Hen Hoena, B. A. Matthew Henson: Arctic Adventurer. (AR 2.3)

Your Comments!

Graphic novels are very exciting to read because you can see that action while you read the saying. They are full of action and fighting, and the blood and gore in them makes them really cool. They are even better because you can see the emotion in the character as they say something. You can really get into them! (Trenton in gr. 7)

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