Graphic novels are a ton of fun to read, even if you’re an accomplished reader, and they can make some stories accessible and appealing to struggling readers. These are my top recommendations for graphic novels for folks reading in the classic young adult range. These have a level of on screen violence and physical relationships that you’d see on the television or in a PG film. I only list the first book in a series, because it’s a good idea to make sure you like book one before picking up all of them.
Author’s name is at the top.
Book title (only the first in a series will be listed)
– Notes or description preceded by a hyphen
– Autobiography of a Russian-American summer camp experience. The main character is the daughter of a Russian immigrant, and she has heard about the wonders of camp for years. When she finally gets to go to Russian summer camp, it’s not quite as she expected. How will she survive? How will she make friends
Cardcaptor Sakura Vol 1
– The new omnibus editions are nice because they are a lot of manga for the money, but the bindings may get a bit stressed, strong female characters, magical girls, sensitive boys, classic manga.
The Saga of Rex
– Wonderful fox adventure, told more in pictures than in words, beautiful art.
– Steampunk western fractured retelling of Rapunzel, where she saves herself. Lots of fun fairy tale stuff, ethnic diversity, and growth.
– Autobiography. A great look at relational aggression, bullying, and “mean girls” and how to make real friends without getting sucked into the drama.
Zita The Spacegirl Book 1
– Strong female protagonist, who takes responsibility for her actions, and makes tough choices because they are the right thing to do. Victory is not attained merely by force or might, and relies heavily on the main character’s ability to make friends. Great for younger readers.
The Stonekeeper: Amulet #1
– Fantasy, magic, strong female characters.
Chi’s Sweet Home Vol 1
– Another omnibus, very little text, a sweet story about a kitty, for very young and sensitive kids you may want to have ample time to get to a point where Chi has been adopted (my daughter was so worried about the poor lost kitten). Great for younger readers.
Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Lost Adventures
– Short tales of what Team Avatar was doing in between episodes or in their off screen time. The stories fit into the television show’s storyline.
Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice
– science fiction with strong female characters. A fun adventure that seems to have been influenced by a number of geeky sources, reminiscent of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with elements of a boarding school story plus some Indiana Jones components.
Ms Marvel Volume 1: No Normal
– Superheroes. This is a collection of comics that have been assembled as a cohesive story. Kamala is the daughter of immigrants and she is Muslim, so it’s some nice diversity in our reading material. In this volume we see her struggle to figure out her place as a new super hero.
Polly and the Pirates
– Steampunk-ish. Strong female character.
Courtney Crumrin and the Night things Collection
– Contemporary magic, goth/dark fiction/horror (but not too scary), strong female character, first in an excellent series. If getting for a younger kid, maybe screen it first.
Phoebe and Her Unicorn: Heavenly Nostrils #1
– Contemporary fantasy, lots of sass, strong female characters
Korgi Book 1 Sprouting Wings
– Fantasy. Other than an intro, this has no words. The artwork is gorgeous. Strong female characters.
Lumberjanes Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
– Think over-the-top, hard-core Girl Scouts and add in some magic. Strong female characters, friendships, and adventure.
Ranma 1/2 Vol: 1
– Manga. Contains some vague nudity and exploration of gender. Ranma is cursed, and every time he gets hit by cold water, he turns into a cute girl version of himself. He’s a fantastic martial artist, and his grandfather (who is cursed to turn into a panda when he gets wet) is arranging a marriage for him with a girl who likes him better when he’s a girl.
Gene Luen Yang
Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise
– Picks up right where Avatar:The Last Airbender leaves off. The tone and characters are consistent with the series, making it a perfect follow-up. This is available in three separate volumes or a pretty hardcover “library” edition containing all three.
Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro
– Strong female characters, urban fantasy (give it time, it gets there) with faeries and magic.
Check out my recommendations for more book ideas.