Before I start this post, let’s travel back a little in time. Let’s set the Delorean to, say, 1999 when Prince was on fire and a new book series featuring a precocious young wizard with a lightning bolt scar appeared on the scene. And across their parents’ livings rooms in the United States, young readers consumed what they affectionately termed “comic books.”
Well, times they are a’ changing. Harry Potter’s pretty much the only shoe-in for president that I could imagine for the next election. Prince… well, he’s still pretty much on fire. And comic books have become graphic novels.
This has been a pretty stellar year for graphic novels. Alison Bechdel’s adaption of her stunning graphic memoir, Fun Home, just won 5 Tonys. Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor is destined to convert even the most reluctant graphic novel reader. And Richard McGuire’s Here… Need I say more about that one? Lucky for you parents out there, the graphic novel transformation is sweeping through early readers, too. Here are five of my favorite new graphic novels for younger readers.
Anything by Raina Telgemeier
Telgemeier is killing it these days with her semi-autobiographical Smile, Sisters, along with the stand-alone Drama. Plus, Telgemeier has recently teamed with Ann M. Martin (of Babysitter’s Club Fame) to release Kristy’s Great Idea, Mary Anne Saves the Day, and Claudia and Mean Janine. Word has it that The Truth About Stacey is being released in July. I’ll believe it when I see it. These drama-filled girl-tastic dramas are juicy, but filled with messages of self-acceptance and empowerment. I don’t need to keep going, because chances are your daughter is sitting across from you reading one of these RIGHT NOW.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Roller Girl for the win! I loved reading about Astrid as she learned to skate, duck, and crash like a Roller Derby Queen. Astrid is a tomboy whose best friend has decided to spend her summer with Astrid’s mortal enemy doing ballet. Needless to say, Astrid is pretty darn vexed, and decides to go ahead and do a Roller Derby camp all by herself. Cuts, tears, and blue hair dye is in her future. I loved this new graphic novel for the 8-12 group!
Cardboard by Doug TenNapel
I really liked this graphic novel! It’s a thoughtful story for a slightly older audience. It touches on tough topics like unemployment, nasty kids in school, and difficult relationships with the people we love…and the ones we don’t. The story centers around a dad, his son, and a magical piece of cardboard. TenNapel’s fantasy is enough adventure for the kids, and enough allegory to keep parents appeased.
Zita the SpaceGirl by Ben Hatke
Zita is a kick-butt protagonist with enough sass to keep even the most reluctant reader interested. When Zita accidentally opens a portal to a futuristic alternate world, her friend, Joseph, gets sucked in. Zita is forced to follow him knowing only that he was taken by some kind of… spidery, machiney, HAIRY thing! She meets a guy named Piper who, along with his magical lute… well, I won’t spoil it. Ben Hatke is a super creative dude (take his children’s book Julia’s House for Lost Creatures as evidence) and his Zita Trilogy (you heard that right!) is stellar.
Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale
Another damsel turned die-hard, Hale reimagines the fairy tale if Rapunzel wasn’t such a push over. But Hale goes a bit farther, setting her story in a slightly dystopian, Steampunk future where Rapunzel’s real mother is an indentured servant and Rapunzel learns to use her hair like the weapon it truly is. I liked this one because the story is a bit more complex than some of the touchy-feely options out there. Still great adventure, though!
BigFoot Boy by J. Torres and Faith Erin Hicks
This one won’t challenge you too much cerebrally, but it will keep you entertained! Great art, a solid premise, and enough misplaced nudity to keep it hilarious. My only complaint is that the story is a little simply, but the characters are great! This would be a great match for an aged 6-8 reluctant reader.
Apocalypse Bow Wow by James Proimos III
Finally, an option for the early reader! This graphic novel is HIL-ARIOUS. I was honestly laughing out loud. What would dogs do if all the humans disappeared one day? Turns out, dogs are not as smart as we all thought… Think of this as an introduction to sarcasm for the 4-8 crowd.
Now that summer is upon us, these are probably the books your child is handing you in the bookstore. But that’s okay! A lot of this stuff has great content, high values, and strong leads. Plus, it’s a growing field, so keep your eyes peeled for even more exciting graphic novels for young readers to come. Stay tuned!