At the 2015 New York ComicCon, I attended a panel called “Geeking the Stacks.” It was about libraries and graphic novels for kids and teens, and I found it very informative.
One thing I learned is that kids today LOVE graphic novels, so much so that one of the publishers at the panel said, “Send us your graphic novels. We can’t publish them fast enough!” There aren’t that many people out there who can write and draw well in the graphic novel format and who are interested in creating books for kids and teens. If that’s you, you’re in luck!
The librarians talked about what seem to be the most popular graphic novels among kids and teens. Here are just three of the ones that I also love: Smile, El Deafo, and Baba Yaga’s Assistant.
SMILE by Raina Telgemeier
1. Smile by Raina Telgemeier tells the personal story of one girl’s experience with braces. Raina explains that while she needed braces to fix an overbite, she REALLY needed braces after an accident knocked out her two front teeth!
I really liked Smile, because I could relate to Raina. Not only did I need braces, but I know what it’s like to have friends who aren’t your friends at all. I also know the courage it takes to let go of a bad situation when it’s the only one you’ve ever known so that you can find new friends, nerd friends like you who love the same things you do and will support you instead of pressuring you to be someone you're not.
Smile has won several awards, and I can see why. This is a perfect graphic novel for teens and preteens dealing with braces and negative peer pressure. I love it!
EL DEAFO by Cece Bell
2. El Deafo by Cece Bell tells Cece’s very personal story about how she became deaf and discovered her own “superpower.”
El Deafo is great, because it shows that deaf kids are just like other kids. They just want to have friends, especially a best friend. They aren’t perfect, and they don’t want to be treated differently because they’re deaf. Cece also explains some of the struggles of being deaf that most of us hearing people don’t know anything about, like the difficulty of going to a sleepover party when you can’t read lips in the dark. Cece isn’t perfect, and she doesn’t always make the right choices, but that’s okay. What real kid does? El Deafo has also won several prestigious awards, and it’s no wonder why: El Deafo rocks!
BABA YAGA'S ASSISTANT by Marika McCoola
3. While the other two books here are essentially memoirs in graphic novel form, Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola and illustrated by Emily Carroll is a fantasy that brings the legend of Baba Yaga into a modern-day setting.
Baba Yaga is a witch in Russian fairytales. Sometimes she's bad, but most of the time she’s scary and harmless, at least when it comes to kids who are kind and clever. The main character, Masha, is both. Her father is about to remarry, and while her future step-mother seems okay, her future step-sister is a little brat who likes to bite people. But that's not the only reason why Masha is unhappy. Recently, her beloved grandmother died, and Masha misses her a lot. Masha's grandmother used to tell her stories of her fantastic adventures with Baba Yaga, so when Masha finds a want ad from Baba Yaga, she jumps at the chance to become the witch's assistant.
Will it turn out to be everything that Masha hopes, or will she get turned into Baba Yaga’s supper? And if Baba Yaga does like her, will Masha choose to stay, or will she change her mind and return home? You'll have to read the book to find out.
I’m familiar with Baba Yaga from other children’s books, but I really like the modern-teenage take in Baba Yaga’s Assistant. Masha is plucky, kind and resourceful, and I’d love to read more books about her. I highly recommend this book for kids and teens who prefer graphic novels with elements of fantasy and some scares, but nothing too scary. Masha is a great main character, the art is beautiful, and the story seems to hit all the right notes. I love it!
These aren’t the only graphic novels for kids and teens that I love, but I think these three are a good start for anyone who wants to give this genre a try.
And remember: if you love something, say something!