Thursday, December 31, 2020
Monday, December 28, 2020
What Are the Best Graphic Novels for Kids and Teens?
“Can you recommend a good graphic novel for my son/daughter who is [so many] years old?”
I’ve heard this question a lot, and I’ve been pondering the answer a long, long time. My main problem is that there are just so many great books out there for kids! How do you choose?
Well, I do have one easy answer, and it's The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson. Squirrel Girl eats nuts and kicks butts and is just the best superhero there is, hands and paws down.
I don’t care how old your child is, what their gender is, or even if you have a kid. Squirrel Girl is just the best comic-book/graphic-novel series there ever was.
So I'm just going to tell you why the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the graphic novel series you should get your kids (and yourself), and then I'm going to follow it with a long, though incomplete list of some great graphic novels for kids and teens.
A bit about me: I’m a mom, a life-long lover of comics, a former comics magazine editor, editorial cartoonist, consumer columnist and arts-and-entertainment writer, and I have degrees in English Literature and Theater Studies, as well as a teacher’s certificate. I have no personal connection to any of the graphic novels mentioned here other than having read them.
So let’s get to it.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
By Ryan North and Erica Henderson
Recommended age group: All of them
As the name implies, this is the story of a girl with squirrel powers. She has a powerful tail, agility, proportional squirrel strength (including in her bite), and she can talk to squirrels.
That's not what makes her my favorite superhero.
Squirrel Girl defeats her enemies by turning them into her friends. How? She talks to them and finds out why they are behaving badly. Then she offers them a less destructive alternative.
One teacher I introduced Squirrel Girl to said, “Oh, she’s a superhero psychologist!” Well, she’s actually a computer science student, but yeah. She helps villains become better people. How is that not the best superhero ever?
But it’s more than that, of course. Squirrel Girl also introduces readers to some math concepts and computer science. I’m not kidding! Here she is teaching how binary can let you count up to 31 on one hand.
And speaking of kidding, did you notice the footnote above? Ryan North includes hilarious footnotes on most pages of Squirrel Girl, as well as many of the other comic books he writes. It goes above and beyond what you get with any other comic book (or at least any other comic book that wasn’t written by Ryan North).
And let’s not forget Erica Henderson’s artwork, which perfectly complements the writing.
Henderson makes every character unique, and I have to love that so many different faces and body types are represented. Squirrel Girl herself has thick thighs, like me. The body positivity is just wonderful.
Derek Charm replaced Henderson toward the end of the series, and while Charm’s work is dynamic, I really missed Henderson’s artwork. She brought these characters to life and made them real for me. No other artist who's drawn Squirrel Girl had done it so well.
An A+ just isn’t a high enough grade for the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. This series can be enjoyed by every member of the family and deserves an A++.
Shannon and Dean Hale’s novels about Squirrel Girl’s early adventures are also very highly recommended for middle-graders and advanced younger readers, as are Ryan North's Power Pack, Jugheah, and Adventure Time graphic novels. His choose-your-own-adventure books, Romeo and/or Juliet and To Be or Not to Be, as well as his nonfiction book How to Invent Everything are recommended for teens, adults and more advanced middle-grade readers.
I just can't recommend The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl written by Ryan North and illustrated Erica Henderson highly enough.
But wait, as they like to say in infomercials, there's more!
A Partial List of Other Recommended Graphic Novels for Kids and Teens
OZ: The Complete Collection adapted by Eric Shanower, art by Skottie Young (7+ for some tense situations)
Bone by Jeff Smith (7+ for some tense situations and bad behavior)
The Ballad of YaYa by Patrick Marty (10+ for very tense situations. This series deals realistically with war from a child's perspective.)
The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner (7+ for some tense situations)
Giant Days by John Allison (older YA for adult situations)
Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki, art by Steve Pugh (10+ for tense situations and bad behavior)
Zatanna and the House of Secrets by Matthew Cody, art by Yoshi Yoshitani (grades 1-4)
The Backstagers by James Tynion IV (7+ for some tense situations and mild, not graphic romance)
Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Brooklyn A. Allen and Noelle Stevenson, who created the new She-Rah and the Princesses of Power (7+ for some tense situations and mild, not graphic romance)
Space Boy by Stephen McCranie (10+ for tense situations and peril, some implied violence, and teen romance)
Enola Holmes by Séréna Blasco, originally published in France, based on the novels by Nancy Springer that inspired the Netflix series starring Emma Watson (10+ for tense situations, bad behavior, and implied violence)
Brave, Awkward and Crush by Svetlana Chmakova (10+ for middle-grade subject matter, such as first crushes, school gossip, and bullying. Particularly recommended for school libraries)
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (7+)
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (10+)
Stargazing by Jen Wang (7+ this book involves a tense situation with a child who has a serious medical issue)
The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith (7+)
Jughead by Chip Zdarsky, illustrated by Erica Henderson, and Jughead by Ryan North and illustrated by Derek Charm (ALL ages. I learned to read with Archie Comics, and these are Archie Comics written by North and Zdarsky. Nuff said.)
Adventure Time by Ryan North (ALL ages with some mild tension)
Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi (7+ Super easy to read but high in tension, perfect for middle-grade reluctant readers)
Avatar: The Last Airbender, based on the animated series from Nickelodeon (7+ High in tension and peril, some violence, though nothing graphic, some romance but nothing shown beyond kissing)
Sisters, Smile, and Guts by Raina Telgemeier (all ages, although Sisters deals realistically with sibling rivalry and Guts deals realistically with a health issue, particularly recommended for school libraries)
El Deafo by Cece Bell (all ages, autobiographical, deals with growing up with hearing loss)
Lightfall: The Girl and the Galdurian (7+ for some tense situations)
Diana: Princesss of the Amazons by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Victoria Ying (grades 1-4, easy to read, some tension, peril, and naughty behavior)
More: The Unstoppable Wasp, Spider-Man (by Brian Michael Bendis), Ironheart, Supergirl: Being Super, All-New Wolverine, Marvel’s Runaways, Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson