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More Graphic Novels: Have They Taken Us by Surprise?

By Stan Steiner
 | May 15, 2017

Graphic novels tend to be more engaging and fast-paced while facilitating essential visual literacy skills, making them well-suited for younger audiences. More educators are embracing graphic novels as a way to hook reluctant readers who may not be interested in traditional texts. This list includes some of the most vibrant new primary-level graphic novels for readers of all ages, abilities, and interests.

Ages 4–8

The Amazing Crafty Cat (Crafty Cat #1). Charise Mericle Harper. 2017. First Second/Roaring Brook.

The Amazing Crafty CatYoung Birdie’s positive energy, love of crafting, and strong imagination come together in her creation of the Amazing Crafty Cat—her superhero counterpart who can fix any problem. Crafty Cat’s powers are tested when disaster strikes; Birdie trips on the way to school, dropping and destroying her perfect birthday cupcakes. Is Birdie’s birthday celebration ruined, or will Crafty Cat come to the rescue? Together, Birdie and Craft Cat show readers how to handle bullies, embarrassing moments, and uncomfortable situations with a positive mindset.

Hotel Strange 4The Ghosts in the Clouds
(Hotel Strange #4). Katherine Ferrier & Florian Ferrier. Ill. Katherine Ferrier. 2017. Graphic Universe/Lerner.

At Hotel Strange all occupants are doing their part to get things ready for winter. Their planning comes to a halt when grumpy ghosts arrive to capture Mr. Snarf, a new arrival at the hotel. After a brief encounter with the ghost patrol, the people at Hotel Strange learn that Mr. Snarf is wanted for crimes in his homeland, the Kingdom of Ghosts. A group of hotel guests believe Mr. Snarf has been unjustly accused and decide to launch a rescue mission by way of air balloon. The Kingdom of Ghosts is full of silly rules, and the rescue crew is thrown in jail for picnicking. An exercise in wit leads to their eventual freedom and a surprise realization for all inhabitants of the kingdom.

My Kite is StuckMy Kite Is Stuck! and Other Stories (Duck, Duck, Porcupine). Salina Yoon. 2017. Bloomsbury.

Loud and bossy Big Duck, quiet and smart Little Duck, and friendly and kind Porcupine are best friends, despite their personality differences. As they play together, they use their collective problem-solving skills and humor to solve challenges like how to free a kite from a tree, how to make new friends, and how to build the best lemonade stand.

Word playWordplay
(Toon into Reading). Ivan Brunetti. 2017. Toon.

After learning about compound words in class, Annemarie starts to see them everywhere. One day her obsession with discovering compound words goes too far at dinner, and Dad sends Annemarie to her bedroom, where she finds even more. Brunetti’s engaging and humorous approach to learning compound words inspires readers to try their own hands at wordplay.

Ages 9–11

The-Big-Bad-FoxThe Big Bad Fox. Benjamin Renner. 2017. First Second/Roaring Brook.

Fox and Wolf are determined to get into the hen house to steal some tasty eggs. When Fox manages to sneak past the lazy guard dog and steal three eggs, they decide to raise the chicks until fully grown to provide them with a bigger, more satisfying meal. The plan goes awry when the chicks hatch and call Fox “Mommy.” The unexpected twists and turns that follow as Fox stumbles through parenthood are sure to have readers laughing out loud.

HiloThe Great Big Boom (Hilo #3). Judd Winick. 2017. Random House.

Hilo, a robot from another dimension, continues to have adventures with his two best friends, D.J. and Gina, in this latest book of this funny, gripping, and action-packed series. Hilo is still able to fly between planets, but suffers from a mysterious memory loss that is linked to his strange appearance on Earth. The army has picked up on Hilo’s superpowers and throws him and D.J. in jail. When Hilo starts tinkering with the prison security devices, readers are transported into Hilo’s flashbacks. Readers are taken on one rollicking intergalactic adventure after another with the dynamic trio

Making ScentsMaking Scents. Arthur Yorinks. Ill. Braden Lamb & Shelli Paroline. 2017. First Second/Roaring Brook.

Yorinks spins the dog world on its nose in this heartwarming tale about Mickey, a boy raised in a family of bloodhounds by his dog-loving parents. His life is perfect until a tragic accident occurs, and he is sent to live with an aunt and uncle who do not like kids or dogs. In the end, however, Mickey’s dog-like instincts help him win his relatives’ love.

Star ScoutsStar Scouts
(Star Scouts #1). Mike Lawrence. 2017. First Second/Roaring Brook.

This uproarious adventure stars two Star Scouts, one on earth and the other in space. As the new girl in town, Avani Patel’s father enrolls her in Flower Scouts to make friends. Avani dislikes the troop; she wants to have adventures, but all the other scouts just like to gossip. Mabel, a Star Scout in space, must identify an alien from Earth to earn a collection badge. Mabel abducts Avani, and they become fast friends through their shared knack for adventure. Life gets exciting for both Avani and Mabel when they compete against a team of bullies for the most badges at Camp Andromeda.  

Ages 12–14

Pigs-Might-FlyPigs Might Fly (Pigs Might Fly #1). Nick Abadzis. Ill. Jerel Dye. 2017. First Second/Roaring Brook.

Pigdom Plains is the backdrop to this fantastical tale starring Lily Leanchops, who must use her scientific prowess to save all of pigkind. Most hogfolk in Pigdom Plains believe that if pigs were meant to fly, they would have been born with wings. Lily Leanchops, the daughter of a renowned inventor, is determined to prove them wrong and sets out to build an aircraft. Pigs Might Fly is a classic story of good versus evil, complicated by father–daughter love, magic, and politics.  

Volcano TrashVolcano Trash. Ben Sears. 2017. Koyama.

This futuristic story follows Volcano Trash and his sidekick robot Hank, a pair of criminals with good intentions. When Volcano Trash and Hank take the rap for a string of break-ins, they are caught by the corrupt police force and put in jail. Hank decides to take the blame so that Volcano Trash can go. Volcano Trash, however, is lost without his partner. In a swashbuckling adventure, he carries out a risky and clever plan to liberate Hank.

Ages 15+

Another-CastleAnother Castle (Grimoire #1). Andrew Wheeler. Ill. Paulina Ganucheau. 2017. Oni.

The story begins when Princess Misty of Beldora is captured by Lord Badlug, the feared, murderous ruler of a neighboring kingdom. Lord Badlug’s plan is to marry Princess Misty and lead Beldora into ruin and chaos. Chivalry, wit, and determination take Princess Misty on a death-defying path to heroism. Along the way, she befriends an assortment of characters with special powers, who help and challenge her mission.

Colonial ComicsColonial Comics: New England: 1750-1775.
Jason Rodriguez (Ed.). 2017. Fulcrum.

Prefaced with factual background information, this story focuses on lesser-known figures and events from an important period in American history. Readers are introduced to such characters as Benjamin Franklin’s older brother James, Phyllis Wheatley, Molly Ockett, Thomas Hutchinson, and Samson Occom. They also get new perspectives on such events as the Stamp Act, the Boston Tea Party, and Paul Revere’s ride. The story is equal parts educational and entertaining.

YvainYvain: The Knight of the Lion. M. T. Anderson. Ill. Andrea Offermann. 2017. Candlewick.

Yvain, well trained in King Arthur’s Court, finds more adventure than he bargained for when an unexpected confrontation puts him in direct combat with Sir Esclado, duke of a neighboring castle. Yvain is trapped inside the castle and learns Sir Esclado has died from the wounds he inflicted. As Yvain watches the funeral from his cell window, he realizes he is in love with Sir Esclado’s wife, Lady Laudine. For Yvain to win her heart, he must prove his bravery and defend her land.

Stan Steiner teaches children’s/young adult literature at Boise State University. He has had a long relationship with bringing awareness to multicultural literature through his teaching and publications. Interacting with kids keeps him abreast of popular reads as is the case with graphic novels.

These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.
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