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Graphic Novels: The Bridge Between Visual and Print Media

By Stan Steiner
 | May 08, 2017

When words are not enough, graphics allow writers to reach new heights of creativity, experimentation, and emotion. While varying in form, the recently-published books on this list all use imagery to explore rich historical, biographical, and cultural themes and impart ageless life lessons.   


Ages 48

Bird & Squirrel on Fire (Bird & Squirrel #4). James Burks. 2017. Graphix/Scholastic.

Bird & Squirrel on FireBird and Squirrel are unlikely best friends. Squirrel anxiously longs for the comfort of his home, never wanting to venture far. Bird, on the other hand, craves adventure and has no fear. One day, Squirrel returns from a day of exploring to find his home engulfed in flames. Squirrel is frantic; all he can think about are his ruined possessions. Through this disaster, Squirrel ultimately learns the value of friendships, and the true meaning of "home." 


Dog Man Unleashed
(Dog Man #2). Dav Pilkey. 2017. Graphix/Scholastic.

Dog Man UnleashedDav Pilkey, creator of Captain Underpants, is back with this second installment of Dog Man. This series tells the story of an inseparable cop and police dog: the best crime fighters in the city. One day, a huge explosion in the police station leaves the cop with a serious head injury, and the dog with a disfigured body. A surgeon decides to save their lives by attaching the dog’s head to the police officer’s body, thus the birth of Dog Man. Pilkey’s child-friendly humor flourishes in this new crime stoppers series.


A Perfect View (Cici: A Fairy Tale
#3). Cori Doerrfeld. Ill. Tyler Page & Cori Doerrfeld. 2017. Graphic Universe/Lerner.

CiciCici is a fairy who sees the world differently. Her Grandma tries to warn her that a fairy who does not know her own powers is likely to encounter mischief and unexplained happenings. When Cici decides to take her new friend Kendra on her first camping trip, a near-disaster teaches Cici that cooperation and friendship are important in both the fairy world and the real world.


Something’s Fishy
(Giggle & Learn). Kevin McCloskey. 2017. Toon.

Something's FishyThe story opens with a "fishy" alphabet, each letter corresponding to an exotic fish and a description of its unique characteristics. Readers will learn surprising facts, for example, not all fish have fins and scales. Something's Fishy concludes with the history of the goldfish, lending insight into this common household pet.


Ages 911

Bad Kitty Takes the Test (Bad Kitty). Nick Bruel. 2017. Neal Porter/Roaring Book.

Bad Kitty Takes a TestIn this satirical episode, Kitty panics when the Society of Cat Aptitude, noting her history of bad behavior, requires her to take an aptitude test that will determine her feline status. As she experiences the pressures of test-taking, Kitty learns a lot about herself, and realizes that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Kitty’s experience with testing may change readers’ mentality toward their next exam.


Flying Machines: How the Wright Brothers Soared
(Science Comics). Alison Wilgus. Ill. Molly Brooks. 2017.

wright brothersLooking for great STEM literature? In How the Wright Brothers Soared, Katharine Wright narrates the scientific journey that lead to modern aviation. In real life, Katharine played an important role in her brothers’ success. The book includes brief biographies on key players in the aviation world, along with a glossary of aeronautical terminology.



Real Friends: A True Story About Cool Kids and Crybabies
. Shannon Hale. 2017. First Second/Roaring Brook.

Real FriendsWhile intended for young people, this memoir will resonate with anyone who has ever felt like an outcast. Real Friends follows fifth-grader Shannon Hale as she struggles to make friends, keep friends, hold onto her popularity, get along with her family, and overcome feelings of anxiety and insecurity. Through these painful growing pains, Hale learns to recognize and cherish the elements of real friendship.


Ages 1214

News Prints (News Print #1). Ru Xu. 2017. Graphix/Scholastic.

News PrintsSet in the 1920s with futuristic notions of robots, time travel, and other civilizations, News Prints is filled with page-turning, action-packed mystery. The book stars spunky Lavender Blue, a female orphan disguised as a newsboy, who sells papers to make money during a costly war. Blue’s heroic actions lead her to realize the importance of being true to oneself and to others.




One Weirdest Weekend
(Pix #1). Gregg Schigiel. 2017. Image Comics.

One Weirdest WeekendIn her first original graphic novel, Pix the “Superteen” is a hero who wears a cape, rescues people and pets, and prevents imminent disasters—all while avoiding the pitfalls of her own youthful naiveté. Between rescue operations, Pix battles the trials of teenagehood—bad dates, even worse cell service, and an overprotective mom.


Ages 15+

MWD: Hell Is Coming Home. Brian David Johnson & Jan Egleson. Ill. Laila Milevski & Karl Stevens. 2017. Candlewick.

MWD: Hell is Coming HomeGeared towards older readers, MWD: Hell Is Coming Home tells the story of Liz Mastrangelo, a former soldier in the Iraq War who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Part of the story is told through flashbacks: her memories of bonding with a military working dog, juxtaposed by the sobering realities of a war zone. The rest of the story follows her struggle to reenter into relationships and society as she copes with mood swings and other symptoms associated with PTSD.


Spill Zone
(Spill Zone #1). Scott Westerfeld. Ill. Alex Puvilland. 2017. First Second/Roaring Brook.

Spill ZoneFans of Scott Westerfeld’s sci-fi novels will enjoy this suspenseful new series. The Spill Zone is a futuristic toxic site that has eviscerated Poughkeepsie, New York. Addie and her younger sister, Lexa, orphaned after their parents were killed, are two of the remaining survivors living near the zone. Addie keeps them alive by traveling at night into the Spill Zone, where she takes eerie photographs that she can sell to rich art collectors. Addie’s bravery and survival skills are put to the test when she receives a million-dollar offer to venture deeper into the lethal territory than ever before.


Wires and Nerve
(The Lunar Chronicles). Marissa Meyer. Ill. Doug Holgate. 2017. Feiwel and Friends.

Wires and NerveLinh Cinder, Queen of Luna, and Kai, the Emperor of Earth, are working to unite their two worlds. Their dream is met with skepticism, especially from the wolf-hybrid soldiers trained under the evil, late Queen of Luna, who have been wreaking havoc and destruction all over Earth. So far, they are no match for Iko, an android working for Cinder. Action unfolds as each of the nine heroes from the Lunar Chronicles are reintroduced in this futuristic adventure series.


Stan Steiner
teaches Children’s/Young Adult Literature at Boise State University, Boise, Idaho. 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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