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An Introduction to Graphic Novels for Children

Header Slide

On May 5, I made a presentation for Mass Library Systems about graphic novels for children. This page, which will be updated as more links come in, is designed to serve as a resource for librarians and others who are interested in the field. I’m starting with a list of the recommended books, with links to the publishers’ catalog pages, some additional reading, and the PowerPoint. EDIT: And here’s the link to the video of the presentation.

I want to thank Mass Library Systems for giving me the opportunity to do this, and the audience for their warm reception and thoughtful questions!

A Short History of Comics

Much of this content came from these two SLJ articles, one that I wrote and one that I contributed to:

Teaching with Graphic Novels
Comics Censorship, from ‘Gay’ Batman to Sendak’s Mickey

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has a series of articles on the history of comics censorship as well as the complete text of the original Comics Code. Check out this page (scroll to the bottom) for some before-and-after examples of the changes required by the Code. The CBLDF is a great resource for teachers and educators as they not only provide defenses to book challenges but also post a lot of information, teachers’ guides, and historical articles.

The Ten-Cent PlagueFor a more in-depth look at this period, check out David Hajdu’s book The Ten Cent Plague as well as the research of Prof. Carol Tilley, who has been going through Dr. Frederic Wertham’s papers and painting a fascinating picture of how this moral panic unfolded—including how much of it was based on strong personalities and grudges. Here are a couple of articles about her research:

Scholar Finds Flaws in Work by Archenemy of Comics (New York Times, 2013)
Comic books’ real-life supervillain: psychiatrist Frederic Wertham (BoingBoing, 2013)
NYCC: The Secret History of Comics Censorship (CBR, 2013)

And finally, here’s an interesting article by another scholar, Alan Kistler:

How the “Code Authority” Kept LGBT Characters Out of Comics (History Channel, 2017)

I mentioned Diamond Previews as a good resource for finding out what comics are coming out in the near future. Diamond Comics Distributors is the sole major distributor to comic shops, so their catalog carries pretty much everything: Monthly comics, graphic novels, books about comics, toys, T-shirts, etc. If you want to find a comic shop near you, their Comic Shop Locator is a handy resource.

Diamond Book Distributors handles distribution of graphic novels to the bookstore market. Unlike DCD, they aren’t the only distributor (Random House is a major player as well) but their website has a lot of useful resources, including the Bookshelf newsletter.

And here are the books I recommended during the talk:

If you like Raina…

Real Friends CoverAwkward, by Svetlana Chmakova
Brave, by Svetlana Chmakova
Real Friends, by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
Sunny Side Up, by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
Swing It, Sunny, by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson
El Deafo, by Cece Bell (Eisner Award winner)
Amelia Rules, by Jimmy Gownley (6 volumes)

Adventure Stories

Compass South, by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock (2 volumes so far)
Knife’s Edge, by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock
Hilda, by Luke Pearson (5 volumes and counting…)
The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo, by Drew Weing
Space Battle Lunchtime, by Natalie Riess (complete in 2 volumes)
The Three Thieves Series, by Scott Chantler (7 volumes)
Bad Machinery, by John Allison (also a webcomic)
Hereville, by Barry Deutsch (3 volumes)
Lumberjanes, by Noelle Stevenson, Brooke Allen, Grace Ellis, and Shannon Watters (Multiple volumes; Eisner Award winner; soon to be adapted into chapter books written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Brooke Allen for Abrams/Amulet)
The Backstagers, by James Tynion IV and Rian Sygh (2 volumes, vol. 1 will be out in July)
Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke (3 volumes)
Mighty Jack, by Ben Hatke


Spongebob Comics 1Stinky Cecil, by Paige Braddock (2 volumes so far)
Johnny Boo, by James Kochalka (6 volumes so far)
Hippopotamister, by John Patrick Green
Tree Mail, by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith
Big Nate, by Lincoln Peirce
Lunch Lady, by Jarrett Krosoczka (10 volumes)
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea, by Ben Clanton
King Baby, by Kate Beaton


Capstone hardcover reissues of DC comics
DC Super Hero Girls
Adventures of Superhero Girl, by Faith Erin Hicks

If You Liked the Movie/TV Show/Video Game

Spongebob Comics, edited by Chris Duffy
Avatar, the Last Airbender, by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru
The Legend of Zelda: Legendary Edition, by Akira Himekawa
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, by Akira Himekawa
Angry Birds Comics, by Jeff Parker, Paul Tobin, et al.
Plants vs. Zombies, by Paul Tobin et al.
Coming soon: Star Wars Adventures

Some other titles that came up during the Q&A:

Graphic novels with Latinx characters:

Lowriders in Space and Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, by Cathy Camper and Raoul the Third
Jonesy, by Sam Humphries and Caitlyn Rose Boyle
Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier (recommended with reservations as there has been some discussion of her depiction of Day of the Dead and the Spanish missions)

Manga for young readers

Pokemon x y 1Pokemon X & Y
Yo-kai Watch
Chi’s Sweet Home and FukuFuku Kitten Tales
Legend of Zelda
Doraemon, which is only available digitally in English

A few others that I thought of later:

Cowa!, a funny-monsters manga by Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball
Cardfight!! Vanguard, which is a bit like Yu-Gi-Oh but for younger readers (ages 10 and up)
Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll and Happy Happy Clover, two super-cute titles from Viz
Swans in Space and Fairy Idol Kanon, two of Udon’s Manga for Kids series that are still available from Amazon
Leave It to PET!, which is a wacky manga about recycling
Dinosaur Hour
Tokyo Mew Mew
Cardcaptor Sakura, by CLAMP
The Boy and the Beast—movie adaptation, complete in 4 volumes
Big Hero 6—another movie adaptation, complete in 2 volumes
Kingdom Hearts
Kilala Princess and Tokyopop’s other Disney manga, which are Japanese adaptations of the movies

And finally, here are some articles on SLJ and Good Comics for Kids with more suggestions for middle grade and YA graphic novels:

Game Changers: Books Based on Video Games (SLJ, 2016)
Graphic Novels Portray Bicultural America (SLJ, 2016)
SLJ’s Top Ten Graphic Novels of the year (compiled by the Good Comics for Kids bloggers): 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012
Notes from the Best and Worst Graphic Novels for Kids Panel at ALA, by Eva Volin








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Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.


  1. April Mazza says:

    It was a fabulous program! I really enjoyed learning about the history of comics and look forward to reading the Ten Cent Plague. I finished Awkward over the weekend and loved it! Can’t wait for Brave! Thank you so much Brigid!

  2. I have been leading a Mother Daughter Book Club at my local library. One of our goals is to introduce the girls (2nd-5th grade) to different kinds of texts, including comics or graphic novels. Thank you for this invaluable list.

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