Introducing Your Kids to Graphic Novels

Books GeekMom
My little graphic novel-reading machine

The GeekMoms and GeekDads would like to thank everyone who came out to our Geeky Parenting NY ComicCon panel. We had a lively discussion with our audience about raising our geeklets in our own geeky image. During the panel I talked about the booming world of graphic novels for kids.

The impetus for my deep dig into graphic novels for young readers came one day when Raina Telgemeier’s Smile was sitting out on my desk. My daughter gravitated toward the big smiley face on the cover and asked, “What’s this?” I explained it was a graphic novel that I was going to start reading, and she asked if we could read it together. All I knew about the book was that it was about a girl getting braces. Seemed fine, so why not? We got about halfway through and an earthquake in the book made me stop for the night (my daughter is terrified of natural disasters). While my daughter slept, I read ahead in the book and decided it wasn’t for her. The earthquake wasn’t so dramatic, but it was so full of the issues surrounding puberty that I thought it would be much better for her in a couple years. I mean, she’s only 6.

I searched bookstores and comic book stores finding more that were age appropriate for her. We already knew Captain Underpants and the entire Dav Pilkey oeuvre as well as some of the Babymouse series. These are like the gateway drugs into graphic novels, with their broad appeal to the elementary school set. But what else is out there?

There are some books that my little avid reader has already outgrown, like the adorable Toon Books. With leveled titles like Benny and Penny and Otto’s Orange Day, these are amazing books for young readers. Then there’s the brilliant new Nursery Rhyme Comics. You can share these with toddlers, but the art from over 50 comic book illustrators will keep anyone older interested in reading them. (Read my full review here and GeekMom Melissa’s review here.)

There are a bunch of graphic novels that are overloaded with appeal for younger kids, with fantasy characters like Sidekicks, Magic Pickle, The Secret Science Alliance, and Zita the Spacegirl. One of my favorite recent books is Sara Varon’s Bake Sale about a Cupcake who owns a bakery and is in a band with his friend, Eggplant (Read Rebecca’s review.) My daughter devoured this book.  And the Amelia Rules! series is a great substitute for Smile for the early elementary set.

After a good dose of lighthearted fun, kids can eventually graduate into darker territory with dead or missing parents, alternate universes, monsters, and battles, with titles like The New Brighton Archeological Society, Mouse Guard, and Amulet. I wish I could tell you that we waited another year or two to read Amulet, but when Scholastic sent me a package with the first two books my daughter saw the pink bunny and the robots and read the first book cover to cover before I had a chance to take a look. In the first few pages it’s got both a parent killed and parent in need of rescue, but it also has a very capable girl and her younger brother.

There are tons of graphic novels that feature great role models for boys and for girls. The list above just scratches the surface and doesn’t include the giant stack that I found while at ComicCon, so stay tuned for more. In other exciting news, Stan Lee is launching a kids’ imprint called Stan Lee’s Kids Universe. I’ll be keeping an eye out for those!

Got any graphic novel favorites to recommend?

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9 thoughts on “Introducing Your Kids to Graphic Novels

  1. Nice post, Amy. I’m sure you had a blast. I have two kids in both age categories you mentioned. Will have to take a look. Available at my nearest comic shop?

  2. Awesome! I am saving this list and going comic-shopping for my 7 year old daughter who is a proficient – but highly reluctant – reader. She’s shown an increased interest in art lately so I thought that comics/graphic novels might be a good fit for her. But I am pretty ignorant about the medium so I really appreciate this list of age-appropriate books! Now I have a good place to start.

  3. My five year old daughter is really starting to like comics and graphic novels. Good ones are the Saga of Rex by Michel Gagne, Zita the Spacegirl is awesome, DC’s Tiny Titans series is great for early readers. You can never go wrong with all the Owly books (the best!). She also likes the Disney Fairies graphic novels from Papercutz.

  4. You know, if you’re looking for more graphic novels, you might keep an eye on blogs like Good Comics for Kids–http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/goodcomicsforkids, which does professional reviews and also links to other such blogs. I use it a lot in my job as a children’s librarian (since I’m the one who cares about geeky stuff at work, I’m the one in charge of buying it for our collection).

  5. @Eastman Yeah, this list should be available at both comic book shops and bookstores. I even saw a few at the library today.

    @Kim – absolutely! In fact, someone in our audience also mentioned the SLJ blog, too.

  6. For those with younger children not quite ready to read, I totally recommend the Owly series by Andy Runton. Allows the child to make the book their own through their own imagination telling the story from just pictures.

  7. My daughter loved the BabyMouse series..then went on to Squish, which I think she likes even more. Also loved The Lunch Lady…which we have recommended to several reluctant readers…they all say “cool! robots!” when they see the cover! I just picked up Zita the space girl for my daughter. We love graphic novels and I wish more school libraries had larger selections of these and saw how they could be used to get kids kick-started into a real passion for reading.

  8. i’m super late on this, but can you recommend a starting place for someone interested in reading Mouse Guard? by the looks of it on Amazon, it goes Fall 1152, Winter 1152, then Legend of the Guard. is that right?

    1. Hey Joshua,
      As the resident GeekMom Mouse Guard fan, here’s the correct order for the series. It’s Fall, Winter, Legends of the Guard Vol 1 and then Black Axe is coming soon. I love the series and so do my kids. It also happens to be a fantastic RPG. Enjoy!

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