The best graphic novels for kids: 13 picks from Kami Garcia

Graphic novels are a potent tool for promoting literacy. These choices will please any young fan.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor
By Kami Garcia

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If you love to read, you hope your child will discover the joy of reading, too. You start reading picture books aloud within weeks (or days, for some of us) of bringing your child home. You read board books during the day and bedtime stories at night. Then, one fateful day — usually in elementary school — you hear the dreaded words, “I hate reading.”

Your heart sinks. Where did you go wrong? Here’s the good news. You didn’t do anything wrong. It happens to all of us — including me. I was still teaching when my son was born, so I took the “I don’t like to read” news especially hard. How could my son hate reading? And what could I do about it?

Luckily, I hadn’t lost the battle yet — and you haven’t, either. You just need a new strategy. Children and teens have to fall in love with a book before they fall in love with reading. The trick is to find the right book.

Studies show that graphic novels appeal to readers of all ages, genders and reading levels — and to both reluctant and motivated readers. With entire sections of libraries and bookstores dedicated to graphic novels, the question is just which one is perfect for the child in your life. This year, I released my own first graphic novel, "Teen Titans: Raven." Here are some of my favorites.

Graphic novel picks for every reader

For the 7- to 10-year-old who loves unicorns and animals…

Follow the unlikely friendship between a somewhat awkward girl and the magic unicorn who gradually shows her just how special she really is.

For the 7- to 10-year-old who loves superheroes…

Does Superman ever make mistakes? Does Wonder Woman have to listen to her parents? Does Aquaman smell like fish? The greatest heroes in the DC Comics Universe, the Justice League, answer mail from their biggest fans — kids!

For the 7- to 10-year-old who loves funny stories…

It’s Dog Man, the crime-biting canine who is part dog, part man, and All Cop! George and Harold have created a great hero who digs into deception, claws after crooks, and rolls over robbers.

For the 8- to 12-year-old who loves to draw or feels different…

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Russell is a middle schooler; he excessively doodles; he has two best friends, Charlotte and Preston; he is not so great at sports; and he is pond scum. Nicknamed "Swamp Kid" by his classmates, Russell has algae for hair, a tree trunk for a right arm, and a carrot for a finger. In this notebook, Russell details in both hilarious text and color illustrations (complete with ketchup stains!) what it's like to be different.

For the 8- to 12-year-old dealing with anxiety or highs and lows at school…

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it's probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she's dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends ... It soon becomes clear that Raina's tummy trouble isn't going away ... and it coincides with her worries about food, school and changing friendships. What's going on?

For the 9- to 14 year-old who loves creatures and girl power…

Five best friends spending the summer at Lumberjane scout camp, defeating yetis, three-eyed wolves and giant falcons — what’s not to love? Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together ... and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way!

For the 9- to 14-year-old who loves adventure, gadgets and zombies…

Ever since the monster apocalypse hit town, average 13-year-old Jack Sullivan has been living in his tree house. But Jack alone is no match for the hordes of Zombies and Winged Wretches and Vine Thingies. So Jack builds a team: his dorky best friend, Quint; the reformed middle school bully, Dirk; Jack's loyal pet monster, Rover; and Jack's crush, June. With their help, Jack is going to slay the Blarg, achieve the ultimate Feat of Apocalyptic Success, and be average no longer!

For the 10- to 14-year-old who loves realistic stories OR a perfect classroom pick to springboard discussions about diversity and self-awareness…

A timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real. Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

For the 12- to 16-year-old who loves stories about friendship and growing up…

It's a summer of secrets, and sorrow, and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other. A gorgeous, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story about a girl on the cusp of childhood — a story of renewal and revelation.

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For the 12- to 16-year-old who loves magic and Harry Potter…

Adapted from Eoin Colfer’s international bestselling novel, this book centers around 12-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl. Fowl has discovered a world below ground of armed and dangerous — and extremely high-tech — fairies. He kidnaps one of them, Holly Short, and holds her for ransom in an effort to restore his family's fortune. But he may have underestimated the fairies' powers. Is he about to trigger a cross-species war?

For the 13- to 17-year-old who loves history, adventure, and true stories…

In the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, Hale channels his namesake to present history’s roughest, toughest, and craziest stories in the graphic novel format. "One Dead Spy" tackles the story of Hale himself, who was an officer and spy for the American rebels during the Revolutionary War.

For the 13- to 17-year-old who loves funny stories about friendship and growing up…

A tender and hilarious story about two irresistible teens discovering what it means to leave behind a place ― and a person ― with no regrets. Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends. Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. But Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch.

For the 13- to 17-year-old who loves history and stories about real people and events…

An unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family.

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