35 Graphic Novels Your Kids Will Love Reading
With a perfect balance of art and text, these comic-style books are enormously popular with young readers. Our roundup of the top graphic novels for kids has a stamp of approval from librarians and other literary experts.
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Graphic novels for kids to read (and read again)
Ask a group of 10-year-olds what they want to read, and you probably won’t get a list of the best books of all time or the best children’s books ever written. No, you’re likely to get a list of graphic novels for kids. Sales of the already popular kid-lit format rose 24% in 2021. One graphic novel title—Dog Man: Mothering Heights by Dav Pilkey—sold more than a million copies in 2021, according to NPD BookScan.
The appeal is universal: Bookworms who devoured an entire series like Harry Potter or Wings of Fire look to graphic novels as easy, breezy comfort reads. Kids who feel overwhelmed by dense pages of prose have no trouble with the short blocks of text and illustrations that give context clues to unfamiliar words. Any way you look at it, graphic novels for kids are a win-win. Ignore that nonsense about graphic novels not being “real books.” Teachers, librarians, literacy experts and even the judges of the most prestigious award in children’s literature all agree that graphic novels increase vocabulary and comprehension—and most of all, interest in reading.
With that in mind, we rounded up the best graphic novels for kids. Unless otherwise specified, most of our picks are ideal for 8- to 12-year-olds. (Of course, there are graphic novels for adults, teens and younger children too.) Our selection encompasses diverse stories in several genres, including mystery, fantasy, nonfiction, historical fiction and realistic fiction. Whatever type of book your children like, there’s a graphic novel for them.
1. New Kid by Jerry Craft
The only graphic novel for kids to win the prestigious Newbery Medal centers on a seventh-grader who is one of the few Black students in his New York City prep school. Jordan, the main character, feels like he doesn’t fit in anymore with his classmates and his neighborhood friends. Although the 2019 book addresses racism, it has many lighthearted moments too. The sections that contain pages from Jordan’s sketchbook are hilarious, especially the one named “Taking Photos with My Mom: A Tale of Terror.” If your child likes this book, check out the companion title, Class Act, and other books from Black authors.
2. Pawcasso by Remy Lai
An original premise makes this 2021 graphic novel for kids a page-turner and a New York Public Library Best Book of the Year: Pawcasso, a dog who goes shopping on its own, finds a friend in Jo, an 11-year-old who is lonely on summer break. Kids at camp assume the clever dog is hers, and she doesn’t correct them because she wants to fit in and make friends. But when Pawcasso is put in a shelter for not wearing a leash, the truth is bound to come out. How will she explain herself to Pawcasso’s owner and her new friends? Take this one on a road trip for the kids, and pack these beach reads for yourself.
3. Spy School: The Graphic Novel by Stuart Gibbs
The first book in this award-winning mystery series, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar, has been turned into a graphic novel for kids, and longtime fans and newcomers are loving it. Released in February 2022, the book centers on middle-schooler Ben, who is mistakenly recruited by the CIA to be an undercover spy. (His parents think he’s attending a special science school.) From the moment he steps foot on campus, he realizes that being a spy is hard work. He soon learns that a fellow student is a double agent, working with an enemy. Ben and his friend Erica need to figure out who is being disloyal and stop the traitor. Readers will get caught up in the action and suspense. This is a great gift idea for young book lovers and fans of the series.
4. Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas
An eye-opening story about the bias Black people have faced going to public pools and a middle school friendship drama at the same time, this 2022 graphic novel will make your kids root for Bree, the main character. After moving to a new state with her dad, math whiz Bree learns that the elective she wants to take is full. Instead, she gets stuck in swimming class. Problem is, Bree doesn’t know how to swim, and all the other students do. A dramatic turning point in the story not only puts Bree on the path to learning to swim but also sees her earn a spot on the school’s swim team. The story is full of heart and hope. While your kid’s nose is buried in this book, check out these other books about race relations in America.
5. Smaller Sister by Maggie Edkins Willis
Drawing from her own childhood experiences, Maggie Edkins Willis crafts a compelling story about sisters with eating disorders. Authentic-sounding dialogue between kids and parents makes this 2022 title even more moving. Older sister Olivia starts out as the one with poor self-esteem and body-image problems. But as Lucy gets a little older and changes schools, she begins to feel the same way. “The accessible tone and format allow a difficult topic to be gently revealed with painful honesty balanced by humor and silliness,” writes Kirkus Reviews. You might want to read this book alongside your kids or talk about it after they finish. Here are some more books mothers and daughters should read together.
6. Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel by Mariah Marsden
This 2017 graphic novel for kids condenses L.M. Montgomery’s classic book so it’s easier to read and more fun to look at (thanks to Brenna Thummler’s gorgeous illustrations). But the premise of the story remains the same: Siblings want to adopt an orphan to help manage the family farm. They think they’re getting a boy until they pick up Anne at the train station. Anne’s spunk wins over the siblings and the rest of the townspeople. Need a book idea for yourself? Pick up one of these other books written by women.
7. El Deafo by Cece Bell
A hearing-impaired girl turns her disability into a superpower in this touching story. A winner of the Eisner Award, this 2014 graphic memoir centers on a girl who wears her Phonic Ear, a fancy hearing aid, to school. Not only can she hear her teacher in the classroom, but she can also pick up the chatter in the teachers lounge and bathroom. All of a sudden, once-unpopular Cece is the class hero. But will she find what she wants most: a true friend? “Cece’s often funny adventures help make the memoir accessible and entertaining,” notes Kirkus Reviews.
8. Yummy: A History of Desserts by Victoria Grace Elliott
Kids will gobble up the fun dessert-related trivia in this 2021 nonfiction graphic novel. From the mistake that made brownies to the history of ice cream, true stories about sweet foods will blow your kids’ minds on every page. Maps and recipes add to the fun. One Amazon reviewer called this nonfiction kids book “one of the cutest books ever made.”
9. Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte
Winner of a host of accolades—including the American Library Association’s Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2021—this story (illustrated by Ann Xu) will give kids all the feels. Cici greatly misses her grandmother, who lives in Taiwan. She enters a cooking contest to try to win prize money to pay for a plane ticket so her grandmother can visit her in Seattle. “This sweet, family-oriented graphic novel celebrates cultural traditions and new beginnings in equal measure,” writes Booklist. Older adults may be more inclined to read the latest historical fiction title than a graphic novel, but this is a great book for grandparents and kids to enjoy together.
10. The Bad Guys series by Aaron Blabey
The first book in a wildly popular 14-book series about crime-solving animals that walk and talk like humans was released as a DreamWorks animated movie in April 2022. With an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has earned almost as many positive reviews as the book it was adapted from. “This book instantly joins the classic ranks of Captain Underpants and The Stinky Cheese Man,” writes Kirkus Reviews. “We challenge anyone to read this and keep a straight face.”
11. Smile by Raina Telgemeier
It’s been over a decade since Raina Telgemeier, a pioneer in graphic novels for kids, published this account of her struggle with an injury to her front teeth. It begins when she’s in sixth grade and falls after a Girl Scout meeting. Over the years, she has to wear braces, headgear and even fake teeth. In 2011, the novel won the Eisner Award. Booklist called it “one of the most widely loved kids’ graphic novels in recent history.” When your kids grow out of it, be sure to donate the book so even more children can enjoy it.
12. Dog Man by Dav Pilkey
This much-beloved 10-book series, which kicked off in 2016, stars a crime-fighting canine with the head of a dog and the body of a human. Page after page, the fun keeps coming, from sippy-cup monsters to obey spray. Not only has the series sold millions of copies, but it’s critically acclaimed too: Kirkus Reviews called the first book “high-intensity, heartwarming and, above all, hysterically funny.”
13. Marshmallow & Jordan by Alina Chau
Marshmallow & Jordan is a lesson in overcoming adversity: Jordan, a former basketball star who uses a wheelchair, befriends an injured baby elephant. The elephant helps her find another passion: swimming. A coach recommends Jordan for the water polo team, and after much practice, she becomes a strong player. And there’s a surprising twist involving the elephant, but we’re staying mum. School Library Journal deemed it “an enchanting graphic novel about a girl and her elephant with truly lovely artwork.” While your kids are engrossed in this title, here are some summer reads for you to enjoy.
14. Katie the Catsitter by Colleen A.F. Venable
A mystery that features 217 (yes, that many!) cats will have your little reader glued to this graphic novel for kids, which was illustrated by Stephanie Yue. Katie needs to earn money for camp, so she takes a job cat-sitting for her neighbor. But she realizes something odd: Her neighbor is always out when the city’s villain goes on a crime spree. Is that just a coincidence? “Young readers will revel in the heroic antics, and older ones, like me, will be tickled by the Easter eggs strewn throughout. The sweet and funny nature of this book is expertly reflected in Yue’s energetic art and seemingly effortless line work,” writes the New York Times. If your child likes this book, also check out Katie the Catsitter: Best Friends for Never, the second title in the series.
15. The Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan and Robert Venditti
Attila Futaki’s artwork and José Villarrubia’s bold coloring sweep kids into the story of 12-year-old Percy Jackson, who is accused of stealing Zeus’s master lightning bolt. He has just 10 days to find it and return it. For kids who have a hard time reading dense prose, this graphic novel from 2010 (and the subsequent titles) will make the series more accessible. Like Rick Riordan’s 2005 book, Robert Venditti’s graphic novel adaptation is made for kids who struggle with reading or who haven’t yet experienced the joy and benefit of reading.
16. Surviving the Wild: Star the Elephant by Remy Lai
Based on a true story of three elephants who lost their home to deforestation, this 2022 graphic novel focuses on a baby elephant who gets separated from her mom and aunt. It includes facts about climate change and how kids can protect the environment. “This tender tale packs an all too timely environmental message,” notes School Library Journal.
17. White Bird: A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio
Expanding on the characters in the bestselling children’s book Wonder, this 2019 graphic novel also reveals the power of kindness. It focuses on Julian’s Jewish grandmother, who received help during the Holocaust from an unexpected source. It was named a New York Public Library Best Book of the Year, and Kirkus Reviews called it “a must-read graphic novel that is both heart-rending and beautifully hopeful.” When your kids close the page on this graphic novel, take them to see the film adaptation, which releases on Oct. 14, then pick up another book about the Holocaust to read and discuss as a family.
18. Flash Facts, curated by Mayim Bialik
Written and illustrated by different creators, each short story in this collection highlights how DC Comics characters use science on their adventures. For instance, The Flash focuses on investigating crime scenes, while Green Lantern emphasizes renewable energy. The 2021 graphic novel for kids also contains instructions for science experiments. All of it was curated by actor, scientist and Jeopardy host Mayim Bialik.
19. Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz
A fast-paced mystery from 2020 about a missing gecko unfolds into a friendship story. Jamila and Shirley don’t want to go to summer camp, so when they meet and become friends, they save one another’s summer. “This well-executed graphic novel strikes a balance between a focus on meaningful relationships and just plain fun,” writes School Library Journal.
20. Twins by Varian Johnson, illustrated by Shannon Wright
Twin sisters Maureen and Francine used to be inseparable, but sixth grade changed that. Francine has new interests, and Maureen feels left out. In Twins, readers will find a relatable story about the changes that happen when you enter middle school and the fear of growing apart from friends and siblings. Named a National Indie Best Seller and Junior Library Guild Selection, this 2020 title helps kids navigate the highs and lows of middle school with many laughs in between. Bonus: The brightly colored art is stunning.
21. Kristy’s Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier and Ann M. Martin
Raina Telgemeier has transformed 11 books in Ann M. Martin’s classic Baby-Sitters Club series into graphic novels for kids—and two more are on the way later in 2022. Start at the beginning, with Kristy’s Great Idea. “The artist adds abundant energy to the pages and, largely through amusingly exaggerated facial expressions, ably captures each character’s personality,” writes Publishers Weekly. If you were a fan of the book series growing up, it would be fun to read these graphic novels with your child.
22. Abigail and the Snowman by Roger Langridge
Award-winning cartoonist Roger Langridge has created a tale about friendship so sweet that it’s sure to melt even the biggest block of ice and snow. Abigail, a 9-year-old girl who recently moved to a new town with her father, finds it hard to make friends at her new school—until she meets Claude, a yeti. The only catch? Claude is invisible to everyone but her. When mysterious Shadow Men begin to chase Claude, it’s up to Abigail to save her new best friend. This 2016 graphic novel skews a little younger than most on the list; it’s best for first- through third-graders.
23. The Breadwinner: A Graphic Novel by Nora Twomey and Deborah Ellis
After adapting Deborah Ellis’s bestselling novel into an Oscar-nominated animated film, director Nora Twomey has adapted the story again into this graphic novel for kids. The Breadwinner tells the tale of 11-year-old Parvana, who must disguise herself as a boy in order to support her family during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan. This 2018 story of female empowerment, set against a historical period, is as uplifting as it is difficult, and it’s better for slightly older readers (think 10 to 12 years old). It’s no wonder Malala Yousafzai wrote in the New York Times that “all girls [should read] The Breadwinner.”
24. The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet by Ian Lendler
Who would have thought that zoo animals were the perfect actors for classic Shakespearean plays? Ian Lendler certainly did, and we’re forever indebted to him for creating this 2015 laugh-out-loud series of adaptations featuring the funniest (and furriest) of creatures. The Stratford Zoo seems normal until day turns to night and the animals come out of their cages to create elaborate performances of Shakespeare’s greatest works. Not only will kids love Zack Giallongo’s zany illustrations, but they’ll appreciate the accessible introduction to some of the Bard’s classics.
25. The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag
The Witch Boy is a 2017 tale full of witches, wizardry and the truly powerful magic of being yourself. Thirteen-year-old Aster is born into a family in which all girls are raised to be witches, while all boys are raised to be shape-shifters, and the penalty for crossing these strictly gendered lines is exile. Unfortunately for Aster, he hasn’t shown any signs of a shape-shifting ability; instead, he’s taken an interest in witchery. When his brothers are threatened, Aster knows how he can help as a witch. But does he have what it takes to be himself? The Witch Boy is as poignant and heartwarming as it is entertaining. Your kids will also love these (free!) audiobooks.
26. Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
Babymouse takes the cake for the most adorable graphic novel. In this award-winning series, the titular character is a mouse whose imagination is full of glitz and glamour. Her reality, however, is not quite so exciting. But when Babymouse hears about popular Felicia Furrypaws’s sleepover, she wonders if her luck will finally change and if she’ll be invited. This 2015 book (and the rest of the mouse-tastic series) is best for ages 7 to 10. Cultivate a love of books in your kids early—reading is incredibly important for their brains (and yours)—and it’ll hopefully last a lifetime.
27. Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G.
An evil queen, a destined quest and an unlikely hero find themselves crossing paths in the 2017 kick-off of the Cucumber Quest series, graphic fantasy novels adapted from author Gigi D.G.’s popular webcomics. Nerdy magician Cucumber and his bold sister, Almond, are in search of the Dream Sword, the only weapon powerful enough to defeat evil Queen Cordelia and her Nightmare Knight. But will the bunny siblings be able to succeed, or will the seven kingdoms of Dreamside be plunged into darkness forever? There’s only one way to find out.
28. The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell
Chad Sell has created a neighborhood full of imagination, fun and laughter in The Cardboard Kingdom. A group of kids transforms ordinary cardboard boxes into intricate costumes and sets in order to change their neighborhood block into the cardboard kingdom of their dreams. Encounters with knights, robots, monsters and more ensue as the kids learn to work together and be themselves. Named one of the best books of 2018 by Kirkus Reviews, the graphic novel highlights the power of imagination. Getting fun, unique, imaginative books like this one for your children is just one of the simple ways you can instill a love of reading in your kids.
29. CatStronauts: Mission Moon by Drew Brockington
With CatStronauts: Mission Moon, Drew Brockington has given young readers a cat-tastic adventure. In this 2017 graphic novel for kids, the world experiences a blackout due to a global energy shortage, and it’s up to a team of CatStronauts to set up a solar power plant on the moon. A story full of feline fun and science, CatStronauts is sure to be the purr-fect read for kids ages 6 through 10. Be sure to check out the entire series.
30. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton
Opposites attract when it comes to the friendship of Narwhal and Jelly, who swim about the ocean in search of adventure together. In this heartwarming New York Times bestselling series, which launched in 2016, Ben Clanton explores the importance of friendship, working together and imagination. These books are best for younger readers, ages 6 to 9. “Readers ready for underwater goofiness of the non-SpongeBob variety will be eager for more adventures from this duo,” writes Publishers Weekly. Want to foster a love of reading in your kids? Make sure they see you reading too! Here are some awesome dark academia books to check out.
31. Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Let’s be real: When we were in elementary school, we probably all wondered what our lunch ladies did during their time off. Jarrett J. Krosoczka brings such musings to life in his Lunch Lady series of graphic novels for kids. Lunch Lady serves food by day and justice by night in this action-packed adventure series full of evil villains, heroic rescues and maybe a couple of sloppy Joes. In the first book, published in 2009, Lunch Lady is on a mission to find out why a teacher who never misses a day of school suddenly has a substitute. “Yellow-highlighted pen-and-ink cartoons are […] energetic and smile-provoking,” according to Booklist.
32. Sita’s Ramayana by Samhita Arni
Illustrated by Moyna Chitrakar, this 2011 graphic novel tells the story of the ancient Indian queen Sita, who, along with her husband and his brother, is exiled from her kingdom and captured by the arrogant King Ravana. The trials and tribulations of her capture and subsequent rescue make for a dramatic story full of twists and turns. Magic, the gods, sorcery and more contribute to this intense and exciting story of one brave woman. Sita’s Ramayana will immerse kids in the culture of ancient India while also entertaining them with plenty of action and adventure. While your kids are glued to the graphic novel, pick up a book by an Asian author for yourself.
33. All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson
Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy for short) has always dreamed of being a squire. After all, she’s grown up with her two parents working at the Renaissance Faire. Impy decides that the perfect quest will be to conquer the world of middle school after being homeschooled all her life. But making the switch is a lot harder than it looks, and Impy finds herself behaving in ways she never would have imagined in order to fit in with kids at school. Published in 2017, this heartwarming story is about the importance of staying true to yourself during some of the most transformative years of life.
34. Owly: The Way Home by Andy Runton
A good-natured owl and helpful worm have great adventures and fun times in this story about friendship and trust. The youngest of readers can handle Owly, and it’s a great way to introduce your littlest ones to the book genre that is graphic novels. But even older kids will “appreciate the book’s simple charm, wisdom and warmth,” according to Booklist.
35. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan
Nico, Chase, Karolina, Gertrude, Molly and Alex were completely normal teenagers who only knew one another through their wealthy parents’ annual business meeting. But when the teens find out that their parents are part of a secret criminal society known as Pride, their lives become anything but normal. Now on the run from their evil parents, these teens only have one another to rely on. Runaways is a 2016 tale of unlikely friendship and heroic action created by Eisner Award–winning writer Brian K. Vaughan and illustrator Adrian Alphona. It has since been adapted into a Hulu TV show that grown-ups will enjoy.
Additional reporting by Lucie Turkel.