— This post was double-checked and freshened up in September 2018. Happy reading! —
Many people think the word “comics” means “stories about superheroes.” It’s understandable! But there are many other kinds of comics too, and we love to recommend the good ones that our whole family has enjoyed. So here’s a set we all adored, for kids a bit older than preschool (or not, depending on your comfort level with the content). Hope you find something new and fun to read here!
Before we jump in:
- All comics listed here can be bought as graphic novels/collections, not only as single issues. Your library may own many of these!
- Amazon links are affiliate links.
- Need more recs? All my kids’ comics recommendations are here.
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- Any questions, corrections, recommendations? Let me know via the comments or my contact form.
Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paws by Christopher Meyer and Chad Solomon.
YAY FOR THIS! Every library in the country should own a set of these #ownvoices graphic novels. Not just because it’s so hard to find comics about Native American and First Nations people, but also because this whole series is really funny and enjoyable. It’s set in the 1750s and follows the adventures of two brothers named Rabbit and Bear Paws who are part of the Anishinabek Nation in what’s now known as the Great Lakes region. The French and British are moving in nearby, so all three cultures interact quite a bit. Each Rabbit and Bear Paws book focuses on First Nations teachings, values, and traditions, but in a way that feels naturally integrated with the story. The brothers get into all kinds of trouble and have to get themselves back out. Highly recommended!
The Bone series by Jeff Smith.
As my husband likes to explain it, this is basically Lord of the Rings in comics form, for kids. An epic tale that we started reading to my son when he was three, and which took a year to get all the way through.
Three cousins, from a race called “Bones,” mistakenly end up in a different kindgom where humans live in an uneasy post-war truce with the “rat creatures.” Unfortunately that truce is about to break down, as a powerful sorcerer is moving to unleash an ancient, dark evil. The Bones team up with Thorn, a young girl who lives with her super-tough grandmother. Thorn’s family history is intertwined with the war, and the ancient evil, so as things begin to move, the Bones are right in the middle of it and have to decide what they’re willing to do for themselves and their new land.
It’s available as one big black and white book which is possibly more affordable, or nine volumes in color which may be more appealing. Many library systems will have this, it’s very popular.
Broxo by Zack Giallongo.
The title character is the only survivor of a mountain tribe. He spends his days hunting and hanging out with his sidekick, a gigantic snow beast. And avoiding deadly creatures. Everything’s going fine until Princess Zora shows up looking for a lost clan, and then suddenly it’s all zombies and witches and ghosts! What the heck! Before it’s over, a mystery will finally be solved. Solid fantasy and really good art, we all enjoyed this one.
Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack.
Cleopatra of Egypt. Current princess, future queen… and savior of the galaxy? That’s what the future inhabitants of Nile Galaxy believe. So they zap her into the future to help them defeat the Xerx, led by evil tyrant Xaius Octavian. Which means combat training, yay! Oh, and algebra and stuff. Not her favorite. Can Cleo pass all her classes and also save the future? Towards the end of the first book we also start to catch glimpses of tension among the Nile Galaxy’s leaders, and things get way more complex as the series continues. Action, adventure, conspiracy, prophecy, this series has it all. Four books are out so far, with the series planned to finish at six volumes.
Cow Boy: A Boy and his Horse by Nate Cosby, with art by Chris Eliopoulos.
Boyd Linney is a ten year old bounty hunter who has dedicated his life to tracking down and imprisoning his whole family. Because they’re all criminals. At first it seems like a funny comic, and it is, but there are also many levels of emotion here. Especially in brief flashbacks to Boyd’s younger childhood, where it’s clear he was abused and neglected by members of his family. It’s not a pain and angst book or presented in an upsetting way, but Boyd’s history informs his mission. It also has one of the best fictional scenes calling someone out on their ignorance of racism that I’ve ever read. I think it’s a book that kids will read differently over time, and so good and nuanced that I routinely recommend it to adults as well. We’re disappointed that a second volume never came out!
Delirium’s Party: A Little Endless Storybook by Jill Thompson, based on characters created by Neil Gaiman in Sandman.
The thumbnail sketch is that it’s about seven siblings who are archetypes: Dream, Despair, Destiny, Desire, Death, Delirium, and Destruction. In Delirium’s Party, little Delirium the “technicolor Princess” decides to make her beloved sister Despair smile by throwing her a party. Unfortunately, what makes other people happy isn’t what makes Despair happy, but the siblings finally succeed and rejoice because they truly love their sister even if she is a little different. Jill Thompson’s art almost dances off the page, and is full of strange and interesting details that our kiddo really enjoyed. Kids who like to dress up may enjoy Delirium’s ever-changing hairstyles and outfits.
This is the second of two Little Endless books, but somehow we read it first. It doesn’t really matter as there isn’t a continuous storyline. The first one, The Little Endless Storybook, is good too. A couple of things that didn’t bother us, including our kiddo, but might bother you: Despair is naked (her belly covers anything below the waist), and Desire is spoken of as being both genders.
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch.
The subtitle for this book is “yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl” which gives you an idea of how unique this book is. One of the guys at my local comic shop won’t read it because it has a talking pig in it, but he’s missing out. I have told him this repeatedly. (Hi Eric!) It’s this wonderful mix of fantasy, magic, an 11 year old girl who craves adventure, her loving family’s dynamics, and a window into life in her community and culture. The followup book, How Mirka Met a Meteorite, is another winner.
Jellaby by Kean Soo.
This is a strange little book, and can be scary and serious at times. Ten year old Portia is the new kid in town, and she meets a monster. But can you really call it a monster when it’s purple and friendly? A local boy, Jason, ends up pulled into the secret of Jellaby’s presence. When the kids think Jellaby is trying to lead them to his home, or at least a way back there, they embark on an unsupervised journey to Toronto trying to help. The story concludes in Jellaby: Monster in the City, and you really do need to read them both to avoid the cliffhanger feeling.
Lucha Lizards: Chameleon Cage Match by Donald Lemke, illustrated by Chris Eliopoulos.
I had NO idea what to expect from this, since I’m not a fan of lizards or wrestling. LOVED IT. Leon the Chameleon loves wrestling just like every other lizard in Luchaville, but he’s never had a chance to prove himself. Until King Komodo attacks, vanquishing the other lizards one by one! The jokes are all clever and there’s plenty of real info about lizards. Eliopoulos is one of our favorite comics illustrators and he really knocks it out of the park here.
(The art would appeal to even the youngest kids, but since there’s a bunch of fighting I put it here instead of in a list for bitty kids.)
Miss Annie: Freedom by Frank Le Gall, illustrated by Flore Balthazar.
The Miss Annie books, both the first and second volumes, were a perfect match for my cat-loving oldest niece at almost middle school age. My son was interested enough to read them once, at age four, but not repeatedly. They’re quiet “slice of life” books about a cat, including dialogue from the people in the house that will sound familiar to any pet owner, and also Annie’s interactions with other cats and her new best friend, a mouse whom she names Keshia. Very sweet and thoughtful little books.
There are a couple of mentions of “the operation” Miss Annie’s going to have and some boy cats “courting” her but she doesn’t really know what it means so it’s not a big deal. One cat dies in the second book but while they honor his memory, it’s not a huge trauma for anyone.
The Mouse Guard series by David Petersen, with guest stories by other creators in the Legends of the Guard anthologies.
One of the best all-ages comics ever. And by “all ages” I really do mean from 5 years old through 95 years old. And if you know any 105 year olds, I’d hand it to them too. Petersen’s art is gorgeous, and his stories impeccable in plot, character, and emotion. The mice of Mouse Guard are people, and they are also heroes and epic figures. Even if you’re not into the epic fantasy genre or talking animals, the characters are what make this series so compelling. See how all three mice above look totally different? How does he do it?! They are mice!
Petersen puts out books really slowly, though: so far since 2009, we have just Fall 1152 linked above, Winter 1152, and The Black Axe. You can supplement with the Legends of the Guard anthologies set in the same universe if you catch up and then get antsy waiting. You probably won’t love every story because that’s the nature of anthologies, and we didn’t much care for the third one overall, but there are some real gems.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by Katie Cook, with art by Andy Price.
Since my son is a Hello Kitty fan, I suspected that My Little Pony might be a natural next step. I didn’t know what to expect from the comic. Based on my recollections of playing with ponies when I was a kid, I thought it would be sweet and gentle. NOPE. Instead try funny, wacky, and a slight side order of “flank-whooping” the bad guys along with the friendship and magic that was advertised. My son was immediately in love with them. Magic! Fighting! Cute stuff! He read the first book so much that the pages started to fall out. I don’t mind reading it with him, either, because there is some genuinely funny stuff. If your kid is pony-friendly, this is a good pick.
We ended up with the Friendship is Magic series volumes 1-12, though kiddo says he didn’t care for volume 10; Pony Tales volumes 1 and 2; and the Friends Forever series volumes 1-9, though apparently 3 and 4 were not favorites. That is so many ponies, y’all.
We usually avoid wordless books for “reading” with kids because we’re lazy. But I broke my rule, and I’m glad I did. I saw Ojingogo described as a “dreamscape” somewhere and that feels about right to me. A girl and a squid have adventures with robots, walking cameras, strange creatures and animals, all rendered in delicate, detailed line drawings with some soft shading. Gorgeous book. My son comes back to it over and over, and gets more out of it every time.
May be a little bit too creepy for sensitive kids, but it’s perceived as whimsical in our house.
Over the Wall, by Peter Wartman.
A young girl lives outside a walled-up city. Boys go in as a rite of passage, but her brother didn’t come back out. She’s forgotten his name, but she’s determined not to lose him, even if it means fighting the magic inside the city with the help of a talking demon. The story is compelling, and the art is lovely. It’s amazing what Wartman can do with such a limited palette. We bought this for ourselves and really liked it, then handed it to my son and he was smitten too. I can’t wait for the sequel, which is being published first as a webcomic.
Princeless by Jeremy Whitley with art by M. Goodwin.
Princeless is the takedown of the sexism and racism in fantasy literature (and American culture) that you may have never known you wanted – but trust me, you need to read it! Princess Adrienne’s father locks her in a tower just like all her other sisters so that she can wait for a knight to kill the dragon outside and marry her. Unfortunately, the knights are prone to saying things like “fair maiden” which Adrienne points out loudly means WHITE maiden. Also they get flambeed and eaten. At some point it’s just too ridiculous and Adrienne takes matters into her own hands. She’s going to save herself and her sisters. (To be fair, her brother probably needs saving too, since his father berates him incessantly for not being “manly” enough.) Adrienne teams up with the dragon and the half-dwarf daughter of a blacksmith and the rest will become history.
There are six volumes of Princeless out so far, plus a collection of short stories. The separate series that spins off after the third book of Princeless, called Raven the Pirate Princess, is for a bit older crowd IMHO.
Robot City Adventures: City in Peril! by Paul Collicutt.
Giant sentient walking lighthouse defends the city against a sea monster? Sign me up! This is so warm and funny, and has such a retro feel, I had a great time reading it with my son. (My husband thought it was too cheesy, but good people can disagree.) If you’re a classic sci-fi fan or love the Transformers, this is a great pick.
The Silver Six, by A.J. Lieberman and Darren Rawlings.
In a corporate-run future, six orphaned children of a group of genius scientists all find themselves in the same oppressive state-run orphanage. When they realize they all have matching documents giving them part ownership of a moon, they realize it’s time to escape and find out why their parents died.
There are a few harrowing moments in this one. The orphanage isn’t terribly scary, but there is an extremely sad scene when one of the children’s best friend, a robot, gives up his “life” so they can decode part of the mystery. Another character actually does give up his life to save them. Overall it’s a book about determination and finding friends so the sad parts don’t seem quite as bad. And it’s all okay in the end, of course!
Edited to add: Re-reading it lately, I did realize that one time one character uses the word “crappy.” Could have lived without that when trying to read it to a six year old…
The Three Thieves series by Scott Chantler.
Super interesting fantasy adventure series with a kick-butt girl protagonist. Dessa is an acrobat in a show that travels the kingdoms. Its members make more money pickpocketing then entertaining at the castles and villages they visit. When her colleague proposes they rob the Queen’s treasure chamber, though, that takes things to a whole new level. And how is the mysterious man in uniform related to the disappearance of Dessa’s brother when she was a child? This is a darker and more powerful book than some fantasy romps, especially in the flashbacks to Dessa’s childhood. (My son is not easily scared, and we read it with him at four and five years old, no problem.) I loved the combination of adventure, political conspiracy, and friendship.
This series is complete in seven volumes.
The Wizard’s Tale by Kurt Busiek and (gloriously) illustrated by David T. Wenzel.
Wonderfully whimsical fantasy tale about Bafflerog Rumplewhisker, an evil wizard who’s supposed to help maintain the darkness that blankets the land of Ever-Night. His heart’s just not in it, though. And when he’s sent on a quest for a spellbook that will cause darkness to reign forever? Is it his chance to finally live up to his evil ancestors’ famous achievements, or something more? A well-crafted blend of traditional fantasy elements with more humor and a modern spin.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, adapted from Frank L. Baum’s novel by Eric Shanower and artist Skottie Young.
This is a gorgeous adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. There are some scary parts, or I would have put it in the Comics for Little Kids list. It has more depth and detail than the movie, and in my opinion a richer world and characters. It’s slower and talkier than many comics, so don’t bust it out when a kid’s been bouncing off the wall all day.
A Wrinkle In Time, adapted from Madeleine L’Engle’s novel by Hope Larson.
I always thought of A Wrinkle in Time as a book for older kids, since I remember reading it in junior high. Then I found out my son’s preschool teacher was reading it to the older kids in her class during afternoon quiet time, and they were digging it. They may not follow all the details, but honestly I was confused about the whole “tesseract” thing myself as a kid and I still loved the book. This adaptation by Larson is full of feeling and magic, and I totally recommend it whether you’ve read the novel or not.
And that’s the list of our favorite graphic novels and comics for kids! If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments – and thanks for sharing on social media or with friends!