Here’s a collection of the best kids’ comics we’ve found – and to be honest, I’m an adult and I loved these too.
Disclaimer: These books feel like approximately upper elementary school and middle school to me; some may skew a bit younger and some older. I sort comics into three kids’ age groups based on my library’s system, personal experience, and gut instinct, while paying attention to factors such as age of protagonists, subject matter, and scariness. But kids are unique; please don’t take my blog as an automatic approval of a comic for a particular age or kid. See Great Comics for Young Children and Graphic Novels for Older Kids & Adults for recs for other age groups. Good Superheroes for Kids and Teens is where all the supes live, organized by age level.
Moving on… The way my life is organized these days, it’s tough for me to write reviews of new books. Some of the books below may have my personal reviews, some may not, but I adore them all. Hope you find something new and fun to read here!
Before we jump in:
- All comics 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.
- Any questions, corrections, recommendations? Let me know via my contact form.
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!
When Carter and Polly Normandy move into the Alabaster Shadows development, they’re not optimistic. They don’t know anyone. All the houses look the same. The head of the Community Council clearly despises children. Then Mr. Randolph, who works in the development’s office, asks them to watch for anything strange. What a weirdo, thinks Carter… until he finds something in their new basement that should not be there. Carter discovers that other kids at school have had strange experiences. They never would have guessed what their investigation uncovers. Doucet’s art is a little messier than I usually prefer, but it gets the job done. Gardner paces out the action and danger well, giving the reader points to breathe. This was a hit with both mom and kiddo, and we’re looking forward to a second volume if and when it occurs!
Diverse, deeply caring series about a group of boys in a private school who work backstage in the theater. It so happens that said backstage isn’t exactly normal. New kid Jory finds a world of magic there, but more importantly, a world of friendship. This series allows its boys and young men to be full people with a full range of emotions, and that is such a powerful thing in a culture of toxic masculinity. Hat off to all the creators for making this gentle, safe space for all these characters and any readers who desperately need that as well.
A fun supernatural mystery/adventure in 1930s London with three very different junior detectives. Molly is a Jewish girl living with her strict grandparents, Humphrey is a posh white boy from a rich family who was sent off to boarding school early, and orphaned girl Rajani, of Bengali descent, has been living on the street. When giant statues in London start coming to life, the three kids get involved with a mysterious detective who’s trying to solve the case. The villain is hilarious without losing his menace, and the kids really do have to be smart to get out of some bad situations. I also loved how they don’t just automatically become friends, but have to negotiate how they each have different life experiences. For kids into weird happenings and detective stories, this is a must-try.
I’ve always been a fan of Coover’s fun art style, and Tobin is a good storyteller. Bandette is an irrepressible Parisian teenage master thief with the proverbial heart of gold… and an affinity for first editions of good books. The police love to hate her but sometimes need her help. Her rival “Monsieur” wants to save her life, even though she’s after his reputation as the world’s greatest thief. The ballerinas and street urchins just want to help. And poor Daniel! Will his heart belong to the mysterious Bandette forever? Plus, female matador!
This series has a retro, French/Belgian adventure comics feel, like Tintin, but completely fresh. Three volumes are out so far, and this is one that we store in the “grownups” bookshelf but it gets taken out by my son routinely. Good clean fun for the whole family!
Lovely witchy sapphic middle grade graphic novel with rich worldbuilding. Beetle the goblin witch makes friends with a Blob Ghost who is haunting the local mall, which is threatened with demolition. Can Beetle and Blob Ghost let that happen? No! Except things are complicated, because Beetle’s former best friend Kat is back in town, and her magic awesomeness makes Beetle feel even worse about the magical stuff she hasn’t mastered yet. (Also, Kat is a classic “do I want to be her or date her” challenge for Beetle.) Beautiful Halloween-ish color scheme to the art, expressive characters, deep compassion for both girls as they struggle with growing up and friendship and finding their unique strengths… I just love this, and I’m so glad this is being expanded into a trilogy per the author.
This book is spooky art + a heart of gold. Bera is a friendly little troll who tends an island pumpkin patch, just chilling, until she rescues a human baby from some nasty mermaids. Two challenges arise: (1) How do you take care of a human baby? (2) The evil witch Cloote wants the baby. So Bera sets off on a quest to find a hero who can get the baby to a safe human settlement. What she finds, though, is that heroes aren’t always what they seem. Eric Orchard is becoming one of my fave comic creators and this is a lovely little fantasy tale.
Funny barnyard tale about an underachieving fox who ends up raising a trio of chicks. It was the wolf’s idea! Steal the eggs, raise the chickens, then chomp them up! Unfortunately, the chomping part is a little more difficult when the chicks in question call you Mommy. The cartooning is amazingly skilled – I love the panel-free layout – and Renner managed to delight me with the characters and storytelling even though (as an adult) I saw most of the plot beats coming. Nicely done.
Bink is short, wild, and irrepressible. Gollie is tall, sophisticated, and orderly. Does this make their friendship smooth? Not always. Do they always figure it out? Yes, absolutely. And they have plenty of adventures: Gollie climbs a mountaintop in the Andes, and Bink brings her pet fish to the movies. This is one of the best children’s comics I’ve ever read, so good that I’d have read the second and third books myself even if my son hadn’t been interested. But we ended up reading them together, and they were also fantastic. DiCamillo and McGhee choose their spare words with exquisite care, and Fucile’s cartoons are a delight.
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.
Cats, but as if they’re reporters for a feline news network, relating dramatic events within the household. Three adults and one ten year old in my household read this book, and none of us could keep from laughing out loud. Unless you despise cats and all their cat-related ways, give this a try.
“Beware the hare!
Harold the dog and Chester the cat must find out the truth about the newest pet in the Monroe household—a suspicious-looking bunny with unusual habits…and fangs! Could this innocent-seeming rabbit actually be a vampire?”
I’m sure I read the original Bunnicula novel when I was a kiddo, but I’m almost 50 now and I don’t remember anything but the premise. So I went into this graphic novel with a fairly blank slate, and I loved it! Spooky in all the right places, the art and writing are paired perfectly to convey the characters’ personalities, and it never feels like they’re trying to cram in a ton of text like can sometimes happen when a novel gets adapted to graphic novel form. Great job by everyone involved.
The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell with co-writers Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, Cloud Jacobs, and Barbara Perez Marquez (Amazon / Goodreads)
A lovely, diverse, queer-friendly series of loosely interconnected short comic stories about kids in a neighborhood and how they meet and build friendships through imaginary play. It’s fun, it’s silly, it also tackles some serious topics with great compassion, and I was really impressed. The dress-up cover of this graphic novel fooled me into thinking it was for the younger set, maybe preschool age? I think it’s more lower/upper elementary, though as an adult reader, I found it pretty enchanting.
The cast is quite large, but introducing characters incrementally works fabulously here. I’ve never seen a collaborative project like this hang together so well, visually and tonally, and it’s wonderful. If the kiddo in your life is into imagination, especially fantasy and magic, this is a great pick.
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.
As happens to young female royalty, Princess Mabelrose gets kidnapped by a dragon. Being unwilling to stay kidnapped, and quite worried about how her parents feel with her missing, she sets about rescuing herself. What follows, across the three volumes, is a grand adventure full of magic, danger, and friendship. Adults may find Mabelrose suspiciously perfect, but I couldn’t resist loving her anyway. Espinosa’s art is lovely, and his world-building and plot design are incredibly strong. If you’re looking for epic fantasy, this is a great series. Bonus for those of us who crave diversity: Mabelrose is biracial/bicultural. Her mother is from a kingdom that appears to be based on Western European culture. Her father is from a kingdom that appears to be based on Middle Eastern culture. People from both sides of her family appear in the story.
My son’s thoughts: “It’s a very adventurous story, and also Mabelrose herself is very adventurous. It’s funny in parts, and it’s a tiny bit scary in parts. There are a lot of cliffhangers, which leave you wanting to read the next volume or the next chapter.” (He’s not wrong. Waiting between the second and third books was painful.)
A multi-ethnic family of underwater explorers (a.k.a. science superheroes!), amazingly funny writing, an art style that looks like animation in the best way, and the best pet fish EVER. The Deep started as a comic and became a Netflix series, I think (?), before Boom re-issued the comic in November 2017. It’s one of my favorite kids’ comics for fun, adventure, and submarine living. If another volume appears, I’ll be pre-ordering it for sure.
Waking up to a stranger in your room is weird. Especially when they have their own bed! And especially when your moms keep acting like she’s your sister, when you’ve never had a sister! Nubia is not best pleased with this interloper, Diana… but to Diana, Nubia’s the unwelcome new arrival. Yep, when you ask a god for something, sometimes the answer to your request isn’t what you expected.
Wholesome, funny, relatable sibling rivalry story. The team-up of the Hales + the incredibly talented Victoria Ying bring so much energy to this story, and I just loved it.
Whitley always has a great touch with unsuspecting main characters being yanked into an adventure. The bully redemption/growth arc was handled with care and I thought it was an important subplot. Indigo and Capriglione do a fantastic job on the art, as well, so I’m excited that this is a series starter.
“Frankie knows who they are. They’re a drummer, they’re nonbinary, and they’re… the Dog Knight?
One day Frankie is a relatively normal middle schooler, with relatively normal challenges, like finding the perfect outfit to wear during their drum solo during the upcoming band concert. The next, they save a friendly golden retriever from bullies and suddenly find themselves in a giant magical doghouse, with a funny looking helmet, talking to a group of dog superheroes called the Pawtheon about a job offer.
If Frankie can prove that they possess the six dog virtues of loyalty, kindness, honesty, justice, stubbornness, and smell, they will be named the Dog Knight and be given the power to fight alongside the Pawtheon and save the world from the forces of chaos.
Maybe there is more to Frankie than they thought?”
Framed as an open mic storytelling night for dogs, this graphic novel contains four stories that range from humorous to deeply touching. I was really just reading this to see if kids would like it, but I got caught up. This is a great kids’ comic when you’re looking for something that’s more quiet and thoughtful than wild and adventurous. My 10 year old generally likes more action, so I was worried he might not be down, but he loved it too.
Super fun, very weird, maybe aimed at kids but my kiddo and I have both eaten up the four slim graphic novels in this series. Plus Man and his robot companion are all about scavenging / treasure hunting, super science, and wacky hijinks. Throw in some paranormal phenomena and crime-busting as well, of course!
“Plus Man is a roguish knave without equal, an antihero in his own mind. His coolheaded robot, however, knows better. This odd couple has just been given a break: a tip on a score of valuable alloy. The catch? The alloy is in a haunted castle. One really haunted castle. Like a young Indiana Jones with super science, Plus Man successfully bumbles his way through hair-raising heists and sticky situations.
Corrupt cops, hive-like henchmen, begoggled boy heroes, labyrinthine HQs, unlikely team ups, heartbreaking best friend breakups, and a liberal dose of super science, zingers and explosive action. Sound like a Double+ adventure? It is.
Plus Man and Hank have been blacklisted and have replaced treasure hunting with job-hunting, before landing a catering job at a swank hotel. But trouble doesn’t wait for hors d’oeuvres as the boys find themselves with a main course of counterfeiting crooks to crack!”
Hilarious D&D inspired all ages graphic novel with tons of LGBTQ+ rep. Starts with a raft-load of puns, but calms down into a very satisfying adventure full of both absurd (in a good way) shenanigans and real feelings.
I might not have lasted through the opening with the non-stop punning (though pun fans will undoubtedly be delighted!) but I trusted Natalie Riess from Space Battle Lunchtime and Sara Goetter from her short work Haircut, which I loved. Super fun and I wish it was first in a series because there is NO TELLING what these characters would get up to.
Bell does a stellar job showing the emotional process she went through as a kid trying to fit in and find friendship. It can be tough when you have a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest during the school day! Anyone who felt out of place while growing up will appreciate kid Cece’s struggles. My husband was afraid this would be an after-school special about a Very Important Topic but after only a few pages, he was hooked. The book is both funny and emotionally real, and universal despite being “about” a specific topic. Also, the people are drawn as bunnies, which is a plus in my book. Don’t miss the author’s note at the end for more of Bell’s adult perspective.
I might recommend it for even younger elementary kids if they’re okay with what my son calls “crush stuff” (i.e. schoolyard romance.) I saw a girl of about 8-10 in the library with it the other day, and her dad said she’d read it three times already.
Each Explorer book is a collection of comic short stories on a theme. Any lover of fantasy, magic, action-adventure, or high-quality art in comics should at least borrow these from their library. They’d make especially good gifts for young comics lovers, or kids new to comics, because they can find their own favorites out of the tales in each book. Kibuishi is a master storyteller whose work has emotional depth while remaining very accessible, and he worked with writers and artists with similar skills for these books. Across the stories, there is quite a bit of diversity in characters. I’m also a sucker for gorgeous covers, and these books rock that aspect. I even love the title font.
Solid, intriguing fantasy with celestial overtones, in a somewhat Victorian setting. I think this would be a hit with kids who groove on Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi, because it’s got the same dark vibe and some hella creepy magic. It’s the story of Poe, who was born covered in black feathers and raised by his adoptive father in a poor neighborhood called the Maze, outside of the rich walled City. It’s also the story of Bianca, who grew up in the City but dreams of adventure. A menacing figure is already stalking the children of the Maze when Poe and Bianca meet, and her presence makes things even more dangerous.
Corona draws expressive people, otherworldly beings, clothing, and uniforms so well. I love Hickman’s muted color palette in this book too! The ending felt a little shaky, but I can forgive it that. I would have eaten this up with a spoon in middle school, and my 8 year old son inhaled it.
A big book of fanciful tales about Glister, a young girl living in England, who gets drawn into magical and strange adventures on a regular basis. if you’re looking for quirky, this is definitely the place to be, but it’s not without depth, particularly the story where Glister goes to Faerieland to find her long-missing mother. I love Watson’s 1-color cartooning, especially how much emotion he gets out of such simple lines for faces. If the kiddo in your life is into the kind of fantasy that involves haunted teapots, houses that rearrange their own rooms when you’re not looking, and trolls in wishing wells, give this one a whirl.
This book hasn’t gotten as much buzz as it should. Diverse cast! Smart girls! Drag racing! Mysteries and adventure! Young queer love! This book just about sparkles with energy. Williams and Stern are a fantastic pairing for the art, and the three volumes out so far have been quite entertaining. Fans of young detectives and girl power should really try this out.
My only complaint is that the character design for Goldie makes her appear younger than her contemporaries. Having seen a separate side story by a different artist in an anthology by this publisher – and seeing that artist depict her as short but looking more the same age as her girlfriend – I’m now more distracted by this when I re-read.
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.
Just the right amount of danger & spookiness!
“Miro and Zia live in Aurora, a fishing town nestled in the shadow of an ancient castle. Miro lives in his books; Zia is never without her camera. The day they meet, they uncover a secret. The fishing works, the castle, and the town council are all linked to an ill-fated 1930s Antarctic expedition. But the diary of that journey has been hidden, and the sea is stirring up unusual creatures. Something has a powerful hold over the town.
With Zia determined to find out more, Miro finds himself putting aside his books for a real adventure.”
“Five students meet in the school cafeteria when they’re forced to complete their school community service hours. There’s Jorge: the brain. Sara: the loner. Dayara: the tough kid. Nico: the rich kid. And Miguel: the athlete.
They immediately know that they have nothing in common with each other… even though their school administration has decided that they all belong together.
None of the kids wants to be there, and each has their own issues they’re dealing with in their life outside of school. But when they encounter someone who truly needs their help, they might just be able to come together to work as a team — and help their community — after all.”
The pacing and structure here are perfect for digging into both what happened – since the book starts with the kids already in trouble for an unspecified joint “crime” that happened during community service – and for finding out more about each character beyond what they’re willing to show the world.
This is a strange little series, and can be scary and serious at times, but we loved it. 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 perfect kind of absurd for my sense of humor!
“Do you ever get tired of watching out for danger, Laser Moose?”
“Do you think danger ever gets tired of being dangerous?”
I read this first in our household, and then desperately wished I’d read it aloud at storytime instead, so my son and I got to crack up together. But how could I have known it would be so good?! He ended up loving it as much as I did. The friendship between Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy is priceless. The Aqua-Bee-Bear is terrifying. Frank the deer carrying his leg around is macabre but hilarious. It’s the kind of series that if you don’t think it’s funny, you’ll probably think it’s pointless, but good people can disagree.
This is a pretty quiet book and initially feels more slice of life, but as it progresses a thoughtful story unfolds about anti-Asian racism, privilege, belonging, family, and what makes a true friendship. By the end I felt like Mei had a bright future ahead of her and I love to see that in queer historical fiction.
“Thirteen-year-old Mei reimagines the myths of Paul Bunyan as starring a Chinese heroine while she works in a Sierra Nevada logging camp in 1885.
Aware of the racial tumult in the years after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Mei tries to remain blissfully focused on her job, her close friendship with the camp foreman’s daughter, and telling stories about Paul Bunyan–reinvented as Po Pan Yin (Auntie Po), an elderly Chinese matriarch.
Anchoring herself with stories of Auntie Po, Mei navigates the difficulty and politics of lumber camp work and her growing romantic feelings for her friend Bee. The Legend of Auntie Po is about who gets to own a myth, and about immigrant families and communities holding on to rituals and traditions while staking out their own place in America.”
If you are a D&D / fantasy RPG fan and you also read graphic novels, you should totally check this out. Especially if you’ve ever played a thief. 100% satisfying adventures & shenanigans, including preventing the end of the world, all that good stuff. It’s definitely on the bloody end, though, so factor that in for the specific kiddo in your life.
“Lily is a young novice who dreams of being a master thief. That’s not easy when the Guildmaster of Thieves only assigns you the lowliest jobs: pick-pocketing, trespassing, and petty theft. But on one of these meager quests, Lily unearths a plot involving a mysterious cult and long-forgotten gods―a secret that could destroy the whole world.
Lily must fight to save the same people who have branded her an outcast. Can she use her cunning to put an ancient evil to rest?”
For such a funny book, this starts with a big emotional wrench! Now granted, it would be hard for Dee to need adopting – per the back of the book – if her parents were still around. But I didn’t realize I was going to meet her dad first! Only for three pages, granted, but dang. That was harsh.
Once his FUNERAL is over, though, this settles into a zany animal adventure with lots of heart. And banter. Oh, the banter. It’s wonderful banter. I’ve never had a vulture as a favorite character before, but he gets all the best lines.
The cartooning is cute. The plot moves along at a good clip. There’s a happy ending. What more could you need from an all-ages comic?
It begins with a box falling out of a truck as it goes across a bridge. The box floats away down the river. A girl who’s skipping school drags it out and opens it, only to find a small (nearly) operational robot. Its disappearance does not go unnoticed at the warehouse, though, and a large, aggressive tracking robot is sent to recover the little one. For a book with two such bitty, cute protagonists, there’s a fair amount of danger in this one, so I don’t recommend it for very young children. The growing friendship between the girl and the robot isn’t without its conflicts, and there’s depth of emotion in both characters’ reactions to their situations.
It particularly moved me that Hatke created the girl as a person of color, with natural-looking hair, from a not-middle-class household (she lives in a trailer park) and made her a tinkerer, a maker! To me, that felt fresh and new. However, please take to heart that some people of color wished Hatke hadn’t made the girl poor, as they felt it reproduced a stereotype.
The perfect blend of silly and real, with a surprising and fun plot twist, and a lot of respect for all the characters.
“Vega’s summer vacation is not going well.
When her parents decide it’s time to pack up and leave her hometown of Portland, Oregon, behind for boring Seattle, Washington, Vega is more than upset—she’s downright miserable. Forced to leave her one and only best friend, Halley, behind, Vega is convinced she’ll never make another friend again.
To help her settle into her new life in Seattle, her parents send Vega off to summer camp to make new friends. Except Vega is determined to get her old life back. But when her cellphone unexpectedly calls it quits and things at camp start getting stranger and stranger, Vega has no choice but to team up with her bunkmates to figure out what’s going on!”
I don’t want to call Lumberjanes a cult hit, because its appeal is wider than that. Indie smash? Darling of all who love strong girls in comics? Whatever you want to call it, it’s great, and you should read it. It’s about five friends who go to summer camp, their counselor, and their many supernatural and mystical adventures. My favorite thing about this comic is the complete lack of drama among the friends. They are just good friends. The story focuses on what they do instead of rivalries, confusions, or romantic jealousy over boys. So rare in stories about girls!
I read the first volume with my son when he was seven, hoping he wouldn’t be in over his head. He wasn’t, and he loved it, so we got the second book when it came out. That’s the volume that sold me. I felt like they’d taken all the good parts of the first book and built on those quite well.
Wonderful middle grade graphic novel about a young musician who uncovers a magical mystery. It’s hilarious at times, deeply moving at others as Malcom’s family struggles with the pre-book death of his brother, and nicely blends friendship, family, creative passion, and even a touch of romance. The art is so fresh and fun, then gentle with the characters where that fits. I will definitely be looking for more from Paramore and Bollinger both.
Lovely contemporary fantasy set in Indonesia, really enjoyed this one.
“Jordan’s days as star player for her school’s basketball team ended when an accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. Now, she’s still the team captain, but her competition days seem to be behind her…until an encounter with a mysterious elephant, who she names Marshmallow, helps Jordan discover a brand new sport.
Will water polo be the way for Jordan to continue her athletic dreams–or will it just come between Jordan and her best friends on the basketball team? And with the big tournament right around the corner, what secret is Marshmallow hiding?”
Arrogant auto mechanic genius Vic Frankenstein moves to Transylvania, Kentucky to open his auto shop in an abandoned junkyard. Little does he know, it has a dark secret! Before you know it, the town is covered with vampire and zombie cars, and Vic must work with a team of auto-monster hunters to save Transylvania AND THE WORLD! There’s a lot to enjoy here. The artists have lovingly filled the backgrounds with cars, gadgets, and debris of all kinds, which will delight any young tinkerer. The action is clear even in gloomy scenes. There are plenty of jokes for kids, and some for adults, especially those who are more familiar with the monster movie genre. I appreciated the competent female character who doesn’t become a love interest. And I can’t get over Vic’s ridiculous hair! Worth checking out around Halloween, or any time really.
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.
Action, adventure, family, friendship, sci-fi and fantasy elements, and nonbinary and BIPOC rep! Also, it’s a heck of a lot of fun and also extremely touching at times. I hope this is going to become a series, and if not, I’ll definitely be looking out for more of Yee’s work.
“Safia thought that being blind meant she would only get to go on adventures through her audiobooks. This all changes when she goes to live with a distant and mysterious aunt, Lady Whimsy, who takes Safia on the journey of a lifetime!
While the reclusive Lady Whimsy stops an old rival from uncovering the truth behind her disappearance, Safia experiences parts of the world she had only dreamed about. But when an unlikely group of chaotic agents comes after Whimsy, Safia is forced to confront the adventure head-on. For the first time in her life, Safia is the hero of her own story, and she must do what she can to save the day.
And maybe find some friends along the way.”
Faith Erin Hicks has been one of my favorite comics creators for years, and I was excited to see her turn to a fantasy series. While I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about a white person writing a colonization story in an Asian-inspired historical setting, I did really like both lead characters and I found the plot compelling. Kaidu is an immigrant to the city, the son of a ranking official from the Dao ethnic group that’s the latest in a series of conquerors/rulers. Rat is a city native, quasi-homeless, and she has no love for the Dao. When a political conspiracy threatens the fragile not-fighting (is it really peace?), Kai and Rat must work together. Along the way, the story engages with militarism, war, power, culture clash, and more issues that may be familiar to adult readers, but aren’t a staple in kids’ comics. Definitely worth checking out.
First, a note about the names. Nathan Hale was a soldier and spy during the U.S. Revolutionary War who was executed by the British in 1776. Nathan Hale is (also) an author and cartoonist who was born in 1976, and who wrote and illustrated this book. The story begins on September 22, 1976, as the spy Hale is about to be executed by hanging. However, it’s revealed that he was (at some point) swallowed by a giant history book and has mystical powers of telling the future. Like you do. So he’s granted a stay of execution to tell his captors a story about the Civil War.
I know it sounds completely bizarre. And honestly I find the whole impending execution part somewhat distressing. If he’d been hanged at the end, I wouldn’t be recommending this for children! Instead, he’s asked for another story, allowing the reader the fiction that he could keep going forever. And the stories he tells are hilarious. The personalities Hale depicts for so many of these historical figures are probably way over the top, but it makes the stories entertaining and compelling. Even if you have no interest in Civil War history, give this a whirl. After we read this, we read One Dead Spy, which is the first book from this series, and we enjoyed it too.
But my other favorite from the series is…
The story of Harriet Tubman, born enslaved, who would go on to lead numerous African-Americans to freedom – as well as serve as a spy against the Confederate Army. Hale isn’t afraid to use humor, and portray Tubman as a real person instead of an inaccessible icon. A real person who could totally kick your ass.
Hale doesn’t sugarcoat slavery for the sake of keeping the story light, which I totally respect. This was a great book in our house for building on picture books we’d read about slavery when my son was younger. I’m for any book that gets kids to joyfully celebrate heroes like Tubman.
Soft and dreamy, this graphic novel follows a middle school girl who’s discovering opera as she’s worrying about a classmate. It could maybe have used a bit more focus, but I enjoyed the feeling that I’d stepped out of my world and into the main character’s. It feels like a slice of life indie film. Really liked it. Queer secondary character, happy ending.
“It’s almost the end of middle school, and Charlie has to find her perfect song for a music class assignment. The class learns about a different style of music each day, from hip-hop to metal to disco, but it’s hard for Charlie to concentrate when she can’t stop noticing her classmate Emile, or wondering about Luka, who hasn’t been to school in weeks. On top of everything, she has been talked into participating in an end-of-year performance with her best friends.
Then, the class learns about opera, and Charlie discovers the music of Maria Callas. The more she learns about Maria’s life, the more Charlie admires her passion for singing and her ability to express herself fully through her music. Can Charlie follow the example of the ultimate diva, Maria Callas, when it comes to her own life?”
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 am SO glad that my son is fine with pink and “girly” things, because I might have missed this book if he didn’t agree we should order it. And it’s so funny! When Phoebe accidentally hit the unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils in the face with a rock, who knew it would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship? This online cartoon makes the transition to book form beautifully. This was one of my son’s favorite books in 2014. He even announced one day that he was VERY cross he hadn’t managed to read it again lately, which he had been PLANNING to, and all this OTHER stuff had gotten in the way! Both Phoebe and Marigold are so quirky, and the humor is so well-done, my husband and I were cracking up just as much as the kid was.
Update: Now there are fifteen volumes of this series, and we’ve enjoyed every one.
So striking to me in the way it very realistically portrays middle-school kids in all their complexity.
“Misty never shies away from a challenge, on or off the field. So when the boys tell her she can’t play football, there’s only one thing to do: join their team and show them what she’s got.
But the training is rougher than she thought — and so are the other guys, who aren’t thrilled about having a girl on their team.
Middle school isn’t so easy, either. Misty wants to fit in with the popular kids, but they think a girl playing football is ‘weird.’ Even her best friend doesn’t get it.
Can Misty find a way to score points with her teammates, make new friends, and show everyone—including herself — what it means to play like a girl?”
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.
Cuteness! Dragons and unicorns! Heroes with great hair! Girls falling in love! A fantasy story with diverse characters! First published online, this is a sweet little hardcover short graphic novel about two brave princesses who work together against evil and jealousy. Totally satisfying.
Gorgeous, detailed hybrid graphic novel that’s an alternate history version of England, focused on Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I, as seen through the eyes of a young girl who lives at the island convent where “Eleanor of Albion” is exiled. I loved how slow this book was, and how much of Margaret’s everyday life and the environment of the convent and the natural world around it are explored.
I’ve heard there will be a sequel and I’m really looking forward to it.
Love all these nerdy kids, love how they all grow and start to find their places. Ends up as a warm hug of a book.
“Victoria has always loved horses. But riding in competitions is high stakes, high stress, and shockingly expensive. And even though Victoria’s best friend Taylor loves competing, Victoria has lost her taste for it.
After a heartbreaking fight with Taylor, Victoria needs a new start―at a new stables. A place where she doesn’t have to worry about anything other than riding. No competition, no drama, no friends.
Edgewood Stables seems ideal. There are plenty of horses to ride, and Victoria is perfectly happy giving the other riders the cold shoulder. But can she truly be happy with no friends?”
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.
When Astrid decides to sign up for roller derby summer camp, she assumes her best friend Nicole will do it too. Astrid’s mom agrees – in part because the girls will be together. So what happens when Nicole doesn’t want to? Let’s just say that Astrid isn’t the kind of girl to give up… which may or may not be a good thing. I love this book because it depicts pre-teens as people, even though they’re young and sometimes annoying. Astrid isn’t perfect. She’s fairly self-absorbed, occasionally mean, and even at the end of the book she isn’t handling social situations as thoughtfully as one might aspire to. But she makes progress.
The art is cute without being cutesy, and there’s plenty of derby action in addition to some good lessons. Astrid and her mom and Puerto Rican, so yay for more Latina girl characters in comics.
This series is so silly, and perfect for any fantasy fan. Chef Rutabaga grew tired of normal food, and now travels far and wide seeking magical and rare ingredients to use in his cooking. He carries a complete kitchen in a backpack twice his size, and will risk almost any danger for the next perfect dish! Hopefully he’ll survive long enough to open the restaurant he’s compiling recipes for… The four chapters in the first book are each their own stories, and they’re all great. You also get illustrated recipes for the cooks out there. A+ for action, humor, and cute little people running around with swords. I appreciated that there are major Black characters, and that town scenes are a mix of people instead of the lily-white villages that you too often find in fantasy worlds.
Girl BFFs on a space station! A bio-engineered three-headed kitten called Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds! A diverse cast! Action and adventure! Seriously, it’s an amazing middle grade story that this adult enjoyed thoroughly. I had read a couple of self-published short-stories about these gal pals, and I was so delighted to see a full-length graphic novel. Then even more delighted when it became a series.
“Sanity Jones and Tallulah Vega are best friends on Wilnick, the dilapidated space station they call home at the end of the galaxy. So naturally, when gifted scientist Sanity uses her lab skills and energy allowance to create a definitely-illegal-but-impossibly-cute three-headed kitten, she has to show Tallulah.
But Princess, Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds is a bit of a handful, and it isn’t long before the kitten escapes to wreak havoc on the space station. The girls will have to turn Wilnick upside down to find her, but not before causing the whole place to evacuate! Can they save their home before it’s too late?”
Comforting middle grade graphic novel about recovering from grief.
“Mary Lennox is a loner living in Silicon Valley. With her parents always working, video game and tech become her main source of entertainment and “friends.” When her parents pass away in a tragic accident, she moves to New York City to live with her uncle who she barely knows, and to her surprise, keeps a gadget free home. Looking for comfort in this strange, new reality, Mary discovers an abandoned rooftop garden and an even bigger secret…her cousin who suffers from anxiety. With the help of her new friends, Colin and Dickon, Mary works to restore the garden to its former glory while also learning to grieve, build real friendships, and grow.”
The setup of “kid detectives living in an orphanage” cannot begin to explain how fun this comic is. Mary Branwell, recently orphaned, is teamed up with Popowski, a hard-boiled homicide cop, to investigate the fire which killed Mary’s parents. Popowski’s dialogue is stellar. There are robot dogs. I wish, oh how I wish this was an ongoing series. But there is only one small volume, which you should buy, read, and cherish.
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!
What happens when rich next-door neighbors decide to out-do each other with their remodeling? About what you’d expect. Agenor-Agobar Poirier des Chapelles and Willigis Kittycly Jr. clearly have more money than sense, and the book is a series of side-by-side depictions of their houses as they get bigger and grander, with captions for various elements that demonstrate the excess. (Watch for the highest paid architects.) I don’t know how long it took Albertine to do these meticulous, crisp line drawings but they are amazing to behold. Though the fate of one of the houses is predictable, you won’t expect the fate of the pizza. I guarantee it. Superbly enjoyable for adult and child alike.
Fantastic & diverse graphic novel. A middle-school girl who feels like an outsider encounters a “witch” in the woods and finds out all *kinds* of secrets about the world and her own family. A variety of lovely queer rep, a fantastic girl protagonist, her mother is awesome, her dog is wonderful, and wow I JUST LOVED THIS.
“Snap’s town had a witch. At least, that’s how the rumor goes. But in reality, Jacks is just a crocks-wearing, internet-savvy old lady who sells roadkill skeletons online–after doing a little ritual to put their spirits to rest. It’s creepy, sure, but Snap thinks it’s kind of cool, too.
They make a deal: Jacks will teach Snap how to take care of the baby opossums that Snap rescued, and Snap will help Jacks with her work. But as Snap starts to get to know Jacks, she realizes that Jacks may in fact have real magic–and a connection with Snap’s family’s past.”
Fun series with a queer gal main character, about an intergalactic high-stakes cooking competition reality show. I’d felt lukewarm about the pitch for this because I’ve never really watched cooking shows, but I’m so glad I got over myself and gave it a shot. Peony, a baker from Earth, gets picked to compete in an elimination-style cooking program. The competition is much more brutal and backstabbing than she’d imagined, threatening not only her dreams for the prize but her budding romance with fellow chef Neptunia. Totally satisfying “underdog wins the day with help from her friends” story. My son (nine at the time) fell for this instantly.
I loved both of these girls, as well as their friend/sidekick Fred. This was a lot of fun, in addition to engaging with more serious subjects such as war, peace, toxic masculinity, and family expectations.
“Odette and Dillie are supposed to be enemies. Their kingdoms have been feuding since before they were born.
But when the two princesses meet each other at the lake that separates their castles, it’s clear they were destined to be best friends. Odette–who lives with a curse that magically transforms her into a swan when the sun rises–is happy to find someone who treats her like everyone else. And Dillie has finally met someone who understands her dream of having an adventure instead of sitting on a throne.
When they discover that Odette’s curse is the reason for tension between their families, they decide to follow an ancient legend that could lead them to someone who can set everything right. As they travel through enchanted lands, meet new allies, and fight terrible foes, Odette and Dillie are put to the ultimate test.
But when the time comes, will they choose their deepest wishes or the fragile fate of their world?”
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. (But 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.
Fascinating, magical graphic novel about a boy who’s sent to live with an aunt and uncle for the summer and discovers a portal to another time. Tom meets a little girl named Hatty in the garden he finds behind the old grandfather clock in the wall, and as he passes nights in her world, he starts to think he wants to stay there forever. What starts as an intriguing adventure becomes quite emotional, and this really reminded me of some favorite portal fantasy books I read in my childhood. If the kiddo in your life is sensitive to strong feelings, you might want to pre-read, but I can’t recommend this enough for its artistry and its deep respect for the emotional lives of children.
I am so desperate for a next graphic novel in this series! Magic, adventure, mystery, lovely family relationships, and plenty of humor. A perfect example of how it’s not about coming up with an idea/tropes/elements that nobody’s ever used before, it’s about taking your story elements and making them shine. Chmakova knocks it out of the park
“In the Night Realm, vampires, shifters, weirns, and other night things passing for human prowl the streets… but they still have to go to school! Ailis and Na’ya are pretty average students (NOT losers), but when a shadow starts looming and a classmate gets all weird, they are the first to notice. It gets personal, though, when Na’ya’s little brother D’esh disappears – It’s time to confront the secrets of the forbidden mansion in the Silent Woods!”
There seems to have been one Weirn Books series previously in some format, but we’re starting with the new series linked from and pictured here.
Fairly straightforward but heartfelt tale about the toxicity of rigid gender roles, with lovely art because Molly Knox Ostertag is amazing. It’s the story of Aster, a boy growing up in a society where women do magic and men shapeshift, and that’s that. Except it isn’t, because Aster does magic and doesn’t shapeshift. What I particularly appreciated: (a) Aster’s confidence-building friendship with a girl outside his community who also doesn’t follow gender norms, (b) The diversity of skin color among the magical community, and (c) the magic system, because I would love to talk to a tree with a cool-looking symbol and have it give me an apple. The resolution with Aster’s parents was bittersweet but realistic given that they’re fundamentally good people but severely blindered by their culture. Hopefully every library in the entire country has this on the shelves, it’s both entertaining and sorely needed.
I loved all the characters and tbh wouldn’t mind moving into the house next door to Effie’s aunts.
“Could there really be witches in Brooklyn?!
Effie’s aunts are weird. Like, really WEIRD. Really, really, really WEIRD! The secretly-magic kind of weird and that makes Effie wonder . . . does this mean she can do magic, too?
Life in Brooklyn takes a strange twist for Effie as she learns more about her family and herself. With new friends who will do whatever they can to be there for her, a cursed pop-star, and her magically-inclined aunts–Effie’s life is about to get interesting.”
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.
“There’s more to this kitty than meets the eye! Kyuu-chan loves snacks, cuddles, and bow ties, but most of all loves Hinata, the young professional who adopted this mischievous wonder cat into his home. As the two adjust to life together, they discover that they have a lot to learn from each other.”
There are so many manga and graphic novels about living with cats, but this is one of my favorites. It’s quirky, it’s fluffy (the story, not just the cat), and it’s a fun quick read to brighten your day. If you are a cat-loving manga-reading person, check it out!
This is a gorgeous adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. 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.
“Lydia Riverthane has always dreamed of being a professional wrassler, the greatest of all fighters in the kingdom of Grimslade. Growing up in the shadow of Wrassle Castle, where her older brother routinely racks up championship belts, has only fueled her competitive fire. But when her brother is mysteriously arrested for treason, Lydia and her friends must find a way into the year-end tournament. There she can win back his freedom the only way she knows how… wrassling!”
Over-the-top ridiculous in a good way, fun, heartfelt, and very satisfying. I especially loved Lydia’s friend group; they’re all great. I always appreciate surprise queer rep in an all-ages graphic novel, so I am also pleased to report that Lydia’s big brother is married to another man – and in this world it’s totally normal.
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 elementary school 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!