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There’s no denying that graphic novels appeal to the kid in us as well as our own children. Jaxson really enjoys the wordless graphic novels since he’s just starting to read. We actually “read” them together and share our different interpretations of the story.
Sophia, on the other hand, used to exclusively read graphic novels–unless it was book for school. It didn’t bother me that she read them, but I wanted to diversify her reading. Her bag of library books is a 50/50 mix of graphic novels and chapter books.
Seeing diverse characters in graphic novels are just as important as picture and chapter books, especially when the story doesn’t revolve around race. Even more so, since the illustrated action can tell more of the story than the its dialogue. I’ve gather a few of our family favorites and some that’s on our list for when Sophia is a little bit older. Some feature diverse characters while others are written/drawn by authors of color.
Diverse Graphic Novels For Kids
A few years ago, my sister gave the kids a copy of Wave by Suzy Lee. A little girl spends the day playing with the waves at the beach, but in a slightly different manner than we expect. Technically this isn’t a graphic novel, but it’s a wordless picture book geared towards preschoolers (and older). Wordless books are a gateway to graphic novels, right? Might as well start while they’re young. Recommended for preschoolers and older.
I almost bypassed Here I Am by Patti Kim when I first saw it on my library’s shelf, but Jaxson picked it up. I’m glad he did! The story of a young boy and his family’s new life in America. They traveled a long way to live in a strange place. He’s not entirely happy about their new home, but one day accidentally discovers all the fun, exciting life in his neighborhood. He even finds a new friend. Don’t let the black and white drawing on the cover fool you. The illustrations capture the boy’s moods perfectly. Recommended for ages 5-10.
Akissi: Feline Invasion by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Mathieu Sapin came recommended by a Twitter friend. Follow Akissi’s adventure as she dodges the neighborhood cat who wants to steal her fish, avoids her pesky older brother, and save her pet monkey. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
In Luz Sees the Light by Claudia Davila, Luz is ready to change the world! With frequent power outages and rising gas prices in her town, Luz has a plan to help her neighborhood live more sustainably. If youre child likes this graphic novel, make sure you read Luz Makes a Splash, where Luz tackles water consumption. Recommended for ages 8-12.
I’m glad I finally convinced my daughter to read The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis. As a future scientist, my daughter fell in love with secret scientist Greta who–with her fellow junior high scientists–who tinker on gadgets like the Stink-O-Meter and Nightsneak Goggles. Can the inventors stop a heist with their creations? Recommended for ages 8-12.
Cleopatra in Space #1: Target Practice by Mike Maihack is a science fiction graphic novel about the famous, young Cleopatra. She discovers a mysterious tablet that zaps her into the far, far future. Destined to save the galaxy form the evil Xaius, she enrolls in a space academy to train. I defnitely have to get a copy of this for Sophia! Recommended for ages 8-12.
2015 Newberry Honor Book El Deafo by CeCeBell tackles how Bell’s hearing aid, the Phonic Ear, made making new friends at school challenging. This graphic novel memoir shares how Bell lost her hearing at a young age and how she was able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear to become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” Recommended for ages 8-12.
I almost shrieked when I discovered that The Babysitters Club exists in graphic novel form. Claudia was the very first Asian American character I discovered that wasn’t an immigrant! Why not introduce your kids to this classic series with The Baby-Sitters Club: Claudia and Mean Janine by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier. Recommended for ages 8-12.
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri and illustrated by Randy DuBurke was recommended during a Twitter chat. Roger searches for the truth behind the death of his classmate Robert “Yummy” Sandifer. This graphic novel is a dramatization based on gang life in Chicago in 1994. Recommended for ages 10-16.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan may not have any words, but his detailed drawings is all that’s needed to tell the story. A lone immigrant leaves his wife and child behind to find better prospects in country far away. After you finish reading it, you’ll want to read all the books by the award winning Aussie. Recommended for ages 12 and up.
On my personal reading list is National Book Award Finalist Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang. I had the honor of hearing him speak last fall at the Library of Congress, where he share how discovering an Asian comic character kickstarted his love of comic books. The two volumes of Boxers & Saints tells parallel stories of a Chinese peasant boy and a young girl adopted by Christian missionaries during the Boxer Rebellion. Make sure you also check out Yang’s American Born Chinese. Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Princeless, Vol. 1: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin was also recommended by my Twitter friends. When Princess Adrienne turns 16, her parents lock her in a tower guarded by a dragon so a prince save her. Instead of waiting around, Adrienne takes fate into her own hands! There’s quite a few books in the Princeless series, so this should keep your child busy! Recommended for ages 12 and up.
What are some of your favorite diverse graphic novels? Share in the comments!