Graphic Novels Every Librarian Should Read

All Ages & Early Elementary

Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold & Alexis Frederick-Frost. First Second . Once upon a time, a princess tried to draw a comic, but was frustrated with her drawings. Just when she was about to give up, a cartooning elf offers to help her out. Along the way they fight a dragon, save some knights and learn about making comics! This is a fantastic pick – not only is it funny and exciting, but it’s great for new comic readers of all ages. (KLB)

Babymouse (series) by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm. Babymouse dreams of fame, glamour and excitement, but her lack of attention always trips her up! However, with good friends and good luck, Babymouse always comes through in the end. This charming black and pink series is funny, smart and vibrantly illustrated in pink and black. (MJB)

Jack and the Box by Art Spiegelman. RAW Junior (Toon Books). Jack, a young bunny, receives a jack-in-the-box named Zack, who is very silly (and proud of it!). The story, word level and art are all simple, but well done, making this a great choice for young readers. (KLB)

There’s a Bird on Your Head! (and others in the Elephant and Piggie series) by Mo Willems. Hyperion. Gerald needs help getting a bird off of his head, but when Piggie starts helping, Gerald soon discovers that there are worse things than having a bird on one’s head! This beginning reader is a hoot – Willems’ characters are simple yet delightfully expressive and the humor, themes of friendship and problem solving, the whole series is appealing to boys and girls alike. Word bubbles that are the same color as the characters help teach beginning comics readers how to follow the dialog. (KLB)

Yotsuba&! (series ) by Kiyohiko Azuma. Yen Press. Yotsuba is a young girl who has wacky adventures whether she's in the playground, going to the store, or visiting her neighbors. With her tireless spirit she experiences the joy of everyday life and vigorously shares it with those around her. Yotsuba's energy and ignorance is what makes this such a funny, silly, and heartwarming. All ages will eagerly follow her escapades. (HC)

Upper Elementary

Amelia Rules! (series) by Jimmy Gownley. Anthenium. Amelia is a normal girl who has to move from the big city to a small town, be the "New Girl" at school, and make new friends all because her parents are divorcing. Yeah, "normal." What a novelty: a book about a 5th Grader for 5th Graders! Other age groups will certainly also enjoy because of the odd characters and truly realistic situations. (HC)

Amulet (series) by Kazu Kibuishi. Following the death of their father, siblings Emily and Navin move to the creepy old house of their great-grandfather. However, The house is not safe, as they discover when their mother is kidnapped by a tentacled monster. In their attempt to save her, they discover a magical world full of talking robots, fuzzy sidekicks and evil monsters. They are aided by a magical amulet that seeks to help them –or does it? This adventure series features eye-poppingly beautiful art, a fast-paced plot and plenty of humor. (MJB)

Bone (series) by Jeff Smith. Scholastic Graphix. When the three Bone cousins, Fone, Phoney, and Smiley, are run out of town they begin a journey full of adventure, suspense, and stupid, stupid rat creatures! Don't let the simple art fool you! This epic story will take you on a roller-coaster ride through drama and comedy all the while enjoying the pure wit of the writing. This is a “conversion” book – give it to someone who claims not to like graphic novels and watch them become an instant fan! (HC)

Magic Trixie (series) by Jill Thompson. Trixie has a problem – her family. With an annoying baby sister, bossy parents and exasperating grandparents, our young witch has to make a stand with sass and smarts. Illustrated in gorgeous watercolors, these three graphic novels give a supernatural twist to some common tween problems. (MJB)

Middle School

The Archie Wedding: Archie In Will You Marry Me? by Michael Ulson. Archie Comics. One of the newest titles in the Archie series, our heroes are out of high school and getting married! Archie is a classic and a number of new titles have come out in recent years; many are reissues of previously published stories, but this one is an original story. (JP)

Birds of Prey (series) by Chuck Dixon & Gail Simone. DC Comics. Oracle, the former Batgirl injured in battle and now the information provider (think librarian!) for other crime fighters, partners with a down-on-her-luck Black Canary. These resourceful women are a refreshing change from the standard super-powered set. (JP).

Hikaru no Go (series) by Yumi Hotta. Viz. Hikaru is haunted by Sai a Go master from centuries ago. To appease Sai's yearning, Hikaru plays the game with Sai's instruction and they become a formidable team. Their opponents though only see a 6th Grade boy and wonder how this non-ranked kid can compete so well. This title should be SO boring, but it is NOT! The competition and the other characters Hikaru meets and beats creates excitement, fun, and even education. (HC)

Naruto (series) by Masashi Kishimoto. Viz. Naruto Uzumaki will not let anyone or anything stop him from his ultimate goal of becoming the Hokage (village leader)! It doesn't matter that he hasn't even been accepted into the Ninja Academy yet. Naruto is one of those characters that you can't help rooting for whether it is a simple school test or a battle to the death! With all his flaws and unnaturally high confidence, he believes in hard work and his triumphs are always earned.

Runaways (series) by Brian K. Vaughn, Joss Whedon, Terry Moore et al. Marvel Comics. Every teen knows their parents are hiding something from them. When 6 privileged teens spy on their parent’s business meeting, they learn that their parents are evil super-villians who control the entire West Coast. Going on the run, the teens discover not only the truth about their parents, but also some surprising truths about themselves. Fast paced but thoughtful, this series will resonate with many teen readers. (MJB)

High School and Adults

30 Days of Night by Steve Niles. IDW Publishing. Vampires attack the Alaskan town of Barrow as it's month-long night begins and the isolated town folk must rely on the two sheriffs (husband and wife) to survive till morning. While the motion picture kept the eerie look and feel, the original story had more developed characters and involved plot. I loved the intelligent, evil villains, and the utter desperation of the heroes. (HC)

Astro City (series) by Kurt Busiek, Brent E. Anderson, and Alex Ross. WildStorm. In a world where superheroes are real, how to do “we” interact with “them”? This is the question asked by Astro City, a title that focuses on the smaller, more human interactions in a world populated by characters that are larger than life. There are no content issues to keep this out of the hands of younger readers, but the quieter nature of these tales will appeal more to older readers. (MJB)

Daredevil: Guardian Devil by Kevin Smith. Marvel Comics. Matt Murdock: lawyer, recovering Catholic, superhero. When a young pregnant woman claiming to be a virgin asks Matt, knowing he's Daredevil, for help against the demons after her unborn child, he not only has to battle a lot of bad guys but must also confront his own beliefs. This is what I usually give to unbelieving parents when they tell me "Graphic novels aren't 'real' books." They've pretty much all come back rehabilitated because of the great story and realistic characters. (HC)

Fruits Basket (series) by Natsuki Takaya. TOKYOPOP. Orphan Tohru Honda is taken in by the mysterious Sohma household, and learns their family secret: when touched by members of the opposite sex, they turn into their Chinese Zodiac animal! From slapstick funny to heart wrenching sorrow the storyline is addictive and the engaging characters make this one of the best shojo manga. (HC)

Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. DC Comics. In this Elseworlds story, the golden age heroes of the DC Universe must come out of retirement and exile to deal with the damaged caused by their children and grandchildren. A compelling and thought provoking story is made unforgettable by photorealistic painted art. (MJB)

League of Extraordinary Gentleman by Alan Moore. America’s Best Comics. The literary references and stylistic language are as much fun as the storyline. Set in Victorian times, the League members—headed by a woman—are recruited to save the British empire. Brief nudity and a rape scene rate it for mature teens. (JK)

Maus by Art Spiegelman . Pantheon . Originally published in two volumes and also available combined in 1 volume, this is the classic that started it all. Art’s interview of his father, a survivor of Auschwitz, reveals how their turbulent relationship was influenced by his father’s wartime experiences. (JK)

Sandman (series) by Neil Gaiman. Vertigo. Trapped for a mortal lifetime, Morpheus, Lord Of Dreams, takes on a quest to regain his kingdom. Along the way he falls in love, argues with his family, and must decide to change or die. A graphic classic, and the only comic to win the world fantasy award. (MJB & JK)

Usagi Yojimbo (series) by Stan Sakai. Fantagraphics & Dark Horse. Miyamoto Usagi, a samurai in 17th-century Japan, finds danger, excitement, and every once in a while peace during his wandering travels. Historical fiction at its best! The animal main characters may give the stories a fantasy feel, but they have all been researched and portray an accurate Feudal Japan. (HC)

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore. Vertigo . In an alternate world where England is a dismal totalitarian state, a vigilante named "V" decides to free the country through violent revolution. But are his actions truly emancipation or vengeance? A great mystery filled with wonderful characters that make the reader think. (HC)

HC = Hilary Chang, McCully-Moiliili, HI Public Library
JP = Jill Patterson, La Habra, CA Branch Library
KLB = Kearsten LaBrozzi, Glendale, AZ Public Library
MJB= Merideth Jenson-Benjamin, Glendale, AZ Public Library

Prepared for Comic-Con International: San Diego, 2010