Comic and Graphic Novels for Tweens

~ posted by Ruth

If you’re looking for a way to connect young tween readers with books that hold their interest, graphic novels are a terrific resource.  When I look around the sixth-grade classroom I visit weekly during reading workshop, at least a quarter of the kids are immersed in graphic novels or comic formats for their reading.  These books keep them coming back for more–which gives them the practice they need to become more and more involved and dedicated readers. If comics and graphic novels  are a new genre for you, you will be surprised at the range of kinds of stories, including non-fiction, that are available.  And they require all the kinds of comprehension, decoding, sequencing, and other skills good readers rely on.  Here’s a few recent graphic novels for tweens to get you started.

ZitaZita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke

Zita becomes an intergalactic hero when she flies off to rescue her friend Joseph who was abducted by aliens.  The cult of Scriptorians plan to sacrifice Joseph in a  ritual to prevent the destruction of their planet.  Picking up side-kicks along the way and encountering amazing sights and strange creatures, Zita our spunky hero, prevails.  It’s fun and funny, clever, and ultimately satisfying.  Kind of a science fiction version of Alice and Wonderland/The Wizard of Oz.  And there’s more in the series!

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Bad-IslandBad Island by Doug TenNapel

Shipwrecked on an island!  Not the kind of family vacation Reese and his family had envisioned.  And it only gets worse, with strange plants, island inhabitants, and a mystery. Think tiny people, robots, evil dynasties, slaves. . . Inevitable comparisons to The Swiss Family Robinson, or even the TV show Lost (especially with the flashbacks and mysterious events).  Great conversation starter for kids and friends and families. Good storytelling and intriguing illustrations.

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BillBill the Boy Wonder:  The Secret Co-Creator of Batman by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Ty Templeton
Time to learn about a forgotten hero of the comics genre–Bill Finger.  Turns out he was the co-creator and actual inventor of the Caped Crusader and his side-kick Robin, though he never received full credit in his lifetime.  The illustrations are comic book style in this picture book, with the text “boxed” with the panels.  The history of this creative author/illustrator makes fascinating reading–in the very first panels, we learned he changed his name from Milton to Bill at an early age because of discrimination against Jews. Kids love the story, and so do their parents–and grandparents!  A great companion:  Batman Chronicles, Volume I, which includes the original early adventure of Batman and Robin.

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BoneBone: Volume I:  Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith

For 20 years, the Bones series has been drawing in readers from Grade 5 up with its terrific drawings, great adventures, and witty writing.  Now at 9 volumes, there is plenty to appreciate in this comic series.  In this first book, we meet Bones and the cast of characters–the three main characters are the Bone cousins, thrown out of town, and stumbling through a Lord of the Rings type saga.  Don’t wait to dig into this series–it’s already considered a classic!

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Into-the-VolcanoInto the Volcano by Don Wood

Another vacation gone awry.  In this one, brothers Sumo and Duffy are trapped on a remote volcanic island about to explode. Fantastically illustrated by award-winning picture book artists and writer Don Wood, this stunning graphic novel is mystery, coming-of-age, and a gripping adventure.   Each page is a beautiful work of art in itself; the characters themselves really come alive.  How’s this for a recommendation?  In reference to this book, one reviewer wrote:   “the American Library Association will either have to start handing Caldecott Medals over to comic books or create an entirely new award for them.”

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BabymouseBaby Mouse #1: Queen of the World by Jennifer and Matthew Holm

Babymouse is a spunky little mouse who is something of a wiseguy.  In her mouse-tween world, she imagines being at the height of popularity.  Of course, that would include being invited to Felicia Furrypaws party. . . But is it worth betraying Willie Weasel, her loyal friend?  Welcome to middle school in the mouse world.  Really humorous storylines and wonderful energetic artwork add to the appeal of this series.   And please note:  Baby mouse is a reader!  Her room has stacks of books.   And speaking of stacks of books, Babymouse’s adventures are up to #14.

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To-DanceTo Dance:  A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Sienna Cherson Siegel, illsurtated  by Marc Siegel

To Dance is a graphic novel with a difference: it is a fine autobiography of a contemporary dancer, born in Puerto Rico, who emigrates to the US.  Her growth as a dancer, and tragic accident at age 18 create a moving story, enhanced by the watercolor and ink illustrations that dance across the pages of this inspirational graphic novel.  Great for ballet lovers who will learn the inside story of what it takes to become a professional ballerina.  But non-dancers will love it as well, for the honest and engaging voice and fantastic artwork.

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