Kids who love to read graphic novels tend to go through stacks of them faster than you can ask, "What are some great graphic novels for kids?" Fortunately, this list of the best graphic novels of 2022 will help fill those bookshelves and fuel late night reading sessions.
Graphic novels are often touted as good choices for reluctant readers, or get a bad rap as "not real books." True, they are great for reluctant readers, but also voracious ones. And, graphic novels are indeed "real books." A good graphic novel or comic book can be just as meaningful, insightful and literary as traditional novels. So don't worry parents! If your kid only wants to read illustrated novels, let them!
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LEMON BIRD CAN HELP! by Paulina Ganucheau
The cuteness oozes from every illustrated panel. Lemon Bird and her friend, Pupkin are lost and set out on a journey to get back home. Along the way they encounter a parade of other adorable creatures, including Keylime Bird. Keylime Bird teases Lemon Bird for her apparent inability to fly, but when Lemon is separated from Pupkin, Keylime comes to the rescue. This graphic novel is completely adorable, and Ganucheau has managed to create well-rounded (pun intended) characters who learn and grow. Ages 5 and up.
FRIZZY by Claribel A. Ortega, illustrated by Rose Bousamra
Marlene hates going to the hair salon to have her hair straightened. Her mother insists that Marlene tame her frizzy hair into "good hair." Marlene resents how others judge her natural hair, but she doesn't know how to style it. Enter her Tía Ruby, who also has a head full of boisterous curls. Tía Ruby empowers Marlene with instructions and products to help her wear her hair the way she wants. This revelation is followed by another which helps bring Marlene and her mother closer together. This wonderful graphic novel isn't just about one girl's battle with society's beauty standards, it's a window into how kids can learn to speak up for themselves. Ages 8 and up.
This mostly wordless graphic novel is a gorgeous ode to the imagination, family and human connection. During her visit with Lao Lao, the child protagonist spends time outdoors with her grandmother. After the child finds a flamingo feather, Lao Lao begins to tells her a story about a girl who hatched a flamingo egg. Once the child returns home, she dreams up an ending for the story and writes it down to send to Lao Lao. Ages 5 and up.
ISLA TO ISLAND by Alexis Castellanos
Another mostly wordless graphic novel tells the story of Marisol, one of the "Pedro Pan" children who was sent to Florida from Cuba during the Cuban Revolution. After Castro comes to power, Marisol's life is upended when her parents put her on an airplane to a foreign country. Marisol lives with a white couple in Florida who don't speak Spanish. Slowly, Marisol and the couple start to bond. The wordless format underscores Marisol's feeling of being isolated from her former life. Ages 9 and up.
SWAN LAKE: QUEST FOR THE KINGDOMS by Rey Terciero, illustrated by Megan Kearney
This clever, funny and rollicking reimagining of the ballet, Swan Lake, is great fun. In Bloom Kingdom, Princess Odette longs to study ballet, but she is cursed to take the form of a swan during the day. When she meets Princess Dillie (who has a prosthetic leg) of Rotbart Kingdom, the new friends decide to find a way to break the curse. During their adventure they are joined by Prince Siegfried of Montrose Kingdom, who is on his own quest to prove he is good enough to rule. Ages 9 and up.
TWIN CITIES by Jose Pimienta
12-year-old twins Teresa and Fernando are on the road to sixth grade where they will be attending different schools. Fernando is staying close to home in Mexicali, while Teresa is going to a school across the California border in Calexico.The two have very different experiences at school and with their peers, as well as engaging in familiar sibling struggles. An excellent and thoughtful graphic novel. Ages 8 and up.
SWIM TEAM by Johnnie Christmas
This graphic novel tells the story of Enith Brigitha, who is not looking forward to having to take swimming lessons in middle school. Enith's elderly neighbor, Etta, used to be a swimming team captain and takes on the task of coaching Enith. Despite her insecurity about swimming, Enith improves with hard work and competes with her team, the Mighty Manatees. Ages 8 and up.
DIONYSOS: THE NEW GOD (series) by George O'Connor
I'm not going to dissemble, Dionysos is my favorite god. The god of theater? And wine? It's not even a contest. This is O'Connor's final installment in his Olympians graphic novel series (always save the best for last). Hestia, oldest of the gods, and the goddess of the hearth and home, narrates the story of Dionysos, the youngest. She tells the story of his birth as the son of Zeus and a mortal mother. He discovers wine, cavorts and parties his way through adulthood. He is, Hestia tells us, the god most closely aligned with what it is to be a human. Ages 10 and up.
FREESTYLE by Gale Galligan
In New York City, eighth grader, Cory, loves being a part of the Eight Bitz dance crew, but he also wants to find time to indulge his love of yo-yo. And then there are his parents who have hired his classmate, Sunna, as his tutor because he needs help him to bring up his downward spiraling grades. How will he juggle everything? This is a great graphic novel for kids who like funny, realistic, contemporary stories and fans of Raina Telgemeier. Ages 9 and up.
ALTE ZACHEN / OLD THINGS by Ziggy Hanaor, illustrated by Benjamin Phillips
Thoughtful, older readers will appreciate Hanaor and Phillips' terrific collaboration. Benji accompanies his Bubbe on her Friday shopping. As they walk around the neighborhood, Bubbe comments crabbily on how different everything is than she remembers, and corrects and scolds others. Her grandson, with tender care and patience, is mostly silent but helps her navigate her surroundings and stays with her as her memories, both good and traumatic come to the surface. The graphic novel is a moving story of Jewish family and remembrance. Ages 11 and up.