Talented authors and illustrators keep creating new and wonderful graphic novels for kids. If it's hard for you to keep up with the latest and greatest, this list of the best graphic novels of 2021 will help.
If you're looking for a specific type of graphic novel published in 2021, you can skip ahead to the following categories, but they are all exciting, wonderful and not-to-be-missed!
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Give these wonderful graphic novels to your kids who are beginning readers. Even reluctant readers won't be able to resist them.
WAFFLES AND PANCAKES by Drew Brockington
Brockington has created a prequel of sorts to his popular CatStronauts graphic novel series. The first installment has kittens, Waffles and his sister, Pancake, headed to the science museum with Dad-Cat to see all the cool stuff. Things go awry when Waffles and Pancake are separated from Dad-Cat and they must figure out how to re-unite or get stuck in the museum forever. Sprinkled throughout are fun space facts.
JOP AND BLIP WANT TO KNOW by Jim Benton
We loved Jim Benton's Catwad series, and his same quirky humor is present in his new graphic novel series, which is full of all those random facts kids are dying to know. Jop and Blip are two curious robots who ask the weird but important questions like "Why do we need two ears?", and then discuss the answers in a surprisingly profound way.
¡VAMOS! LET'S CROSS THE BRIDGE by Raúl the Third
The illustrator of one of our favorite graphic novel series, Lowriders in Space, has a series of graphic picture books that all begin with ¡Vamos! This is the sixth book about Little Lobo and Bernabé. They have a new, red truck and are carrying party supplies across a bridge between two countries. When they get stuck in traffic, they all come together to pass the time. I highly recommend this entire series, which is also fun to read aloud.
MONSTER FRIENDS by Kaeti VanDorn
Two monsters with different personalities become friends, explore the world and help each other with their troubles. A sweet graphic novel about the power of friendship.
Fantasy Graphic Novels
Here are the best graphic novels of 2021 that have a strong fantasy element, from mythology to magic and sci-fi.
BARB THE LAST BERZERKER by Dan Abdo, illustrated by Jason Patterson
In this exciting adventure, Barb is the only one of her band of Berzerkers to escape capture by the evil Witch Head. Along with a Yeti named Porkchop, and the powerful Shadow Sword, she heads off to find the Northern Berzerkers so they can help her vanquish Witch Head. A great new fantasy graphic novel series! Ages 8 and up.
BLANCAFLOR, THE HERO WITH SECRET POWERS by Nadja Spiegelman, illustrated by Sergio García Sánchez
Blancaflor is no damsel in distress; she is the fearless rescuer of others! Inspired by Latin American folktales, this exciting graphic novel takes readers on a rollicking adventure when Blancaflor completes challenges in order to save the prince from an ogre. Ages 8 and up.
TREASURE IN THE LAKE by Jason Pamment
Iris and her friend Sam discover a hidden city and a mysterious girl. Pamment's artwork and storytelling are marvelous and not all questions in this puzzling mystery are answered, but the pondering of it is utterly satisfying. Ages 8 and up.
CARDBOARDIA by Lucy Campagnolo, illustrated by Richard Fairgray
Four kids are transported via cereal box prizes into a parallel world where everything is made of cardboard. In this new universe, their creativity is unleashed, but they also meet the evil Grey Queen and must band together with the Carboardians in order to defeat her. Ages 8 and up.
RISE OF THE HALFLING KING by David Bowles, illustrated by Charlene Cosette Bowles
Bowles draws upon Mesoamerican mythology to tell the story of Sayam, a boy who was born from an egg and raised by Almah, a witch who lives in the Yucatán peninsula. Sayam may be the one to fulfill the prophecy that the cruel king, Kinich Kak Ek, will be overthrown by a boy not born of a woman. This is the first in what is set to be a 10 book series. Ages 8 and up.
MILES MORALES, SHOCK WAVES by Justin A. Reynolds, illustrated by Pablo Leon
Even kids who aren't into Spider Man will love this graphic novel. Miles Morales is just a kid attending high school in Brooklyn who starts a fundraiser for victims of an earthquake in Puerto Rico. However, he finds himself delving into the connections of his friend's missing father and the corporation behind his fundraiser. Spider-Man must spring into action! Ages 8 and up.
BORDERS by Thomas King, illustrated by Natasha Donovan
A mother sets out with her son to visit her daughter in Salt Lake City. When asked for her citizenship at the border, the mother responds, "Blackfoot." She will not identify as Canadian and so is refused entry to the United States. When turning around to re-enter Canada, she is also refused entry and the pair sits in limbo between countries. Kings' beautiful and careful storytelling asks readers to think about nationhood, Indigenous peoples, identity and justice. Absolutely brilliant. Ages 8 and up.
BAD SISTER by Charise Mericle Harper, illustrated by Rory Lucey
Older siblings will recognize themselves in Harper's graphic novel about the ups and downs of life with a little brother. Charise isn't a bad person but when her brother gets hurt in an accident she wonders if she is a bad sister. This episodic graphic novels chronicles Charise and her brother, Daniel's, typical sibling relationship with insight, heart and lessons in forgiveness. Ages 8 and up.
THE LEGEND OF AUNTIE PO by Shing Yin Khor
Mei is a Chinese-American girl living in the 19th century Sierra Nevadas, where her father is a cook at a logging camp. She tells tales of Auntie Po, a Paul Bunyon-like folk tale figure. Anti-Chinese sentiment and disgruntlement among the loggers leads to conflict and although Mei's father's white boss is well-meaning and supportive, his words are less effective than action. Although the story addresses serious subject matter, the overall tone if hopeful. Ages 9 and up.
Nonfiction Graphic Novels
Even kids who aren't naturally drawn to nonfiction, will enjoy these informative graphic novels.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A POO, A GNU AND YOU by Mike Barfield, illustrated by Jess Bradley
Got a kid who loves facts and science, but also loves to laugh? This comic book style text on all things in the natural world will keep them reading all night. Packed with information on everything from Mars to poison jellyfish, Barfield's text and Bradley's illustrations make science highly entertaining. Ages 8 and up.
TALES OF THE TALENTED TENTH: ROBERT SMALLS by Joel Christian Gill
This is the fascinating story of how Robert Smalls, an enslaved man, escaped South Carolina during the Civil War. While forced to work on a ship, the CSS Planter, Smalls planned and executed an escape to freedom along with other Black sailors, and his family. They were able to sail the ship far enough north to surrender "as contraband" to the North. After the Civil War, Smalls continued to be a leader in politics and education reform. Be sure to check out other books in The Talented Tenth series. Ages 10 and up.
A SHOT IN THE ARM by Don Brown
Brown's Big Ideas That Changed the World is a great nonfiction graphic novel series and A Shot in the Arm is a timely story of one of the most important public health developments in human history. Brown focuses on the history of vaccinations beginning primarily in the 17th century with smallpox, and details the important scientists and public figures that were integral to their development and deployment all the way through to the present. Ages 9 and up.