Some parents and educators avoid graphic novels because they believe them to be “lesser literature,” others are under the mistaken impression that graphic novels and comic books tend to rely heavily on battles and violent action to forward the plot. However, just as some traditional books can be poorly written, or contain scenes of violence, many graphic novels are wonderfully written and contain no violence whatsoever!
For those of you looking for “tamer” graphic novels, whether because your child is sensitive or because you wish to avoid exposing your child to too much violence in their reading material, I hope this book list will help you.
Please note, that “non-violent” does not mean free of “anything scary, ultra-suspenseful adventure, emotionally fraught situations or intense language.” If you are very concerned about this kind of content, please preview the books on this list because although I loved them and believe them to be universally suitable, not everyone’s tastes is the same! (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
For gentle chapter books check out my list of gentle chapter books to read aloud.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani. This is a simply lovely graphic novel about a girl who seeks answers about her family. One day, Pri finds a pashmina in an old suitcase. When she puts it on, she is transported to a vibrant India where she encounters an elephant and a peacock who become her guides. Pri begins a journey to find the answers to her questions in this marvelous story filled with magical realism.
Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen. One day when Willow feels overwhelmed by difficult emotions, she runs away to the woods where she meets Pilu, a tree spirit. Pilu is lost and when Willow realizes Pilu’s home is a familiar magnolia grove, Willow offers to help Pilu find her way back. Both characters must face their feelings and overcome their fears. Simply wonderful.
New Kid by Jerry Craft. After I brought this book home from the library, my son loved it and read it ten times in a row! I’m not surprised because after I read it, I realized how nuanced this story about how art-loving Jordan navigates being one of the few kids of color in his seventh grade class actually is. Craft’s story offers much to discover, even after multiple readings.
Mr Wolf’s Class by Aron Nels Steinke. My 10 year old loves this gentle and funny graphic novel series about a classroom full of anthropomorphized animals. In a fourth grade classroom at Hazelwood Elementary, Mr. Wolf helps his students as they experience the ups and downs of life at school.
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. I thought this graphic novel, based on the author’s childhood experiences, was so funny. Vera wants to fit in with the rest of her friends, but finds it difficult when her Russian-immigrant family can’t keep up with the Joneses. However, she has high hopes for a new Russian summer camp. After a bumpy start, Vera is able to harness her interests, identity and intelligence to salvage her summer camp experience.
Where’s Halmoni by Julie Kim. This is such a wonderful and unique book! Two siblings arrive at halmoni’s house (grandmother’s house) but their grandmother is missing; instead, they see paw prints! They go looking for her and what follows is a splendid adventure inspired by Korean folklore. The story is separated into several sections based on their encounters with a rabbit, goblins and the tiger. Human dialogue is in English, non-human is in Korean but non-Korean speakers will have no problems following the story, and a translation is provided. Don’t miss this one!
Rocket to the Moon! by Don Brown. I love that Brown wrote a graphic novel about the Apollo 11 mission because my younger son is not very interested in science, but because he loves graphic novels and comics he picked up and read this book several times. Brown is an experienced author of historical fiction for children and this is a wonderful book to read in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. In Paris, Prince Sebastian’s parents are looking for a bride for their son; in another part of the city, aspiring designer Frances sews marvelous dresses for Lady Crystallia. These threads are connected by Prince Sebastian’s secret. This is a story of secrets and identities, friendships and family, and being true to yourself and being accepted by others.
All Summer Long by Hope Larson. In this graphic novel, 13 year old Bina turns to music after her parents shut down screen time. She uses music to work through her emotions about how her relationships with family and friends are changing as she gets older.
Camp by Kayla Miller. This is a fun graphic novel sequel to Miller’s Click. Friends Olive and Willow head off to summer camp together but Willow has difficulty making new friends. Olive finds Willow’s dependency on her frustrating and their friendship is tested. This is a great read with a positive message and a diverse cast of characters.
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill. For kids who like fantasy but without all the scary, dramatic and potentially violent action, this oversized graphic novel series is a great start. Greta, a blacksmith’s apprentice, meets Hesekiel and Erik, tea shop owners who teach her about the ancient art of tea dragons. At the end of the book there is a super fun guide to all the tea dragons and their care.
Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez. Full disclosure: I read the second book, Hicotea, without realizing that Nightlights starts the series. I’m assuming that the first book is as fun as the second. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. Set in Bogotá, Colombia, Sandy’s experiences straddle the line between dream-like worlds and reality. Great for kids who love fantasy.
In addition, you will be able to find further choices on the following lists: