Graphic novels are often touted as books to put into the hands of reluctant readers. So why not reverse that idea and put nonfiction graphic novels into the hands of readers who prefer fiction. If your child thinks science and history is just a bunch of boring facts and dates to memorize, these nonfiction graphic novels will bring those topics to life, turning them into fascinating–and sometimes funny–stories!
We have several fun graphic novel book lists already, and this list includes informational nonfiction, memoirs and "lightly fictionalized" true stories. If your child loves graphic novels and comics be sure to check out the following lists:
- Beginning reader graphic novels (K-3rd grade)
- Grades 3-5 graphic novels
- Grades 4-8 graphic novels
- Non-violent graphic novels
- Comic strip books
- Funny graphic novels
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Should you choose to support your local independent bookstore, you can also view this list curated at Bookshop.
Nonfiction Graphic Novels for Kids and Tweens
The Great Chicago Fire (History Comics Series)
by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Alex Graudins
Graphic novels are a great way to make history come alive for kids who may be a little–shall we say–"history reluctant." Boring date memorization can't hold a candle to exciting illustrations and witty asides housed in speech bubbles. Hannigan tells the story of the Chicago fire of 1871 through the eyes of a brother and sister trying to escape the flames. The duo then reappear at the World's Fair in 1893, showing the recovery of the city. I especially appreciated the way Hannigan weaves insightful commentary into the narrative. Ages 8 and up.
There are three books in this History Comics series, so far.
Consent (for Kids!): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of YOU
by Rachel Brian
Hands down, this is the best book on the subject of consent and respecting physical boundaries I have read. The comic book format, simple but clever illustrations, and the witty humor make a tough subject very approachable. I highly recommend parents start reading this book to children as young as 4. You will want to adjust your conversations appropriately, of course. I even read it out loud with my then-11 year old and he had some insightful observations. A must read. Ages 4 (with a parent) and up.
Note: Brian has another wonderful book in the same format, The Worry(Less) Book.
Black Heroes of the Wild West
by James Otis Smith
Yes, indeed, there were many Black heroes in the Wild West and they led fascinating lives, as this graphic novel will show you. Smith shares the tales of Mary Fields, aka “Stagecoach Mary,” Bass Reeves, the first black Deputy U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi, and Bob Lemmons, a talented horseman. The stories are fascinating, and Smith shares interesting historical facts and background in extensive endnotes. Ages 7 and up.
Rocket to the Moon! (Big Ideas That Changed the World Series)
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 adores graphic novels and comics he 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 anniversary of the moon landing. There are 3 books in this series (so far), including one about machines, and another about vaccines. Ages 7 and up.
Human Body Theater: A Non-Fiction Revue
by Maris Wicks
A tour through the human body, graphic novel style? Yes, please! This nonfiction graphic novel teaches kids about every inch of the body and how it works. This is an excellent choice for kids who may be reluctant readers, but who love facts and informational books. It's also really fun! Ages 7 and up.
Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers (Science Comics Series)
by M.K. Reed, illustrated by Joe Flood
The first installment in the 20-book Science Comic series is all about a perennial favorite topic of kids everywhere: dinosaurs. The graphic novel format is able to pack a large amount of information into the illustrations and text. Each book in the series varies a bit in narrative style because of the different authors, but the topics are wide ranging: from dogs to plague, and sharks to robots. Ages 7 and up.
by Cece Bell
Memoirs belong on a nonfiction book list, right? Even though the characters are drawn as rabbits? Stay with me here. This is a graphic novel memoir narrated by Cece, who loses here hearing due to spinal meningitis. A very funny and charming book about the experiences, imaginings and wishes of a Deaf girl. Although the story will help hearing kids to see challenges of the Deaf, they will also see similarities. Ages 8 and up.
Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales (Series)
by Nathan Hale
Both my children love the Nathan Hale's historical graphic novels. The topics range from the Revolutionary War to the Donner Party, the Alamo to WW1 and more. As a narrator, Hale makes history fascinating and funny. If your kids say they aren't "into history" sneak a few of these books into their reading stash. Ages 8 and up.
Around the World
by Matt Phelan
Phelan takes the stories of three adventurers and mashes them into one epic circumnavigational extravaganza. Phelan's artwork is almost sketch-like. His narration requires a bit more reading between the lines, and Phelan addresses the perils of traveling around the world as well as the romance. Ages 9 and up.
Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier
by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Maris Wicks
In this thrilling graphic novel, the author and illustrator team up to tell the story of Mary Cleave and Valentina Tereshkova, the first women in space. The narrative centers on the women's journey through the training at NASA and their experience in a white male dominated world. Ottaviani and Wicks have written a marvelous tale with a heavy dose of humor; I found myself laughing much more than I expected to at a book about astronauts! Ages 9 and up.
When Stars Are Scattered
by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
The final book on this list of nonfiction graphic novels is another memoir I couldn't put down. Jamieson and Mohamed tell the story of Mohamed's experience as a refugee living in a camp in Kenya. Readers will learn of the difficult life in a refugee camp but relate to the hopes of Omar and Hassan. Omar faces tough choices that could affect his future as well as his family and although the experiences of Omar and Hassan are likely to never be known by most readers of this book, readers will not soon forget them. Ages 9 and up.
I found several wonderful nonfiction graphic novels that will also be enjoyed by upper middle grade readers and teens. I chose not to do full reviews for this list, but recommend all of them. Further reading:
- Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi
- March trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
- Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
- They Called Us Enemy by by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott