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Graphic Novels: Read the Pictures

Traditionally, we think of storybooks as a lot of words and only a few pictures. In this collection of books recommended for children ages 0-9, the pictures come first! Using a technique similar to comic books, graphic novels use visuals to guide the story, adding text only to fill in the gaps. More complex than picture books, graphic novels require young readers to have a certain sophistication — as well as strong comprehension skills — to appreciate them. Graphic novels can be read with an adult or independently, and are especially good for struggling or reluctant readers.

Gene Luen Yang: The Making of a Graphic Novel

Gene Luen Yang is an award-winning graphic novelist. In January 2016, he was named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress. His book American Born Chinese received the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award for young adult literature, and was a finalist for the National Book Award —  both firsts for a graphic novel. Watch as Yang demonstrates the steps in his writing and drawing process. (Credit: The Kennedy Center Education Department, Performing Arts Series).

Quotable Quotes: The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go. -- Dr. Seuss

American Born Chinese

By: Gene Yang
Illustrated by: Lark Pien
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Three storylines — contemporary and mythic — intersect in this tale of a boy who is not comfortable with his culture or himself. This fresh, sometimes surprising, revealing novel is told in image and text. This graphic novel was the first of its format to win the Printz Award for best work of Young Adult Literature.

Awesome Dawson

By: Chris Gall
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Dawson has been collecting and reusing everything ever since he was a baby but he must rescue the world from his robotic creation, the Vacu-Maniac! Recycling is gently imbedded in Dawson's outrageous adventure detailed in intricate (and labeled) illustrations.

Babymouse: Beach Babe

By: Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

School is out and Babymouse heads to the beach with her surfboard – and brother – in tow. The energetic mouse is awash in nonstop beach adventures, depicted in bold line and pink wash.

Babymouse: Puppy Love

By: Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The irrepressible Babymouse is eager to get a puppy even though her track record with pets isn't encouraging. Could Babymouse's dreams be better than reality? Fast and funny, many readers will see themselves in the very pink dreams of Babymouse.

Bone: Eyes of the Storm

By: Jeff Smith
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The third in a suspenseful trilogy, the Bones and their new friends battle dangers – from rat creatures to their own personal tragedies. The author creates a mysterious and complex world as the setting for this dark, gripping drama.

Dear Fish

By: Chris Gall
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

When Peter throws a bottle into the ocean with a message for the sea creatures to come visit him, he hardly expected them to take him up on the offer! After various marine animals cause chaos in his hometown, Peter must set the situation straight. Awash with humor and puns, this is a great book for discussing literal and figurative meanings, and provides details on over 30 species of fish that appear in the book.

Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!

By: Mo Willems
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Readers take over for the bus driver, who cautions them not to let the pigeon stay up late. But as in other books about this willful bird, well… Children get to see this situation from the adult's perspective as the pigeon finds excuses not to go to bed.

Fashion Kitty

By: Charise Mericle
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

As Lana and her unconventional family of kitties (they have a pet mouse) celebrate her 8th birthday, a shelf of fashion magazines knocks an unsuspecting Lana out cold. She wakes up unharmed but has transformed into a skilled superhero with the ability to help the fashion-impaired, in this first of the series that spoofs superheroes.

Jack and the Box

By: Art Spiegelman
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

What could be sillier than a Jack-in-the-box leaving its box to play? Why, even more things emerging from Jack's hat and box! A straightforward comic book format combined with simple illustration and conversation bubbles effectively convey both meaning and silliness in this enjoyable, imaginative romp.

Jackie and the Shadow Snatcher

By: Larri Di Fiori
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Jackie and his faithful dog embark on an adventure to retrieve Jackie’s lost shadow from a sinister foe, the Shadow Snatcher. Advice from Mr. Socrates, the smartest guy alive and Jackie’s neighbor is, of course, invaluable. The black/white panels augment the melodrama of this tale with a distinctly old-fashioned feel.

Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea

By: Anne O'Brien
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In a carefully researched retelling of a Korean legend, the son of a powerful minister and a servant is scorned by high society because of his commoner roots. After leaving home and discovering that injustice drives criminals to crime, he begins training a group of bandits to become an army that rights wrongs. With artwork authentic to the historical time, this is a drama for sophisticated readers.

Letters from Camp: A Mystery

By: Kate Klise
Illustrated by: M. Sarah Klise
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Three pairs of siblings, sent to a summer camp that helps brothers and sisters get along, must unite to overcome an adversary at Camp Happy Harmony. The mystery unfolds through letters, memos, Post-It notes and delightful illustrations in this offbeat story with puzzle-like appeal.

Magic Pickle

By: Scott Morse
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Sophisticated readers will appreciate the over-the-top adventures of a cryogenic pickle that emerges with superhero skills through the bedroom floor of Jo Jo Wigman. This full-color comic is distinguished by funny puns and wordplay as well as the combination of familiar school problems and Magic Pickle’s fantastic dilemmas.

Owly: Flying Lessons

By: Andy Runton
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Though nearly wordless, the expressive black and white illustrations effectively convey Owly's broad range of changing emotions: loneliness, trepidation, fear, joy, and more. In this volume, Owly learns to fly while another forest animal learns to trust — both with the help of Owly's buddy, Worm.

Polo: The Runaway Book

By: Regis Faller
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The chase is on when Polo's book is stolen by a small alien. Polo, an engaging hound, pulls an amazing assortment of aids from his backpack, all leading to a satisfying conclusion. Colorful art placed in comic strip format is supported on large pages in Polo's second adventure.

Sardine in Outer Space

By: Emmanuel Guiber
Illustrated by: Joann Sfar
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Red-headed and tiny, Sardine is a space pirate who takes off on adventures with her pirate uncle and their friend in a spaceship named Huckleberry. Their madcap adventures are fast–paced and punchy, with grotesque details to appeal to a younger crowd, and sophisticated cultural references and puns that will appeal to older readers.

Squish: Super Amoeba

By: Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Even though Squish and his pals are one-cell amoebas, children will recognize themselves in the frenetic adventures of bullies and saving the world from evil.

Squish: The Power of the Parasite

By: Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

School's out! Everyone's favorite amoeba is headed to summer camp! Squish's summer is turning out to be terrifying! For one thing, Squish can't swim. And to make matters worse, his new camp friend is a Hydra (scientific fact: A hydra's tentacles can paralyze you!). Will Squish sink or will he swim this summer?

Stinky

By: Eleanor Davis
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

When a new kid comes to his swamp, a small monster does everything he can to get rid of him. Instead, the young monster learns a thing or so about friendship. An easy-to-follow comic book format combined with recognizable concerns makes this ideal for emerging readers or for one-on-one sharing.

The Adventures of Polo

By: Regis Faller
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

The rollicking adventures of Polo, a bright and resourceful pup, are told through lively, detailed pictures that warrant multiple examinations. Quick–paced and engaging, Polo brings all the right supplies for exploring the wider world by boat, plane and spaceship!

The Baby-Sitter's Club: Kristy's Great Idea — A Graphic Novel

By: Ann M. Martin, Raina Telgremeier
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This popular series has been trimmed and translated into a new format. With middle school girls as protagonists, the visual storytelling amplifies characters and clarifies difficult concepts to make it appropriate for younger readers. Tough topics like stepfamilies and medical problems are discussed with sensitivity (and sometimes humor) through the context of the girls' friendship.

The Mighty 12: Superheroes of Greek Myth

By: Charles Smith
Illustrated by: P. Craig Russell
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Greek gods and goddesses are the stuff of contemporary superheroes. Dramatic full-color, exaggerated comic book illustrations are used to present a dozen of the ancient heroes, sure to thrill contemporary, more experienced readers.

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