Books by Theme

Diverse Books: Graphic Novels

Graphic novel Pashmina cover

Many young readers are drawn to graphic novels, with their vivid illustrations and turn-the-page pacing. Here are some of our favorite graphic novels that feature stories and characters from different cultures and countries around the world. You'll also find memoirs and other narrative nonfiction, told in new ways through the graphic format. 

Akissi: Feline Invasion book cover

Akissi

By: Marguerite Abouet
Illustrated by: Mathieu Sapin
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This popular French comic follows the adventures of a mischievous West African girl. Poor Akissi! The neighborhood cats are pursuing her to steal her fish, her little monkey Boubou almost ends up in a frying pan, and she's nothing but a pest to her older brother Fofana, but Akissi is a true adventurer, full of silliness and fun, and nothing will scare her for long!

American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese

By: Gene Yang
Illustrated by: Lark Pien
Genre: Fairytales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales, Fiction
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.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise

By: Gene Yang
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Aang and friends must join together once again as the four nations’ tenuous peace is threatened in an impasse between Fire Lord Zuko and Earth King Kuei! As the world heads toward another devastating war, Aang’s friendship with Zuko throws him into the middle of the conflict!

Azzi in Between book cover

Azzi in Between

By: Sarah Garland
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

There was a country at war, and that is where this story begins." Thus starts a tale that is both universal and specific, in which Azzi, a sweet and unique little girl serves as an everychild representing all refugees. The narrative follows her family's escape, arduous journey, and difficulties settling into their new land and ends with hope for a peaceful and loving new life. 

Black Heroes of the Wild West

Black Heroes of the Wild West

By: James Otis Smith
Illustrated by: Kadir Nelson
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Meet colorful characters of the Wild West including a cigar-chewing stagecoach driver named Mary as well as other formerly enslaved people. The comic book format provides a brief but factual introduction to the period, to spark young readers' interest in learning more about lesser known people of the Old West.

El Deafo

El Deafo

By: Cece Bell
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful — and very awkward — hearing aid. The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear — sometimes things she shouldn’t — but also isolates her from her classmates. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.

Ghosts

Ghosts

By: Raina Telgemeier
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake – and her own.

Green Lantern: Legacy book cover

Green Lantern: Legacy

By: Minh Lê
Illustrated by: Andie Tong
Genre: Science Fiction, Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When 13-year-old Tai Pham inherits his grandmother's jade ring, he soon finds out it's more than it appears. Suddenly he's being inducted into a group of space cops known as the Green Lanterns, his neighborhood is being overrun by some racist bullies, and every time he puts pen to paper, he's forced to confront that he might not be creative enough or strong enough to uphold his ba's legacy.

Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea

Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea

By: Anne O'Brien
Genre: Fairytales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales, Fiction
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.

Luz Makes a Splash book cover

Luz Makes a Splash

By: Claudia Davila
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level:

Residents of the city of Petroville are suffering through the hottest and driest summer on record. Desperate for a way to cool off, Luz and her friends head out to Spring Pond to go swimming. But when they arrive, they're shocked to discover the pond has virtually disappeared!  The first book in a series about the environment, the story encourage kids to find out how they can make a difference in their communities.

Manu: A Graphic Novel book cover

Manu: A Graphic Novel

By: Kelly Fernández
Genre: Fairytales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales, Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Manu and her best friend, Josefina, live at a magical school for girls, where Manu is always getting into trouble. Drawing from her own Dominican experience, the author weaves together religion, and lore and creates a world where magical powers bestowed by saints and evil eye necklaces work hand in hand. This fast-paced, funny adventure is about friendship, defying expectations, and finding your place. 

March: Book One

March: Book One

By: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
Illustrated by: Nate Powell
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: Teen
Reading Level: Independent Reader

John Lewis, son of a sharecropper, grew up to become an activist and later, a U.S. Congressman. His life and crucial role in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement is dramatically presented in word and image in graphic format in three volumes (March: Book Two and March: Book Three). The story of the young John Lewis can be shared with children as young as four years in the picture book biography, Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis written by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

Master Man: A Tall Tale of Nigeria

Master Man: A Tall Tale of Nigeria

By: Aaron Shephard
Illustrated by: David Wisniewski
Genre: Fairytales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales, Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

Even the strongest man of all can be outmatched, as Shadusa learns. This retelling of a Nigerian tale is told with cut paper illustrations carefully placed in comic book-like panels, which emphasize the humor and lesson of this super-sized tall tale.

Measuring Up book cover

Measuring Up

By: Lily LaMotte
Illustrated by: Ann Xu
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Can winning a cooking contest allow 12-year-old Cici to bring her Taiwanese grandmother to the U.S. for her 70th birthday? Will it interfere with her parents’ inviolable motto of “good grades, good college, good job”? Readers are sure to see themselves and their families in this engaging graphic portrait of an immigrant family and an aspiring chef who is bridging two cultures.

New Kid book cover

New Kid

By: Jerry Craft
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Black seventh grader Jordan Banks learns to navigate the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School while keeping his neighborhood friends and working to staying true to himself.

Nori book cover

Nori

By: Rumi Hara
Genre: Fairytales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales, Myths and Legends, Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: Teen
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The relationship between mischievous three-year-old Nori and her grandmother shines through these pages in rich detail, full of humor, feeling, and a sense of family history and tradition. Beautifully drawn locations in Japan and Hawaii immerse the reader in their world, populated by grinning bats, leaping rabbits, a taste of Mochi — and the wonder and curiosity of childhood. The story weaves in East Asian folklore and Japanese culture, through the legends her grandmother shares.

Pashmina book cover

Pashmina

By: Nidhi Chanani
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Priyanka Das has so many unanswered questions: Why did her mother abandon her home in India years ago? Who is her father, and why did her mom leave him behind? For Pri, her mother’s homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. A tale about the hardship and self-discovery that is born from juggling two cultures and two worlds.

Putuguq and Kublu and the Qalupalik

Putuguq and Kublu and the Qalupalik

By: Roselynn Akulukjuk, Danny Christopher
Illustrated by: Astrid Arijanto
Genre: Myths and Legends, Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Rich in folklore and local culture, this graphic novel aimed at emergent readers offers a window into the world of Arctic First Nations families and legends. The two protagonists have a typical sibling dynamic as younger brother Putuguq tags along and annoys his older sister Kublu. On the way to meet a friend near the ocean, the duo run into their grandfather. He warns them to steer clear of the shoreline, lest they become victims of the Qalupalik, a nightmarish, mermaidlike creature who captures those who wander too close to the water. A map orienting readers to Putuguq and Kublu's snow-covered village showcases an array of homes on stilts, many with snowmobiles (and sled dogs) outside.

Secret Coders

Secret Coders

By: Gene Yang
Illustrated by: Mike Holmes
Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery, Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Hopper’s new school, Stately Academy, is more creepy than scholarly as the 12-year-old girl soon learns. But with her new friends, they discover the school’s secrets and address them through computer coding. The adventures of this multicultural cast of kids continue in Paths and Portals as the series goes on.  

Stargazing

Stargazing

By: Jen Wang
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Can very different girls become best friends? Though both are Chinese-American, Moon and Christine are very different. Christine is cautious, serious, attends Chinese school, and follows rules. In spite of this, Christine and Moon become best friends. Christine wonders if she was a good enough friend when it is discovered that Moon’s celestial visions are caused by an all-too-real problem. Simple cartoon illustrations in full color are expressive and move this notable story to its gratifying conclusion. A note from the author/illustrator reveals the story’s genesis.

Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers

Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers

By: Arigon Starr
Illustrated by: Roy Boney, Jr.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Based on the true stories of the Native American Code Talkers this graphic novel features nine original stories by Native American artists and writers documenting the heroic tales of Code Talkers from World War I through Korea. The graphic novel also features a history of the Code Talkers and a lesson plan for teachers who wish to use the book to teach students about the struggle and accomplishments of these Native American heroes.

The Adventures of Sparrowboy

The Adventures of Sparrowboy

By: Brian Pinkney
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Mild-mannered paperboy Henry collides with a sparrow and turns into Sparrowboy just like his hero, Falconman – a superhero who not only delivers the paper but also helps out the neighborhood. When Henry returns from his comic-strip fantasy, things seem just a bit better than before.

The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America

The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America

By: Jaime Hernandez
Genre: Fairytales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales, Myths and Legends, Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Meet the dragon slayer, a girl and a mouse, and a boy who talks to ants. Three traditional tales, each revealing a particular truth, are recast here in comic book format. An introduction and the concluding background note provides a glimpse into the cultures from which the tales come.

The Legend of Auntie Po book cover

The Legend of Auntie Po

By: Shing Yin Khor
Genre: Fairytales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales, Myths and Legends, Historical Fiction, Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Part historical fiction, part fable, and 100 percent adventure. While she works in a Sierra Nevada logging camp in 1885, 13-year-old Mei reimagines the myths of Paul Bunyan as starring a Chinese heroine — Po Pan Yin (Auntie Po), an elderly Chinese matriarch. On the surface, this story is the birth of a folktale, but the author explores much deeper topics: grief, family, loyalty, racism, and self-discovery.

The Underground Abductor

The Underground Abductor

By: Nathan Hale
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Araminta Ross was born a slave in Delaware. After years of backbreaking labor, she escaped and traveled north to freedom. Follow in the footsteps of one of the most daring leaders of the Underground Railroad. (Book 5 in Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series)

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

By: Peter Sís
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Growing up in Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia, Sis craved Western pop culture, subverted authority in small ways, and maintained a strong fear of the secret police. This title won the Sibert medal for distinctive non-fiction for children.

Training Day book cover

Training Day

By: Raúl The Third
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

What can Kooky Dooky do help to inspire El Toro to train as a luchador for his next wrestling match? The first in a lively new series features animated characters and Spanish words for a fun romp. After the match, El Toro and his friend Oink Oink clean up in El Toro’s next adventure in Tag Team.

Trickster book cover

Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection

By: Matt Dembicki
Genre: Short Stories, Fairytales, Folk Tales, and Tall Tales, Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

All cultures have tales of the trickster — a crafty creature or being who uses cunning to get food, steal precious possessions, or simply cause mischief. In Native American traditions, the trickster takes many forms, from coyote or rabbit to raccoon or raven. In this anthology, 24 Native storytellers were paired with 24 comic artists, telling cultural tales from across America bring tricksters to life.

When Stars Are Scattered

When Stars Are Scattered

By: Victoria Jamieson
Illustrated by: Omar Mohamed
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, flee Somalia’s war to become refugees in a United Nations camp in Kenya. Based on Omar’s life, this riveting story is honestly told yet conveys a clear sense of hope. The graphic format provides an entry into the sights, sounds, and challenges of living in a sprawling camp. Back matter provides additional information and detail about Omar and his life story.

¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market

¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market

By: Raúl The Third
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

After Little Lobo and his dog, Bernabe, finish breakfast, they load their wagon to deliver to the various merchants. While they deliver the goods, they take time to watch the dancing, smell the churros, and even draw stripes on the newly made “zonkey”. Humor abounds in the graphic tour of Mexican culture complete with Spanish words. A glossary concludes this cheery introduction to a country and its language.

Proceeds from the sale of books purchased at Bookshop.org and Amazon.com help support the Reading Rockets project. Thank you!

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