In my last post, How Comic Books Can Give Your Kids Bilingual Super Powers, I shared both anecdotal stories and hard research which point to the use of comic books as a highly effective resource for nurturing language development and a love of literacy.
If English is your minority language—or English might be in your children’s future at some point—the graphic novels (book-length comics) I recommend in this follow-up post may be of interest to you and your kids.
This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive—it’s simply a round-up of the better titles I’ve come across to date in using comic books as a key resource with my kids and students.
For many more suggestions, I highly recommend the book A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids’ Comics; the lengthy list of graphic novels offered by the American Library Association; and the review websites No Flying No Tights and Comics Worth Reading.
I use this book and these sites for ideas, then move to amazon to study reviews and peek at the pages for a sense of the reading level.
If you browse the resources I mention above, you’ll find plenty of possibilities at this level (and lower). My suggestions here are a bit thin because I didn’t begin actively using comic books with my kids until they were already at a somewhat higher reading level.
Gabby & Gator by James Burks
A cute, funny story about a little girl and her alligator pal. Lively illustrations, and a limited amount of text, make this large-format book appealing to younger kids.
Bird & Squirrel on the Run! by James Burks
Another fun, madcap adventure from the author of Gabby & Gator, with a spirited bird and nervous squirrel heading south for the winter. (Watch out for the monstrous cat!) More text this time, but only in small chunks.
Magic Trixie by Jill Thompson
A sweet, quirky tale about a little witch and her monster-friends. Colorful, action-packed illustrations and a humorous storyline with a fun twist at the end. Two more Magic Trixie books make for a total of three.
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarret J. Krosoczka
A terrific series of short, zany mysteries featuring two lunch ladies in a school cafeteria who fight crime with crazy kitchen-inspired gadgets. A somewhat higher reading level, with more sophisticated text. There are currently nine titles in the series.
G-Man Volume 1: Learning to Fly by Chris Giarrusso
Funny adventures about a boy who becomes a super hero with his family’s magic blanket. Like Lunch Lady, the level is somewhat higher, more sophisticated. There are three books in the series.
These books are roughly in the order of their level of reading difficulty and sophistication. Do glance inside them at amazon, whenever possible, to check their suitability for your own children. It’s fine, of course, if the text is a bit above their reading level—the pictures should keep things clear, for the most part—but children may skip the words entirely if they feel the book is “too hard” for them to read.
Giants Beware! by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre
A spunky little girl and friends set off on a journey to slay an “evil giant” in this lively adventure. The story is rather long—and feels longer, perhaps, because of “random” twists in the plot—but it’s still a fun, colorful tale.
Sidekicks by Dan Santat
Four pets with super powers vie to become the new sidekick for their master, Captain Amazing, in this action-packed romp. The blend of super heroes and animals makes for an engaging and entertaining tale.
Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
A science fiction adventure about a girl determined to save her friend. Full of imagination and humor, though the text can be somewhat challenging. There are now two Zita books, with a third expected in May 2014.
The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis
A terrific tale involving three junior high kids who become brainy inventors and cross paths with a criminal mastermind. Full of cool kid-inventions and incredibly detailed artwork, this is a unique and impressive book.
Amulet, Book 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
The Amulet series (currently, 5 books and the saga is still unfinished) is a sprawling story of great imagination and gorgeous artwork. Although the complex plot and array of characters can be hard to follow at times, these are rich, captivating books.
Rapunzel’s Revenge by Dean Hale, Shannon Hale, and Nathan Hale
A clever retelling of the Rapunzel story, with plenty of wit and humor. The lively tale follows Rapunzel’s adventures through the old American west, using her long, braided hair like lariats and whips.
Books by Doug TenNapel
Doug TenNapel’s work is known for its unique vision, bold imagination, and masterly storytelling and illustration. These are page-turners, with action, humor, and heart.
Bone #1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith
Named “One of the Ten Greatest Graphic Novels of All Time” by TIME Magazine, the Bone series is an enthralling epic which follows the adventures of three “Bone” cousins. Funny and thrilling, by turns, the books are so rich, on so many levels, that they can be enjoyed by a range of ages. Be sure to get the nine separate books in the series, published in full color by Scholastic (instead of the one big black-and-white version).