Recently a teacher friend asked me for my list of “must-have” graphic novels for her classroom (5th and 6th graders). Graphic novels are fun for a lot of kids. While some folks feel like it’s not “real reading,” that is not really true. With graphic novels, students get to practice thinking through the sequencing of a story. Visual learners get a lot of material to work with as they read the pictures as well as the text. Graphic novels can give extra support to kids who are still working on word decoding because the pictures support the text. They can introduce kids to material they might not try otherwise, but they explore because of this format. And for kids who feel like reading is a chore, graphic novels can make reading feel like fun.
Here is the list I gave her for my personal “must have” graphic novels:
Some of the most popular graphic novels for this age group are autobiographies. Raina Telgemeier is maybe the best known for telling her personal stories in this format. When I was teaching, her books were always checked out from the library from the first day of check outs to the end of the school year. Many kids think of biographies and autobiographies as dry books that someone will have to force them to read. These books challenge that impression. You can read my review of Real Friends here.
I personally read a lot of fantasy, so these graphic novels are ones I read and enjoy. Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy and The Lightning Thief are both based on novels. The Wings of Fire book series is 10 books long to date, with book 11 releasing this summer. The Rick Riordan mythology books have been around for years. Three of the original Percy Jackson books have been released as graphic novels, too. His entire Egyptian mythology series, The Kane Chronicles, as well as two books in the Heroes of Olympus series have been released in this format as well. HiLo is an original series that I fell in love with when I was teaching. I’ve reviewed the DC Super Hero Girls GN series here on the blog before. I received the Star Wars graphic novels for Christmas (one volume for the original trilogy, another for the prequels, and a stand alone book for The Force Awakens). I love the art style in these and I know my students would have loved these too.
Some of my students had the idea that nonfiction books were a drag. Thankfully there are a lot of visually appealing nonfiction books being introduced for kids, including these two series of graphic novels. Science Comics covers a variety of topics from dogs to dinosaurs to volcanoes and rockets. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales cover different time periods in history. Readers will find some swearing in these books as the author directly quotes some historical figures. This series has covered Harriet Tubman, Nathan Hale, World War II and other topics.
These final recommendations were “maybes” for my friend. The Action Bible is a graphic novel of the Bible which we had in the school library. I thought it was a great way to get reluctant students to check out the Bible for themselves (I taught at a Christian school). Binky the Space Cat is targeted for a younger reader than my friend is teaching. But the stories I think still work for older elementary students. My younger readers zeroed in on Babymouse and the Lunch Lady graphic novels and sometimes missed Binky. I still love this series and think it is great for kids of any age. I have blogged about Phoebe and her Unicorn many times. These are more comic strip books than graphic novels that tell essentially one story from start to finish. The quality and humor make them perfect for the older elementary crowd. Finally, there is a graphic novel for A Wrinkle in Time. I have not read it (yet!), but with the movie releasing later this year, it could be a terrific addition to a classroom (or home) library.