There are certain graphic novels you must read! What is a graphic novel? A graphic novel is a compilation of graphics and text structured on pages at the length of a novel. How long are graphic novels? Anywhere from 100-500 plus pages. The difference between a graphic novel and a novel is that the graphic novel has graphics (images). The difference between a graphic novel vs comic book is the length. Graphic novels text features are different than a novel just like nonfiction text features. The 5 characteristics of a graphic novel are: shapes, perspective of frame, angles, structure, and layout. To read “How to Read a Graphic Novel” see this blog post.
There are different types of graphic novels just like there are novels with different genres. Some graphic novels you must read are: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, New Kid by Jerry Craft, American Born Chinese by Gene Luan Yang, The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank, Edgar Allen Poe graphic short stories, White Bird by R.J. Palacio, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Anne of Green Gables by Mariah Marsden, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Graphic novel books are a great way to engage students who are not particularly interested in reading, or students with special needs; however, anyone and every age group can read and enjoy graphic novels. Below are descriptions for 15 of the books above.
Graphic Novels Video Summary of Blog Post
1. New Kid by Jerry Craft is one of the Graphic Novels You Must Read: A graphic novel about the struggles of everyday life in middle school. Jordan, an African-American student at a privileged-primarily-white-private school finds himself not only one of the few African-American students in attendance but the subject of intended and unintended prejudice from staff and students. For example, when Jordan enlists on the soccer team, the coach states, “I bet you can run…not because, well…you know. I truly believe that all people are equal Jordan.” Jordan deals with an additional layer of adversity that other middle school students do not, and let’s face it-middle school is hard enough as it is! Despite these additional adversities, Jordan manages to find his way, make friends (black and white), and begins to find his place in this world. There are so many nuances in this book, it’s great for learning inference.
2. Sheets by Brenna Tummler is one of the Graphic Novels You Must Read : A graphic novel about a young girl named Marjorie who runs a dry cleaning business on her own. She lost her mom in a drowning accident and claims that her father “died” (metaphorically) at the same time. Dad spends most of his time in bed-depressed. A deviant man is trying to pull the business out from the family in order to put in a hotel and Marjorie spends her time alone, trying to save the place. A young ghost named Wendell appears to help Marjorie save the business, which together-they do. It is a great story about friendship, pain, and healing. The graphic novel makes it easier to deal with a the heavy topic of death with fun images of ghosts etc.
3. This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews: a graphic novel adventure that takes two unlikely friends on multiple fantastical journeys. They begin on bikes with a large group of boys as one-by-one, the boys tire out and head home until there are only two boys left. The last two left end up in the beautiful wilderness chasing lanterns for the Autumn festival and become friends as they come across a talking bear, a mad scientist woman, and multiple other creative characters that talk and share their traditions of the Autumn Festival, and what the lanterns, stars, mean to them and to their ancestors. The end takes a bit of a dark twist in that it states that the two boys on their adventure “never to return home, never to look back”, suggesting that maybe they died in the wilderness? Or perhaps the author is just being ‘fun’. Either way, the author somehow still manages to end the story as a fantastic adventure rather than as a tragedy.
4. Monster by Walter Dean Myers: a book about a young man who is on trial for his life for a crime he did not commit-or did he? Either way, if he had committed the crime of staking out a mini-mart to allow a robbery to take place, he should hardly be tried for capital murder. He unequivocally claims throughout the book that he was never in the store that day, however at the end there is a hint that he did in fact stake out the store that led to the death of a grocery clerk owner. It is not as heavy to read as a graphic novel and students seem to connect better with the graphic novel than the novel version.
5. “The Odyssey“ Odysseus the Great King sets out to fight in the Trojan War and ends up taking years to arrive back at home. Odysseus is supposed to be this great war hero, but it is difficult for me to see him as anything but an egotistical-selfish being. He looks at the sirens when he is not supposed to, he cheats on his wife Penelope multiple times, he gets all of his men killed because he cannot control his ego and yells out taunting his enemy Grendel who in turn has his father Poseidon kill all Odysseus’s men. What kind of leader gets all of his men killed? and is still considered a great war hero? Although I have my thoughts about Odysseus, students do learn a lot about the Greek Gods which is more of the point of reading the novel. There are many other ways to learn about the Greek Gods such as short stories or even modern reads like Percy Jackson. We may just have to stick with the Odyssey and the way to do this is with the graphic novel. Warning there is one seminude scene on one page so be aware of this.
6. They Called US Enemy” by George Takei is one of the Graphic Novels You Must Read . It is a memoir written graphic novel style by George Takei (you know the guy from Star Wars?) As a young boy George Takei is awoken in the middle of the night with minutes to pack up what the family can carry to be whisked off to an internment camp. The setting takes place during the time of WWII after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The family is singled out solely based on the fact that they were Japanese. The family lost all of their possessions and when they were finally released from these camps ended up homeless living on skid row. It wasn’t until after George Takei’s father died that some restitution was paid to the families for the “inconvenience”. Like most of the novels on this list there is no justice, it is a great read with realistic graphics.
7. “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi is one of the Graphic Novels You Must Read . It is a non-fiction graphic novel where the setting takes place in the Middle East. The Middle East has been quite villainized since 9/11 and this book gives students a realistic picture of what it’s like to grow up in the Middle East. The main character has the same fears, passions, personality characteristics, and what everyone wants-a sense of belonging. It provides a positive, accurate depiction of what it is like to grow up as a teen in the middle east vs. worse case scenario in the middle east. Marjane and her family are constantly participating in protests. The graphics are comical, realistic, and disturbing at times.
8. “White Bird” by R.J. Palacio is one of the Graphic Novels You Must Read. It is a graphic novel about the Holocaust and a young Jewish girl who is separated from her family and has to live in a barn to survive. The young man she falls in love with is the person who saved her life and he dies in the end as a result of it. It’s a beautiful-love story with a tragic ending. The graphics are beautiful and truly amazing!
10. The Diary of Anne Frank Anne Frank is beautifully written and illustrated. Like the Diary of Anne Frank novel, it tells the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of Anne Frank. The graphics are fun and imaginative as if pictured by Anne Frank herself.
9. “To Kill a Mockingbird” This is a classic that needs to withstand the test of time. Harper Lee captures a realistic portrayal of an innocent black man being falsely accused of rape by a white woman. Despite the immaculate defense given by Atticus Finch, Tom Robinson is found guilty and is sentenced to death. The graphics in this novel are amazing!
11. Edgar Allen Poe Short Stories The Short story and poetry collection is the same stories written with bone-chilling graphics. The Edgar Allen Poe Short Stories Graphic novel leaves nothing to the imagination. It is crafted with great skill and talent.
12. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is a summarized version of what happens in the novel. There is a boy whose family has a long history of gang violence and he has lost multiple family members for this reason. Once the boy’s brother is killed, he feels he has to follow the rules which is to now kill the teen who killed his brother. That would then mean that he would be the next victim in line for death or prison. He wrestles with his conscience as he visits the multiple victims from his past in an elevator. There is a great impact in the graphics including when the main character’s brother is shot and killed, ghosts, and other victims that are not illustrated in the novel.
13. American Borne Chinese by Gene Luan Yang Is eccentric to say the least. It is a story about two young American Chinese boys who are trying to fit in with a side story about a monkey who is trying to do the same. There is a twist towards the end about who the monkey really is and represents.
14. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson It is graphic and should only be read by older high school students. It is about a high school student who is raped by an older boy and does not tell anyone about it. She suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and in the end she finally comes out and speaks up about the rape which helps to alleviate her symptoms. The graphics show the rape, so be aware of that scene. It can still be used as a great supplement to the book, or you can take out the page with the rape scene.
15. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald a story about a man who returns to his home to try to reconnect with the woman he never fell out of love with, Daisy. The problem is that she is married and although she has fun with Jay Gatsby, in the end it proves to be a dangerous game. The graphic novel includes beautiful, elegant graphics that complement the story.
Tell me about your favorite graphic novels in the comments below! I am always looking for new graphic novels to read.