Out of the past 70 or so, graphic novels I have read there are some that really stand out that I love! The following are your 13 best graphic novels you must read or teach in the classroom. They are as follows: Anne Frank’s Diary by Ari Folman, White Bird by R.J. Palacio, Anne of Green Gables by Mariah Marsden, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Hey Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka, New Kid by Jerry Craft, Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, They Called US Enemy by George Takai, When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson, The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
Top Graphic Reads
13 Best Graphic Novels: Persepolis
- “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.
13 Best Graphic Novels: They Called US Enemy
2. 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.
13 Best Graphic Novels: New Kid
3. 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.
13 Best Graphic Novels: White Bird
4. “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!
13 Best Graphic Novels: Anne Frank’s Diary
5. 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. It captures the imagination of a child in front of the backdrop of the horrors of the Holocaust.
13 Best Graphic Novels: To Kill a Mockingbird
6. “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 exquisite!
Long Way Down
7. 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.
8. Hey Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka: If you have readers who struggle this is a great graphic novel pick! It is also a very healing book for students who have parents that suffer from addiction. The story is a coming-of-age novel about a young boy named Ja who is forced to live with his grandparents after his mom is checked into a rehabilitation center. We quite often see the journey of the primary character as the addict, but this novel’s protagonist is about the addict’s son. The secondary characters are the grandparents and the family that suffer as a result of Ja’s mother’s addiction. It is also a journey about adversity, resiliency, how history doesn’t have to repeat itself, and healing. The main character of the book is in fact the author himself who turns out to become a famous-successful author.
9. Dragon Hoops is a fun read! It is a book about Gene Luen (the author) who is trying to decide what to write a graphic novel about. He decides to write a story about the basketball team at Bishop O’ Dawd-Catholic Private School. Throughout the book we learn about different characters and how one “first step” led many to a successful career in basketball. It goes over the long history of basketball at the school and includes exciting games. Somehow Luen is able to make the game exciting on paper by including step-by-step plays. There is also a serious element in the book in that at some point a coach was accused of molesting a student at the school and lost his job. It never answers the question of his innocence or guilt. This could be a real opportunity to talk to students about a serious topic.
When Stars Are Scattered
10. When Stars Are Scattered is a heartfelt nonfiction book about a young boy who has lost his parents and lives as a Somali refugee with only his younger brother who cannot speak due to horrific things he has seen in his lifetime. They wait patiently for years to go to America to become citizens. While waiting to go to America the reader sees how hope or a lack of hope can affect different people who are going to live out their existence in this refugee camp. It is a story of heartbreak and hope. When the main character finally moves to America with his brother he eventually finds that his mother is alive and is reunited with her at the end.
Anne of Green Gables
11. Anne of Green Gables is a light-hearted graphic novel that highlights the hopes and dreams of a young girl who goes to live with a rather uptight adult duo of brother and sister. Anne is an orphan and needs a home. There are many adventures that Anne partakes in and the majority of her charm comes from her naivety leading her to say exactly what she is thinking. By the end Anne has lost one of her guardians to heart disease, has grown into a woman who attends, and completes school is ready to become a teacher. It is a light-hearted coming-of-age story.
12. “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.
13. A great coming-of-age graphic novel about a young girl going through adolescence in middle school. She and her best friend have become estranged because they no longer have the same interests. The main character is only able to think of herself at the beginning and what she wants. She has difficulty keeping friends for this reason. By the end of the book she has learned what it’s like to work hard, to think about other’s needs and wants, and what it’s like to be a true friend.
I would love to hear about your favorite graphic novels, and which you have had success with in the classroom! Please leave a response in the comments below!
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To read my blog post on the top list of books for teens, click HERE