Some of the Best Graphic Novels for Kids, Part 1

Even if no other type of book will do, kids always seem ready to read a graphic novel. They’re a brilliant way to get kids excited about reading or to reengage a kid who has stalled out with books.

I myself love graphic novels and read loads of them, and the ones here were very entertaining for me, too, as an adult. Some of them (like Snapdragon) were even immensely moving. Most of these books have a diverse range of characters and champion gentleness, compassion, and the right to live authentically. They’e wonderful books for kids to spend time with. (My child in kindergarten was surely on the young side for reading all of these, many of which would be classified as middle-grade graphic novels, but she loved them and I was very happy for her to read them.)

For all of my graphic novel recommendations for kids, click here.

The Tea Dragon Society, K. O’Neill [Amazon | Bookshop] — In these supremely gentle graphic novels, supportive mentors and students carefully tend to tea dragons, whose produce precious and delicate tea leaves on top of their heads. When properly brewed, the tea evokes in the drinker memories and sensations that the tea dragon stored in its leaves. But the charm of these books isn’t in the (somewhat psychedelic?) drinking experience; it’s in the warm interactions between the characters and their reverence for the old, slow ways of doing things. Greta’s mother longs to pass down the art of blacksmithing — even though no one needs swords for fighting anymore — and Hesekiel and Erik, partners in love and business, worry that the knowledge of caring for tea dragons will be lost. But youngsters Greta and Minette are eager to learn. The books are filled with lush, beautiful greenery, diverse characters and relationships, and gentle-hearted interactions. There’s so much to love. And the tea dragons are, of course, incredibly cute and sweet. For tea dragon fans, the end of the book has a full care manual and description of each species of tea dragon. If kids get obsessed — and they might! — there are adorable plushes and card games, too. 

The Tea Dragon Festival, K. O’Neill [Amazon | Bookshop] — The follow-up to The Tea Dragon Society has more peace and gentleness and even more fantasy, too. Here, in a time well before the previous book took place, Erik and Hesekiel’s niece, Rinn, discovers a dragon who has been in an enchanted sleep for 80 years. Now that he’s awake, he’s determined to help and protect the townspeople in any way he can (including helping Rinn forage). While there’s some mild peril, the book is more interested in the characters finding their purpose and sense of belonging and in the peaceful rituals and preparations around the Tea Dragon Festival. The book also explores gender fluidity (dragons can assume a variety of human forms) and many of the characters in the book are also fluent in sign language. It’s a heartwarming book, with plenty of adorable tea dragons and a few very impressive big dragons, too. Also check out the equally wonderful final installment in the tea dragon series, The Tea Dragon Tapestry [Amazon | Bookshop].

Monster Friends, Kaeti Vandorn [Amazon | Bookshop] — This sweet graphic novel makes great use of an odd-couple pairing. Reggie is struggling with anxiety and wants to keep to himself during his staycation, but his introversion won’t deter exuberant, bursting-at-the-seams Emily. Emily doesn’t worry about rejection like Reggie does, and her persistence in making friends with him pulls him into her orbit. Perhaps they have a few things to teach each other? The atmosphere here is sensitive and supportive, and Reggie and Emily develop a lovely friendship. There’s a sweet moment when Emily coaxes reluctant Reggie into making friends with a crab. As she says, “I think it can be hard to meet big friends sometimes. So you can start with small friends!” As it turns out, Reggie will make both big and small friends in this book and learn to be more comfortable with who he is, but Emily’s advice is good for anxiety: start small (and you might be surprised where you end up!).

The Runaway Princess, Johan Troïanowski [Amazon | Bookshop] — An interactive graphic novel with a childlike perspective and a wild imagination. In these three stories, the clever, resourceful princess Robin is always on the go, looking for adventures. And she finds them: in a city of water, filled with bubbles and bath tubs; in the Kingdom of Darkness, where she’s pursued by the evil Autumn Witch and her magical pumpkins; and on a marvelous island with creative inhabitants (soon to be attacked by pirates who sail in a bottle). The book isn’t scary at all, but instead riotously colorful and surreal — like a comic based on a child’s wild dream. It’s not deep or touching, but it is fun, and it’s got lots of interactive elements to prove it. The book encourages readers to follow mazes, examine maps, or connect the dots to help Robin and her friends on their journey. And poring over the pictures is great fun, too.

Cat & Cat, The Quest for Snacks, Susie Yi [Amazon | Bookshop] — In this quick-reading and cheerful graphic novel for young readers, cats Ginny and Squash go on a quest to find the ingredients for the Potion of Unlimited Snacks. Portals take them to new lands, where they complete challenges and answer riddles, but when they meet someone who desperately needs their ingredients, will they be able to let go of their dream of unlimited snacks? And will they be able to get home? It’s another odd-couple pairing here: Ginny is excitable and impulsive, while Squash likes to plan and prepare, but these two make a great team. Fast readers will zip through this book in twenty minutes or so, but its adorable art and touches of magic and fantasy will make it a huge hit for fans of Pusheen and cat lovers, too. 

Pilu of the Woods, Mai K. Nguyen [Amazon | Bookshop] — Willow struggles with overwhelming feelings, especially following her mother’s death. If I bottle them up, she decides, perhaps I can control them, perhaps I’ll be safe. But after a blow-up with her older sister, Willow runs away to the woods and meets another runaway, a magnolia tree spirit, who helps Willow question whether bottling up her feelings is truly helpful. This tender, bittersweet graphic novel is often intense: Willow’s feelings are depicted as cute, ghostly monsters, but at times those monsters fly into a rage. And Willow’s grief about her mother’s death, and about the harsh words she said to her mother in their last conversation, is heavy. But, like Willow, the book confronts the pain head-on and ends with hope and peace. There’s so much gentleness and caring here, too, with plant and mushroom metaphors and a beautiful forest setting. And also, of course, there’s Pilu the lovely magnolia tree spirit — in finding compassion for Pilu, Willow learns how to find compassion for herself, too.

The Witch Boy series, Molly Knox Ostertag [Amazon | Bookshop] — These graphic novels for children are lovely, championing compassion and the right to live authentically. The protagonist, Aster, longs to be a witch, even though in this world only women and girls can train to be witches. And he’s not the only one who wants another way of life. The characters here are fantastic, and in particular Aster’s friend Charlie, whose own story is just as compelling. It’s a very sweet series, diverse and kind and interesting. All three books are terrific.

Pawcasso, Remy Lai [Amazon | Bookshop] — This very cute graphic novel features a mysterious basket-carrying dog who does his shopping alone in town. 11-year-old Jo is intrigued and follows the dog on his rounds, but before she knows it, everyone believes she’s his owner. Although she tries to set the record straight, the rewards for lying are so great that eventually she gives in and pretends the dog is hers. When the shopping dog goes viral in the town, for better and for worse, Jo’s lies begin to catch up with her. Although at times this book feels a bit rushed, like it can’t quite resolve all the issues it tries to tackle, its heart is good, and the shopping dog is so adorable that animal-loving kids might well be smitten, too.

Snapdragon, Kat Leyh [Amazon | Bookshop] — This middle-grade graphic novel was originally titled “Roadkill Witch,” which might tell you a thing or two about its perspective (it’s unusual and maybe not for every family). But even though roadkill is an essential element of the story, it’s not like you’d imagine: it’s a profoundly empathetic, generous, magical-realist story about an intergenerational friendship — but also about the process of becoming. Many of the characters are queer or trans, and Leyh follows them as they begin to embrace their identities or revisit and repair relationships from the past, and also as they create a joyful community together. And it’s funny and suspenseful, too. Leyh reveals the stories of these characters so beautifully and skillfully that I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s all so finely done that I read the book with tears in my eyes.

This site uses affiliate links, and I might earn a small commission if you click through to buy these books. I only recommend books that I have used and love. Thank you for helping to support this site.

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