Some of the Best Graphic Novels for Kids, Part 2

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

Witch Hat Atelier (series), Kamome Shirahama [Amazon | Bookshop]

A beautifully conceived and supremely uplifting series with a brilliant, creative twist on magic school
In this cheerful, immensely lovely series about a group of young witches-in-training, spells are cast by drawing, and how a witch constructs her spells is a matter of creative inspiration. It’s a wonderfully different approach to magic in children’s books, made even better because Coco, the protagonist, has a background in pattern- and clothes-making — experience using her hands to create. As in many great stories about magic school, Coco becomes a witch almost by accident, drawn into the community after a terrible accident involving her mother. And if she wishes to get her mother back, magic is her best hope. The art is beautiful (and extraordinarily cute), the relationships are touching, and the story is great — it’s just an all-around feel-good series. (Be aware that as it’s manga, it might be an unfamiliar reading experience: back to front and right to left — but kids can get used to this fast!)

When Stars Are Scattered, Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed [Amazon | Bookshop]

A moving and incredibly readable true story about the life of two boys in a refugee camp
Omar Mohamed, a Somali refugee now living in Pennsylvania, collaborated with graphic novelist Victoria Jamieson to bring his life story to middle-grade readers. When they were children, Mohamed and his brother were separated from their parents in Somalia and lived alone together in a Kenyan refugee camp for years before relocating to the United States. It’s an incredible story about life as a refugee, and it’s a brilliant, touching read, too. While it’s written for somewhat older children and young adults, my six-year-old read it and was tremendously moved by it. In fact, she recommended it to everyone she could: “You have to read this book!” (And, very deservedly, it was a finalist in the National Book Awards.)

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer (series), Gillian Goerz [Amazon | Bookshop]

A sweet middle-grade graphic novel with a mystery at its heart and a Sherlock Holmes-style detective
In this fun and suspenseful graphic novel, two girls work together to solve a big neighborhood mystery. Adults might recognize Shirley and Jamila’s Holmes/Watson dynamic, but you don’t need to be familiar with the classic stories to enjoy the mystery here. Even beyond the exciting mystery plot, though, the book is a touching reminder to listen and to strive for empathy — and it’s a great depiction of the alliances, solutions, and vivid communities kids can make when given some independence. This book made me remember all the pleasures of a less restrictive childhood: the things we could get up to, and what fun it was.

The Sprite and the Gardener, Rii Abrego and Joe Whitt [Amazon | Bookshop]

A pure-hearted and gentle story about nature and the pleasures of caretaking
In the world of this gentle graphic novel, humans have taken over from sprites as the caretakers of nature, and although sprites are still around, they no longer help anything to grow. But one curious sprite, Wisteria, is enchanted by a young gardener and longs to help her with her struggling plants. This is a pure-hearted, warm, beautifully sweet tale of vulnerability and collaboration, of the joy to be found in caring for nature (and each other). It’s suitable for a child of any age who wants to read it (though some wordless panels require a bit of interpretation), and it features a truly diverse set of characters.

Otto: A Palindrama, Jon Agee [Amazon | Bookshop]

A very funny, absurd tale told entirely in palindromes
I think it’s safe to say you won’t have read anything like this before: a graphic novel written entirely in palindromes. If you know a thing or two about palindromes, you’ll know that the longer ones often sound absurd, and so this book goes in absurd — and profoundly delightful — directions. It’s hallucinatory, silly, and clever, a quick read that made me laugh out loud on just about every other page. It’s beautifully constructed — a ridiculous idea taken to sublime heights (one of the best things in the world).

Amulet: The Stonekeeper (series), Kazu Kibuishi [Amazon | Bookshop]

A fast-paced graphic novel series that has all of the most satisfying elements of a classic fantasy quest
When Emily’s mother and brother are kidnapped and put in danger, she enters a fantastical realm to rescue them. There, she is entrusted with a magical amulet that both confers great powers upon her and threatens to consume and corrupt her. What is the voice she’s hearing in her head? Can she rescue her mother and brother – and once she does, is she willing to stay within this world and help save it? The series starts with a distressing bang – the death of a parent – and the villains are genuinely a bit scary, but the stakes here are real, the action exciting, and the quest satisfying. As she battles the wicked elves, Emily is accompanied by adorable, cartoon-y sidekicks and also mysterious, noble mentors (and a rather cool robotic moving house). The first book here is pretty good, though brief, but the later books are even better, ratcheting up the tension, deepening the characters, and expanding upon the interesting, dangerous world Emily and her family must save.

Witches of Brooklyn (series), Sophie Escabasse [Amazon | Bookshop]

A colorful, sweet series about a young witch in a regular school, with regular problems – and magical ones, too, of course
In this delightful little series of graphic novels, Effie goes to live with her quirky aunts and discovers not only that they’re witches but that she has magical powers herself, too. What distinguishes this magic-focused series from others of its type is that Effie still goes to a regular school with non-witch students, and she has regular problems (as well as magical ones). In the second book, for instance, she struggles with jealousy as a talented new girl from France joins her friend group. Perhaps my favorite thing about this series, though, is the community of witches in Effie’s neighborhood: a group of truly individual and diverse people, just like you might find in any big city, all banding together to take action for the good of the community. They’re a warm and fascinating group, vibrant and confident and charming – it’s really lovely to see a gathering like that in a children’s book. Kids who love Raina Telgemeier books might well love this series, too.

The Legend of Auntie Po, Shing Yin Khor [Amazon | Bookshop]

An introspective historical tale interwoven with larger-than-life myths
In this beautiful and thoughtful graphic novel about stories and myths, thirteen-year-old Mei bakes pies for loggers in an 1880s Sierra Nevada logging camp. Her father, a Chinese immigrant, runs the kitchen with tremendous expertise and Mei’s pies are practically revered, but there’s tension in the camp: the Chinese immigrant loggers are not treated the same as the white lumberjacks, and Mei herself dreams of a life other than the one that seems scripted for her. She’s a brilliant storyteller and fascinates the camp’s children with stories of Auntie Po, a Paul Bunyan-like logging crew chief with a giant blue buffalo named Pei Pei. These myths help Mei as she sorts through her romantic feelings for her best friend, Bee, and her longing to go to university one day. And the legend of Auntie Po helps her, too, when racist threats of a boycott force her father from his job. The book’s portrayal of this logging community, through discrimination, tragedy, and repair, is wonderful — full of heartbreak, support, and hope. 

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