Best Graphic Novels for Teaching STEM

Howtoons: Tools of Mass Construction, Howtoons: Reignition

Publisher: Image Comics
Grade Level: Middle to lower high school

What’s it about? Howtoons stars brother and sister Tucker and Celine as they learn through play and harrowing comic book adventures. Each book features many projects that will be terrific projects for STEAM/STEM students. Along with projects, both volumes feature loads of science articles, facts and diagrams.

The Cartoon Guide to: Genetics, Physics, Chemistry, the Environment

Publisher: Harper Collins
Grade Level: high school

What’s it about? Illustrated by Larry (The Cartoon History of…) Gonick and written by experts of the respective fields, The Cartoon Guides explain the major concepts that would be covered in a typical high school level course of study. By keeping his characters and story elements consistent throughout the books, Gonick easily turns the material into a long-form story in a way that students and adults both will find extremely engaging and hard to put down.

Solution Squad

Publisher: Solution Squad, LLC., website
Grade Level: Middle school

What’s it about? Created by middle school math teacher Jim McClain, Solution Squad features a team of math-based superheroes and villains who solve their problems with the application of topics that are familiar to middle schoolers. McClain’s experience in teaching math comes through and shines in his stories and characters who show no fear when it comes to math. The book is chock-full of comic and text stories, character bios, and lessons that you can use in your classroom.

The Manga Guide To: Physics, Physiology, Electricity, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry

Publisher: No Starch Press
Grade Level: high school

What’s it about? The content of The Manga Guides is very thorough, requiring shifts from manga presentations and a larger storyline to straight text and diagrams. The books explore their topics to a depth perhaps greater than a regular high school class, but the approach makes them easily accessible. The titles are set in their own world, but the concepts are the same and real-world examples of the respective phenomena are highlighted. Heads up – the books are fully produced in Asia, and as such, may approach the topics slightly differently than would a Western approach.

Survive! Inside the Human Body: The Digestive System, The Circulatory System, The Nervous System

Publisher: No Starch Press
Grade Level: middle and high school

What’s it about? Similar in scope to The Manga Guides, the Survive! Series follows the adventures of Geo, Dr. Brain, Kay and Phoebe as they find themselves on wild adventures inside the body. While the art may look lower grade level, the volumes are a mix of manga and text that fully explain the topic in an easygoing, straightforward manner that students will appreciate.

Neurocomic

Publisher: Nobrow Press
Grade Level: high school

What’s it about? A dreamy, gorgeous exploration of the human brain and how it functions. The story follows its characters through neuron forests, memory caves and castles of deception. The illustrations are full of meaning, and the book freely travels between art and science. Written by two neuroscientists, Neurocomic would be equally at home in an anatomy, a biology or a psychology class.

Science Comics: Coral Reefs, Dinosaurs, Plagues, Dogs, etc.

Publisher: First Second/Macmillan
Grade level: middle and high school

What’s it about? Each of the Science Comics volumes offers a thorough introduction to its topic, from plagues to dogs, the solar system, bats, robots and many more. The books are visually stunning and will take students (and others) a solid chunk of time to digest. Each follows a set of characters and overall storyline, which will hook readers and keep them reading for the long haul.

Chemystery

Publisher: Thunderstone Books
Grade Level: high school

What’s it about? Written by high school chemistry teacher C.A. Preece, Chemystery follows fictional high school students through a chemical accident and larger threat that must be solved via chemistry. The book has text pieces to back up the concepts covered in the comic, and is NGSS complaint and classroom-friendly for teachers.

The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA & Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth

Publisher: Hill and Wang
Grade Level: Middle and high school

What’s it about? These two volumes offer comprehensive coverage of their respective topics, and are tied together both by their artists and by their narrators, led by Blort, a scientist from an asexual alien race threatened by disease who’s job it is to figure out how life works on earth and explain it all in clear, easily to understand language. Both volumes elegantly explain the more complex topics of each while never talking down to the audience.

Clan Apis

Publisher: Active Synapse
Grade Level: Middle and high school

What’s it about? Nyuki the bee is as curious about its world as the audience is, and leads the reader on an illuminating adventure discovering what it means to be a bee. The story is heavy with honeybee (and insect) science, while staying extremely accessible and fun. Text in the back goes into further honeybee detail for those who want a deeper dive.

Graphic Library: A Crash Course in Forces and Motion, Adventures in Sound, The Shocking World of Electricity, etc. With Max Axiom, Super Scientist!

Publisher: Capstone
Grade Level: Elementary

What’s it about? A collection of 24 volumes chronicling the adventures of Max Axiom, Super Scientist, the Graphic Library collection is aimed squarely at elementary students. The science is age appropriate without being watered down, and the target audience will love the comic book feel and Max’s overall cool factor.

Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventure, The Frontiers of Space

Publisher: Flying Eye Books
Grade Level: Elementary and Middle school

What’s it About? It’s Richard Scary meets Neil deGrasse Tyson. Professor Astro Cat’s goal is to educate his guests all about physics, which the book does with clear explanations and charming illustrations and stories. While education is the larger goal, Astro Cat makes sure to answer basic questions kids may have that can be answered with physics.

Human Body Theater

Publisher: First Second
Grade level: Middle to high school

What’s it About? A human skeleton is your tour guide for a theatrical style revue of everything the human body has to offer. As the story progresses through its acts, the skeleton adds another layer, finally ending as a flesh-and-blood human. Lovely art and accessible storytelling and science content will keep biology nerds and casual readers hooked.