Best Graphic Novels for Early Readers

Owly

(series) by Andy Runton (Top Shelf)

Owly is a kind-hearted little owl who’s always searching for new friends and adventure. Relying on a mixture of symbols and expressions, these animated and heartwarming tales are a perfect read for all ages! Owly has become incredibly popular in schools, libraries, and homes throughout the country and around the world. Non-violent subject matter, natural settings, straightforward yet emotionally complex stories, and endearing characters appeal to many different readers and makes this series the perfect choice for students of all ages.

Winner of Harvey, Ignatz, and Eisner awards, the trifecta of comics awards!

Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework

by Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler (Toon Books)

Zig and Wikki land on a planet full of strange creatures like flies, frogs, and raccoons, just when it seems to be lunchtime! In their hilarious search for a pet, the two friends, imagined by Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler, go on adventures that are out of this world. Young readers learn about nature in our world thanks to the fascinating Wikki’s Fun Facts woven into every twist of the exciting plot. This innovative science-based early reader comic book, filled with bugs and hugs, is sure to please both boys and girls. Look for Zig and Wikki in The Cow as well.

Awards: Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards, Harvey Award Nominee

Little Mouse Gets Ready

by Jeff Smith (Toon Books)

There’s lots to do before Little Mouse is ready to go visit the barn. Will he master all the intricacies of getting dressed, from snaps and buttons to Velcro and tail holes? Eisner Award-winning cartoonist Jeff Smith and his determined Little Mouse reveal all the smallest pleasures of this daily task.

Awards: 2009 Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor Book, School Library Journal Best Comics for Kids 2009, Association for Library Service to Children’s Graphic Novels Reading List 2013, 2014, and 2016

Nino Wrestles the World

by Yuyi Morales (Square Fish)

Señoras y Señores, put your hands together for the fantastic, spectacular, one of a kind . . . Niño! Fwap! Slish! Bloop! Krunch! He takes down his competition in a single move! No opponent is too big a challenge for the cunning skills of Niño―popsicle eater, toy lover, somersault expert, and world champion lucha libre competitor! Niño Wrestles the World is in English with Spanish vocabulary, and is a fun, colorful story about a boy wrestling with imaginary monsters (including an Olmec Head and La Llorona) and adversaries like his younger sisters. This is a joyful picture book about imagination, play, and siblings.

Awards: 2014 Pura Belpre (Illustrator) Award, A Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, ALSC Notable Children’s Book

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

by Mo Willems (Hyperion)

When the Bus Driver takes a break from his route, a very unlikely volunteer springs up to take his place—a pigeon! But you’ve never met a pigeon like this one before. As The Pigeon pleads, wheedles, and begs his way through the book, readers answer back and decide his fate. Mo Willems’ hilarious picture book debut was a Caldecott Honor book and was inducted into the Picture Book Hall of Fame. Be sure to check out the whole Pigeon series, as well as Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series.

The Adventures of Polo

by Regis Faller (Macmillan)

Equipped with a backpack full of supplies, Polo sets off on a little boat–and on a series of delightful adventures, with a world of magical encounters along the way. Unique, dynamic, and playful, these charming picture books for children call to mind film animation, comics, and classic children’s books like Harold and the Purple Crayon and The Snowman. The Adventures of Polo also has style, appeal, and substance all its very own. Don’t miss the sequel, Polo and the Dragon. An ALA Notable Children’s Book.

Blackout

by John Rocco (Disney-Hyperion)

One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. What’s a family to do?  When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights–in stars that can be seen for a change–and so many neighbors it’s like a block party in the sky! The boy and his family enjoy being not so busy for once. Using a combination of panels and full bleed illustrations that move from color to black-and-white and back to color, John Rocco shows that if we are willing to put our cares aside for a while, there is party potential in a summer blackout.

Awards: 2012 Caldecott Honor Book, New York Times Notable Book, Best Book of the Year at the Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews

Little Robot

by Ben Hatke (First Second)

When a little girl finds an adorable robot in the woods, she presses a button and accidentally activates him for the first time. Now, she finally has a friend. But the big, bad robots are coming to collect the little guy for nefarious purposes, and it’s all up to a five-year-old armed only with a wrench and a fierce loyalty to her mechanical friend to save the day! Ben Hatke brings his signature sweetness to a simple, moving story about friendship and overcoming fears that will appeal to readers of all ages.

Awards: Eisner Award, Best Publication for Kids; Gryphon Award For Children’s Literature, Cybils Awards Nomination, Booklist 2016 Top 10 Books for Youth, Graphic Novels

You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum

by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Glasser (Penguin Random House)

While she’s in the Metropolitan Museum with her grandmother, a little girl leaves her prized yellow balloon tied to a railing outside. But its string becomes untied, and the balloon embarks on an uproarious journey through New York City. With an ever-increasing cast of wacky urban characters in tow, it soars past a host of landmarks. Eighteen famous paintings and sculptures are reproduced in this delightful, wordless book that explores the magical relationship between art and life. If you like this book, try You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the National Gallery and You Can’t Take a Book Into the Museum of Fine Arts.

Nina in That Makes Me Mad

by Hillary Knight & Stephen Kroll (Toon Books)

What makes Nina mad? Lots of things—lots of little, everyday things, frustrations that all children will recognize. But Nina knows how to speak her mind and that makes her feel much better. In a series of humorous vignettes, Hilary Knight, the artist who brought the enormously successful Eloise to life, applies his magic to a text by veteran children’s book writer Steven Kroll, and brings to life a spunky character who will show young readers how to articulate their feelings.

Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists

edited by Chris Duffy (First Second)

Features fifty classic nursery rhymes illustrated and interpreted in comics form by fifty of today’s preeminent cartoonists and illustrators. Each rhyme is one to three pages long, and simply paneled and lettered to ensure that the experience is completely accessible for the youngest of readers. Chock full of engaging full-color artwork and favorite characters (Jack and Jill! Old Mother Hubbard! The Owl and the Pussycat!), this collection will be treasured by children for years to come.

Awards: American Library Association Notable Children’s Books, Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens, ALA Notable Children’s Books