Some of you may have read that title and thought, “That’s a thing?!”
It sure is! Graphic novels are more than just hardbound comic books. They cover all genres, age groups, and interests.
There is great merit in reading non-fiction graphic novels; the illustrations provide a more engaging and easier reading experience and can help struggling readers to better absorb and retain the content. If there had been a graphic novel version of, say, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology when I was a kid, I would have enjoyed reading it a lot more (not to mention actually retaining the information)!
Here are some of the best non-fiction, biography, and historical fiction graphic novels for kids and young adults:
Nonfiction - Elementary and Middle Grade
Science Comics (multiple authors, 26 books in series)
These dynamically illustrated graphic novels offer wildly entertaining views of their subjects. Whether you're a fourth grader studying natural science or a thirty-year-old with a passion for airplanes, these books are for you!
All titles in the series: The Brain, Coral Reefs, Dinosaurs, Volcanoes, Bats, Flying Machines, Plagues, Dogs, Robots & Drones, Sharks, Rockets, Trees, Solar System, Polar Bears, Wild Weather, Cars, Cats, Skyscrapers, Crows, Rocks & Minerals, Digestive System, Spiders, Whales, Birds of Prey, Bridges, Periodic Table of the Elements
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales (Nathan Hale, 11 books in series)
Author Nathan Hale channels his Revolutionary War hero's namesake to present history's roughest, toughest, and craziest stories in graphic novel format.
All titles in the series: One Dead Spy (Revolutionary war), Big Bad Ironclad! (Civil war), Donner Dinner Party (Pioneer/Frontier), Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (WWI), Underground Abductor (Abolitionist/Harriet Tubman), Alamo All-Stars (Texas Revolution), Raid of No Return (WWII), Lafayette! (Revolutionary war), Major Impossible (Post-Civil war/Grand Canyon Exploration), Blades of Freedom (Louisiana Purchase), Cold War Correspondent (Korean war)
Muhammad Najem: War Reporter (Muhammad Najem / Nora Neus)
Muhammad Najem was only eight years old when the war in Syria began. He was thirteen when his beloved Baba, his father, was killed in a bombing while praying. By fifteen, Muhammad didn’t want to hide anymore—he wanted to act. He was determined to reveal what families like his were enduring in Syria: bombings by their own government and days hiding in dark underground shelters.
Biography - Teen and Young Adult
They Called Us Enemy (George Takei / Steven Scott / Justin Eisinger)
A graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei's childhood while imprisoned in American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon, and America itself, in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer (Sydney Padua)
Meet Victorian London’s most dynamic duo: Charles Babbage, the unrealized inventor of the computer, and his accomplice, Ada Lovelace, the peculiar proto-programmer. Lovelace translated a description of Babbage’s plans for an enormous mechanical calculating machine in 1842, and though these plans were never realized, Padua explores what could have happened if they had! The author transforms one of the most compelling scientific collaborations into a hilarious series of adventures.
Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation (Ari Folman / David Polonsky / Anne Frank)
A timeless story rediscovered by each new generation, The Diary of a Young Girl stands without peer. This graphic edition remains faithful to the original, while the stunning illustrations interpret and add layers of visual meaning and immediacy to this classic work of Holocaust literature.
The life of Frederick Douglass: a graphic narrative of a slave's journey from bondage to freedom (David F. Walker / Marissa Lousie / Damon Smyth)
This graphic novel biography of the escaped slave, abolitionist, public speaker, and most photographed man of the nineteenth century is based on his autobiographical writings and speeches. It also spotlights the key events and people that shaped the life of this amazing American.
Historical fiction - Elementary and Middle Grade
Red Scare (Liam Francis Walsh)
Heart of America, 1953: Peggy is scared; she's struggling to recover from polio and needs crutches to walk, and she and her neighbors are worried about the rumors of Communist spies doing bad things. Plus, Peggy has a hard time at school and gets taunted by her classmates. When she finds a mysterious artifact that gives her the ability to fly, she thinks it's the solution to all her problems. But if Peggy wants to keep this magical device, she'll have to overcome bullies, outsmart FBI agents, and escape from some very strange spies!
When Stars are Scattered (Victoria Jamieson / Omar Mohamed)
Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future... but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day.
I Survived Graphix (Lauren Tarshis / Alvin Epps)
Perfect for readers who prefer the graphic novel format, or for existing fans of the I Survived chapter book series. These stories combine historical facts with high-action storytelling, from a kid's point of view, that is sure to keep any reader turning the pages.
Do you read graphic novels? If so, which kinds, topics, genres, etc.? Does the graphic format make for a more enjoyable and/or better absorbing reading experience?