Because picture books never really go out of style, and also because big kids love graphic novels, too. This post contains affiliate links.
1. Pashmina, written and illustrated by Nidhi Chanani
Priyanka Das’ life is full of missing pieces: Her mother is tight-lipped about Pri’s absent father, her own family, and most importantly, her native country, India. After discovering a pashmina in an old suitcase, Pri is transported to a strange, beautiful world full of the color that her own life lacks. Follow Pri as she attempts to figure out the secret to her mother’s past, to unlock her own heritage.
Note: Only Pri’s imagined-India is in drawn color! Her day-to-day life is black and white. This is a stunning visual cue that makes reading Chanani’s work so fun! Plus, you can analyze the juxtaposition of the author’s use of color to tell the story with your students.
2. The Umbrella Academy, written by Gerard Way, illustrated by Gabriel Ba
If any of your students are excited about the band My Chemical Romance’s recent comeback, they’ll probably be interested in this graphic novel created by the group’s lead singer Gerard Way. The Umbrella Academy has it all, from its delightfully sinister art style to the superpowers to many skeletons in the family closet. Follow the Hargreeves siblings as they attempt to navigate the death of their abusive, wealthy father, their relationships with each other, and of course, the end of the world. This graphic novel is now a Netflix Original Series! I would only recommend this title for mature high school students.
3. Scott Pilgrim, written and illustrated by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Some of your students may already know this graphic novel series from its star-studded movie counterpart, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Encourage them to take a deeper dive into Bryan Lee O’Malley’s wacky and whimsical world by reading the original material! With influences from Japanese manga and American comics, O’Malley’s novels are an excellent choice for those who enjoy satire.
4. I Am Alfonso Jones, written by Tony Medina, illustrated by John Jennings and Stacey Robinson
Alfonso Jones is just a regular kid, with friends, a crush, and a leading role in a school play. At least he is until a police officer mistakes a clothing hanger in Alfonso’s hand for a gun, and shoots Alfonso. Now on a “ghost train” with other similar shooting victims, both Alfonso and people on the other side of the curtain must deal with their fates. This graphic novel brings the harsh realities of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter Movement into the reader’s own two hands. I would only recommend this title for mature high school students.
5. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel, written by Ransom Riggs, illustrated by Cassandra Jean
Are you sick of this title yet? First, the book, then the film, and now a graphic novel? Eugh! Unfortunately, bittersweet as it may be, there’s a reason Miss Peregrine’s has become so popular: It’s good! Students enjoy the spine-chilling twists and turns accompanied by eerie photography. The graphic novel takes an even more visually engaging step down the road that Riggs already began with the original.
6. The Graveyard Book, written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, and Stephen B. Scott
If your students love Coraline or the new television series, Good Omens, definitely show them this graphic novel from the mind of the man behind them. Adapted from his fantasy novel of the same name, The Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens, who is raised by the supernatural inhabitants of a graveyard. Though it was written for middle-grade children, like many of Gaiman’s works, it touches on heartbreaking and human themes that speak to readers of all ages.
Note: Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book partially inspired this work! You could use this as a comparison.
7. Deadly Class: Reagan Youth, written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wesley Craig
Another graphic novel developed into a hit television series! Follow Marcus Lopez, a new student at Kings Dominion School for the Deadly Arts, where high school is a place you truly may not survive. In Deadly Class, Remender incorporates all the drama of teenage life with the aesthetics and sensibilities of the 1980s underground, where all you need is drugs, a hatred of Ronald Reagan, and a weapon in your hands. I would only recommend this title for mature high school students.
8. Ms. Marvel: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona
Kamala Khan’s most significant hurdles are dealing with her strict parents, being Muslim, and figuring out a tricky plot bunny in her Avengers fanfiction. That is until she becomes an Avenger herself. Granted the powers to shapeshift, Kamala gets to decide who she wants to be, whenever she wants to be. But is it a blessing or a curse? This graphic novel is a beautiful take on the classic superhero origin story and a great journey for any young person who needs to hear the oldy-goody refrain: Be yourself.
9. This One Summer, written by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
This inspired graphic novel, drawn only in gorgeous shades of blue, follows Rose and Windy, two young girls on the cusp of adolescence, during the summer in which they begin to untangle just what growing up means. As Rose and Windy begin the journey into adulthood, they find themselves more aware that the adults around them are, in fact, complex people with complicated thoughts and feelings. This One Summer is a terrific read for any young person who is starting to see the world come into focus.
10. Pumpkinheads, written by Rainbow Rowell, illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
Sometimes Autumn feels like a world of its own. This is especially the case for Deja and Josiah, “seasonal best friends.” As workers in the world’s best pumpkin patch, the two are close as close can be – from September 1st to Halloween, that is. Follow Deja and Josiah on their very last shift together before they go their separate ways for college, as they attempt to say goodbye to the patch, their childhood, and each other all in one final adventure.