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Graphic novels exist in the same sphere as picture books: they both use text and illustration to create a cohesive story, and they both require a certain understanding of how visual narratives flow across the page. With the added length in pages, though, graphic novels stand apart as a unique way to show and tell longer, more complex stories to an audience that appreciates visual storytelling as much as textual (ie picture books for older audiences!).

Here are my favorite graphic novels published within the last 10 years (broken down by school age):

Grade School
The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo
Written and illustrated by Drew Weing

Charles moves to Echo City to discover it's chock-full of monsters. He manages to track down Margo Maloo, monster investigator, who agrees to help him. Which is lucky because the trolls, ogres, and other monsters they encounter don't really seem to like Charles much...
The Dam Keeper series
Created by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

Lurking outside the walls of Sunrise Valley is a deathly fog, and Pig is the only one who can keep the city safe. But when the fog comes with an unexpected vengeance one day, Pig and two unlikely friends set out to save their home. One book in the series has published so far with the second scheduled for Summer 2018.
Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust
Written by Loic Dauvillier, illustrated by Marc Lizano, inked by Greg Salsedo, translated by Alexis Siegel

A grandmother tells the story of how, as a young Jewish girl in Paris, she was protected and kept hidden from the Nazis –– who took her parents to concentrations camps –– by a series of neighbors and friends who risked their lives to keep a stranger safe.
The Hilda series
Written and illustrated by Luke Pearson


Hilda is an adventurous girl who lives with her mother and a deerfox named Twig. The trio encounters everything magical, from trolls to giants to invisible people. Hands-down one of the best series out there right now. Five books have published in the series so far.
Hippopotamister
Written and illustrated by John Patrick Green


Hippo and his friend Red Panda decide to head out into the human world and learn that in order to survive –– and more importantly, blend in –– they have to become quite different than they are. They have to wear human clothes, learn human jobs, and act as human as possible. But is it worth all the disguises if they never gets to be themselves?
The Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy series
Written and illustrated by Doug Savage

Meet Laser Moose, defender of the forest, and his sidekick Rabbit Boy! This hilarious, upbeat duo battles everything from aliens to a cyborg porcupine to a mechanical squirrel to even a chickadee in order to keep the forest safe from evil. Two books have published in the series so far.
The Narwhal and Jelly series
Written and illustrated by Ben Clanton

Join Narwhal, a happy-go-lucky narwhal, and Jelly, no-nonsense jellyfish, as they discover the ocean together! These early "chapter" books are divided into three stories for three times the waffle fun. Two books have published in the series so far, with the third due out April 2018.
Where's Halmoni?
Written and illustrated by Julie Kim

Two young children set out to visit their grandmother and quickly find themselves on an unexpected journey through a fantastical world full of Korean folklore.
Wordplay
Written and illustrated by Ivan Brunetti

This early reader is a wonderfully hilarious introduction to compound words and proves how much there is to love about the English language.

Middle School
American Born Chinese
Written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang

Gene Yang tells the story of three seemingly unrelated characters whose lives and stories come together in an unexpected way. Trust me, the less you know about this book going in, the more you'll be amazed.
The Amulet series
Written and illustrated by Kazu Kibuishi

When their mother is kidnapped, Emily and Navin set out into a world of robots, talking animals, and flying ships to save her. But what Emily and her family has yet to learn is that Emily is a Stonekeeper, a sacred role in a much larger war. And she's essential to the survival of this world. Seven books have published in the series so far.
The Big Bad Fox
Written and illustrated by Benjamin Renner

Through watercolored, comic-style illustrations, this graphic novel tells the tale of a fox who dreams of being the terror of the barnyard, but ends up being Mommy to three baby chicks instead. And of course, there's Wolf, who won't stop hounding Fox about wanting to eat the baby chicks, and the local farm that's been on high-alert ever since Fox stole the chicks. So in the midst of all these hard decisions, what's Fox supposed to do when he finds himself actually caring for the baby chicks?
Bone
Written and illustrated by Jeff Smith

When cousins Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone are run out of their hometown, they mistakenly end up in a mysterious land filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures. Together with Thorn, Gran'ma Ben, and the Great Red Dragon, the three cousins set out on an epic journey that pushes everyone involved to their very limits.
Boxers & Saints
Written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang

In two volumes, Boxers & Saints tells two parallel stories. Readers follow the lives of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant whose village is slowly destroyed by Christian missionaries, and Vibiana, a lost girl who finds herself at home with Christianity. As their lives intersect, they discover who they are and what they truly believe in.
Broxo
Written and illustrated by Zack Giallongo

As the sole survivor of his tribe, Broxo spends his days hunting and hiding from the walking dead that occasionally wander by. When a princess named Zora arrives looking for Broxo's tribe, the two must come together to battle the living dead.
Drama
Written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Callie is a set designer for her drama department's stage crew, and this year she's determined to spend her middle-school-sized theater budget on a set worthy of a Broadway play. But of course, this is middle school, and nothing is ever that easy! Callie knows very little about the intricacies of the drama department, and it doesn't help that two new cute brothers have suddenly joined up.
The Four Points series
Written by Hope Larson and illustrated by Rebecca Mock

It's 1860 in New York City when 12-year-old twins Alexander and Cleopatra's father disappears. So they set out the find him, encountering countless dangers along the way that test the sibling's trust, bond, and faith. And that doesn't even count the pirates and gangs that are hot on their tail. Two books in the series have published so far.
The Nameless City series
Written and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks and colored Jordie Bellaire

Though seemingly from different worlds, Kaidu and Rat find themselves on a journey together to save their city. Warring factions break out and it’s up to Kaidu and Rat to make sure their city doesn’t get lost in the war. Two books in the series have published so far
Pashmina
Written and illustrated by Nidhi Chananir

Priyanka Das has lived her life filled with questions. Who is her father? Why did her mother leave India many years ago? And why won’t she talk about it? Pri thinks she’ll have to live her whole life surrounded by mystery until she discovers a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she puts it in she’s transported straight to India, guides included. But is this truly the India her mother left?
Real Friends
Written by Shannon Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen's #1, and some girls even result to bullying to stay on top. Every day is a roller coaster for Shannon as she learns how hard it is to find her real friends and why it's worth the journey.
Smile and Sisters
Written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

In this autobiographical graphic novel duo, Raina Telgemeier delves into braces, sisters, and the sixth grade. Raina humorously recalls the events in her life through flashbacks, and readers get to know what made Raina who she is today.
Suee and the Shadow
Written by Ginger Ly and illustrated by Molly Park

Suee has always been a loner, and that doesn't change much when she transfers to Outskirts Elementary. Especially given that bullied kids (called Zeroes) end up turning into zombies. But when her shadow suddenly comes alive and forms an evil plan, Suee realizes just how much is at stake in this small, creepy town.
The Sunny series
Written by Jennifer L Holm and illustrated by Matthew Holm

Young Sunny spends a summer with her grandfather as her family attempts to help her older brother find his way again. Summer learns about adapting to new family dynamics and understanding how those around us shape the course of our lives. Two books in the series have published so far.

Young Adult
Anya's Ghost
Written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol

When Anya falls down a well, the last thing she expects to find is a century-old ghost. And the very last thing she expects is for that ghost to become her only friend. But life never goes according to plan, and Anya discovers a new flexible self as she navigates making friends and surviving middle school.
As the Crow Flies
Written and illustrated by Melanie Gillman

Thirteen-year-old Charlie Lamonte is queer, black, and questioning her belief in God. Needless to say, things get uncomfortable quickly when she agrees to spend a week at an all-white Christian backpacking camp. Will she ever find someone who understands her point of view?
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil
Written and illustrated by Stephen Collins

Everything on the island of Here is orderly and neat until one man's unstoppable beard gives him and the citizens of Here a new perspective. If that sounds intriguing enough, then I suggest you pick the book up. I don't want to say anymore about the story since it's fantastic and unexpected in every way.
Lighter Than My Shadow
Written and illustrated by Katie Green

Katie has always been a picky eater, but as she grows up and enters high school and then college, she finds herself continuing to struggle with body dysmorphia and anorexia. Based on the true story of author Katie Green's battles during her formative years, Lighter Than My Shadow is a raw, honest, and deeply self reflective graphic memoir about struggling to understand oneself and learning how to seek out help and recovery.
The Lunar Chronicles series
Written by Marissa Meyer and illustrated by various artists

This graphic novel series spinoff takes place in the same world as The Lunar Chronicles, a young adult novel series also written by Meyer. When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko, an android, decides to hunt down every last one. But as old enemies –– and surprising allies –– keep popping up, Iko begins to question her own humanity.
March
Written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell

This trilogy is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis' lifelong struggle for civil and human rights. Beginning with his initial desire to enact change all through President Obama's inauguration, readers experience the uphill battle Lewis and his comrades had to fight in order to achieve the rights they deserve.
Nimona
Written and illustrated by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter who wants to be a villain, so when she finds super villain Lord Ballister Blackheart, she's determined to be his sidekick and prove that heroism is overrated. But what starts as small vengeance turns into something much larger as Lord Blackheart discovers that Nimona isn't who she claims to be.
Persepolis
Written and illustrated by Marjane Satrapi

This autobiography tells the story of Marjane growing up in a large family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. Through boarding school, living at home, and her ultimate self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland, readers journey with Marjane as she struggles to understand the actions of her country.
Scott Pilgrim
Written and illustrated by Bryan Lee O’Malley

The epic six-book tale of one guy's quest to win the heart of the girl of his dreams by defeating her seven evil exs.
The Shadow Hero
Written by Gene Yang and illustrated by Sonny Liew

In the 1940s, the Green Turtle was the first Asian American superhero. The comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew revive the character and create an origin story for the Green Turtle full of action, vengeance, and heart.
Shattered Warrior
Written by Sharon Shinn and illustrated by Molly Knox Ostertag

Eight years after Colleen's home is invaded by aliens and her entire family is slaughtered, Colleen receives news that her niece Lucy is still alive and decides to join a revolution to save her. But how does Colleen know who she can trust?
The Spill Zone series
Written by Scott Westerfeld and illustrated by Alex Puvilland

Addison provides for her sister by selling her illegal photographs of the mysterious and deadly Spill Zone, but when she gets an offer that's too good to refuse, Addison takes a risk that might be one step too far. Not to mention, her sister is definitely up to something and far less innocent than she seems.
Spinning
Written and illustrated by Tillie Walden

Ice skating is a central part of Tille's identity, acting as a safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But soon it loses its sparkle and and she begins to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fits into her life. As it’s a graphic memoir, we get an in-depth and relatable look at what it means to her to accept and share the more intimate parts of herself with others, including her sexuality.

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