Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Great Graphic Novels for Middle School, part 2: fantasy

Graphic novels continue to grow in popularity and creativity, and there are so many wonderful ones out there to choose from. The first post in this series introduced some of my favorite realistic fiction and memoir graphic novels for middle school. This post explores options within the fantasy genre. (Although popular among my middle schoolers, many of these books are in high demand from younger grade levels at our K-8 as well.)


The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks, with color by Jordie Bellaire. This later middle grade graphic novel is a fascinating historical fiction/fantasy story set in an ancient Asian-inspired city. The thrust of the story is a friendship between two unlikely characters: Kaidu, a Dao (the current ruling group), and Rat, a member of the Named - those who live and have always lived in the city, despite the swirling and changing politics at the top. This is an engaging first book in a likely series about the city, its past, and its future. (I received an ARC of this book through an entry in Publishers Weekly.)

Secret Coders (2015) by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes. This new graphic novel series features new student Hopper and her unlikely friendship with the popular Eni. Events conspire to drawn them into the mysterious power of binary numbers and basic computer programming. Book two, Paths and Portals is also available, and book 3, Secrets and Sequences, is coming in March 2017. [This book made me quite fondly nostalgic for that dear little turtle in the original Logo program that we learned back in the '80s.]

Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke. Another student recommendation, this is the first book in this charming graphic novel series. A lot happens in just the illustrations of this book, so you need to slow down and "read" the illustrations more than you do in some other graphic novels. Very enjoyable book. (You can read a review of this series by one of my third grade students here.)

Little Robot (2015) by Ben Hatke. My students love Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl series, so there was much excitement about his newest graphic novel. The book did not disappoint. This is a very sweet story with minimal text, making it great for reluctant readers. (I actually dressed up as the character in this book for last year's Book Character Dress-Up Day.)

Cleopatra in Space 3: Secret of the Time Tablets by Mike Maihack. Now that book 3 is finally here, I feel more comfortable recommending the Cleopatra in Space series. Book 2 left on a HUGE cliffhanger that frustrated readers to no end. But now the wait is over for this action-adventure series lightly based around the Egyptian Cleopatra. (If you liked Cleopatra in Space, check these other book recommendations from students.)

I have not personally read any of the Amulet series, mainly because they are never actually available in our school library due to high demand! Plus, they have the recommendation of Mr. Schu who mentioned in a talk last week that not only is Amulet one of his favorite graphic novel series of all-time but it is also the best smelling graphic novel series ever. I leave that for you to judge.

Traditional Tales and Fairy Tales

Trickster: Native American tales, a graphic collection (2010) assembled by Matt Dembicki. This "graphic novel" collection brings together 21 stories by Native American storytellers from across the US paired with illustrators. This is a great collection of tales, and the graphic novel or comic format makes this an especially appealing book for reluctant readers. Though labelled as Young Adult by my public library, the stories do not contain graphic or mature content (other than what you would expect from a traditional tale).

Snow White: a graphic novel (2016) by Matt Phelan (A review copy of the book was provided by Candlewick. All thoughts are my own.)

Phelan reimagines the story of Snow White set in and around the stock market crash that abruptly ended the roaring 20s. The tale unfolds mostly in the ways that would be expected, but the most interesting fun is to be had in seeing how Phelan interprets and translates each character and event in the story into the new time period.

Told in his sparse, image-heavy style, readers may need to rely on their knowledge of the tale in some points to better interpret the story and its actions. (Background about the time period can be helpful too.) It will be interesting to see whether this becomes part of a series of fairytale reimaginings.

Did I miss any of your favorite fantasy graphic novels for middle school? Please share in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. Secret Coders sounds awesome. I need to get that for my husband to read with our son.


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