As I librarian, I run across a lot of graphic novels for kids, many of which I recommend to parents and grandparents for those kids in their lives who may be reluctant readers. Not all kids that come into the library are reluctant readers, however, and many of them are absolutely crazy about graphic novels. Even if it wasn’t part of my job to read kids’ graphic novels, I’d do it anyway out of sheer enjoyment. Here are some of the best new graphic novels for kids that were published in 2014:
Aw Yeah Comics! And… Action! – Art Baltazar & Franco (Dark Horse)
Cornelius (a cat) and Alowicious (a bug) may have typical day jobs working at a comic book store called Aw Yeah Comics, but when they’re not working, they’re crime fighters Action Cat and Adventure Bug. And who knew there was so much crime in Skokie, Illinois? Previously reviewed for The Comics Alternative.
Comics Squad: Recess! – Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, editors (Random House Books for Young Readers)
These eight stories – all linked by the theme of school recess – are written and illustrated by some of the best creators in the business including Gene Luen Yang, Dav Pilkey, Raina Telgemeier, and many more. This book was also previously reviewed for The Comics Alternative.
El Deafo – Cece Bell (Amulet Books/Harry N. Abrams)
Bell’s own story of growing up deaf is both heartbreaking and humorous in just the right places. I wasn’t wild about her art choices as far as her characters go, but maybe they’re supposed to convey a certain sense of awkwardness. It’s also rare to find a work about a person with a disability that celebrates the person’s dignity and uniqueness. I look forward to more work from Bell.
The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza – James Kochalka (First Second)
If you think the cover of The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza looks silly, wait until you hear the premise: the Glorkian Warrior gets a phone call from Destiny to deliver a pizza. But this isn’t just any pizza; it’s a leftover peanut butter and clam pizza. Daring and unafraid (and mostly clueless), the Glorkian Warrior — with his trusty sidekick Super Backpack — ventures into the vast unknown where he will battle a pink giant, an enormous spaceship, and a baby alien. Sound silly? It is, wonderfully silly.
Juice Squeezers: The Great Bug Elevator – David Lapham, Lee Loughridge (Dark Horse)
This really was an unexpected treat. I’ve read some of David Lapham’s other work, Stray Bullets in particular, but am impressed that he can also do so well with a kids’ title. Juice Squeezers is something of a cross between the movie Tremors (only with bugs) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a book about a group of kids who secretly fight the hordes of giant bugs seeking to destroy the crops in Weeville, California. Although Stray Bullets is certainly not a kids’ title, Lapham often includes kids in those comics. He clearly understands them and knows how to write kid characters we want to root for. I didn’t expect to like Juice Squeezers, but I’ll definitely keep reading this title.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties Trenches Mud and Blood (A World War I Tale) – Nathan Hale (Amulet Books/Harry N. Abrams)
I’m fudging a bit, since this book is actually the most recent entry in an ongoing series and not really “new” to 2014, but I’m going to include it anyway. This fourth installment in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series is the most ambitious yet, covering a rather large amount of World War I. I’m amazed at how Hale was able to make this work, providing just the right tone while mixing in his trademark humor at appropriate places. If you (or the kids in your life) haven’t read his other works – One Dead Spy, Big Bad Ironclad!, Donner Dinner Party – run out and get them now!
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl – Ben Hatke (First Second)
I’m fudging again. The Return of Zita the Spacegirl is the final book in Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl trilogy, which began with Zita the Spacegirl and continued with Legends of Zita the Spacegirl. Outer space, robots, adventure, strange creatures – it’s all here and it’s all amazingly fun. Not to be missed!
Shackleton’s Journey – William Grill (Flying Eye Books)
I suppose this is really more of a picture book than a graphic novel, but I’m including it anyway. (It’s my list; I get to make the rules.) Not only are the illustrations wonderful, they work very well with the text. Read more of my thoughts on the book here.
Skyward, Volume I: Into the Woods – Jeremy Dale (Action Lab Entertainment)
Jeremy Dale’s Skyward books are filled with heroic adventures, the kind they don’t seem to make anymore, stories you want to tell everyone about. I fell in love with this first volume about a boy named Quinn and his dog Jack and the evil forces that threaten their world. I can’t wait to read the remaining volumes, although there won’t be many left. Unfortunately for the comics world, Mr. Dale passed away suddenly last month, far too young at the age of 34.
Sisters – Raina Telgemeier (Graphix/Scholastic)
The trials, tribulations and struggles of two sisters is certainly familiar territory, but in Telgemeier’s hands, it becomes fresh, funny and poignant. There’s a reason her books are so popular: she knows her characters and she’s very talented.
Read any good graphic novels for kids in 2014? Please tell me about them…