11 excellent graphic novels to try

Published on: 10 January 2024

Author-illustrator Chris Mould recommends some favourite graphic novels to engage young readers.

A photo of Chris Mould and a collage of front covers of the graphic novels he recommends

For those struggling with the written word or reluctant to attempt the task of wrestling a book, pictures can be the one thing that pulls a reader along. The next piece of artwork in an illustrated novel can be the reason to keep going. A full stop. A breathing space. A reward for what seems like, for some, an uphill task when ploughing through paragraphs.

With enough visual encouragement, a reader is treated to a fuller understanding of character, environment and elements of the story 'world' that will enhance, inform and sometimes even subtly undermine a text.

The graphic novel gives up more room to this idea. It allows the imagery to take on a bigger role. This fits naturally with what we've learned already. Before we are able to read the printed word and understand written narrative, we have opened our eyes and begun to absorb anything and everything that is visual.

Sequences of imagery expand further on the development of understanding visuals. The careful and clever transformation from one frame to another. The mood created by expression or environment. The use of scale. The manipulation of the available space. And more.

We are still reading and it's important we accept that 'that' is what it is.

Here are some brilliant graphic novels. There is something for those of you who are just dipping your toes into the format and for those of you who already love them!

Graphic novels for 5-8 year-olds

An illustration from the front cover of Peanut, Butter and Crackers: Doggy School, featuring two dogs and a cat with tennis balls in a play pen

Peanut, Butter and Crackers: Doggy School by Paige Braddock

The latest in the madcap Peanut, Butters and Crackers series, this super-accessible story will have readers in stitches as they join Crackers the floppy-eared puppy on his first day at puppy school. Told from the perspective of our favourite pet pals, this book is perfect for visual readers, newly emerging readers and pet lovers alike. 

It's a hilarious rip-roaring romp, yet it deftly touches on issues of bullying and inclusion. The extra content including 'how to draw' and behind the scenes made this a very special read.

Peng and Spanners by Steve Webb

Move over Batman and Robin - there are some new superheroes in town! Get ready to become acquainted with Peng and Spanners, a hugely sarcastic penguin and a cunning clever cat (with an excellent toolbelt!) Embark on a madcap caper as they investigate the craziest pizza mystery ever.

Batpig, Go Pig or Go Home by Rob Harrell

An illustration from the front cover of Batpig: Go Pig Or Go Home - a pig sticking its tongue out in concentration and wearing a black cape as a tentacle coils around it

Pack your bags, we're heading to camp Whomp-a-Pig with Gary Yorkshire, Carl the fish and Brooklyn the bat. Crazy capers ensue as they encounter a half-shark half-president named Sharkraham Lincoln, who causes chaos with some very mischievous antics. Will Gary ever catch a break and be able to enjoy a sandwich in peace? It's not looking likely!

Kitty Quest: Trial by Tentacle by Phil Corbett

Grab your swimming kit - there are sea monsters to catch! It's time to join Woolfrik and Perigold in what might be the most testing moment of their job so far. The islands of Pawdor are in desperate peril as they are attacked by a host of tentacled beasts. Will our reluctant superheroes be able to prove that two heads are better than one and save the day? Only time will tell.

Fast-paced and action-packed, the Kitty Quest series will prove to be a firm favourite with young thrill-seekers.

Graphic novels for 9-12 year-olds

Monster Support Group: The Werewolf's Tale by Laura Suarez

An illustration of a wolf howling at the moon from the front cover of Monster Support Group: The Werewolf's Tale

A brilliantly innovative new series from the team at Flying Eye, these graphic novels manage to tackle issues such as bullying, coming-of age, inclusion and identity in a humorous and accessible way. Fun and engaging characters draw readers into their story, whilst adults will enjoy nods to vintage spooky films and TV programmes. This edition follows the story of Lowell as he wrestles with the prospect of becoming a werewolf, with the help of his friends at the Monster Support Group.

Scary Girl: The Origin Story by Nathan Jurevicius

A fan of animated cartoons and action-packed cleverly written stories, but not a big fan of chapter books? Then welcome to the world of Scary Girl. This series, with an accompanying feature film, is set on a remote beach, introducing us to Scary Girl, who doesn't know who she is or where she's come from. Blister, a kind and intelligent giant octopus, wants to keep her safe, but Scary Girl needs answers. Who is the strange man haunting her dreams? Will Bunniguru help her unlock the mysteries of her past? Can she trust the wily forest dwellers? Her journey takes her to the edge, and beyond...

The high-end digital illustrations feature a host of madcap characters and the most unique thing about this particular graphic novel is that it is completely wordless, so you can add your own interpretation to the story!

Hilda's World by Luke Pearson

An illustration from the front cover of Hilda's World - a girl standing smiling on a hill with a compass, with a sprawling town in the background

With a salute to the very best fairy tales of days gone by, the world of Hilda encapsulates everything about owning your own adventure. With a hint of the Moomin tales by Tove Jansson, Hilda and her band of woodland folk provide high jinks, adventure and utter escapism.

Whether in your mind you're a local searching for a new favourite haunt or a budding first-time visitor hoping to experience the spirit of the city of Trolberg, this guide is a must-read, full of handy maps of must-visit locations. Luke's skill of character creation and world-building is unparalleled, and beyond this introduction to his world, there are many, many Hilda graphic novels to explore.

Mexikid by Pedro Martin

Buckle up for the road trip of a lifetime in Pedro Martin's hilarious graphic novel memoir Mexikid. Pedro was born into a large Mexican family in the heart of America and he's about to experience his heritage in a way he could never imagine! Pedro's father suggests a trip in the family Winnebago from their home in California back to Mexico on a mission to bring home their legendary grandfather.

This culturally rich exploration of family and identity is presented in an exceptionally accessible and engaging way, with bright, beautifully illustrated comic strip-style pages bringing this epic adventure to life. Pedro's authentic and honest account of his childhood will provide a unique platform for encouraging conversations about immigration, culture, family, and friendship. A cross-generational celebration of love and unity and one not to be missed.

Graphic novels for 11+ readers

An illustration from the front cover of Sisters of the Mist - three young girls in a forest, huddled together

Drawn to Change the World by Emma Reynolds, illustrated by 16 artists

With the climate in crisis, Emma Reynolds has embarked on the mammoth but essential project of collating stories from 16 inspiring youth climate activists, illustrated by 16 incredible illustrative talents. The varied storytelling and breadth of styles provide a thoroughly engaging platform to inspire a new generation of activists and campaigners to jump into action.

An admirable and inspiring collaborative project which will be the perfect classroom or home resource to suggest tips and tricks to help you make a difference.

Sisters of the Mist by Marlyn Spaaij

Get ready to enter a world of magic and mystery in this incredible debut graphic novel. Action-packed doesn't quite sum this up as the reader is whisked off to an ancient and mysterious world of moss and trolls.

Beautifully nostalgic but tinged with sadness as the main characters transition from childhood to teenager-hood, this coming-of age story is a gripping read which will envelop the reader from start to finish, evoking the magic of being a child and having a whole magical world to explore.

Mason Mooney, Paranormal Investigator by Seaerra Miller

For fans of Stranger Things, Buffy, Doctor Who and all things paranormal, this is the series for you! Join Paranormal Investigator Mason Mooney as he tackles ghosts, witches AND grumpy teenagers to prove who rules the roost when it comes to paranormal investigation. With an evil curse looming over him and the house's inhabitants, can Mason finally prove to the Society of Peculiar Paranormal Phenomena that he's the best around – or is he a bit out of his depth?

Filled with quirky and relatable characters, this hilarious action-packed adventure with a sophisticated illustrative style will be enjoyed over and over again.

War of the Worlds (the graphic novel adaptation), illustrated by Chris Mould, will be published in October 2024.

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