Tag Archives: graphic novels

2020 Favorite Graphic Novels

It’s book list season! I’ve read a lot this year, and I am excited to highlight my favorite releases of 2020. I’m thrilled to share my 2020 Favorite Graphic Novels.

I love graphic novels! I wasn’t a graphic novel reader until library school, but I have dived into this genre–graphic novels consume most of my reading (only beat by maybe picture books). The mix of text and illustrations creates such a unique experience that is different from reading a chapter book. At my library, we shelve graphic novels together in their own area. These circulate extremely well–I review this section for condition and circulation each year, and at most I find a handful of titles that have only checked out three times. Many books check out ten times or more (even during a pandemic year!). Some of our most popular series include Dog Man, Baby-Sitters Club, Amulet, and anything written by Raina Telgemeier.

These lists are personal. The graphic novels that stand out for me may not be your favorites–and that is okay! We each have our own reading preferences. Also, I very well may have missed some great titles that were released over the last year–so make sure to check out all of the great lists all over the internet, and please share your favorites in the comments!

2020 Favorite Graphic Novels

Amazon.com: Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir (9780062685094):  Ha, Robin, Ha, Robin: Books

Almost American Girl

by Robin Ha
Gr. 7+. Robin never expects her family’s vacation to Huntsville, Alabama to turn into a permanent move–all of her friends, her belongings, and her life are back in Seoul, Korea. Robin doesn’t understand English, but suddenly she is dropped off at a new American school where she struggles to keep up. Home isn’t any better–her stepfamily doesn’t seem to like her, and Robin does not want to talk to her mother after she forced them to move. This memoir explores the very real struggles of trying to adjust to life in a new country.

Anti/Hero: Quinn, Kate Karyus, Lunetta, Demitria, Gil, Maca: 9781401293253:  Amazon.com: Books

by Kate Karyus Quinn & Demitria Lunetta and illustrated by Maca Gil
Gr. 3-5. Piper and Sloane don’t travel in the same friend groups at school. Piper is filled with energy and loves sports; Sloan much prefers getting nearly perfect grades in her classes. Their lives at home are very different too, with Piper living with her loving Abuela, while Sloan is determined to come up with the extra money to help her struggling single mom pay the bills. But they both have their own secrets, and when they end up on the opposite sides of a heist gone wrong, a fancy piece of tech causes them to switch bodies. Can they work together to figure out how to get their lives back?

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Aster and the Accidental Magic
by Thom Pico
Gr. 3-5. Aster expects moving to the middle of nowhere to be super boring. Her parents are busy with some work project and her house is just surrounded by hills and more hills. When Aster starts to wander those hills, she discovers birds and trees and sheep and…magic? When Aster runs into a mysterious old woman herding dogs, Aster starts to realize things are a little strange. But when Aster discovers a trickster spirit in the forest who gives Aster three wishes…well, things are about to get really interesting and a whole lot more fun.

Beetle & the Hollowbones | Book by Aliza Layne, Natalie Riess, Kristen  Acampora | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

Beetle & the Hollowbones
by Aliza Layne
Gr. 4-6. Beetle just wants to sneak out of her homeschooling to hang out with her best friend, the quiet Blob Ghost. Blob Ghost hangs out at the local mall, which he is forced to haunt due to….something neither of them can figure out or discover. When Beetle’s old best friend, Kat, returns to town for some witch training with Beetle’s aunt, Beetle wants to spend even less time at home with the perfect Kat. Things grow even worse when Blob Ghost’s mall might be torn down. If they can’t figure out what tethers Blob Ghost to the mall, when the mall is destroyed, Blob Ghost will be too. Forever.

Cat's Cafe: Tarpley, Matt: 9781524855048: Amazon.com: Books

Cat’s Cafe
by Matt Tarpley
Gr. 5+. Meet the adorable patrons of Cat’s coffee shop. Each has their own troubles–from anxiety to coffee addiction–but no matter what the situation, Cat is always ready to lend a supportive ear. Absolutely adorable and filled with love, friendship, and acceptance.

City of Secrets: Ying, Victoria: 9780593114490: Amazon.com: Books

City of Secrets
by Victoria Ying
Gr. 4-5. Ever Barnes protects the Switchboard Operating Facility, an amazing building that connects the people in his city, but also holds its own secrets. Hannah, the daughter of the switchboard building’s owner, finds Ever intriguing, and with the help of an employee, Lisa, she manages to track him down and convince him he needs a friend. Soon, the two realize their lives are more tangled than they could have imagined, with Ever being chased by menacing assassins, Hannah’s dad keeping his own secrets, and their co-conspirator Lisa being much more than they thought. In fact the whole city has its secrets—and it’s up to the kids to figure them out, fast.

Class Act: Craft, Jerry, Craft, Jerry: 9780062885500: Amazon.com: Books

Class Act
by Jerry Craft
Gr. 5-8. New Kid was my dream Newbery winner, and the sequel does not disappoint. Readers get more detailed glimpses into the lives of Jordan, Liam, and especially Drew, with even a touch more character development from Andy. Drew takes center stage here, with a different perspective on his classmates than Jordan. So many real issues are discussed in ways that never feel preachy, with Craft’s appealing artwork balancing humor and reality (race, bullying, class differences, microaggressions, friendship, and more).

Consent (for Kids!): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of YOU:  Brian, Rachel: 9780316457736: Amazon.com: Books

Consent (for Kids!): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of YOU
by Rachel Brian
Gr. 3-6. Learn all about consent, body autonomy, how to set boundaries, and ways to respect others in this amazing, colorful guide. Think about your own behavior and how you need to practice consent every day. Perfect beginning guide for kids and families.

Corpse Talk: Groundbreaking Women: DK: 9780744023572: Amazon.com: Books

Corpse Talk: Groundbreaking Women
by Adam & Lisa Murphy
Gr. 4-7. Join your host (and author) Adam Murphy in a talk show starring the corpses of astonishing women throughout history. Each star receives a two-page spread following the style of a typical talk show (including the standard puns and bad jokes) before another spread or two detailing an element of their time or life, such as the layout of the building Anne Frank lived in, an overview of Mongolian wrestling moves, or an explanation of the golden ratio. Features 17 women from an Egyptian pharaoh to empresses, queens, pirates, con artists, and more.

Amazon.com: Dancing at the Pity Party (9780525553021): Feder, Tyler: Books

Dancing at the Pity Party
by Tyler Feder
Gr. 8+. Follow Tyler’s journey with her mom–from her mom’s first oncology appointment through her cancer treatment and to life after her mom’s death. Filled with so, so much emotion, but I particularly appreciate that the voice here is young. So heartbreaking, but also filled with moments of humor and joy that will resonate.

The Deep & Dark Blue – Niki Smith

The Deep & Dark Blue
by Niki Smith
Gr. 4-7. A political coup that leaves their beloved grandfather murdered causes twins Hawke and Grayson to run for their lives. They hide among the new trainees in the Communion of Blue, taking on new identities as Hanna and Grayce. While they try to piece together what atrocities led to their home burning to the ground, the twins also learn more about themselves. Hawke longs to return to his old life, but Grayce realizes she wants to stay in this world that lets her be herself.

Diana: Princess of the Amazons (Wonder Woman): Hale, Shannon, Hale, Dean,  Ying, Victoria: 9781401291112: Amazon.com: Books

Diana: Princess of the Amazons
by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale and illustrated by Victoria Ying
Gr. 3-4. Diana loves her life on Themyscira, but lately she has been feeling more and more alone. She really wants another kid to play with, but that is impossible–or is it? When Diana makes her own wish on some clay, and it turns into a living girl her age, she is delighted. But also confused. Her new friend is great, but they aren’t the nicest, and sometimes they encourage Diana to do things Diana is pretty sure are wrong. What has Diana created?

Amazon.com: Displacement (9781250193537): Hughes, Kiku: Books

by Kiku Hughes
Gr. 7+. When on a family vacation to San Francisco, Kiku suddenly finds herself dramatically body-swapped with a young woman at a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. Kiku slips in and out of the modern day and the past, not sure what is happening. Eventually, she realizes that her time in the past is connected with her late grandmother, Ernestina, who was forced to live at the very camp Kiku keeps time-traveling to.

Amazon.com: Dog Man: Grime and Punishment: From the Creator of Captain  Underpants (Dog Man #9) eBook: Pilkey, Dav, Pilkey, Dav: Kindle Store

Dog Man Grime and Punishment
by Dav Pilkey
Gr. 2-4. Yes, I know you are aware of Dog Man, but I am a huge fan of this series, and this particular book left me teary eyed. Dog Man has all kinds of villains to defeat in this book, and he needs the help of all of his friends. Petey has moved through quite a redemption arc, and this book gets quite serious with a deep conversation about forgiveness and loss between Petey and Lil Petey over the actions of Petey’s father and the death of Petey’s mother. Please don’t write these books off as something slapstick or just a Captain Underpants spinoff–there is so much heart here, in this world of living spray and cloned kittens.

Dungeon Critters: Riess, Natalie, Goetter, Sara: 9781250195470: Amazon.com:  Books

Dungeon Critters
by Natalie Riess & Sara Goetter
Gr. 3-5. Meet the Dungeon Critters: Juniper – The healer. Nervous in large crowds. Loves botany. Terrible at lying. Looks eerily similar to the reclusive Duchess Helena von Fancypaws. Rose – Arson loving cat. Doubles as a defense attorney when needed. May have a tiny crush on Juniper. Prince Chirp – Heiress to the throne of the [redacted] Kingdom. Impulsive. Hates to apologize. Tends to not think before acting. Avoids responsibility. Goro – Gentle giant. Generally quiet, but when he speaks, his words are profound. These four, with the occasional assistance of other creatures who are quickly forgotten (even by the four main characters), are determined to discover the nefarious plot of the (maybe?) evil Baron Foxworthy.

Amazon.com: Flamer (9781627796415): Curato, Mike, Curato, Mike: Books

by Mike Curato
Gr. 8+. Aiden is just trying to survive another summer camp with his Boy Scout Troup. It’s the summer between middle school and high school, which is a particularly big jump for Aiden, because he decided to leave his Catholic middle school to attend public high school (his first time attending a public school). Aiden got picked on a lot at his old school and by his fellow Boy Scouts here at summer camp. They call him gay–among other terms–because his voice and behaviors often seem feminine. But Aiden is confident he isn’t gay because gay boys like other boys. Plus, gay boys get made fun of. Gay boys can’t serve mass in Catholic church. Aiden can’t be gay because being gay is unsafe.

Go with the Flow: Schneemann, Karen, Williams, Lily: 9781250305725:  Amazon.com: Books

Go with the Flow
by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann
Gr. 5+. Friends Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha are tired of their school’s administration. Money can always be found for the football team, but pads and tampons can never be found in the bathrooms. After Sasha gets her period at school and is short on supplies, Abby, Brit, and Christine adopt her into their friend group, and pull Sasha into a world of friendship and activism to make sure everyone who menstruates is treated fairly.

InvestiGators by John Patrick Green

by John Patrick Green
Gr. 2-4. Mango and Brash are both alligators and detective agents of the organization SUIT. Prepared for anything with their Very Exciting Spy Technology, these two investigators travel by toilet and sewer to solve crimes all over their city. They are on their first mission as a team to find out what happened to the missing Chef Mustachio. But after an explosion at the Science Factory, they are now trying to solve two mysteries at once. Plenty of laughs and so, so many puns will keep you at the edge of your seat.

Lightfall: The Girl & the Galdurian: Probert, Tim, Probert, Tim:  9780062990471: Amazon.com: Books

Lightfall: The Girl & the Galdurian
by Tim Probert
Gr. 4-5. Bea is happy with her magical life as the adopted granddaughter of the renowned Pig Wizard. One day, when walking in the woods, Bea meets Cad the Galdurian—a thought to be extinct species. Cad thinks that the Pig Wizard can help him find his people, but when the two of them return to Bea’s home, the wizard is nowhere to be found, leaving behind just the all important Endless Flame and a mysterious note. Soon, Bea and Cad are off on an adventure across the kingdom to track down the wizard. The further they travel, they more they realize that something is very wrong—Bea’s guardian may be in trouble and much of the world is slowly being clouded in eternal darkness

Long Way Down | Book by Jason Reynolds, Danica Novgorodoff | Official  Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds and illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff
Gr. 7+. Will’s older brother was shot and killed outside of their apartment building. Will is determined to follow the rules passed down to him by his brother: (1) no crying, (2) no snitching, and (3) get revenge. Will has his older brother’s gun and, early the next morning, starts down their building’s elevator to get revenge on the person he is sure is his brother’s killer. But this elevator trip is like no other, with each floor revealing a new ghost from Will’s past, all with something to say.

Amazon.com: Max Meow Book 1: Cat Crusader (9780593121054): Gallagher, John:  Books

Max Meow: Cat Crusader
by John Gallagher
Gr. 2-4. Max was just a regular cat in Kittyopolis until he accidentally bites a radioactive space meatball. Suddenly Max has super powers—flying, strength, and more–and becomes the Cat Crusader. But Max’s new superpowers make him cocky, and he quickly leaves his best friend behind in his quest to save the world.

Measuring Up: LaMotte, Lily, Xu, Ann: 9780062973863: Amazon.com: Books

Measuring Up
by Lily LaMotte and illustrated by Ann Xu
Gr. 4-6. Cici just moved from Taiwan to Seattle with her family. She isn’t so sure about their move, especially since she will be missing her grandmother’s 70th birthday. Since she can’t go to A-ma, Cici decides to win the $1000 grand prize in a cooking competition to pay for A-ma’s plane ticket to come visit Cici in the United States. Cici loved to cook in Taiwan–she cooked with her A-ma a lot. So this should be easy–right?
The problem is, Cici only knows how to cook Taiwanese food, and that isn’t going to work for every round of the competition. Can Cici find a winning recipe? And just maybe, can she make a new friend along the way?

Amazon.com: Mellybean and the Giant Monster (9780593202548): White, Mike:  Books

Mellybean and the Giant Monster
by Mike White
Gr. 2-4. Lovable pup Mellybean loves to play games, even if her three cat housemates prefer to nap while their humans are away. While preparing to bury a shoe in the backyard, Melly discovers that her hole is a bit deeper than she could have imagined. She slips through into a magical world filled with kings, knights, and even a humongous rabbit named Narra. Narra isn’t so fond of humans, as they spend their time hunting her for the gold that flakes out of her eyes. But Melly is sure not all the humans in this magical world are bad–maybe they just haven’t yet discovered the power of a Good Sit.


My Video Game Ate My Homework
by Dustin Hansen
Gr. 3-4. Dewey is prepared to ace his science project by making the world’s coolest volcano, but everything goes wrong when his friend’s new video game system swallows his project. Literally. They turned on the games virtual reality software, and the game sucked his homework into a portal. And the only way to get it back? Dewey and his friends must enter the game, get new identities—and powers—and win.

Primer: Krajewski, Thomas, Jennifer Muro, Lusky, Gretel: 9781401296575:  Amazon.com: Books

by Jennifer Muro & Thomas Krajewski and illustrated by Gretel Lusky
Gr. 8+.  Ashley has a dark past, as the child of a supervillain who used to help her dad with his crimes. In her latest foster home, she discovers her guardians have a secret–special body paint that give the wearer superpowers. Of course Ashley has to try them out, but when the news catches her performing her superhero act, a lot of people are suddenly very interested in Ashley.

Amazon.com: Real Pigeons Fight Crime (Book 1) (9780593119426): McDonald,  Andrew, Wood, Ben: Books

Real Pigeons Fight Crime
by Andrew McDonald & Ben Wood
Gr. 2-3. Have you ever looked at a pigeon? Watched it do pigeon things? Pigeons might act kind of strange, but that’s because they are busy fighting crime and saving the world. This team of pigeons will use their disguise skills, superstrength, and more to solve extremely important mysteries such as where have all the bread crumbs gone? Who is kindnapping the city’s bats? And why is there chaos at the local food truck fair?

Science Comics: Crows: Genius Birds: Vanderklugt, Kyla: 9781626728028:  Amazon.com: Books

Science Comics: Crows: Bird Geniuses
by Kyla Vanderklugt
Gr. 8+. There are many wonderful non-fiction graphic novel series, and Science Comics is an excellent place to start. Each volume introduces a different topic: dinosaurs, the solar system, bats, cats, robots, and more, with at least four or five new books published each year. Crows is a particularly fun addition to the series, where your main character—a crow—teaches a local pet dog all about what makes crows special as the two team up to track down some especially delicious treats. Learn about how crows are able to make their own tools, lead complex social lives, never forget a human face, and more.

Séance Tea Party: Yee, Reimena: 9781984894151: Amazon.com: Books

Seance Tea Party
by Reimena Yee
Gr. 4-6. Lora feels left out as all of her friends seem to be growing up without her. Lora doesn’t want to grow up, and she is thrilled to discover a new (though also old) friend living in her house. Ghost girl Alexa is around Lora’s age, haunting Lora’s house, and just looking for a friend. The two become inseparable even as Lora begins to grow up on her own, and Alexa grows more and more curious about the past that she can’t remember.

Amazon.com: The Sewer Rat Stink (Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novel #1)  (9781338587302): Stilton, Geronimo, Angleberger, Tom, Angleberger, Tom:  Books

The Sewer Rat Stink
by Tom Angleberger & Elisabetta Dami
Gr. 2-4. You might think you know all about Geronimo Stilton, but I promise you have never seen him like this. In this all new interpretation of this familiar face, Geronimo is determined to solve another mystery. A horrible, stinky smell is taking over New Mouse City. No mouse can live like this-in fact everyone is moving out fast. Geronimo and Hercule head into the sewers beneath their home to investigate where this stench is coming from and who exactly is buying up all of the houses and businesses that have been deserted as people move out of town.

Amazon.com: Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery (9780358311850):  Treml, Renee: Books

Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery
by Renee Treml
Gr. 2-4. The royal blue diamond—the world’s largest gemstone—is missing from the State Natural History Museum! It’s up to museum resident Sherlock Bones to take the case. Sherlock Bones is, well, bones. He’s a tawny frogmouth skeleton on display at the museum, assisted by his trusty sidekick, a stuffed blue Indian ringneck parrot named Watts.
The game is afoot as these two must figure out who is stealing important items from the museum and how the thieves are getting away with it. Is their new assistant, Grace—a very real racoon with a craving for chocolate—an innocent bystander or guilty of the crime? If they can’t find the missing gem, the museum may be forced to close—meaning Bones and Watts will be packed away into storage.

Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer (Shirley & Jamila): Goerz, Gillian:  9780525552864: Amazon.com: Books

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer
by Gillian Goerz
Gr. 4-6. Jamilia is getting ready for a lonely and boring summer living in a new neighborhood, until she meets longtime resident Shirley. Shirley’s a little strange and extremely perceptive, but Jamilia takes her up on her offer to get Jamilia out of science camp this summer. Soon, Jamilia is drawn into Shirley’s side job—as the neighborhood kid detective. A friendship and crime-solving partnership is born, starting with the case of the pet gecko that went missing from the local swimming pool.

Snapdragon: Leyh, Kat: 9781250171115: Amazon.com: Books

by Kat Leyh
Gr. 4-7. When Snapdragon goes searching for her dog, they meets the local Jacks doesn’t seem to be a real witch, but she sure is different—she collects roadkill, cleans their skeletons, and sells them online. Snap finds this creepy but also a little fascinating, and when Snap finds a group of abandoned baby opossums, they immediately go to Jacks for help. But the more Snap gets to know Jacks, the more Snap realizes that Jacks may have some real magic after all.

Twins by Varian Johnson


by Varian Johnson & Shannon Wright
Gr. 4-6. Twins and best friends Maureen and Francine have always done the exact same things—until they start middle school, when Fran is determined to set herself apart form her sister. Before she knows it, Maureen’s hurt feelings spiral into anger—and suddenly the girls are running against each other for Class President. Friendship lines have been drawn—but can either twin really win if it means hurting the other?

Yen Press Announces Svetlana Chmakova's “The Weirn Books"

The Weirn Books: Be Wary of the Silent Woods
by Svetlana Chmakova
Gr. 4-6. Allis goes to a special school for children who are weirn–kids who have a supernatural astral attached to them or other special abilities. Her friends notice a light at the creepy old schoolhouse where a bunch of children disappeared a few decades before–and suddenly, kids start disappearing again. Allis and her friends are determined to figure out what happened, and rescue everyone trapped inside that haunted house.

Witches of Brooklyn: Escabasse, Sophie: 9780593119273: Amazon.com: Books

Witches of Brooklyn
by Sophie Escabase
Gr. 4-5. Effie has lost her mom, her old home, and everyone she knows. She is dumped on the doorstep of two mysterious aunts she’s never met. The women are odd—working as herbalists and acupuncturists, creating all kinds of mysterious concoctions in the basement. Effie is just becoming comfortable with her new home and making a few new friends at school, when things take a particularly odd turn. Effie’s pop idol, musician Tily Shoo, arrives needing help. Effie learns that her aunts are well-known witches, and their magic might be the only thing that can save Tily. But as they all struggle to solve this mystery, they discover that Effie might have inherited some magic of her own.

The Worry (Less) Book: Feel Strong, Find Calm and Tame Your Anxiety by  Rachel Brian - Books - Hachette Australia

The Worry(Less) Book: Feel Strong, Find Calm and Tame Your Anxiety!
by Rachel Brian
Gr. 3-6. Everyone feels worried or anxious sometimes–but this book is here to help! Use this guide to practice identifying your anxiety and understanding how you can make sure it doesn’t control you, so you can always find your calm again.

Virtual Program: Graphic Novel Book Club

I am not a book club person. I read a lot, and I love to talk about books–but I don’t enjoy book clubs. So why did I start a virtual Graphic Novel Book Club this summer? The short version is that I like graphic novels, and a few years back I had this vision of a book club event culminating in a Skype visit with Raina Telgemeier where the kids who attended the club could ask questions but anyone could come. That program didn’t happen then, and that isn’t what happened here either.

Overall, I would say this went okay. I had 2-4 consistent kids who were excited and talked most weeks. There were also a lot of barriers here due to this being virtual, particularly with this being a new club. My library hasn’t really had a standing book club for kids in at least three years, so there wasn’t a following or just a transfer of format like Michala’s teen advisory board meetings.

We didn’t really have any of those “ah-ha” moments or meaningful conversations that I’ve heard happen at other book clubs–but, I would also say, that everyone is feeling the stress right now, and kids don’t really want to talk about their feelings or the meaning of this color palette right about now. They want to talk about drawing Pokemon and the cheetah cubs Diana (Wonder Woman) takes care of in one throwaway panel. If they want to talk at all. And that’s cool too.

Graphic Novel Book Club Details & Program Outline

For nine weeks in June and July, I met virtually with 4-10 kids, ages 8-14, for about an hour. Graphic Novel Book Club was advertised for ages 8-11, though I had three older kids sign up (though only one of them came more than once). The program registration was capped at 15 kids, registration only ever reached 13, and I only ever had at most 10 kids at a time, with an average of 5-6 kids each week.

Our library uses GoToMeeting for online meetings, and I used that for Graphic Novel Book Club as well. Other than some issues with my personal computer overheating, I had no problems with the platform (and the kids didn’t seem to have any problems either).

We only read graphic novels available on Hoopla, which worked fine for the summer but is quite limiting long term. This service is ideal for book club titles, however, because everyone can download each book at a time most convenient for them (no waiting or holds lists) and everyone can check out the same title at once (unlike Overdrive or Cloud Library). A few kids did have physical copies of some of the books, purchased by their parents (this wasn’t encouraged; it just happened).

Our Graphic Novel Book Club reading list included:

Hoopla works well while we are stuck in a virtual world, though it has its frustrations. Of course, it doesn’t have every graphic novel, and it is very, very short on diverse graphic novels. There are so few own voices kids graphic novels in the first place, and Hoopla is particularly lacking. If this book club continues, I’m going to work on coming up with an alternative way to get books to kids.

My kids are avid readers and would actively admit (1) that they had already read these books (more often) or (2) that they didn’t finish a book (less often). Some of them became frustrated toward the end of Graphic Novel Book Club because they had read all of the remaining book club books weeks in advance or before book club had occurred. These kids really wanted the newest graphic novels (and 17 of those new books at a time), which left me especially frustrated with the limitations of Hoopla.

Book Clubbing Virtually

So getting back to my struggles with book clubs, which were exacerbated by being virtual. I had some personal technical issues, but those situations are often specific to your tech and can happen no matter how well you plan. Other unique elements of book clubbing virtually:

  • Kids can and will turn their cameras on and off.
  • Kids can and will get distracted by pets, home life, etc.
  • Kids can and will say nothing for the entire meeting (or the entire meeting for all seven weeks they show up).

I have strategies to encourage conversation in person that simply don’t translate online. I also don’t want to force kids to talk in any situation. As I said to the kids sometimes, THIS ISN’T SCHOOL. Graphic Novel Book Club, or any library program, isn’t a punishment, it isn’t an assignment, and while I want to encourage learning, you are not going to be quizzed at the end of this meeting about the book, your understanding of shading in the panel, or your drawing ability.

With an effort to respect kids’ decisions on how much they want to participate, I was often left feeling alone and sort of like I was putting on a show. When I ask “who was your favorite character?”, and all six cameras immediately turn off, and we sit in silence for three minutes, I’m left having to crack a joke, give my own response, and try to shift gears. Repeatedly, for an hour, week after week. It is exhausting and makes me respect teachers even more.

Now, some of this behavior is probably due to my choices with how I want to run Graphic Novel Book Club. I could have required kids to talk, pulled names out of jar, made everyone fill out a character analysis worksheet each week, forced everyone to sit in silence until someone shared a discussion question. But, again, my mentality toward librarianship, especially during current times, is that we are trying to create a love of learning and reading. Forcing kids to do assignments or activities or even forcing participation goes against that. I will stop ranting now and get on to the important things you are reading this for.

Graphic Novel Book Club Weekly Schedule

Kids were asked to bring blank paper and a pencil to each meeting.

Each week we followed this approximate schedule:

  • Introduced Myself (Librarian) (1 min.)
  • Explain/Review How GoToMeeting Works (1 min.)
    • How to mute and unmute
    • How to turn off your camera
    • Chat feature
    • How to see everyone instead of just person talking
    • Librarian can share her screen
  • Library Updates (3 min.)
    • Summer Reading Program
    • Upcoming Programs
    • Reminder to doodle as you like!
  • Introductions (5 min.)
    • Share your name
    • Share anything you’ve been writing or drawing
    • Answer this week’s Would You Rather Question
    • *Answers could occur verbally or in chat. Not everyone participated each week.
  • Warm-Up Game (10 min.)
  • How Book Club Works (5 min.)
    • Review weekly schedule
    • Decided guidelines as a group and reviewed them each week:
      • Be kind and respectful.
      • Everyone gets a turn to talk without being interrupted.
      • You can raise your hand if you want to talk. You can also just talk as long as you aren’t interrupting someone else.
      • You only have to talk if you want to.
      • Have fun!
  • Discussion (10-15 min., intended to be 15-30 min.)
    • Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down Book Vote
    • Tell me what the book is about (10 words or less)
    • Kids offer questions (never happened but always asked)
    • I ask about 3-5 questions, steering conversation where it makes sense.
  • Let’s Talk Comics/Drawing Activity and Sharing (15-20 min.)
  • Wrap Up (2-3 min.)
    • Next week’s title
    • Reminder about programs

Would You Rather Questions

The kids really seemed to enjoy the Would You Rather questions. Sometimes these connected to the book of the week, sometimes they didn’t. Questions we used included:

  • Would you rather have edible spaghetti hair that regrows every night or sweat maple syrup?
  • Would you rather be a superhero or a wizard?
  • Would you rather have a unicorn or dragon as a best friend?
  • Would you rather have super speed or super strength?
  • Would you rather live sometime in the past (you get to choose when and where) or sometime in the future (except you don’t know what the future looks like)?
  •  Would you rather have awesome super powers—but have to live in secret on an island with no other kids—or would you rather have a normal life (but have no superpowers)?
  • Would you rather have to fight 100 pigeon sized zebras or one zebra sized pigeon?
  • Would you rather have a horse’s tail or a unicorn horn?
  • Would you rather have a hamster-sized elephant or an elephant-sized hamster for a pet?

Weekly Warm-Up Games

Each week, we played a different warm-up game as a group. Some of these games included:

Fonts didn’t carry over for any of these PPTs, even after trying to edit to a common font. My font of choice for this program was ObelixPro.

Guess that Character: Identify the popular character from their silhouette.

Mad Libs: Asked kids to write down a series of words and then read the words in the Mad Lib aloud. (*Not very popular. Only two kids participated.)

Name that Tune: Guess the song from just a few seconds of music. Used this playlist.

Pixelated Book Covers: Identify the blurry book cover.

Scavenger Hunt: Find items around your house that fit certain categories like “something that is orange” or “something that starts with the letter M.”

Two Truths and a Lie: Share three piece of information, two true and one a lie. Everyone has to guess. (*Not very popular. Few kids participated, though they enjoyed guessing.)

Zoomed In Images: Guess the item or cover from the zoomed in image.

Discussion Questions

I learned pretty quickly that deep discussion questions weren’t going to go anywhere, so the longer the series went on, the less I worried about these, and the more light I kept things. I chose 3-5 questions to focus on each week and let things go where they wanted.

General Graphic Novel Questions:

  1. Is reading a graphic novel different than reading a text novel? How?
  2. Would this book have been better or worse without pictures?
  3. How does the art make you feel and why?
  4. What did the creator show? What wasn’t shown that your brain filled in?
  5. What does the story or character remind you of?
  6. What surprised you most?
  7. What would you change about the setting or characters if you were writing this book?
  8. What is something you don’t want to forget from this book?
  9. Which character most reminds you of yourself?
  10. If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask them? (I sent these to the authors via Twitter each week, and some of them actually responded!)


  1. Sloan vs Piper – who did you like better? Who do you think you are the most like?
  2. Page 16 – Compare Sloan and Piper’s lives. What do you learn from the images?
  3. Who would you want to switch bodies with?
  4. If you did switch bodies, what would you do?

Diana Princess of the Amazons:

  1. Before reading this book, what did you know about Wonder Woman?
  2. Themyscira is a pretty cool place. What would you like most about living there? Least?
  3. When Diana is bored, she says “It seems like I’m either too old or too young for everything. Stuck in the middle.” Do you ever feel like that? When?
  4. Mona convinces Diana to do some things Diana knows are wrong—like steal food and make fun of other people and skip class. Have you had a friend like that?
  5. Quick Sketch: Draw the scariest monster to come out of Doom’s Doorway!
  6. Diana grows up to become a superhero! Who is your favorite superhero and why?

El Deafo: (*Most robust discussion!)

  1. The title of the book is Cece’s superhero name. What would your superhero name be?
  2. This is a memoir. What does that mean?
  3. Why do you think Cece Bell made the characters rabbits?
  4. Our world is designed for those capable of hearing. What are ways you notice that the world is hard for people who are deaf?
  5. Cece’s first best friend Laura is kind of mean. Cece dreams about ending the friendship, but she doesn’t because being friends with Laura is better than her “bubble of loneliness.” Do you agree?
  6. Cece doesn’t want to learn sign language. Why do you think that is?

The Lightning Thief (graphic novel):

  1. Who has read the chapter book? How did these two compare?
  2. What do you have to think about when adapting a chapter book into a graphic novel?
  3. Who is your favorite character?
  4. You all had some great things you loved about Themyscara. What would you like most about Camp Half Blood? What would you like least?
  5. What magical powers or elements would you like to control? If you could be related to one mythical Greek god, who would it be?

Lumberjanes Vol. 1:

  1. Look at the Lumberjanes cover. What do you think the book would be about based on the cover? Should people judge a book by its cover?
  2. Who is your favorite Lumberjane? Why?
  3. Why do you think they included so many snippets from the Lumberjanes manual and information about Lumberjanes badges?
  4. Let’s talk about characters. How do their names “fit” or “not fit”? How do their names influence our perceptions of the characters? (April, Molly, Ripley, Jo, Mal, Jen)
  5. In the “Message from the Lumberjane High Council” in Volume 1 it says: “…Whether you are a dancer or a misfit, career girl or a social elite, you have a place at this camp — no matter how different you feel.” How does the story and the characters reflect this?
  6. There are 13 Lumberjanes Volumes and nearly 80 issues, spin off books, chapter books—what do you think happens next?

My Video Game Ate My Homework:

  1. What does this story remind you of?
  2. What do you think of the artwork, especially how the characters are drawn?
  3. If you got a magical video game superpower – what would you want it to be? (page 28)
  4. What would you have in your own clubhouse? (page 19)
  5. What video game or imaginary world would you like to enter? What world would you never want to enter?
  6. Dewey has dyslexia, which makes it hard for him to read. We all have things that make some things harder for us than others. If you want to share, what is something that is harder for you?

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy

  1. How does this feel different than other graphic novels we have read?
  2. Did this feel preachy or did you not notice you were learning something?
  3. Would you want to read a book like this in school?
  4. What school topics would you like to learn about as comics?
  5. Is this book funny? How?
  6. What do you think of this book’s coloring?

New Kid: (We didn’t really get to any of these, as this book seemed to be a bit too old for the kids who attended that week, who all admitted to not finishing it.)

  1. Which five words best describe New Kid?
  2. Why do you think Jerry Craft drew Jordan’s sketchbook drawings completely differently than the rest of the book?
  3. What makes being a new kid so challenging for Jordan?
  4. Have you ever been the new kid somewhere? How was your experience the same or different from Jordan’s?
  5. Jordan’s Tips for Taking the Bus (pages 56-57): Why does his behavior change—how he looks and dresses as he moves around? What is different in each panel?
  6. What does this book say about friendship? What makes a good friend?

Phoebe and Her Unicorn:

  1. Are you more of a Phoebe or a Marigold Heavenly Nostrils?
  2. If you had one magical wish, what would it be?
  3. These are collections of comic strips. What makes this book different than the graphic novels we have read before? 
  4. Think about how Phoebe and Marigold met. What stands out about that scene?
  5. How does the friendship between Phoebe and Marigold change and grow throughout the story? How do you see that difference in the illustrations and the text?
  6. When the story starts, do you like Phoebe and Marigold equally? How does that change?
  7. Page 111: Is there anything more embarrassing than parents?

Let’s Talk Comics

This is the part of Graphic Novel Book Club I feel like I bungled the most. I didn’t come in with a clear week-to-week plan, and this ended up being the part of the program the kids were the most excited about.

About three weeks into the program, I found these resources, which I highly recommend using to frame your own series:

My weeks were much more haphazard, with essentially a random drawing challenge each week. These included:

  • Random Creature and Action
  • Random Setting
  • Story of meeting your magical creature best friend (4 panels)
  • First Day at a New School (include dialogue and more than one panel)
  • Egg Challenge (draw what comes out of this egg)
  • Combine animal + food = Character!
  • Drawing Motion (guest artist – fellow librarian)
  • Think about your favorite character from a book, show, or movie. Choose to adapt or expand their story in at least three panels.
  • Dog Man Challenge: Draw 5 creatures. Take the head of one and the body of the other and merge them.

I did include a few more detailed activities/”lessons” some weeks, including:

Fonts didn’t carry over for any of these PPTs, even after trying to edit to a common font. My font of choice for this program was ObelixPro.

Adaptations vs Universe Expansions

Characters (Taken heavily from the Digital Comics Club resources)

Graphic Novel and Comic Overview (Taken heavily from the Digital Comics Club resources)

Graphic Novels You Should Read

Favorite Graphic Novels of 2019

Graphic novels are one of my favorite mediums to read. I try to keep up with what my patrons are reading, so I make an effort to pick up the newest or most talked about series. Some of them I love–I will forever be a Dog Man fan–and some of them I am fine letting go after the first book (sorry Plants vs. Zombies).

I never read graphic novels or comics growing up. In fact, I don’t think I read my first graphic novel until library school, when a few “classic” kid titles were required reading for my children’s literature classes. I fell in love with the format. I always associated graphic novels with comics and comics with white superheros and never-ending violent fight scenes. Graphic novels (and comics) offer so much more than that, with a modern young reader being able to find essentially any genre in graphic novel format. The blend of words and illustrations also makes it easier for a reader to try something new–while those older superhero comics are still not my preference, some of the newer imagingings of those characters and stories are my favorite series.

Each year, a brand new selection of amazing graphic novels is released. Some of my favorites published this year are featured below.

All of these titles represent the physical book, not any audiobook adaptation that has been or will be produced in the future.

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Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir
This sassy mash up imagines a world where three girls from various “classic” fantasy novels live in the same universe and end up at the same boarding school, a place designed to help them learn how to harness their world-crossing powers. Wendy, Alice, and Dorothy are all tired of being told what to do and what to think and are quickly dashing between magical universes, leaving havoc in their wake.


The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
This graphic adaptation of the Newbery winning novel delivers, capturing the emotions, spirit, and rhythm of the original story while adding an entirely new dimension through its beautiful illustrations.

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Guts by Raina Telgemeier
How can you have a list of great graphic novels and not include the reigning queen? While Raina’s popularity as an author is unquestioned, this book lives up to the hype. Raina expertly depicts what it is like to deal with the everyday ups and downs of middle school, while also introducing to young readers a very real struggle with anxiety.

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Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki
I am not a traditional comics reader, and I didn’t know anything about Harley Quinn before this graphic novel. Surprising to me, I quickly found myself immersed in this world and rooting for the antihero Harley becomes as she is forced to stand on her own two feet after both of her parents abandon her.


Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
Hatke combines his two most popular universes–those of Zita the Spacegirl and Mighty Jack–in his newest book. Friends and enemies from both series clash as Jack, Lilly, and Zita must learn how to work together to save their home planet.

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Narwhal’s Otter Friend by Ben Clanton
Narwhal and Jelly’s adventures continue, this time introducing a new friend–and a new emotion–to their otherwise joyful friendship. This continues to be a go to series for ages 6-8.


New Kid by Jerry Craft
One of my new favorites for book talks. Jordan loves to draw, but instead of sending him to art school, his parents send him to a prestigious private school. Jordan immediately feels uncomfortable–he is attending on a scholarship, and he is one of the only black kids in the entire school. Jordan tries to make new friends as he learns to balance the two worlds that divide his attention.


The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner
The back matter describes this as a combination of Roller Girl and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and I don’t think I can come up with a better summary. Middle schooler Moth discovers that her family is caught up in the center of century-old drama in her small Massachusetts town–they are the remaining descendants of some of the most famous witches from history. There is a lot more to figure out than just how to control her new powers, as Moth quickly becomes torn between family members, friends, and the new world she is excited to discover.

Princess, Volume 9: Love Yourself by Jeremy Whitley
The spectacular Princeless graphic novel series is coming to an end. This penultimate volume begins wrapping up many storylines, not the least of which involves Princess Adrienne confronting her father’s misogyny. An excellent volume that just leaves me even more excited for the end of the series.


The Singing Rock & Other Brand-New Fairy Tales by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer
Traditional fairy tales have never been my favorite types of stories. While I am always interested in a fractured retellings, the traditional versions never rang true for me–I was always reading a version that was too sweet or too grim, and both styles felt like they were just trying to beat a lesson into my head. This collection of “new” fairy tales adds humor to stories that feel like they have been around for a few generations, often without the needed “lessons” feeling quite so harshly delivered at the end.


Stargazing by Jen Wang
Christine becomes unlikely friends with her new, strange neighbor, Moon. As the girls become closer, they both reveal some of their most precious secrets. After disaster strikes, can Christine find the courage to be the friend that Moon deserves?