Core collection of graphic novels - 2012 update

In 2011, the Quicklists Consulting Committee created a list of core titles than can be used when starting or maintaining a children’s graphic novel collection. The intended audience is librarians selecting books for inclusion in public libraries serving elementary school-age children. 

Graphic novel here is defined as a full-length story told in paneled, sequential, graphic format. The list does not include book-length collections of comic strips, wordless picture books, or hybrid books that are a mixture of traditional text and comics/graphics. The list includes classics as well as new titles that have been widely recommended and well-reviewed, and books that have popular appeal as well as critical acclaim. The Quicklists Consulting Committee identified the best books currently available, and updates the list at least annually to add great new releases and remove titles that have gone out of print.

To keep the list manageable in size, only the first title in a series is included with a notation that there are others.

K-2 | Grades 3-5 | Grades 6-8

Grades K-2   

The Adventures of Polo by Régis Faller. Roaring Brook, 2006. ISBN: 9781596431607.
Little dog Polo takes up his backpack and umbrella and sets out in his boat to explore exciting new places.  First of a series.  
 
Airplane Adventure by Cari Meister. Illustrated by Marilyn Janovitz. Stone Arch, 2010. ISBN: 9781434216182.
Anna and Juan are going to Mexico to visit their grandmother in this introduction to the graphic novel format.  Instructions for how to read a graphic novel introduce this book and discussion questions and writing prompts are listed at its conclusion.  One of the "My 1st Graphic Novel" series.
 
Benny and Penny in the Big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes. TOON, 2009. ISBN: 9780979923890.
In this Geisel Award winner, two mice meet their new neighbor and discover that she is not as scary as they feared. First of the "Benny and Penny" series.
 
Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires. Kids Can Press, 2009. ISBN: 9781554533091. 
Binky has a dream: to become a space cat, blast into space, and fight aliens.  First of the "A Binky Adventure" series.
 
Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery by Kevin O'Malley and Patrick O'Brien. Illustrated by Patrick O'Brien. Walker, 2007. ISBN: 9780802795717.
Captain Raptor, a superhero and a dinosaur, must investigate a mysterious object that has landed on one of the moons of planet Jurassica.  First of the "Captain Raptor" series.
 
A Day at the Fire Station by Lori Mortensen. Illustrated by Jeffrey Thompson. Capstone, 2011. ISBN: 9781429645089. 
Explains the everyday life of fire fighters in the station house as well as the quick actions they take when a call comes in. A glossary and a bibliography for additional reading and internet sites are appended.  One of the "First Graphics: My Community" series.
 
Hamster and Cheese by Colleen Venable. Illustrated by Stephanie Yue. Lerner/Graphic Universe, 2010. ISBN: 9780761345985. 
Sasspants the guinea pig and his sidekick, Hamisher the hamster, get to the bottom of the case of the missing sandwiches. First of the "Pet Shop Private Eye" series.
 
Johnny Boo: The Best Little Ghost in the World! by James Kochalka. Top Shelf Productions, 2008. ISBN: 9781603090131.
Boo Power makes Johnny Boo the best and together with his pet ghost Squiggle and his amazing Squiggle Power, they have the world’s greatest adventures.  First of the "Johnny Boo" series.
 
Korgi: Book 1 by Christian Slade. Top Shelf Productions, 2007. ISBN: 9781891830907.
In this wordless graphic novel, Ivy and her "Korgi" cub Sprout learn some amazing things about themselves as they encounter danger and adventure in Korgi Hollow.  First of the "Korgi" series.
 
Laundry Day by Maurie J. Manning. Clarion Books, 2012. ISBN: 9780547241968.
On laundry day, a young shoe shiner ventures up through a tenement to discover the owner of a red cloth that mysteriously fell from the sky.
 
Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith. TOON, 2009. ISBN: 9781935179016.
Little Mouse hurries to get ready for a trip to the barn, carefully dressing himself piece by piece until his mother reminds him that mice don't wear clothes.
 
Luke on the Loose by Harry Bliss. TOON, 2009. ISBN: 9781935179009.
A young boy's fascination with pigeons soon erupts into a full-blown chase around Central Park, across the Brooklyn Bridge, through a fancy restaurant, and into the sky.
 
The Meeting by Brigitte Luciani. Illustrated by Eve Tharlet. Lerner/Graphic Universe, 2010. ISBN: 9780761356257. 
Having lost their home, a fox and her daughter move in with a badger and his three children, but when the youngsters throw a big party hoping to prove that they are incompatible, their plan backfires.  First of the "Mr. Badger and Mrs. Fox" series.
 
Otto's Orange Day by Jay Lynch. Illustrated by Frank Cammuso. TOON, 2008. ISBN: 9780979923821.
After a genie fulfills Otto the cat's wish by turning the whole world orange, Otto realizes that his favorite color is not the best color for everything. 
 
Owly: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton. Top Shelf Productions, 2004. ISBN: 9781891830624.
Owly, a kind and lonely owl, helps and then befriends a worm and then a pair of hummingbirds in these two nearly wordless stories.  First in the "Owly" series.
 
Patrick in A Teddy Bear's Picnic and Other Stories by Geoffrey Hayes. TOON, 2010. ISBN: 9781935179092.
In these cozy stories for young readers, Patrick goes on a picnic with his mother, faces down a bully, and resists taking a nap.
 
Rick & Rack and the Great Outdoors by Ethan Long. Blue Apple, 2010. ISBN: 9781609050344.
Rick the raccoon and Rack the moose spend a day fishing, tracking wild animals, and canoeing on a lake.  Part of the "Balloon Toons" series.
 
The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson. TOON, 2012. ISBN: 9781935179160.
In this Hawaiian tale, Nanaue, born to a shark father and a human mother, struggles to find where he fits in.
 
Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons by Agnès Rosenstiehl. TOON, 2008. ISBN: 9780979923814.
A young girl named Lilly enjoys different activities during each season of the year, from dancing in the park in the spring to throwing snowballs in the winter.

Grades 3-5   

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future by Dav Pilkey. Scholastic/Blue Sky, 2010. ISBN: 9780545175302.
Boys got into trouble even in the time of cavemen, and Ook and Gluk prove it by getting on the wrong side of Chief Goppernopper.  Fortunately, the boys travel to the future, learn kung-fu, and return in time to save the day.
 
Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles into Comics by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost. Roaring Brook/First Second, 2009. ISBN: 9781596433694.
This fun and unique title is both an amazing adventure and a tutorial into the basic elements of cartooning.  The sequel is Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special! (2012).  
 
Babymouse: Queen of the World! By Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Random, 2005. ISBN: 9780375832291.
Meet Babymouse, a sassy young mouse who dreams of glamour, excitement, adventure, straight whiskers, being queen of the world, and of course, being invited to Felicia Furrypaws's oh-so-exclusive party.  First of the "Babymouse" series.
                              
Bake Sale by Sara Varon. Roaring Book/First Second, 2011. ISBN: 9781596437401.
Cupcake runs a successful bakery with his best friend, Eggplant, but dreams of going abroad to meet his idol, Turkish Delight, who is the most famous pastry chef in the world.  Also recommended by this author: Robot Dreams (2007).  
 
Chi's Sweet Home by Konami Kanata. Vertical, 2010. ISBN: 9781934287811.
A super-sweet manga series in which a spunky lost kitten is rescued by the Yamadas, who are not allowed to have pets in their apartment.  While dreaming of finding her mother, Chi navigates such trials as litter training, vet visits, and avoiding the nosy landlady.  First of a series of the same name.  
 
DragonBall Z by Akira Toriyama.  VIZ. 2009.  ISBN: 9781569319307.
In this very popular manga series, Goku trains in martial arts and explores the world in search of the seven mystical orbs known as the Dragon Balls.  First of a series. 
 
Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dodgeball Chronicles by Frank Cammuso. Scholastic/Graphix, 2008. ISBN: 9780439903226.
In this Arthurian legend re-imagined for middle grade readers, Artie King finds that making enemies at Camelot Middle School is a lot easier than making friends when he challenges the Horde to a game of dodgeball.  First of the "Knights of the Lunch Table" series. 
 
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes edited by Kazu Kibuishi.  Amulet Books, 2012.  ISBN: 9781419700095.
Seven clever stories answer one simple question: what’s in the box?  Funny, fantastic, spooky, and suspenseful, each of these unique short graphic works revolves around a central theme: a mysterious box and the marvels—or mayhem—inside.
 
Giants Beware by Jorge Aguirre. Illustrated by Rafael Rosado. Roaring Brook/First Second, 2012. ISBN: 9781596435827.
Three stalwart companions and their trusty dog set out to defeat a local giant.  Though villains lurk at every turn, sometimes giants just aren't the baddies they're reported to be.
 
Happy Happy Clover by Sayuri Tatsuyama. VIZ, 2009. ISBN: 9781421526560.
This sweet manga tale shares the adventures and misadventures of Clover, a bunny, and her forest-dwelling friends.  First of a series.  
 
Hyperactive by Scott Christian Sava. Illustrated by Joseph Bergin III. IDW/Worthwhile, 2008. ISBN: 9781600103131.
On the first day of school, Joey's metabolism kicks into high gear, giving him superhuman speed.  Adventures galore ensue.
 
Into the Volcano by Don Wood. Scholastic/Blue Sky, 2008. ISBN: 9780439726719.
While their parents are away doing research, brothers Duffy and Sumo Pugg go with their cousin, Mister Come-and-Go, to Kokalaha Island, where they meet Aunt Lulu and become trapped in an erupting volcano.
 
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J.Krosoczka. Knopf, 2009. ISBN: 9780375946837.
Lunch Lady and Betty, her assistant in both the cafeteria and her role of wrong-¬righting super sleuth, investigate the strange case of an absent teacher, his creepy substitute, and a plan to grab the Teacher of the Year Award by truly foul means.  First of the "Lunch Lady" series.
 
Magic Pickle by Scott Morse. Scholastic/Graphix, 2008. ISBN: 9780439879958.
As a secret experiment turned superhero, Magic Pickle battles his arch foes, the members of Brotherhood of Evil Produce. First in the "Magic Pickle" series.
 
Mal and Chad: The Biggest Bestest Time Ever by Stephen McCranie. Philomel, 2011. ISBN: 9780399252211.
Mal tries to hide his intellect in school, but he and his talking-dog pal Chad can't always help themselves—especially when their time machine takes them back to the time of the dinosaurs.  First of the "Mal and Chad" series. 
 
Meanwhile by Jason Shiga. Abrams/Amulet, 2010. ISBN: 9780810984233.
Jimmy explores the lab of a mad scientist in this “Choose Your Own Adventure” style graphic novel. 
 
Pokemon Adventures by Hidenori Kusaka.  Illustrated by Mato.  VIZ. 2009. ISBN: 9781421530543.
In this adventure based on the ever-popular video game, Red, a Pokemon trainer, tries to persuade independent Pikachu to join his team. First of a series.
 
The Purple Smurfs by Yvan Delporte. Illustrated by Peyo. Papercutz, 2010. ISBN: 9781597072076.
When a strange purple fly bites one of the Smurfs, a full-on purple epidemic develops in the Smurf village. It's up to Papa Smurf to find a cure and save Smurf Village before all the Smurfs lose their minds for good.  First of "The Smurfs" series, which is the original comic that inspired the 1980s cartoon.
 
Sardine in Outer Space by Emmanuel Guibert. Illustrated by Joann Sfar. Roaring Brook/First Second, 2006.  ISBN: 9781596431263.
Space pirate girl Sardine and her crew battle dimwitted galactic dictator Supermuscleman and evil genius Doc Krok in these adventures filled with lots of low-brow humor, translated from the French.  First of the "Sardine" series. 
 
Salt Water Taffy: The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny: The Legend of Old Salty by Matthew Loux. Oni Press, 2008. ISBN: 9781932664942.
Two city brothers end up on the Maine seacoast for the summer, much to their disgust.  When old Angus befriends them, and tells the story of Old Salty, a sea monster, adventure blossoms.  First of the "Salt Water Taffy: The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny" series.
 
The Secret of the Unicorn by Hergé. Little, Brown, 1974. ISBN: 9780316358323.
In this classic, Tintin, a young journalist, is hot on the trail of a secret hidden in a model ship.  First of "The Adventures of Tintin" series.
 
Sidekicks by Dan Santat. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011. ISBN: 9780439298193.
Captain Amazing is looking for a new sidekick...and his pets want in on the action!
 
Squish: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Random, 2011. ISBN: 9780375843891.
Navigating school, friendships, and family is never easy, but it's especially challenging if you happen to be an amoeba. With the help of his hero, Super Amoeba, Squish is prepared for anything.  First of the "Squish" series. 
 
To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Sienna Cherson Siegel. Illustrated by Mark Siegel. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2006. ISBN: 9780689867477.
In this memoir, a young dancer tells about her passion for ballet from her first dreams of dancing at the age of six through all her years of dance lessons.
 
The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier. Roaring Brook/First Second, 2010. ISBN: 9781596434530.
Walker Bean grew up listening to his grandfather's tales of life on the high seas.  Now it's Walker's turn for adventure.
 
The Whole World's Crazy by Jimmy Gownley. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2011. ISBN: 9781442445383.
Life is tough for Amelia.  Her mother is newly divorced and they are living with her cool aunt Tanner.  Amelia survives with the help of her Gathering of Awesome Superpals and some attitude.  First of the "Amelia Rules!" series.
 
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Eric Shanower and L. Frank Baum. Illustrated by Skottie Young. Marvel, 2009. ISBN: 9780785129219.
Kansas farm girl Dorothy flies away to the magical Land of Oz, but despite her adventures there, all she wants is to find a way home.
 
Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma. Yen Press, 2009. 9780316073875
Youtsuba is the new girl in town, and her excitement over everyday objects can sometimes drive her neighbors crazy. First of the "Youtuba&!" series.
 
Zeus: King of the Gods by George O'Connor. First Second, 2010. ISBN: 9781596436251.
The story of the Greek God Zeus adapted nicely to graphic format.  First of the "Olympians" series. 
 
Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. Roaring Brook/First Second, 2010. ISBN: 9781596436954.
Zita finds a small package in a meteoroid crater and is suddenly catapulted to another world.  When she dons her superhero cape, her bravery and derring-do make her a heroine in this strange land.  Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (2012) is the sequel.  

Grades 6-8   

Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón. Farrar/Hill and Wang, 2010. ISBN: 9780809026845.
Drawing on the unique historical sites, archives and expertise of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, this authorized biography is the complete account of the lives of Anne's parents, her first years in Frankfurt, the rise of Nazism, the family's immigration to Amsterdam, her life in the annex, and her arrest and tragic death in Bergen-Belsen.
 
Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol. Roaring Brook/First Second, 2011. ISBN: 9781596437135.
When Russian-American teenager Anya falls down a well and meets the ghost of a girl who was murdered, they become fast friends as Emily helps Anya and Anya vows to solve Emily's murder.
 
The Arrival by Shaun Tan. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2007. ISBN: 9780439895293.
A wordless but very moving story about a lonely man who has just arrived in a new city in a world not unlike our own. 
 
Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack Jr. Illustrated by Randy DuBurke. Chronicle Books. 2012. ISBN: 9780811857499.
This exciting story follows the life of legendary Nat Love, a former slave and one of the most famous cowboys of Old West.
 
Bone: Out from Boneville by Jeff  Smith. Scholastic/Graphix, 2005. ISBN: 9780439706230.
The adventure starts when cousins Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone are run out of Boneville and later get separated in the wilderness, meeting monsters and making friends as they attempt to return home. First of the "Bone" series. 
 
Cardboard by Dough TenNapel. Scholastic/Graphix, 2012. ISBN: 9780545418737.
A simple birthday gift of a cardboard box turns into something more when a boy and his father discover that whatever they make out of the cardboard is capable of coming to life!  Also recommended by this author: Ghostopolis (2010).
 
Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by P. Craig Russell. HarperCollins, 2008. ISBN: 9780060825430. 
When Coraline steps through a secret door in her house, she finds a marvelous new world much better than her own. However, when her "other mother" wants to keep her there forever, she must use her wits and the help of an all-knowing cat to return to the real world in this graphic novel version of Gaiman's popular title.
 
Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Graphix, 2012. ISBN: 9780545326995
Drama abounds on and off stage in this hilarious take on school theater productions.  Also recommended by this author: Smile (2010).
 
Foiled by Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Mike Cavallaro. Roaring Brook/First Second, 2010. ISBN: 9781596432796. 
Aliera is a star at fencing, but at school no one notices her—until her new lab partner Avery begins flirting with her. Will Aliera's first date be ruined when magical creatures try to steal her foil?
 
Kampung Boy by Lat. Roaring Brook/First Second, 2006. ISBN: 9781596431218.
Lat, a noted Malaysian cartoonist, tells the story of the early life of a Muslim boy growing up on a rural rubber plantation during the 1950s. The sequel is Town Boy (2007). 
 
Lewis & Clark by Nick Bertozzi. Roaring Brook/First Second, 2011. ISBN: 9781596434509.
This historically accurate graphic novel begins with President Jefferson's call to explore the western region and continues beyond the conclusion of the famed Lewis & Clark expedition.
 
Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Liu. Illustrated by Andrews Vera Martinez. Lerner/Graphic Universe, 2012. ISBN: 9780761381150
A fictionalized memoir of a youth spent in post-Mao China.  By turns touching, funny, and smart, this graphic novel offers a slice of life in a distant country. 
 
Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge. Abrams/Amulet Books, 2011. ISBN: 9780810997226.
When Paige's family relocates to New York City, she has to start over.  As she fills up a sketchbook, she finds the courage to become exactly who she wants to be. 
 
Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. Illustrated by Nathan Hale. Bloomsbury, 2008. ISBN: 9781599900704.
Two traditional fairy tales—"Rapunzel" and "Jack and the Beanstalk"—merge in a fresh and funny adventure with a Western flair.  The sequel is Calamity Jack (2010). 
 
The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan. Candlewick, 2009. ISBN: 9780763636180.
It's Kansas in 1937 and life is bleak during the dust bowl. Jack is left to his imagination in this graphic novel that is part historical fiction, part tall tale.
 
Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembicki. Fulcrum, 2010. ISBN: 9781555917241. 
This collaborative effort by more than 40 writers and artists presents 21 Native American trickster tales in graphic novel format.
 
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri. Illustrated by Randy DuBurke. Lee & Low, 2010. ISBN: 9781584302674. 
Based on true events and told through the eyes of a younger boy, this graphic novel tells the story of Robert ("Yummy") as he tries to navigate the dangerous world of a Chicago neighborhood.
 
Zebrafish by Sharon Emerson. Illustrated by Renée Kurilla. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2010. ISBN: 9781416995258.
Vita and the members of her rock band Zebrafish raise money to help the children's hospital where one band member is receiving cancer treatments.