The Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table is thrilled to introduce the 2021 Best Graphic Novels for Children Reading List. This reading list highlights the best graphic novels for children aged 5 – 12 years old, published in late 2020 and through 2021, and it aims to increase awareness of the graphic novel medium, raise voices of diverse comics creators, and aid library staff in the development of graphic novel collections.
Best Graphic Novels for Children 2021 Selection Committee
- Angela Frederick, Chair - High School Librarian, Williamson County Schools
- Alessandra Affinito - Children's Librarian, New York Public Library
- Kristi Henry
- Todd Krueger - Collection Development, Baltimore County Public Library
- Angela Ocana - Youth Services Supervisor, Eugene Public Library
- Deeba Rehman - Student, University of North Texas SLIS
- Heather Rowan - Librarian I, Austin Public Library
- Nhora Serrano - Associate Director for Digital Learning & Research, Hamilton College
- Suzanne Temple - Metadata Librarian, NoveList
- Kerrie Mierop
- Dawn Zimmerer - Director of Youth Services, Madison County Library System
The Best Graphic Novels for Children committee would like to recognize and thank Midwest Tape for allowing all committee members free access to Hoopla® during this term of service.
2021 Best Graphic Novels for Children Top Ten
Arlo & Pips series. Written by Elise Gravel. Art by Elise Gravel.
- King of the Birds, Vol. 1. 2020. HarperAlley, $7.99 (9780062982223). - Arlo the crow is beautiful, and he knows it. He aims to impress his new friend Pips the songbird with the many cool things he can do with his big brain and quirky personality. PreK – 2nd grade.
- Join the Crow Crowd, Vol. 2. 2021. HarperAlley, $12.99 (9780062394231). - In this sequel, Arlo feels lonely and longs for more crow friends. He meets a very special crow, Marla, and tries to figure out how to make a good impression. PreK – 2nd grade.
The Golden Hour. Written by Niki Smith. Art by Niki Smith. 2021. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, $12.99 (9780316540339).
After a harrowing experience of gun violence, Manuel Soto deals with his trauma by utilizing photography. He also finds companionship in classmates who live on a farm outside town, and together they prepare for the local county fair. 5th – 6th grade.
Just Roll with It. Written by Lee Durfey-Lavoie. Art by Veronica Agarwal. 2021. Random House Graphic, $20.99 (9781984897008).
Maggie is a shy kid who loves to explore her imagination with role-playing games and takes a D-20 with her everywhere she goes. The better the roll, the better her day will be! But with all the stresses of after-school clubs, trying to make friends, and keeping up with her family, she'll have to take an introspective look at her anxieties, and start trusting in herself instead of chance. 5th – 6th grade.
The Magic Fish. Written by Trung Le Nguyen. Art by Trung Le Nguyen. 2020. Random House Graphic, $23.99 (9781984851598).
For Tien, sometimes it feels like the only way he can connect with his Vietnamese immigrant parents is through fairy tales. But now he must find the words to tell his mother that he's gay and find the courage to be his true self around friends. 5th – 6th grade.
Measuring Up. Written by Lily LaMotte. Art by Ann Xu. 2021. HarperAlley, $12.99 (9780062973863).
Cici has recently moved to Seattle from Taiwan and desperately misses A-má, her grandmother. To pay for a plane ticket for A-má to visit her, Cici hopes to win a cash prize through a junior chef competition. 3rd – 4th grade.
Pawcasso. Written by Remy Lai. Art by Remy Lai. 2021. Holt Books for Young Readers, $21.99 (9781250774484).
A dog carrying a basket in his mouth while doing errands around town is a source of curiosity for eleven-year-old Jo. 3rd – 4th grade.
Salt Magic. Written by Hope Larson. Art by Rebecca Mock. 2021. Holiday House, $21.99 (9780823446209).
Vonceil's brother is back from war, but it seems he no longer has time for games with his little sister. But when a mysterious sorceress curses the family well, Vonceil will have to set things right and reveal family secrets in a mystical journey across the Oklahoma desert. 5th – 6th grade.
Twins. Written by Varian Johnson. Art by Shannon Wright. 2020. Scholastic, $24.99 (9781338236170).
Maureen and Francine are twins who share a bedroom, take the same classes, participate in the same clubs, and have the same friends. When one of them starts to pull away, it spells trouble. 5th – 6th grade.
Unsolved Case Files series. Written by Tom Sullivan. Art by Tom Sullivan.
- Escape at 10,000 Feet, Vol. 1. 2021. Harper Collins, $12.99 (9780062991515). - This volume explores the mystery of the only unsolved airplane hijacking case in the US, perpetrated by D.B Cooper. 5th – 6th grade.
- Jailbreak from Alcatraz, Vol. 2. 2021. Harper Collins, $12.99 (9780062991560). - Explore the daring escapes from the maximum-security prison on the island of Alcatraz. 5th – 6th grade.
The Witches of Brooklyn series. Written by Sophie Escabasse. Art by Sophie Escabasse.
- The Witches of Brooklyn, Vol. 1. 2020. Penguin Random House, $20.99 (9780593119273). - When Effie's mother dies, she is sent to live with two aunts who are somewhat welcoming, although strange and fascinating. Soon Effie starts having strange dreams, and when a popstar invades the house in the middle of the night with a huge problem, Effie learns who she and her aunts really are - witches. 5th – 6th grade.
- The Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?, Vol. 2. 2021. Penguin Random House, $20.99 (9780593125441). - When two competing statues are causing unusual phenomena in Park Slope, it’s up to Effie to help the older witches solve the problem. But first she'll have to overcome her own difficulties when a new girl joins her school and befriends her group. 5th – 6th grade.
2021 Best Graphic Novels for Children Official List
All Ages (PreK - 6th grade)
Andy Warner’s Oddball Histories: Pests and Pets. Written by Andy Warner. Art by Andy Warner. 2021. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, $12.99 (9780316463386).
Historic and odd facts about animals that we consider pets and pests.
The Bug Club. Written by Elise Gravel. Art by Elise Gravel. 2021. Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95 (9781770464155).
Elise Gravel shares some interesting facts about her favorite bugs, accompanied by her characteristic drawings.
The Worry (Less) Book: Feel Strong, Find Calm, and Tame Your Anxiety! Written by Rachel Brian. Art by Rachel Brian. 2020. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, $15.99 (9780316495196).
An exploration of what it means to feel anxiety and how to overcome it.
Young Readers (PreK - 2nd grade)
Apple of My Pie. Written by Mika Song. Art by Mika Song. 2021. Random House Graphic, $12.99 (9781984895851).
The adventures of Norma and Belly the intrepid (and hungry) squirrels continue when Gramps is taken away from the city on an apple truck! With the help of Little Bee and some human friends, they'll travel to a faraway orchard and might even sample some fresh pie along the way.
Beak & Ally #1: Unlikely Friends. Written by Norm Feuti. Art by Norm Feuti. 2021. HarperAlley, $12.99 (9780063021570).
Ally’s peace is disturbed by a noisy bird named Beak.
Beak & Ally #2: Bedtime Jitters. Written by Norm Feuti. Art by Norm Feuti. 2020. HarperAlley, $12.99 (9780063021600).
Beak is trying to sleep, but with so many noises there must be monsters. As Beaks' wild imagination grows, Ally gets drawn into the monster hunt.
Burt the Beetle Doesn’t Bite. Written by Ashley Spires. Art by Ashley Spires. 2021. Kids Can Press, $11.99 (9781525301469).
Burt the ten-lined June beetle is trying to figure out what makes him outstanding. As Burt describes other bugs' superpowers in a series of fun facts, he starts to feel left out. When Burt's friends find themselves in a pickle that Burt is uniquely able to solve, he begins to see how his own traits make him something special.
Donut Feed the Squirrels. Written by Mika Song. Art by Mika Song. 2020. Random House Graphic, $12.99 (9781984895837).
Two intrepid squirrels scheme to snatch a donut from a food truck that stops in their park.
Fox & Rabbit Celebrate. Written by Beth Ferry. Art by Gergely Dudas. 2021. Amulet Books, $12.99 (9781419751837).
Fox and Rabbit are on another set of adventures. Fox decides to become Fix It Fox and goes around trying to fix items that are not really broken. Fox is excited about how he helped so many of his friends.
Pea, Bee & Jay Lift Off. Written by Brian “Smitty” Smith. Art by Brian “Smitty” Smith. 2021. HarperAlley, $12.99 (9780062981226).
Jay, with the help of his friends, learns how to fly. When birds who look just like Jay invite him to fly off with them, he learns the true meaning of being yourself, who your friends truly are, and how family are those that care for you most.
Pea, Bee & Jay Stuck Together. Written by Brian “Smitty” Smith. Art by Brian “Smitty” Smith. 2020. HarperAlley, $7.99 (9780062981165).
When Pea's competitive nature gets the best of him and he rolls too far away from his farm, he'll need the help of a know-it-all bee and a ground-bound Jay to help him get home.
Middle Readers (Grades 3 - 4)
The Cardboard Kingdom #2: Roar of the Beast. Written by Chad Sell. Art by Chad Sell. 2021. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $20.99 (9780593125540).
Nate is positive he saw a monster, but none of his friends believe him.
Chef Yasmina and the Potato Panic. Written by Wauter Mannaert. Art by Wauter Mannaert. First Second, $12.99 (9781250622051).
Yasmina is an expert at whipping up amazing dishes using the fruits of her neighborhood gardens. But when an evil corporation moves into town with a brand of potatoes genetically engineered to be irresistible, it’s up to her to find a cure to the madness!
Dungeon Critters. Written by Natalie Riess. Art by Sara Goetter. 2020. First Second, $14.99 (9781250195470).
In this mad-cap fantasy adventure, a group of quirky animal friends use their various Dungeons and Dragons skills to defeat a botanical monstrosity and investigate a plot for the crown.
Forever Home. Written by Jenna Ayoub. Art by Jenna Ayoub. 2021. KaBOOM!, $12.99 (9781684156030).
After many moves with the military, Willow and her parents finally find their perfect home in historic but haunted Hadleigh House.
Fred & Marjorie: A Doctor, a Dog, and the Discovery of Insulin. Written by Deborah Kerbel. Art by Angela Poon. OwlKids, $18.95 (9781771474115).
The true story of the young surgeon who, with the help of his canine lab heroes, successfully isolated the pancreatic secretions later known as insulin, saving countless lives in the process.
Garlic and the Vampire. Written by Bree Paulsen. Art by Bree Paulsen. 2021. Quill Tree Books, $12.99 (9780062995087).
Someone new has taken up residence at the castle across the hill from Witch Agnes’s Garden. Now it’s up to Garlic and her veggie friends to scope out the situation and learn a bit about bravery along the way.
Hilo #7: Gina – The Girl Who Broke the World. Written by Judd Winick. Art by Judd Winick. 2021. Random House Books for Young Readers, $13.99 (9780525644095).
Gina is the only one who can see the giant magical beings that have descended upon the Earth.
Katie the Catsitter. Written by Colleen AF Venable. Art by Stephanie Yue. 2021. Random House Graphic, $20.99 (9780593306321).
Katie’s summer job cat sitting for her neighbor takes an interesting turn.
Lightfall: The Girl and the Galdurian. Written by Tim Probert. Art by Tim Probert. 2020. Harper Alley, $12.99 (9780062990464).
Bea lives with her aging and forgetful adopted grandfather, the Pig Wizard, protecting their flame jar and helping gather ingredients for his potions. On a foray into the woods for supplies, Bea falls out of a tree and is rescued by the last Galdurian, an extinct people responsible for the inventions that bring light to their dying planet.
Long Distance. Written by Whitney Gardner. Art by Whitney Gardner. 2021. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $21.99 (9781534455665).
Anxious their reserved tween daughter will have trouble making friends after their move to Seattle, Vega's dads sign her up for Very Best Friend Camp, a summer camp guaranteed to help introverts make friends.
Marshmallow & Jordan. Written by Alina Chau. Art by Alina Chau. 2021. First Second, $14.99 (9781250300614).
Jordan is a talented basketball player, but since an accident paralyzed her from the waist down, she must find new ways to showcase her athletic skills. Luckily, she'll have a little help from a mysterious elephant who appears in her neighborhood one day, as well as the support of a strong network of family and friends.
Mr. Wolf's Class #4: Field Trip. Written by Aron Nels Steinke. Art by Aron Nels Steinke. 2020. Graphix, $9.99 (9781338617634).
Mr. Wolf's students are going on a field trip! Everyone gets to sleep in log cabins, come up with fun camp names, and journey through the great woods.
No One Returns from the Enchanted Forest. Written by Robin Robinson. Art by Robin Robinson. 2021. First Second, $14.99 (9781250211538).
When earthquakes threaten a subterranean goblin, sister Pella and Bix worry they'll have to leave their home forever.
Power Up. Written by Sam Nisson. Art by Darnell Johnson. 2021. Etch/Clarion Books, $12.99 (9780358325659).
'Gryphon' and 'Backlash' are an unstoppable team in the video game Mecha Melee, but their real life counterparts Miles and Rhys are a different story. Miles struggles to find balance between video games and other interests, while Rhys just wishes the bullies would leave him alone. Will this online duo preserve their friendship IRL?
The Secret Garden of 81st Street. Written by Ivy Noelle Weir. Art by Amber Padilla. 2021. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, $12.99. (9780316459709).
In this modern retelling of the Secret Garden, Mary is sent to live her uncle in New York City after the unexpected death of her parents.
Stealing Home. Written by J. Torres. Art by David Namisato. 2021. Kids Can Press, $17.99 (9781525303340).
After being forced onto a Japanese internment camp, Sandy feels like he's in another universe. But by bringing his love of baseball into his situation, both as philosophy and as a pastime, he's able to hold onto hope of a better future.
The Treasure in the Lake. Written by Jason Pammet. Art by Jason Pammet. 2021. HarperAlley, $22.99 (9780063065185).
Iris is so ready to leave her small town, bristling with feeling constrained, while her best friend Sam
wouldn't be anywhere else. A detour on the way to a tourist trap statue lead to the friends finding some unusual objects in a nearly dry riverbed.
Turtle in Paradise: The Graphic Novel. Written by Jennifer Holm. Art by Savanna Ganucheau. 2021. Random House Graphic, $20.99 (9780593126318).
It's 1935- money is tight, jobs are hard to find, and Turtle is moving halfway across the country. Key West, Florida is far different from her New Jersey home in many ways, but with the help of her mischievous cousins and through her own industrious spirit, she's determined to explore her new island surroundings.
Older Readers (Grades 5 - 6)
Allergic. Written by Megan Wagner Lloyd. Art by Michelle Mee Nutter. 2021. Scholastic, $12.99 (9781338568905).
Maggie loves animals; however, she learns she is highly allergic to anything with fur or feathers, despite desperately wanting a pet of her own.
Artie and the Wolf Moon. Written by Olivia Stephens. Art by Olivia Stephens. 2021. Graphic Universe, $16.99 (9781541542488).
After discovering that the giant wolf stalking the woods is her mother, Artie is thrust into a new community of werewolves, and the history of her family that has remained unspoken is unearthed along the way.
The Awakening Storm: A Graphic Novel (City of Dragons #1). Written by Jamail Yogis. Art by Vivian Truong. 2021. Graphix, $12.99 (9781338660432).
After moving to Hong Kong with her mom, Grace must get used to everything from learning a new language to making new friends at her fancy boarding school. But when an old lady gifts her a mysterious dragon egg that hatches overnight, Grace will have to deal with a whole new set of problems as evil forces try to harness its power.
Big Apple Diaries. Written by Alyssa Bermudez. Art by Alyssa Bermudez. 2021. Roaring Brook Press, $14.99 (9781250774286).
In this graphic memoir, 12-year-old Alyssa navigates the challenges of the cusp of middle school--grades, friends, a first crush on a cute new classmate, preparing for NYC's complicated middle school application process, her art, working out what it means for her to be Puerto Rican, and splitting time between her mom's and dad's apartments. When the terrorist attacks of 9/11 happen, the collective loss puts everything else in stark perspective, and Alyssa tries to figure out if she can still find a way to be a kid and find purpose and meaning amidst the destruction.
Black Heroes of the Wild West. Written by James Otis Smith. Art by James Otis Smith. 2020. Toon Graphics, $16.95 (9781943145522).
A short history of Black Americans who were extraordinary individuals who lived incredible lives in the Wild West. Mary Fields was born a slave who became a stagecoach driver. Bass Reeves, was the first Black Deputy US Marshal, and Bob Lemmons was amazing with horses.
Bounce Back. Written by Mikaso Rocks. Art by Mikaso Rocks. 2021. Feiwel and Friends, $12.99 (9781250806291).
Lilico must move to America from Japan right before her basketball team's finals, and her new home is not so welcoming. The mean girls in her grade don't want her on their team or in their class.
Class Act. Written by Jerry Craft. Art by Jerry Craft. 2020. Quill Tree Books, $22.99 (9780062885500).
Drew Ellis feels as if he works twice as hard as some of the kids at Riverdale Academy Day School but doesn’t get the same opportunities in life.
The Dragon Path. Written by Ethan Young. Art by Ethan Young. 2021. Graphix, $12.99 (9781338363296).
Eager for adventure, Prince Sing of the Wong Clan, journeys with his clan to the Old Land in order to have a better life.
The Ghoul Next Door. Written by Cullen Bunn. Art by Cat Farris. 2021. HarperAlley, $12.99 (9780062896094).
Eleven-year-old Grey has a run in with the mysterious ghouls of his New England town. His new friend Lavinia knows tons about local history but will their unlikely bond cause problems for the living residents of Anders Landing?
The Girl from the Sea. Written by Molly Knox Ostertag. Art by Molly Knox Ostertag. 2021. Graphix, $22.49 (9781338540574).
Morgan's life has changed a lot in the past few years. Dealing with her parent's divorce, a little brother who is angry, the dynamic of her friendship with her friends changing, and a secret she is trying to hide, Morgan learns how important it is to trust your friends and love your family.
History Comics: The American Bison: The Buffalo's Survival Tale. Written by Andy Hirsch. Art by Andy Hirsch. 2021. First Second, $19.99 (9781250265838).
Learn all about the American Bison, the last of North America's megafauna and its near extinction as part of the genocidal Native American Wars and its recovery from the brink.
History Comics: The Wild Mustang: Horses of the American West. Written by Chris Duffy. Art by Falynn Koch. 2021. First Second, $19.99 (9781250174277).
Join two prehistoric horses as they explore the history or wild horses in America.
Hooky. Written by Miriam Bonastre Tur. Art by Miriam Bonastre Tur. 2021. Etch/Clarion Books, $24.99 (9780358468301).
Dani and Dorian miss their bus to magic school and don't want to disappoint their exacting parents, so they begin a wild ride of trying to find another place to learn magic. Learning under their aunt leads to them becoming wanted fugitives, so they land in an inconspicuous town with a jealous errand boy, a welcoming soothsayer, and a cute waiter.
Horse Trouble. Written by Kristin Varner. Art by Kristin Varner. 2021. First Second, $12.99 (9781250225887).
Kate loves being around horses, even though her horseback riding skills are less than amazing. But how will she navigate the snide comments of other girls in the stable without her best friend to have her back?
Jo & Rus. Written by Audra Winslow. Art by Audra Winslow. 2021. KaBOOM!, $12.99 (9781684156108).
Two unlikely friends find each other with the help of a mysterious one-eyed cat.
Jukebox. Written by Nidhi Chanani. Art by Nidhi Chanani. 2021. First Second, $14.99 (9781250156372).
Shaheen's dad lives in his own world of vintage and rare vinyl collecting, and every moment of her life has a soundtrack. When her dad does not come home one night, a mysterious Jukebox, old vinyl records, and cryptic notes on music history are her only clues to her father's abrupt disappearance.
Just Pretend. Written by Tori Sharp. Art by Tori Sharp. 2021. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, $24.99 (9780316538855).
Tori’s life has big changes as she enters 8th grade.
The Leak. Written by Katie Reed Petty. Art by Andrea Bell. 2021. First Second, $14.99 (9781250217967).
12- year-old Ruth Keller is an aspiring journalist who finds a mysterious black substance at the local lake.
The Legend of Auntie Po. Written by Shing Yin Khor. Art by Shing Yin Khor. Kokila, $22.99 (9780525554882).
A historical look at life for a young Chinese-American girl working at a western logging camp of the late 1800s, but also a magical dive into how stories and our imaginings of heroes shape the way we view the world.
Living with Viola. Written by Rosena Fung. Art by Rosena Fung. 2021. Annick Press, $22.95 (9781773215495).
Livy's anxiety manifests as a shadowy twin named Viola who criticizes her as she moves to a new school, makes new friends, and deals with the pressure of being the child of immigrants.
Miles Morales: Shock Waves. Written by Justin A. Reynolds. Art by Pablo Leon. 2021. Graphix, $24.99 (9781338648041).
Miles is struggling to balance school, his personal and family life, and the demands of being Spider-man, when an earthquake in his mother's beloved home of Puerto Rico upsets the delicate balance.
The Okay Witch and the Hungry Shadow. Written by Emma Steinkellner. Art by Emma Steinkellner. 2021. Aladdin, $12.99 (9781534431485).
Moth is learning about being a witch, but her mom won't teach her any good spells, especially ones that would fix some of her problems.
The Queen’s Favorite Witch, Book 1: The Wheel of Fortune. Written by Benjamin Dickson. Art by Rachel Smith. 2021. Papercutz, $14.99 (9781545807217).
It's 1563, and nefarious plots are swirling around Queen Elizabeth I, who is newly in need of a royal witch. Meanwhile, young witch Daisy is desperate to get out of her village and do more than sell potions at the market, so she runs away from home to apply for the position.
Séance Tea Party. Written by Reimena Yee. Art by Reimena Yee. 2020. Penguin Random House, $20.99 (9780593125328).
Lora is a middle school late bloomer who feels left behind by her friends until she is reunited with a ghostly companion from the past.
Shark Summer. Written by Ira Marcks. Art by Ira Marcks. 2021. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, $24.99 (9780316461443).
Gayle, dealing with a disastrous softball season, is spending her first summer on Martha's Vineyard. A Hollywood film crew is filming a movie on the island over the summer and is hosting a youth film contest. Gayle meets Elijah and Maddie and between the three they set out to discover the
truth behind the island's own sea monster and win the prize money.
Sue & Tai-chan #1. Written by Konami Kanata. Art by Konami Kanata. Translated by Melissa Tanaka. 2020. Kondasha, $12.99 (9781632369390).
Sue is an elderly cat enjoying her feline years in relative solitude and peace, when suddenly rambunctious kitten Tai-chan comes along, wreaking havoc to her household.
Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas. Written by Sam Maggs. Art by Kendra Wells. 2021. Amulet Books, $21.99 (9781419739668).
Anne Bonny and her crew of female pirates sail the Caribbean, seeking adventure and stealing treasure.
Tidesong. Written by Wendy Xu. Art by Wendy Xu. 2021. Quill Tree Books, $12.99 (9780062955791).
A 12-year-old girl named Sophie is sent to live with her aunt to study hard at magic and gain entry to a prestigious school of magic.