Happy holidays, everyone! I’ve been asked several times by friends with kids what comics I recommend for them, and I thought I would make a list of some of my favorites to recommend!
A few disclaimers:
- I don’t have kids. That seems like an important disclaimer.
- I haven’t read everything on this list.
However, I do lots of reading of reviews and most of these are award-winning in one area or another.
I’ll try to divide these up by traditional gender slants (meaning things that deal more with “girl” or “boy” issues) but please understand that books are for everyone and gender has nothing to do with it. I’ll also try to mention roughly what ages you can look to and a general genre idea.
Nimona, one of my favorites! We follow Nimona, training to be a sidekick to the villain Blackheart, who’s a lovable sweetheart secretly. There’s medieval culture (heroes, knights, castles, dragons), plus science, magic, and a bit of political intrigue. It’s silly, sad, funny, unexpected, clever, and heartwarming. Grades 7+ because things get a bit dark in the end.
Lumberjanes, the story of 5 girls’ friendship at summer camp. It’s silly, cute, witty, and unexpectedly heartwarming. The girls face supernatural spookiness and it’s honestly a blast to read. Bonus points: age-appropriate, positive representation of LGBT+ identity! Grades 5+.
Bird Boy, a beautiful story of culture, growing up, and meeting expectations. Banned from the ceremony to prove he’s a man to his tribe, 10-year-old Bali sets off on his own to prove himself and gets more than he bargains for. Armed with a legendary sword, he’s off to meet gods and magical creatures to keep the sword out of evil hands…learning about what being an adult really is in the meantime. Grades 4-7.
Bigfoot Boy, the story of a normal city boy who finds himself immersed in woodland magic far beyond what he expected. It’s not your normal superhero story, and it’s very cute and relateable. Grades 2-5.
I Kill Giants, a sweet story about the benefits and limits of living in a fantasy word. Barbara loves playing fantasy games so much that she starts to believe she does all the things her character does; this story looks at her growing up, coming out of her shell, and is a real candid look at coping with life. It’s emotional, powerful, bittersweet. Grades 7+?
Lowriders in Space, a space adventure featuring science and a look into Spanish culture and language, with a glossary in the back. Grades 4-8.
Bee and Puppycat, the super cute, super sassy, super funny comic adaptation of the show you can watch here. I love it as an adult, but it’s approachable for younger people too. It’s lots of cutesy colors but I don’t think boys would be deterred. It’s very Adventure Time-y. Grades 4+.
In Real Life, a beautiful, interesting little story about video games and the real people behind them. Anda loses herself in an online multiplayer game where she can be a badass, but meets a boy who breaks the game’s rules to make real money to feed his family. She learns that good and bad are not as simple as maybe she thought. It’s a great look at cultures clashing, poverty, gaming, and perspective; it was a really deep, unexpected, yet-still-approachable read. Grades 9+ according to Amazon but I’d say 7+.
Anja’s Ghost, a coming of age story where Anja makes friends in the form of a ghost! It’s a little spooky (read my review here) but it’s very sweet, sincere, and I don’t think it would really scare kids. Grades 5+?
Ghosts, a tale of sisters, coming of age, and ghosts! This book explores family, culture (the girls are half Mexican), death, and illness–one of the sisters has cystic fibrosis and this book is a great sensitive way to teach kids about chronic illness as well. Grades 4-8; tale of two sisters so perhaps female-leaning.
Ms. Marvel, a super charming superhero story of the young Kamala Khan. She’s following in her idol Captain Marvel’s footsteps while figuring herself out. Bonus points: she’s a Muslim superhero! Grades 6+? (Adults could love this story too.)
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, featuring the smartest person in the Marvel universe: preteen Lunella and her actual real dinosaur. I’m in love with this series, honestly; Lunella is a great role model for girls (especially girls of color, because Lunella is a smart, capable black girl) but boys could also love this story. (It has a dinosaur!) Grades 5+? Again, timeless. (If the Amazon doesn’t give me an age range I’m just guessing and marking it with a question mark, ya’ll.)
Gotham Academy, which is what it sounds like…a school for young superheroes! (And no, I don’t mean Professor X’s school for his X-Men.) Bonus points: there’s a Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy crossover! Grades 7+ (according to Amazon but I think that’s a bit high).
Power Up, by Kate Leth who never disappoints. A pet store owner, a busy mom, a goldfish, and a manly man team up in this unpredictable superhero team. It’s cute, heart-warming, silly, and tackles real topics like gender norms (our manly man hero’s powers are decidedly pink and Sailor-Moon-esque and no one bats an eye), sexuality, and friendship. Grades 7+.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, featuring the quirkiest, silliest, ever-lovable Squirrel Girl! Her power sounds silly but don’t underestimate her! A superhero comic with plenty of silliness. Grades 5-7.
Princess Princess Ever After, an utterly adorable webcomic collected in full here. On the surface it’s about princesses, but it’s honestly about smashing the boxes that tell you who you have to be. Two princesses bond together against an evil sorceress, vanquishing the notions of what strength has to be. (Is it being squishy and emotional, like Sadie? Or tough and badass like Amira? Amira, by the way, is another badass girl of color.) Grades 3+.
Princessless, a super-empowering cute story of Princess Adrienne. In typical fairy tale style, her father locks her and her sisters away in towers guarded by dragons. Adrienne gets tired of watching princesses fail and rescues herself–and sets out to save her sisters! A nice flip on the script, very cute, featuring a spunky and lovable knight-in-training (who again, is a badass black girl and awesome role model). Boys could definitely be into this but girls will see an awesome change of the helpless princess dynamic. Grades 4-7.
Space Dumplins, a tale of friendship, loyalty, and adventure…predictably, in space! Spunky, lovable Violet is on a mission to rescue her father along with her band of cool alien friends. Grades 5+. (Related: Zita the Spacegirl, Grades 3-7; Cleopatra in Space, Grades 4-7).
A Wrinkle in Time, the classic novel adapted into comic form. If you have trouble getting your kids to read, this could be a great way to get them paying attention–tell them the characters from this story continue in novel form later. It’s always been one of my favorite series honestly. Grades 6+.
Bone, a classic graphic novel that kids have been growing up on for decades. Seriously, it’s ranked one of the best graphic novels of all time. Grades 3+.