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Book Recommendations: Graphic Novels

Let’s talk about graphic novels.

I know a few of you are already wigged out by the term, so let me explain. A graphic novel is any book in which the pictures (the graphics) tell as much of the story as the words (the novel). That’s it, that’s a graphic novel. If you tried reading the words of a graphic novel without seeing the pictures, the story either wouldn’t make sense or wouldn’t be very good. In fact, some graphic novels use only pictures and no words to tell the story. If you thought the term “graphic novel” meant something else, I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.

The other thing I want you all to know is that “graphic novel” describes a book’s format, not its content or its reading level. There are graphic novels written for kids, for teens, and for adults. Graphic novels can be regular novels, or memoirs, or history, or adaptations of the stories from other novels or movies. Some graphic novels include superheroes or fantasy elements. Some are written about everyday people in the everyday world. Some are set in the future, some in the past, some in the present. Some graphic novels have made up stories, others have true stories. If you know that a book is a graphic novel, the only thing you know about it is that the pictures are important—not who would want to read it, not how complicated the words or pictures or storyline are, not who is featured in the story.

I love graphic novels, especially when I’m looking for a quicker read. If you haven’t tried a graphic novel before, here’s a few recommendations to get you started.

El Deafo by Cece Bell— Cece Bell grew up wearing hearing aids, and in this book she shares her memories of what it was like attending elementary school while deaf. This graphic novel is a memoir written at an elementary school reading level.

Bone: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith—This classic series starts with the story of Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone, who are kicked out of Boneville, wander through an uncharted desert, and end up in a beautiful valley filled with amazing creatures and under a threat. This graphic novel is a fantasy story written at an elementary school reading level, and is the first in a series.

Watership Down by Richard Adams, adapted and illustrated by James Sturm and Joe Sutphin—the classic story of survival, courage, and friendship gets an epic update with this graphic novel format. This graphic novel is a retelling of the original Watership Down story, and is written at a high school reading level.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley—While technically a memoir, this book is also a love letter to food, complete with recipes to enjoy! This graphic novel is a memoir written at an adult reading level.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things that Happened by Allie Brosh—If you only read one chapter, read the one called “Dogs Don’t Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving.” If you think things like complicated relationships, mental health crises, and wild geese ending up in your living room should be dealt with using humor and compassion, read the whole book. This graphic novel is a memoir written at an adult reading level with some adult language.

Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle—Not technically a graphic novel, but instead a collection of comic strips about how strange people are told through the use of aliens. Perfect for a quick laugh at humanity’s quirks. This graphic novel is a collection of comic strips written at a high school reading level.

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