Graphic Novels: a reading list

Here are some books Susan and I like. You may use these lists (in addition to our PPT presentations) as a starting point as you begin incorporating graphic novels into your curriculum.
Please note: this list does not mention Maus, Persepolis, The Arrival and The Watchmen, which are all awesome. The list of graphic novels below was created in response to a request for title suggestions for lit circles. The teacher already has the above mentioned “usual suspects,” as she put it. You should have them too. (I’ll write a brief review of these four at some point and add it to this list.)

For grades 8-9:

1) American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang – this title is an absolute must-have! We’ve done it twice for bookclub at Christianne’s Lyceum and it has proven to be great for discussion. Themes include identity, racism and prejudice.
2) Good As Lily
by Derek Kirk Kim & Jesse Hamm – the art isn’t the most initially appealing, but the story is great. Girls will tend to want to read this title more than boys…
…so to counterbalance that, you may want to look at Kingdom Come by Mark Waid & Alex Ross, which is a DC superheroes story arc that pits hero against hero with the line drawn by philosophical (as much as physical) conflict.

Honourable Mentions (if you have time to feel out a few more titles, I would definitely suggest also looking at the following):
Castle Waiting
by Linda Medley
Seven Sons
by Alexander Grecian & Riley Rossmo
Fagin the Jew
by Will Eisner

For grades 10 (give or take a year):

1) The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot – an important novel about a young girl’s struggle with the psycho-sociological effects of sexual abuse, and eventually overcoming them in order to take charge of her life. Juxtaposed with the life and stories of Beatrix Potter.
2) Pyongyang (or Shenzhen) by Guy DeLisle – non-fiction travelogues about a French animator’s experiences in Pyongyang, North Korea and Shenzhen, China, respectively.

Honourable Mentions:
by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
Three Shadows
by Cyril Pedrosa
Ghost World
by Daniel Clowes

For grades 11-12:

1) Pedro and Me by Judd Winick – biographical; Judd’s relationship with an HIV-positive man during their months on a reality TV show, The Real World. A wonderful story.
2) Malcolm X by Andrew Helfer & Randy DuBurke – biographical graphic novel about the life of Malcolm X. Very informative and is crafted in a way that many readers un-used to reading graphic novels would find welcoming.

Honourable Mentions:
Louis Riel
by Chester Brown
Signal to Noise
by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean
by Peter Milligan & Mike Allred
The Sandman
by Neil Gaiman & Various (Dave McKean)
V for Vendetta
by Alan Moore & David Lloyd
Fables created
by Bill Willingham

A Few Recommended Teachers’ Professional References:

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud — a great book to have in acknowledging and tearing down so many of our prejudices when approaching the graphic novel medium. Also, if you want to talk about what goes on in your head (ie. active readership), this book is a must-have! (There are three titles in this series: Reinventing Comics and Creating Comics, but they focus more on the “how-to” aspect of the industry.)
Panel Discussion (interviews with masters of the craft)what’s talking about graphic novels without talking to the creators and storytellers! I found some interviews very insightful.
Graphic Novels in Your Media Center by Allyson and Barry Lyga — notes from a teacher-librarian in the USA who uses graphic novels. I like their variety (ie. gr. 2-10; western and eastern graphic novels) and some of their activity ideas.
In Graphic Detail by David Booth and Kathleen Gould Lundy — exclusively available to educators through Scholastic Education. The approach in this book is particular to using comics in classroom activities. I wasn’t a huge fan of the examples used; that said, the two authors are well-known educators and have the most experience working with Canadian teachers and librarians.

One Response to Graphic Novels: a reading list

  1. Thanks for the suggestions. There’s another GN which is Canadian and part of a series. It’s called Ghost Stories by Jeff Lemire ( and worth having a look at… esp. for Can cont. reasons, but it stands alone well enough.

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