Our favourite graphic novels & comics for kids in 2019
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be compiling a host of gift guides to help you with your Christmas shopping.
Kids graphic novels are more popular than ever, with a wide variety available across age groups, reading level and genres. Here are some of the children’s graphic novels and comics that have impressed us this year.
Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt and Peanut Butter and Jelly by Ben Clanton
For ages 6 and up
Narwhal (a narwhal) and Jelly (a jellyfish) are the best of underwater friends. Narwhal is a little bit silly and Jelly is quite sensible, which makes for lots of capers in these utterly charming junior graphic novels. Whether they are attempting to turn themselves into superheroes, creating a secret identity, obsessing over waffles, or eating peanut butter for the first time, Narwhal and Jelly are brimming with adventure, jokes and fun.
Each book contains a series of short manageable stories and a scattering of ocean facts. These are the perfect introduction to graphic novels; the character design is simple and very cute, the text is bold and contains repetition and the use of panels is basic and great for beginners.
The Adventures of Anders by Gregory Mackay
For ages 6 and up
Anders, Bernie and Eden are intrepid animal friends who have adventures that are exciting and, at times, surreal. They meet the mysterious Green Grabber in the forest. Stairs, doors and tunnels lead to surprising new locations. They enjoy an inordinate amount of flying around: by spaceship, gyrocopter, beetle (!) and blow-up castle.
Everyday play activities like cubby-making, swimming and camping, sit alongside the fantastical elements seamlessly in these adorable comics, leading to the feeling that anything is possible. Originally released as separate stories in black-and-white, these three Anders adventures are now available in full-colour and a single bind-up volume.
Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery by Renée Treml
For ages 7 and up
Sherlock Bones is a talkative tawny frogmouth skeleton who has a best friend, Watts, a taxidermied (and not very talkative) parrot. Together these unconventional detectives set out to solve the mystery of a stolen blue diamond. This offbeat graphic novel takes place entirely inside a natural history museum, and cleverly incorporates lots of interesting facts about the natural world into the mystery narrative.
With distinctive black-and-white illustrations, goofy characters and a format that maintains interest and readability, this is a thoroughly original Australian graphic novel.
Guts by Raina Telgemeier
For ages 8 and up
Bestselling author Raina Telgemaier’s honest, funny and heartfelt stories are a significant part of the reason kids graphic novels are currently in a boom phase. Guts is her latest autobiographical graphic novel, in the vein of Smile and Sisters.
Raina wakes up one night with a stomach ache. At first she thinks it’s a stomach bug, but when it persists her mum takes her to a therapist who helps Raina overcome her gut problems. This inspiring story charts Raina’s worries about food, school, and changing friendships with laughs and empathy.
Supers by Frédéric Maupomé & DAWID
For ages 8 and up
Siblings Matt, Lily, and Benji have been left behind on planet Earth, without parents and far from home, doing everything they can to fit into their new schools. The three kids have superpowers but can’t agree on whether to use their abilities for good, or keep them hidden away. Even though they’re from another planet, their problems are very relatable; they struggle with sibling tensions and fights, school bullying, fitting in, hiding their true selves and doing what’s right by others.
Book one in a series, Supers was the winner of the first ever Youth Award from ACBD (the French Association of Comics Critics) and it’s a wonderfully thoughtful superhero book with plenty of action, believable family issues and absolutely gorgeous and lush watercolour artwork.
Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai
For ages 9 and up
When Jingwen moves to Australia with his mum and little brother Yanghao, it literally feels like landing on Mars. English is impossible, attending his new school is overwhelming and he misses his dad, who had wanted to open a cake shop. To fight off the loneliness, Jingwen and Yanghao turn to secret cake baking, using their dad’s recipes.
This hybrid debut novel uses traditional prose coupled with illustrations - from small cartoons and speech bubbles to full-page comic-style panels - to great effect. Lai perfectly balances funny and absurd moments with Jingwen’s struggles. Looking at immigration, family and grief, this is an exceptionally sweet book, with the added benefit of a rainbow cake recipe at the end!
Stargazing by Jen Wang
For ages 9 and up
Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic… and unlike anyone Christine has ever known. But after Moon moves in next door, these unlikely friends are soon best friends. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret: that she has visions, sometimes, of celestial beings who speak to her from the stars. When the real cause of Moon’s visions becomes apparent, Christine has to dig deep to be the friend that Moon needs.
The cosy world of tweens comes across so clearly in Stargazing, with the two best friends bouncing between school, church, music practise, Chinese lessons and tutoring. Friendship, parental expectations and cultural identity all come across as a natural part of Moon and Christine’s story.
Ubby’s Underdogs: Return of the Dragons by Brenton E. McKenna
For ages 10 and up
It’s the late 1940s and the Western Australian pearling town of Broome is still recovering from WWII. Ubby, a smart, street-wise Aboriginal girl, and her gang of Underdogs make a desperate bid to locate their missing friend Sai Fong. As they enter the Forbidden Zone on the WA coastline, the Underdogs have to outstrip their human mercenary foes as well as an evil and unearthly enemy that threatens all of humanity.
This is the third book in the Ubby’s Underdogs graphic novel series created by Yawuru artist Brenton McKenna. The Ubby books contain a unique blend of history and Aboriginal and Chinese mythology, as well as some classic fantasy-adventure tropes. The finale is truly epic – with fast-paced action, high stakes, a large cast of characters and a fiercely-fought battle against evil.
Sincerely, Harriet by Sarah Winifred Searle
For ages 10 and up
Harriet is thirteen and has just moved to Chicago with her parents. School hasn’t started and her parents work demanding hours, so Harriet is left alone for long periods of time in her new home, with only books and her overactive imagination to entertain her. She attempts to connect with others by writing letters to an old summer camp friend and visiting elderly Pearl downstairs, but her loneliness and chronic illness hold her back at times.
The illustrations in this graphic novel are sweet and pastel, and it has a gentle plot that highlights the comforts of reading, the benefits of writing as a creative outlet, and the relief that can come with the sharing of one’s problems and fears.