Travel the world through kids graphic novels

Graphic novels are more popular than ever with young readers, and the growing selection of titles includes translated works and stories set in far-flung places. Take a trip around the globe by reading some of our favourite graphic novels for kids.


A Different Pond by Bao Phi & Thi Bui

A father and child go on an early morning Minneapolis fishing trip in this simple and affecting story by acclaimed poet Bao Phi and graphic novelist Thi Bui (The Best We Could Do). Even though it’s the weekend the father has to go to his second job after they fish, and they’re not fishing for fun but because ‘everything in America costs a lot of money’. While they eat sandwiches around a campfire, the father tells his son stories about his home country of Vietnam. Based on Phi’s childhood memories, this award-winning graphic novel conjures up the delights of early morning adventures with a parent, and the continuing challenges faced by refugees in a new country. For ages 6 and up.


Akissi: Tales of Mischief by Marguerite Abouet & Mathieu Sapin

Experience all the excitement of being a little kid in a small West African town in this excellent collection of short comic stories about the irrepressible Akissi. Author Abouet draws on her own childhood in the Ivory Coast port town of Abidjan to deliver a series of funny and farcical misadventures starring Akissi, her friends and her brother Fofana: fetching a fish, adopting a stray baby, ruining a soccer match, deliberately contracting head lice and sneaking into a movie. These hair-rising and hilarious vignettes are illustrated in vibrant colours, and with loving detail. Translated from the original French. For ages 7 and up.


The Dam Keeper by Robert Kondo & Dice Tsutsumi

Sunrise Valley is peaceful and pleasant, but danger looms nearby in the form of a sinister black fog. Young Pig is in charge of the mechanical Dam that keeps the fog at bay; his father built the Dam and taught Pig about its operation before walking off into the fog alone. Unpopular Pig is conscientious in his role as dam keeper, but when a freak fog event occurs he is thrust into the world beyond the valley with his only friend Fox, and school bully Hippo. Based on an Oscar-nominated animated short film of the same name, The Dam Keeper is engrossing, painterly and unsurprisingly cinematic. Moving between light and dark, joy and despair, danger and safety, this is a sweet, emotional story of bravery and friendship conquering loneliness and fear. The Dam Keeper: World without Darkness is the second graphic novel in the planned trilogy. For ages 7 and up.


My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder by Jun Nie

The first graphic novel by established Chinese artist Nie Jun to be translated into English presents four sweet and nostalgic stories about young Yu’er and her devoted grandfather, set in the bustling hutongs of Beijing. Yu’er (who uses a cane to walk short distances) imagines what it would be like to swim in the Special Olympics, visits a secret place full of musical bugs with her friend, finds out about her grandfather and grandmother’s early romance and wins her way into the heart of a grumpy artist. Reality mixes with fantasy and whimsy in these gentle ink-and-watercolour tales, which also contain details of traditional Beijing life, like laundry hanging out to dry, dragon roof decorations, old bicycles and women preparing vegetables out in the streets. For ages 8 and up.


Peter in Peril: Courage and Hope in World War Two by Helen Bate

Peter is a six-year-old Jewish boy living in Budapest during World War Two. At first the changes Peter’s family experience during the year 1944-45 are slow. Their maid Roza can no longer work for them. They must wear yellow stars. They occasionally seek shelter from bombs. They pack up their most valuable possessions and leave them with neighbours. They have to move several times and he must leave his toys behind. Eventually Peter and his cousin Eva are separated from others in the family to live in the Children’s House. With a clear layout, balanced text and illustration, and careful choice of details delivered through Peter’s naive perspective, this 46-page graphic novel/picture book hybrid is a good book to share with younger children who have inquired about the Holocaust. For ages 7 and up.


Onibi: Diary of a Yokai Ghost Hunter by Atelier Sento & Marie Velde

Two adventurous young French tourists, Cécile and Olivier travel to the seaside town of Niigata in Japan, hoping to capture evidence of yôkai – ghosts and spirits and other supernatural beings from Japanese folklore. Equipped with a special camera that will supposedly capture the spirit world, Cécile and Olivier travel around the area visiting temples, forests and various other natural and spiritual places that are rumoured to host ghostly activity. Along the way they meet plenty of locals with their own tales, eat local delicacies, and yes, meet cute and creepy creatures. This graphic travelogue is rendered in gorgeous watercolour, creating a dreamy and otherworldly atmosphere that conveys the charm and beauty of Japanese rural life. Translated from the original French. For ages 9 and up.


The King of Birds by Alexander Utkin

Enter a labyrinth of Russian folktales and myths in this thrilling graphic novel that’s narrated by the human-faced bird prophet Gamayun. Gamayun tells the story of how a golden apple started a brutal war between animals and birds. The King of Birds emerges victorious but wounded, and seeks refuge with a kindly merchant, promising him a reward for his protection. Once the King recovers, he travels with the merchant to retrieve what he has promised, only to discover that his bird sisters are really not that keen to relinquish their mysterious prize. The King of Birds is full of the oddness, treachery and greed that a reader expects from a good fairytale, and the story continues with The Water Spirit. For ages 10 and up.


Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

High-school student and talented artist Priyanka has always had questions about her family’s history, but her single mother refuses to tell her about her father or why she moved from Calcutta to the US. When Priyanka discovers a magical scarf in a suitcase, it allows her access to a fantastical technicolour version of India, complete with a helpful talking elephant and bird. An invitation from her aunt and a win in a cartooning contest finally allow Priyanka to journey to the real India, to explore her cultural heritage and uncover truths about her family’s history. This gorgeously illustrated graphic novel creates a sense of wonder and discovery, as well as exploring dual cultural identities and constraints placed on women’s lives. For ages 10 and up.

Leanne Hall is a children’s and YA specialist at Readings Kids. She also writes books for children and young adults.

Akissi: Tales of Mischief

Akissi: Tales of Mischief

Marguerite Abouet, Mathieu Sapin

$24.99Buy now

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