Comics for Children are usually associated with superheroes, violence or fantasy. The medium has seen a slow resurgence of more diverse topics such as history and the human experience since the eighties.
In 2016 March: Book Three became the first comic book to win a U.S. National Book Award since the awards started in 1950. Another comic book (a.k.a graphic novel), Persepolis, is part of the compulsory high school reading list in my school district.
Comic books provide the visual narrative that children find attractive in movies, yet, unlike movies, it allows the reader to follow the story at their own pace. A good comic writer also knows to leave more room for imagination, in the space between each panel.
Best Comics for Children
This post features a number of such works, that are suitable Comics for Children that are endorsed by educational authorities. Adults will also find these books on Comics for Children delightful and illuminating
1. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain, who is really a hero, in all respects. He gets a new bubbly sidekick, Nimona. Nimona is a shape-shifting monster girl you will fall in love with. Lord Ballister has his own unresolved issues involving his former friend and present antagonist Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. However, it is Nimona who has a more mysterious and dark past. She is somewhere between a child looking for acceptance, and a monster with unimaginable power. Their ‘evil’ adventures are full of energy, witty dialogs and a whole range of emotions. The graphics are simplistic yet brilliant.
Noelle Stevenson (1991-) is an American cartoonist. She has won an Eisner Award for both Nimona and her comics series Lumberjanes. Nimona was a finalist for the National Book award in Young People’s Literature category in 2015. The book is suitable for 7th grade and up.
2. March. Book Three by John Lewis
In 1965, the American civil rights movement made Selma, Alabama, the focus of its efforts to register black voters in the south. The movement planned a 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, which was met with violent resistance by the state and local police. The historic march, and Martin Luther King’s participation in it, greatly helped raise awareness of the difficulty faced by black voters in the South, and the need for a Voting Rights Act, passed later that year.
In 2013, Congressman John Lewis, one of the surviving leaders of the civil rights movement, wrote a graphic novel series in thee parts based on his account of the events. March book three culminates the series with the climactic march.
Nate Powell illustrated the book in black and white. His art and Lewis’ narration brings out the human element in the movement vividly. The book is suitable for 8th grade and up. It won the 2016 U.S. National Book award in Young People’s Literature category and several awards from the American Library Association (ALA).
3. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis tells the story of Marji, a girl growing up in Iran in the seventies. From the age of six, she is witness to a series of turbulent social and political shifts, starting with the end of Shah’s regime, the Islamic Revolution and the war with Iraq. The graphics are in black and white, but the nuances of the story are from that. Her narrative covers the torture and suppression of the revolution as well as the hypocrisy of her communist parents.
The book is an autobiography of Marjane Satrapi, who writes with boldness and draws with dramatic black ink. The book was originally published in France in 2000 where it was an instant hit. It was translated into English by Mattias Ripa in 2003. Book’s acceptance in schools has been controversial. In 2013 Chicago Public Schools ordered its copies to be removed from 7th-grade classrooms. However, it has been included for high school assigned reading in many school districts. It was adapted into a French-Iranian movie in 2007.
4. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Arrival is a ‘silent’ graphic novel. In wordless panels, it portrays the experience of an immigrant in a new land. In bright sepia tone, the images are almost photographic with a vintage look. The animals, plants, and artifacts of the land are fantasy like so that the story is not identified with any particular culture or country. Yet it will appeal to any immigrant, who has traveled away from his land, away from his family, and struggled to find acceptance in a new culture. It is a story of hope, not despair.
Shaun Tan is an Australian writer, artist and also a filmmaker. He won the Academy Award for Best Short Film in 2011 for The Lost Thing. The arrival was nominated for the Hugo Award in 2008. He won many other awards in Australia and elsewhere for The Arrival, The Lost Thing, The Rabbits, Tales from Outer Suburbia and other books.
5. El Deafo by Cece Bell
Cece loses her hearing from an illness at the age of four. This is her autobiographical journey of finding acceptance and normalcy. Her hearing aid tags her as a ‘special’ child, and at the same time, it gives her superpowers. Set in the seventies, in suburban Virginia, the superhero El Deafo grapples with the ups and downs of friendships, that first crush, her parents, and siblings. Drawn in bright colors, the characters are depicted as rabbits. The reader will enjoy and empathize with the emotions of an elementary school girl, and at the same time learns that there is more to the experience of being deaf than they might have guessed. This book is appropriate for 2nd grade and up.
Cece Bell has written and illustrated many other books, including the Geisel Honor book Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover.
6. Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang
‘Boxers’ brings to life the Boxer rebellion(1899), from the eyes of little Bao, a young boy in rural China. He becomes the leader of a peasant army, which rises against the ‘foreign devils’ and their soldiers. ‘Saints’ follow the life of a girl from a nearby village, who devotes herself in the service of the Church, as the peasant army marches on, committing acts of increasing violence. Gene masterfully presents two points of view, telling the story of an episode little known to readers outside of China. This set of two books is appropriate for 7th grade and up.
Gene Luen Yang’s first book, “American Born Chinese”, was a US National Book Award finalist and won the American Library Association’s Printz Award, and an Eisner Award. Boxers & Saints was also nominated for the National Book Award and won the LA Times Book Prize. With Mike Holmes, he co-created the graphic novel series “Secret Coders” which teaches kids the basics of computer programming.
About the Author
Somdip Datta is based in New York. He has published many digital comic books that draw from the Indian legacy in history and literature. His first work, The Illustrated Lilavati, presents the work of the 12th-century mathematician Bhaskara, in a bright and colorful format. He is currently working on a six-part adaptation of Mahabharata, in a digital comic format, which focuses on the key characters, and, with many maps, ties together the geography of India with the multi-cornered historical context of the tale. His books can be found on iBooks, Kindle or google play store.
Thank you Somdip for this lovely post on Comics for Children.
Check out some more children’s books we have reviewed.