Top 10 Graphic Novels for People Who Don’t Read Graphic Novels #GNCelebration


I’m joining A Year of Reading, Kid Lit Frenzy, Assessment in Perspective, and other bloggers in a monthlong celebration of what is possibly my favorite format, graphic novels. Every Thursday throughout the month of October, bloggers throughout the kidlitosphere will celebrate graphic novels. To learn more about this event, check out the Top 10 Reasons to Join Us in Our October Graphic Novel Celebration and visit the Google Community.

I’m an inveterate book pusher, and I especially love pushing graphic novels. Graphic novels are simply good for everyone: they’re demanding and complex; they require a full array of reading strategies for comprehension and appreciation; they also happen to provide the visual support that can be so beneficial to emerging readers. Oh yes, and they’re often also great works of art.

Many of my students are English majors who have never read a graphic novel before, and some could definitely be classified as reluctant readers–at least when it comes to graphic novels. Here’s my list of surefire hits to win over even the most reluctant graphic novel reader.


The Arrival was the first graphic novel I ever read, and I quickly realized I was entirely out of my depth. Where were the words? I could get through a 32-page wordless picture book okay, albeit slowly, but a full-length book with no words? Could that even be a thing? This text-dependent reader found herself confused and frustrated, but quickly falling in love with Shaun Tan’s incredible art, quirky sense of humor, and profound story. I learned how to read graphic novels—and how to be a better reader overall—by starting with one of the best.


Page by Paige is the heartfelt story of a teenaged girl discovering herself as an artist. Paige has just moved to New York City with her parents, and she is also trying to find her place in this new and sometimes overwhelming environment. Laura Lee Gulledge finds so many clever ways to portray Paige’s emotional life and her creative frustrations. A great book for everyone but especially for budding creative types.


Stitches is award-winning children’s book illustrator David Small’s memoir of a very difficult and bizarre childhood. He experiences serious abuse from his father, who subjects him to unnecessary X-rays that ultimately cause cancer. His parents don’t tell him what’s going on when he needs surgery, and so he wakes from the operation to find that he no longer has a voice. Literally. Metaphorically, he never did in his family. It’s a very painful story that somehow never becomes too bleak, largely thanks to Small’s art.

march book one

March is the first volume of Civil Rights leader John Lewis’s graphic novel memoir of his childhood and early experiences in the Civil Rights Movement. Nate Powell’s illustrations elevate this already important and compelling story to great art.


Sidekicks is a superhero story with a twist. Our superhero, a bit long in the tooth, needs a new sidekick. Little does he know that his three pets have developed some superheroic powers of their own and decided to audition for the job. They’re well-meaning but a bit inept. It’s glossy and colorful and funny.

roller girl

Roller Girl features some real-life superheroes, roller derby girls! This book introduced me to an entirely new subculture that I’m now just a bit obsessed with. The protagonist, Astrid, goes to summer roller derby camp and falls in love with the sport as she’s also dealing with growing pains in her relationship with her best friend, who suddenly has new interests and other friends.

el deafo

El Deafo is a very specific (true) story of one girl’s experience of becoming deaf, but it also manages to be a universal story about everyone’s childhood and friendships, fears and hopes. The writing is as strong as the art.


Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty is such a hard book and such a necessary one. It’s the true story of Yummy Sandifer, an eleven-year-old gang member in Chicago who accidentally killed a fourteen-year-old girl in a gang shooting and was then shot and killed himself by members of his gang. It’s told through the perspective of a fictional character, Roger, who knows Yummy from school, and has many questions about why Yummy’s life has turned out the way it has.


Boxers & Saints is gorgeous and epic and complicated and it gets under your skin. Gene Luen Yang makes a very complex historical moment comprehensible even to readers with little background knowledge (like me). A book I just can’t stop thinking about, though I sometimes wish I could (that ending!).


Relish is Lucy Knisley’s memoir of her life told through tales of food. The stories are charming and relateable, and the food is usually delicious. There are also recipes, adorably illustrated. While individual episodes in the book sometimes feel slight, overall the book adds up to something much more–an exploration of the connections between food and family, food and memory.



6 responses to “Top 10 Graphic Novels for People Who Don’t Read Graphic Novels #GNCelebration”

  1. Michele Avatar

    For some reason, I did not realize that The Arrival was a GN! It’s a book I’ve been meaning to pick up, but I haven’t for whatever reason. Just put it on hold 🙂
    I do love Roller Girl 🙂 It’s one I want to go back and reread.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s so gorgeous! We had a wonderful discussion about it in my Graphic Novels course this semester too. I want to reread Roller Girl too. I’m looking forward to more from Victoria Jamison.

  2. Tammy and Clare Avatar

    We absolutely loved Roller Girl, El Deafo and Page by Paige. Sidekicks looks like a lot of fun for elementary age readers – We going to give it a try.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Sidekicks is really fun. It’s one that’s turned several of my college students into passionate readers of graphic novels so I had to include it on this list!

  3. […] Top 10 list of graphic novels for people who don’t read graphic […]

  4. moddyscience Avatar

    I just picked up Boxers and Saints from the library and I really enjoy it so far. Some of our most influential American works come from graphic novels and people hardly know it. Maus describes the Holocaust in a way that sickens you and entices you. I’m so glad you posted on this.

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