Graphic Novels and Comics for Children
By Annabella Costantino, Lauren Gantt, Aimee Haldron and Michaela O’Callaghan
Graphic novels and comics are some of the most popular formats in children’s publishing, partly due to their collectability factor. In this issue, we recommend some titles and explore what makes these books so appealing. Graphic novels and comics have highly illustrative spreads, which invite kids to read an easy-to-follow sequence of events. This makes these books perfect for younger readers, with witty dialogue and illustrations that foreground the reading experience. Creating an association with reading and enjoyment is key for children, so this format is a great way to help kids develop a love of storytelling.
So, what defines a graphic novel from an illustrated book or comic? Comics often have segments of narratives that are serialised, whereas graphic novels are complete narratives, regardless of them being an instalment of a series. Whilst an illustrated book tells a story through words and uses illustrations to complement the narrative, graphic novels and comics use both text and images to portray the story. Here are some of our favourites!
Popularity in Fiction
Arguably one of the most common genres in graphic novels and comics, some of the most popular fiction series have been greatly successful. Not least, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, aimed at readers aged 8–12 and teenagers. Originally published by Amulet Books in 2007, this series has been on bookshelves for many years. With a seventeenth instalment due to be released this October, Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been a source of laughter for children worldwide. Of course, another champion in this market is Dennis the Menace, the superstar character created by Nigel Parkinson. Published by Beano, this comic book publisher has history behind it, serving as an iconic magazine subscription service for children since 1938.
Scholastic, multinational publisher, is home to some of the most popular graphic novels published by its Graphix imprint, including The Aquanaut by Dan Santat, Cat Kid Comic Club by Dav Pilkey and Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi, among others. The growing interest in children’s graphic novels is reflected in award shortlistings. Bumble & Snug and the Angry Pirates, published by Hachette, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Book Awards 2022, a sure sign of the increasing influence of children’s graphic novels. This is a perfect example of a spectacularly silly graphic novel that appeals to younger readers. Of course, graphic novels have also done well in YA. Notably, Long Way Down, illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff, originating from Jason Reynold’s verse novel and winner of the Kate Greenway Medal 2022.
Adaptations of Graphic Novels
You only have to look at Heartstopper (written and illustrated by Alice Oseman), to see how graphic novels can be adapted to screen. This trend can also be seen in graphic novels initially targeted at younger audiences, as well as those that have broad target audiences, like superhero stories and manga. The Hilda series by Luke Pearson, published by Flying Eye, is one to note – particularly when considering the firm Hilda fanbase that has grown over the years. These graphic novels have been made into a successful animated television series and feature film called Hilda and the Mountain King, released last winter.
Over the past decade, superheroes have become incredibly popular. With the releases of films in both the Marvel and DC cinematic universes such as Wonder Woman, The Amazing Spiderman, Superman, The Avengers, Black Panther and countless others, the storylines of these iconic films all originate from comics and graphic novels. Stan Lee (1922–2018) is the writer of a large majority of Marvel comics. Published by Hachette, the popular Marvel Graphic Novel Collection originally contained only forty books, but has since grown to over 200. In the DC comic book world, Jim Lee, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison are among some of the big names behind its stories. The superhero icon is a huge phenomenon in children’s literature, giving young readers a symbol of hope and empowerment.
Manga and Anime
Manga is a style of Japanese comic and graphic novel, aimed at both adults and children. They tend to be printed in black and white, as opposed to full colour like comics, and are read in the Japanese reading direction – right to left. One of the most popular manga series is Naruto, which tells the story of a young ninja who seeks validation from his peers and dreams of becoming the leader of his village. Originally published in 1999, it’s an older series but one that is still loved today with multiple anime adaptations.
Whilst some graphic novels are gloriously silly, this format also has the ability to share different experiences and insights. For example, Magical Boy by The Kao is a brilliant graphic novel for teens about a trans high school student who has to save the world. Meanwhile, Frankie’s World represents neurodiversity with real warmth and Sisters of the Mist explores the complexities of growing up. These 2022 releases hint at the potential of the format to cater for a variety of audiences and themes – we are excited to see what is next!