How can one summarize the tastes of older kids and adolescents, let alone select a small list of graphic novels and nonfiction books we think that all of them will love? That’s downright impossible. And yet we have some confidence that in compiling this list of the best graphic novels for children and teens of 2020, we have chosen at least one that your kid will enjoy.
Parents and educators used to discount comics as cheating. Though they thought visual art had value, and books for kids had value, they failed to see the value of words when combined with visual art once you got past the 1st-grade reading level. We are so glad that stigma is slowly but surely seeping away. Now, adults are allowed to wax poetic about Spider-Man, Watchmen, and Fun Home, and children are encouraged to check out books from entire corners of the library filled with graphic novels, graphic history books, graphic autobiographies, and whatever other genre might go nicely with panels of illustrations and a thought bubble or two.
That makes this job both easier and harder. There is so much to choose from, even just looking at the first half of 2020, that we can’t possibly call this an exhaustive list of all the best graphic novels for kids. We can tell you that this is a list of new graphic novels that includes some humor, both basic (see The Sewer Rat Stink) and angsty (Becoming Briana). There are middle-grade and YA fantasy books and novels with just a hint of magical realism. We’ve included new installments of popular graphic novel series (Phoebe and Her Unicorn: Camping With Unicorns) and a new graphic version of long-beloved middle grade series (Baby-sitters Little Sister: Karen’s Roller Skates). And it includes some voices we haven’t always heard much of in the kid-lit world: from gay Black superheroes to Somali refugees to aging witches. There’s a mystical tale of a Chicana rocker and a down-to-earth story of a blended family working the farmer’s market. There are true stories from modern times and almost-true stories from long ago.
There is a common thread going through all of these, whether they’re still under the radar or already popular graphic novels for kids: These stories bring children into new worlds and keep them turning those pages until the very end. That’s perhaps what today’s librarians and English teachers have learned that their predecessors didn’t notice. Having pictures doesn’t make these books any less worthy of our kids’ attention, it just makes them dive a little deeper into someone else’s imagination, if only for an afternoon.
Take a look at our list of the best graphic novels for kids of 2020 so far, and drop us a comment if there’s something great we’ve missed.
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