This Best & Brightest list was created by Denver Public Library librarians to celebrate our favorite recently published children's graphic novels. Enjoy!
Catstronauts : Robot Rescue
2nd-4th grade. Humor, Science Fiction. What kid can resist the lure of space travel, especially when robots, cats and robotic cats are thrown in?! In this latest installment of the CatStronauts series, readers will join the intrepid space travelers on a mission to save their beloved Cat-Stro-Bot. When their request to rescue their robot friend is denied, the CatStronauts must use all their cunning and teamwork to pull off the rescue mission undetected. Of course, that requires robotic copies of themselves. Obviously. The exaggerated and hilarious unintended consequences of the CatStronauts’ plan will have kids laughing out loud even as they cheer for the success of the mission. Though the fourth in a series, this full-color graphic novel stands well on its own and will have new fans scrambling to read the others.
Sanity & Tallulah
3rd-6th grade. Adventure, Science Fiction. Best friends Sanity and Tallulah do everything together: homework, lunch, tracking down Sanity’s genetically engineered three-headed kitten. When Princess, Sparkle, Destroyer of Worlds (one name for each head) goes missing, all the grown-ups are convinced the kitten is causing power outages around the space station. Luckily, Tallulah has a knack for getting into places she’s not supposed to be and Sanity is a STEM genius, the perfect combination to figure out the mystery, find their kitten and stop the insidious duct weasels that are destroying their beloved space station from the inside out. This fast-paced, science fiction adventure is packed with witty dialogue and eye-catching illustrations. Using a limited palette of blues and pinks on thick white paper, Brooks employs line, shape and shading to depict the diverse, whip-smart characters and their technology-centric environment.
Mega Robo Bros
2nd-5th grade. Humor, Science Fiction. Alex and Freddy Sharma are adopted brothers who play, bicker and tease one another. They’re also the most complex cybernetic intelligences ever created. In other words, they’re the most powerful robots on earth. They like to play video games and sing songs about poop as well. After a field trip to the natural history museum is interrupted by rampaging laser-eyed dinosaurs, the brothers start to realize someone is trying to kill them, but why? Set in the future, this science fiction graphic novel moves at a rapid pace. The full-color illustrations are grounded in eye-popping red and blue and feature a diverse cast of Londoners. The characters are distinct and the relationships, especially between the brothers, ring true. The first title in an exciting new series that incorporates superhero tropes in an empowering and hilarious manner.
4th-6th grade. Humor, Magical Realism. AJ wants everything to be different in sixth grade, but he still feels like a boring person. Even if he could get up the courage to approach his secret crush, Nia, would she even be interested in talking to him? When AJ learns that Nia loves vampire books and movies, he decides he would be much more attractive if he were a real vampire! What seems like a realistic story of first crushes takes a delightful supernatural twist when AJ and his friends realize there’s an actual vampire in their community. The full-color digital illustrations bring the Portland, Oregon, setting to life with saturated colors and hipster attire. Panels, speech bubbles and text boxes are thoughtfully placed on every page to create a visually stunning and easy-to-navigate graphic story. Gardner excels at depicting complex sibling and friend relationships that grow and change along with the characters. This is an excellent recommendation for tweens looking for a story with a dash of the supernatural, as well as witty banter and true friendships.
My Beijing : Four Stories Of Everyday Wonder
3rd-5th grade. Magical Realism. Originally written in Chinese, this collection of stories features young Yu’er who lives with her grandfather in an old hutong—a narrow lane or alley formed by lines of courtyard homes—in Beijing. Yu’er’s relationship with portly, windy Grampa is the heart of her world. Whether Grampa is rigging a contraption for Yu’er to train with in order to become an Olympic swimmer, introducing her to the musical delights of Bug Paradise, telling the story of falling in love with Yu’er’s grandmother or helping out an old, cranky friend, the intergenerational love between the two is obvious. The watercolor illustrations create a summery atmosphere, a place where a splash of delightful time-traveling magic isn’t out of place in the slightest. Yu’er, a kind, determined, hopeful protagonist, is depicted with a physical disability; she doesn’t have full use of her legs. The significance of most cultural markers (both visual and textual) are made clear through context, although there are a handful of terms defined in unobtrusive footnotes.
Hocus & Pocus : The Legend Of Grimm's Woods
3rd-6th grade. Adventure, Fantasy. Readers are in the driver seat for this fresh, new take on the classic Choose Your Own Adventure style story presented in an attractive graphic novel format. Not only does the reader select a protagonist (Hocus or sibling Pocus) and a magical creature companion, readers can also collect stars, find hidden passages, navigate mazes, play games and solve riddles. Full color illustrations use thick, curving lines and soft shapes to create an enticing world populated by cartoonish characters from Grimm fairy tales. Quest tracking sheets are included to help readers keep track of the magical creatures accompanying them. Originally published in French, this is the first in the new Comic Quests series that will include more Hocus & Pocus series titles, as well as adventures about other characters in other worlds.
Fox + Chick. The Party And Other Stories
1st-3rd grade. Animal Story, Humor. This collection of three stories in graphic novel form features a well-meaning fox and a sly, verbose bird. In the first story, Chick mischievously throws a party in Fox’s bathroom. Next, the friends make soup together. Finally, Fox does some plein air painting, and Chick proves to be a terrible model. This title is great for developing readers looking for transitional books that support them with helpful word repetition and visual context clues. Thoughtful curation of speech bubbles and panel layouts create stories that are visually and textually easy to navigate. The illustrations, rendered in pen, ink and watercolor, use Ruzzier’s signature color palette that is surreal, enticing, strange and friendly all at the same time. The final page hints that a second book of Fox + Chick adventures could be on the horizon.
The Cardboard Kingdom
2nd-5th grade. Fantasy. Illustrated in eye-catching full-color, this celebration of individuality and creativity is truly an ensemble story. The diverse cast of characters is gradually introduced in short episodes written by many contributors. Each child creates his or her own persona to express and deal with things they are struggling with in real life (making friends, parental divorce, separation from parents, moving to a new neighborhood, etc.) In the process, they end up using their special talents to make the kingdom grow. A mixture of dialogue in speech bubbles and wordless panels expand the storyline to encompass the entire neighborhood. By the end of the summer, all the kids realize that their unique strengths are what make their kingdom so magical. This is a fantastic book for readers who like to take traditional stories and turn them both inside out and upside down.
Mr. Wolf's Class
2nd-4th grade. Animal Story. In lively, full-color illustrations and simple text, Steinke tells the sweet and funny story of a new teacher, Mr. Wolf and his class of diverse fourth graders. This group has a strikingly familiar feel to it, embodying the universal experience of being a fourth grader and all the highs and lows that accompany that time of life. From first day of school excitement and jitters to the woes of being line leader and the joys of recess, the fourth graders at Hazelwood Elementary experience it all. This light-hearted and humorous book has wide appeal. Readers will be glad to know that this is only the first installment of what promises to be an engaging series.
Short & Skinny
5th-7th grade. Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction. Can one summer change the entire course of a person’s life? In this middle grade graphic memoir by cartoonist Tatulli, the reader is transported back to the summer of ‘77. With brightly colored panels, Tatulli speaks out with self-deprecating humor about his tweendom struggles. He navigates family dynamics, crushes, body image (a rarely addressed topic for tween boys) and bullies, along with his ultimate decision to define himself by what he is and can be, rather than by what he is not. His first experience watching Star Wars catapults him into the world of filmmaking and his ultimate discovery of passion and self. Though 1977 might, at first glance, seem like a time (if not a galaxy) far, far away, Star Wars, bullies and coming-of-age issues are timeless!
Tiger Vs. Nightmare
1st-3rd grade. Animal Story, Fantasy. Tiger and the monster under her bed are best friends. Each evening Tiger brings Monster a plate of dinner, and then the two play together until bedtime. Tiger sleeps soundly every night knowing that Monster is there to ward off night terrors, until Monster is confronted with a mighty, powerful nightmare with a face like a skeleton. Can Tiger and Monster figure out a way to defeat the bad dream? The digitally assembled illustrations of Tiger vs. Nightmare were created using watercolors on watercolor paper with line work rendered in mechanical pencil. Warm yellows, greens and browns color the daytime hours, while cool blacks, blues and grays depict the isolation of nighttime. White bordered panels alternate with full page illustrations, creating a cinematic effect. Transitional book readers will find a lot of humor in this empowering, universal story about conquering a fear of nightmares.
2nd-4th grade. Adventure, Animal Story. When Francis the donkey, a renowned shoemaker, is contracted to make special footwear for his favorite singer, Miss Manatee, the queen of calypso, he is decidedly thrilled. But when he realizes he does not have the necessary supplies to complete the order, he must find the courage to leave the comfort of his small village and brave the unknown. Varon’s brightly inviting illustrations, many of which were drawn from her own personal experience, transport readers to a village in Guyana, allowing all to experience the universal importance of family, friends and a fulfilling life. Photographs from Varon’s travels, as well as explanations of her experiences, are included as references in the back of this delightful book.