Comics for kids: Graphic Adaptations

Introduction

Graphic adaptations for kids have been around for a long time, originally as adaptations of traditional classics, then as the middle grade graphics genre exploded with Dav Pilkey and Raina Telgemeier, publishers saw a market to expand the reach of popular series. Some adaptations quickly petered out, like the Percy Jackson or Artemis Fowl titles, adapting just one or two of the books in the series, but some series adaptations have taken on a life of their own. Wings of Fire and Babysitters’ Club are popular not only as spin-offs of their original series but as stories in their own right with fans who may or may not have read the originals. Some one-off adaptations, like Hope Larson’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, are labors of love from creators who want to introduce their own favorites to a new audience.¬†The trend of graphic adaptations shows no sign of slowing down and it can be confusing to choose among the many options out there, not to mention making decisions about binding and backlists.¬†Fortunately, we are here to give you the low-down on the best titles to purchase, preferred bindings, and what is most likely to be popular in your library!

A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel

Madeline L' Engle

adapted by Hope Larson

Follow Meg Murray's quest to rescue her father from a dark force in this adaptation of Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time! With a moody blue, black, and white palette, Hope Larson gives readers a faithful adaptation that brings to life the characters' emotions and the science-fiction elements alike.

Appeals to

Adults with fond memories of Meg Murray and the rest of the cast may want to relive their story through the graphic novel. The fact that stays relatively true to the book would make this a great tool to introduce readers to the classic novel.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Animorphs: The Invasion

K.A. Applegate

Chris Grine

Rachel, Jake, Cassie, Marco, and Tobias were walking home one night when what seemed like a shooting star fell incredibly close to them, so naturally they had to go see it. What they find instead of a fallen star is a dying alien, and they are embroiled in an interstellar war. With their new abilities as Animorphs, the friends do what they can to understand what's happening and save their friends and family from the alien invasion.

Appeals to

Adults who grew up on the Animorphs books may enjoy picking up the graphic adaptation as a way to re-visit the series or share it with kids in their lives. Kids who enjoy sci-fi graphic novels like Hilo might enjoy this as a slightly more mature story. The comics do not shy away from the horror elements of the original books, so there is some light body horror but it's well done and doesn't feel too heavy-handed.

Content Notes

Minor body horror

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Anne of West Philly: A Modern Graphic Retelling of Anne of Green Gables

Ivy Noelle Weir

Myisha Haynes

When Anne first arrives, her foster parents, Marilla and Matthew, are not sure whether the exuberant girl is a good fit for their quiet lifestyle. Soon, Anne, Matthew, and Marilla have formed a close-knit family, and Anne is navigating school and friendships in her own, unique way! With vibrant color illustrations a diverse cast, and a warm story, this modern retelling of Anne of Green Gables should not be missed. If librarians find that paperback copies of graphic novels quickly fall apart at their library, there is a hardcover edition!

Appeals to

Readers seeking a heartwarming story about an adoptive family and/or a story featuring smart, passionate female protagonists should pick up Anne of West Philly.

Creator Identities:

Black |

Main Character Identities:

Assumed Black |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Bea Wolf

Zach Weinersmith

Boulet

Listen! This is the story of a kingdom of children in their tree fort hall, beset by the threat of one particularly awful adult, Grindle! Grindle's joylessness knows no bounds, and he won't let them enjoy life. His attacks on Treeheart are merciless, leading to Bea Wolf's arrival, ready to take this monstrous man down.

Appeals to

This is a delightful read for adults familiar with the original story of Beowulf, and likely are who the interesting essay in the back about how the comic was made is for. The essays can also serve as instruction in the classroom since they talk a bit about Old English and language, how comics work, and other fun topics. Bea Wolf is also a great pick for kids who enjoy a challenging read or comics with dynamic, funny visuals because there's merit in reading this one while focusing on the art rather than the words. Bea Wolf is a comic someone could start reading as a kid and keep re-reading over time, getting something new each time.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly

Jordan Quinn

Glass House Graphics

Ruskin, a popular dragon character from Quinn's long-running Kingdom of Wrenly series, stars in his own graphic novel spin-off. Previously a pet of the Prince of Wrenly, Ruskin sets out on his own adventures to battle villains and save the kingdom with the encouragement of new friends and allies, including other dragons.

Appeals to

This will appeal to fans of the original print series, but even more to young dragon fans in general, especially those not ready to tackle Wings of Fire. The reading level of these books is an intermediate or beginning chapter book, appealing most to 2nd-3rd graders. It's not necessary to read the original print series, and librarians who don't want to venture into a twenty-volume, traditional fantasy will do just fine purchasing this series on its own. The paperback bindings are sturdy, but the books are available in hardcovers if desired.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Enola Homes: The Graphic Novel

Serena Blasco

Based on the novels by Nancy Springer, this series follows Sherlock Holmes's younger sister Enola as she tries to chart her chart her own path as a detective and find her missing mother. When Enola's mother disappears on her 14th birthday and not even the illustrious Sherlock Holmes can not crack the case on where she went, her two older brothers decide the best course of action is to send Enola to boarding school. To avoid a fate of corsets, ringlets, and finishing lessons, Enola steals off to London on her own to become a "perditorian" -- the one who divines that which is lost.

Appeals to

Fans of a fierce female sleuth like Goldie Vance will love reading about Enola's adventures.

Content Notes

Mild Violence

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Graystripe's Adventure

Erin Hunter

James L. Barry

Back in the days of Tokyopop and about five years after the publication of the first Warriors books, the creators and publishers capitalized on the popularity of manga, and a seemingly endless fantasy series about feral cats, to create a number of original English language manga spin-offs. Fast forward about twenty years and Warriors still continues to regularly pop out new adventures of the charismatic cats and the creators have also branched out into multiple other animals. The original Warriors books (and manga) are a staple of many adult's beloved childhood reading and while Tokyopop is no more, HarperCollins has revived and republished the manga spin-offs, now in color. Like anything involved with the Warriors series, it's a little tricky to track down the exact titles, but thankfully the most current editions are now available in collected volumes and in prebound editions, very necessary if you are purchasing the colorized editions.

Appeals to

Warriors fans, of course, will devour these - both those revisiting their childhood favorites and the new generation discovering the addicting series for the first time. The manga, which all consist of short stories spun off from the main books, can also be read as stand-alone by comic fans of animals and fantasy who don't want to tackle the original books.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Heroes in Training

Joan Holub

Glass House Graphics

This adaptation of Holub and Williams' popular myth-based fantasy starts with Zeus as a boy, going on adventures and getting into trouble, and adds a healthy dose of magic, excitement, and age-appropriate humor. David Campiti adapts an adventure of the (male) Greek heroes in each volume, offering readers an opportunity to revisit a favorite series or discover it for the first time.

Appeals to

Readers who were into the original series, published from 2018 to 2021, have almost certainly moved on to more complex titles. However, new readers who are eager to find a myth-based fantasy on their reading level will be pleased to discover a graphic novel edition on offer. This is strictly for beginning and intermediate readers as it offers little nuance and the main draw, outside of the fast-moving plot, is the heavy dose of Dav Pilkey-style humor.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

I survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871

Lauren Tarshis

Cassie Anderson

I Survived, a historical fiction series focused on various disasters, was first published in 2010. It took a few years to take off but quickly became a staple of classrooms and chapter book collections. The books are short and packed with action, and the historical events, usually told from the perspective of white male and occasionally female characters, are realistic enough to be dramatic without focusing on any truly uncomfortable or gruesome aspects of history. In 2020, Graphix started producing graphic adaptations of the books in order of their publication, starting with the first and arguably most popular, I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912. It's difficult to find accurate information on who adapted each book and the illustrators vary from title to title. From a literary and historical standpoint, these aren't particularly notable and most librarians will prefer to steer readers to the more historically accurate and inclusive Girls Survive or Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales. However, a major reason for the existence of graphic adaptations of popular series is, quite simply, that they're popular. Kids reluctant to pick up a book will devour these and with the rapid growth of graphic novels for young readers they will naturally look for a comic version of their favorites. Regardless of the actual quality, most librarians will want to have these on hand, preferably in prebound editions.

Appeals to

Reluctant and struggling readers and fans of the original series. Although the length of the books implies beginning chapters, even sanitized, the graphic novels do depict historical disasters and most libraries will want to recommend them to third-grade and up, or middle-grade readers.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Magic Tree House

Mary Pope Osborne

Kelly Matthews

Readers who grew up with Magic Tree House are unlikely to feel interested in revisiting the series, but new readers hungry for graphic novels will be delighted to have a graphic novel version of the popular beginning chapter series available. The adaptation is faithful to the original series, illustrating the adventures of Jack and Annie as they travel through time and space in the Magic Tree House.

Appeals to

Beginning chapter readers who are also graphic novel fans are the primary audience for this adaptation. Really serious fans might enjoy revisiting Jack and Annie's adventures in graphic format, but most will be content with choosing their preferred reading material and sticking with that, for as many titles as are currently available.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy

Rey Terciero

Bre Indigo

In this modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy want their father to come back from the Middle East. In the meantime, the sisters all have their personal journeys to take...with the help of their sisters, of course! Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy maintain the close sibling dynamic so central to the original novel while updating the setting and some of the characters' arcs. With vibrant illustrations and a focus on a multiracial family, this fresh new take will help the Little Women's story find a new audience!

Appeals to

Readers seeking strong stories about siblings should pick this one up. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy will also interest readers looking for thoughtful stories about families confronting illness, injury and exploring queer identity.

Content Notes

This story includes racist comments and portrayals of cancer treatment; in both cases, the characters are supported in dealing with these things.

Creator Identities:

Black, Latinx |

Gay |

Agender |

Main Character Identities:

Black, Multiracial |

Lesbian |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Mr. Corbett is in orbit

Dan Gutman

Jim Paillot

Fans of the long-running My Weird School will be thrilled with an all-new graphic novel version. Featuring all the jokes, goofy adults, and silly situations of the original series, the graphic novels add full-color illustrations. Readers will be excited to see A. J. and his friends from Ella Mentry School in a new medium and handling an even more ridiculous crisis.

Appeals to

Fans of the original My Weird School series and its multiple spin-offs will be quick to grab this new series off the shelf. Die-hard graphic novel fans who have resisted trying the original series are more likely to be willing to tackle this more heavily illustrated version as well.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Sea Sirens

Amy Chu

Janet Lee

L. Frank Baum, author of the Oz books, wrote many spin-offs but most have (justly) faded into the mists of time. Amy Chu and Janet Lee have managed to take the inspiration of two rather twee characters and create an exuberant and fantastical adventure that overshadows the original. Vietnamese-American Trot and her one-eyed cat, Cap'n Bill, find themselves transported into a fantastic but dangerous underwater world with gorgeous art, exciting adventures, and a contemporary twist of family issues. These are most likely to be of use to libraries with large graphic novel collections who are looking for more variety and diversity in their fantasy offerings.

Appeals to

This will appeal most to kids who like light fantasy comics, not lengthy epics, including fans of Hildafolk, Oz graphic novel adaptations, and Pico's Aster.

Creator Identities:

Vietnamese American |

Main Character Identities:

Vietnamese American |

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Super Turbo

Edgar Powers

Glass House Graphics

Readers can now follow the wacky adventures of Super Turbo and his class pet sidekicks in graphic novel format. The original series, a mix of text and black and white comic panels is reworked with expanded color illustrations and text adapted primarily as dialogue.

Appeals to

Kids who enjoy goofy adventures but aren't ready for middle-grade titles like Dog Man will be happy with this series. Librarians looking to expand their beginning chapter offerings with a variety of formats will want to consider purchasing the color graphic novels instead of the original, black and white titles.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

The Baby Sitter's Club

Ann M. Martin

Raina Telgemeier

Adapting the well-known series by Ann M. Martin, The Baby-Sitter's Club graphic novels follow the exploits of Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey, the founding members of the Baby-Sitter's Club as they deal with juggling babysitting gigs, middle school, and family drama. Through it all, the Baby-Sitter's Club has each other!

Appeals to

Older readers looking to revisit a childhood favorite and younger fans of some of the graphic novel giants that have worked on the adaption like Raina Telgemeier and Chan Chau will find something to love here.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

The Dragonet Prophecy

Tui Sutherland

Mike Holmes

Tui Sutherland knows what kids like, and her wildly popular Wings of Fire fantasy series was a no-brainer to adapt into a graphic novel series. That continuing adaptation, with a seventh book slated for release in 2024, is as popular as the original series, and ardent fans eagerly devour both formats. The graphic adaptation, supervised by the author herself, is faithful to the original plots, fleshing out the colorful dragons, their adventures, wars, families, and friendships with colorful art and brisk dialogue. Librarians with a significant population would do well to purchase these in replaceable prebinds as the heavy use and slick pages limit their shelf life in paperback or hardcover.

Appeals to

While this graphic adaptation will appeal to fantasy comic lovers, and some kids prefer to stick with the comics and pass over the original text books, the main audience is Wings of Fire fans. These are often voracious readers and will reread the original books and adaptations over and over again while waiting for a new installment. Many of these fans cross over with the Warriors series (which also includes graphic adaptations), and that's no coincidence as Sutherland is an editor and occasional author for that long-running franchise as well. These are also a must-have for reference in Wings of Fire-based programming and inspiration for young dragon artists.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

The Giver

Lois Lowry

P. Craig Russell

Jonas lives in a community that many might be tempted to call utopian; everyone is happy, people do fulfilling work to keep the community happy and well, and children are cared for. When Jonas is given the job assignment of Receiver of Memory though, he starts to question the world he grew up in and whether it actually is so perfect.

Appeals to

While I don't think graphic adaptations should be read instead of the original for the purpose of school assignments, I do think that this adaptation works really well to help readers understand this very visual story and could be used as a partner text. Otherwise, this is a fantastic way to experience the story of The Giver for someone curious about this classic, because Russell's work on the art truly gives weight to the story beats.

Content Notes

Infant death, depictions of war

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

The Lightning Thief

Rick Riordan

Attila Futaki

The Lightning Thief had been out and about for about 5 years when the first graphic novel adaptation appeared. This was a simple adaptation of a popular property, much like the original film adaptation, created mostly as a bonus for fans and to extend the series' popularity. However, as Riordan's work has continued and expanded, the quality of the adaptations of this series and the Rick Riordan Presents imprint has improved and this original title is slated to be "refreshed" and rereleased in the fall of 2023, coinciding with a new Percy Jackson adventure and the release of a new streaming adaptation.
Whether librarians will want to purchase the new edition depends on their Rick Riordan fans; are they eager for anything connected to the original series or happy to move on to the new worlds (and comics) of Rick Riordan presents like Tristan Strong and Aru Shah? If added, it would be well to wait for a prebound edition to be available as the slick pages of the original did not hold up well to even light use.

Appeals to

Fans of the original Percy Jackson series, spin-offs, and related titles.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

L. Frank Baum

Skottie Young

Whether or not kids have ever read the original Oz books, Shanower and Young's adaptation, filled with weird characters, truly creepy villains, and all the original flavor of Baum's work, still finds an audience. While staying true to the episodic nature of the originals, Shanower smoothly connects the stories and transfers the prose into comic dialogue while Young's atmospheric art will surprise readers expecting a cute little fantasy world. The original collections are out of print, but the individual-bound issues can still be purchased through prebind publishers like ABDO. The creators adapted the first six Oz books, ending with The Emerald City of Oz.

Appeals to

Middle-grade readers looking for something different, who enjoy quirky fantasy and strong female characters will be happy to pick this up. Hand it also to readers who like a little bit of the creepy in their comics as well as very dry humor.

Recommended by

Jennifer Wharton

Comics for Kids: Summertime

Introduction

School’s out for the summer! Dive into these kids graphic novels featuring summer camps, mysteries, and neighborhood hijinks.

Be Prepared

Vera Brosgol

Vera doesn't need to look very hard to see all the reasons that she doesn't fit in. Her single mom doesn't have the money to buy her trendy dolls or clothes that her friends have, she has to cram all of the girls into her small room when she has sleepovers, and all the other girls from school go away to camp every summer, something else her mom can't afford. When Vera hears about a Russian camp at her church, one that the church will help them pay for, she thinks this is her ticket to having something in common with the girls she goes to school with. But Russian camp is not like the summer camps she had heard about from her peers. At Russian camp you speak Russian, learn about Russian history, practice survival skills, stay up throughout the night defending the camp from invaders (the boys' camp), and there is no indoor plumbing. But over the course of the summer, Vera learns a lot about herself and how to make meaningful friendships.

Appeals to

Readers of Svetlana Chmakova and Raina Telgemeier will love this summery slice-of-life story.

Creator Identities:

Russian-American |

Main Character Identities:

Russian-American |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Camp

Kayla Miller

When Olive and her friend Willow go to sleepaway camp, Olive eagerly throws herself into making friends and the camp activities. Willow, however, struggles to fit in with the new campers and clings to Olive, who soon becomes resentful. Can their friendship survive camp?

Appeals to

Readers who like the realistic friendships and colorful art in Roller Girl will enjoy Camp and the other Olive books.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Long Distance

Whitney Gardner

Not only is Vega dealing with moving from Oregon to Washington and thus leaving her best friend behind, but now her best friend stops talking to her. And to make matters worse, Vega's dads decides that signing her up for summer camp is the best way to get her to make friends. All of Vega's fears seem to come true as things at the camp get weirder and weirder, but when it turns out the answer actually is that it's aliens the adventure kicks off. By the end of it all, Vega not only saves her campmates but also makes a new group of friends.

Appeals to

Long Distance's mix of science fact and fiction is a great choice for readers that like a little fantasy in their fiction, as seen in comics like Jukebox or Living with Viola. There are so many comics that are either heavily fantasy/sci-fi or very set in the real world, it can be hard to find recommendations for kids that want something in-between. I also love that we see Vega's parents in the comic as actual presences with their own worries and struggles, even if that's only on the fringes of the story.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Shark Summer

Ira Marcks

Gayle's got enough on her plate with an injured arm, possibly ruined baseball career, and her mom trying to open an ice cream business, so the last thing she wants to deal with is a movie crew coming to town and taking things over. But newcomer to town Elijah's enthusiasm and curiosity, plus the prize money for a movie-making competition, pulls Gayle out and learning about Martha's Vineyard's myth of the phantom shark. This leads the two to Maddie, and this unlikely trio learns to trust each other over the summer while making their film. Besides, it's all just stories, there can't be a real ghost, right?

Appeals to

There's horror, there's discussions of film-making, there's local history: this comic's got a little bit of everything. Of course, it is also very much referencing the movie Jaws, so if for some reason there's a middle-grade reader out there who loves that franchise this will be a hit. But the search for the truth brings to mind comics like The Leak, and the supernatural elements can appeal to readers of comics like The Aquanaut. Also worth noting: there is a deaf side character in the adult cast, with signing on page. He's only in one scene, but it was exciting to see nonetheless.

Content Notes

Some fake blood, fake severed limbs, and sharks.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer

Gillian Goerz

Jamila Waheed agrees to hang out with Shirley Bones so that she can go to the local basketball court instead of science camp. However, she soon finds herself intrigued by the fact that several neighborhood kids visit Shirley for help with various issues, and her eccentric acquaintance (friend?) has a knack for resolving them. When Oliver asks for help finding his missing gecko, Shirley and Jamila find themselves with an exciting mystery that will test their dynamic.

Appeals to

Kids who like stories like Roller Girl and Kayla Miller's Click series might want to give this one a go, especially if they are interested in detective stories! The story does a good job of capturing an eccentric detective in the the vein of Sherlock Holmes while also describing relatable and realistic relationships and situations kids might face.

Content Notes

Brief discussion of childhood cancer and bullying

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Wait Till Helen Comes

Mary Downing Hahn

Meredith Laxton

Adaptations from one format to another can be hit or miss, but this one is an absolute hit. Laxton and Badgett's illustration work adds to the tension and terror of Hahn's story, bringing it to a new generation of kids. It keeps the core story of an unhappy blended family pushed unexpectedly into the country one summer by parents who seem to think this will help. The house and area are immediately creepy, and Molly's bratty stepsister Heather doesn't help matters. Things escalate until Molly ends up saving Heather from a ghost, and the whole family begins the healing process.

Appeals to

Though there is an actual ghost in the story, Wait Till Helen Comes is also very much about how not addressing past trauma can affect our behavior and prevent us from moving forward. As such, it's great for readers that enjoyed stories like Lost Soul, Be At Peace, The Sleepover, or Lighter than My Shadow. The actual ghost elements mean this comic is also a great choice for readers that like to be scared but don't want any super scary monsters or especially terrifying imagery as might be found in Goosebumps or Five Nights at Freddy's. There are bones towards the end of the comic, but they're treated with sympathy rather than fear ultimately.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Witches of Brooklyn: S'More Magic

Sophie Escabasse

Effie is (reluctantly) off to witchy summer camp where she and her fellow campers learn how to connect to nature and magic. Effie's a bit out of her depth, and that is not just because of her new powers and the dragon!

Appeals to

Readers who enjoy magic-filled adventures such as the Okay Witch and Lumberjanes will enjoy this book in the Witches of Brooklyn series.

Recommended by

Megan Rupe