Comic-Book Kids: Finding Chapter Books for Your Graphic Novel Fans

Graphic novels can be a great way to get kids interested in reading. The visually-driven format and fast-paced plots compete well with T.V. shows and video games, encouraging kids to put down the screens and pick up a book. While some parents may be concerned that these stories don’t count as “real” reading, graphic novels do teach important skills. As discussed in this article by Scholastic, they can help grow kids’ vocabularies and improve their reading comprehension.

Even so, many parents want their children to move into the world of chapter books and middle-grade novels, too. Chapter books help build focus skills, getting kids used to longer works. They also expand young readers’ experiences by exposing them to different kinds of stories. Finally, from a purely practical standpoint, chapter books keep kids entertained longer! As kids work their way through the graphic novel section of the library, it can be difficult to find more for them to read that’s still appropriate content-wise. By adding chapter books to a reader’s diet, parents have an easier time keeping up with their voracious appetites.

For all these reasons and more, parents want to bridge the gap between the different formats. So, how do we go about this?

How do we find chapter books for kids who love graphic novels?

  1. Focus on themes they enjoy.
    • Do they like humorous graphic novels? Stories about super heroes? Mysteries? Those same elements will be what attracts them to stories in other formats.
  2. Look for shorter chapter books with lots of illustrations.
    • If your young reader struggles with big blocks of text, transitioning slowly will help. Books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Geronimo Stilton will get them used to stories told primarily in the text, while still offering plenty of visual appeal.
  3. Consider the book’s intended age range.
    • Try to look for stories that are geared toward a similar age range as the books your child is reading. For example, The Magic Treehouse books, which are short and highly illustrated, might sound perfect for your 9-year old. But if she’s currently reading graphic novels like Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi or Smile by Raina Telgemeier, the content she’s used to is for an older audience (around 5th-7th graders). In these cases, consider stories where the main character is a little older than your child, as well as books which have a little more meat to them.
  4. Try fast-paced, dialogue-filled, and/or action-packed books.
    • Graphic novels tend to move quickly, by nature of their format. Descriptions are replaced with illustrations; dialogue does as much work as the narration, if not more. So if you’re child loves graphic novels, avoid books with slow starts or lots of time spent on description.
  5. Check out readers advisory services, such as Novelist Plus.
    • If your library has access to the Novelist Plus database, or other readers’ advisory services, you can input your kid’s favorite criteria or search for titles similar to what they’re reading. This can be a great way to find good fits that you might not hear of otherwise.

To get you started, here are a few book recommendations:

For these examples, I looked for books that might interest fantasy fans. The main stories I used as my starting points are the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi, Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke, and Wings of Fire by Tui Sutherland, which are super popular graphic novels at my library.

1. Books with Similar Themes: Matches for the Amulet Series

100 Cupboards shares the theme of gateway fantasy with the Amulet series. In both stories, ordinary kids move to a new home and find an entrance to a strange and magical world. The main character in each book also discovers they have hidden powers (through a secret heritage for one, and through an amulet for the other). This book is an easier text geared toward grades 4-7, although it’s lacking in illustrations. It’s great for kids more focused on the story elements than on the pictures.

The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan– When Arthur and Rose’s grandfather vanishes without a trace, the twins must travel to the magical land of Roar to rescue him. In both The Land of Roar and Amulet, siblings get caught up in incredible adventures with mythical creatures to save the adults in their lives. With some full-page illustrations and smaller graphics scattered throughout, The Land of Roar boasts more visuals than 100 Cupboards, although it’s still not highly illustrated. Recommended for grades 3-7.

2. Shorter, Highly Illustrated Books:

In An Army of Frogs, a young frog dreams of becoming a warrior and defending the Amphibilands from the dangerous spider queen and her scorpion troops. This action-filled book is full of colorful illustrations which lend it the quality of a graphic novel. Short chapters and a large font make it a quick read, sure to delight fans of animal-focused fantasy worlds.

3. Books With the Same Intended Age-Range: Based on Mighty Jack

Both The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier and Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke are boy-centric stories where ordinary kids face strange creatures appearing in our world. The Last Kids on Earth is an apocalyptic story full of zombies and monsters, whereas Mighty Jack is a modern retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. Despite their different themes, I’ve paired them together as stories full of adventure geared toward kids in grades 4-6, appealing especially to boys of this age.

4: Fast-paced, action-packed books:

Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke is a fun, lighthearted story about a young girl who wants to be a knight. When her magician parents accidentally turn themselves into pigs, and their castle comes under siege, it’s up to Igraine to save the day. A constant flurry of activity keeps the reader engaged from start to finish in this humorous tale. Recommended for grades 3-5.

5. Books Found Using Reader’s Advisory: Based on Wings of Fire

Wings of Fire by Tui Sutherland actually has both a graphic novel series and a chapter book version. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (yes, I’m partial to this author) is a great recommendation for fans of either version of Sutherland’s series. It tells the story of a dragon, a brownie, and a human boy searching for a safe land for dragons to call home. This colorful adventure is easy to read, despite it’s longer length, and is recommended for kids in grades 4-6.

Join the Conversation:

What are some of your children’s favorite books? Do they prefer chapter books or graphic novels? What are your favorite books to recommend to young readers? Share in the comments below!

  • Disclaimer–I haven’t personally read all of these books, so I can’t vouch for all of their content in terms of story quality or the core messages/ worldview portrayed in them. I just know that they’re all pretty popular at my library branch.

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