12 Graphic Novels Elementary Schoolers Love
by Janssen Bradshaw
When I was an elementary school librarian, graphic novels were one of my favorite tools for helping reluctant readers get excited about checking out a book.
They tend to be small and paperback and they can seem much less intimidating than a traditional novel. The illustrations help guide the story along and they are usually much less text-heavy.
And even great readers can benefit from the opportunity to use their brains in slightly different ways, piecing together the story through both words and images.
Plus, they’re just fun.
When I took over the library, there wasn’t a single graphic novel on the shelves, so I got to start a collection from scratch. Here are some of the ones that were most beloved among my 600 students. Best thing is, each book listed below begins a whole series, so once a kid gets hooked, there are many more adventures to be had!
Pizza and Taco: Who's the Best?
Kids in grades 1-3 will get a kick out of this early graphic novel where two favorite foods battle it out. Pizza and Taco go head-to-head to convince each other that they’re the superior snack. If your kid likes this book, check out the rest of the books in the series, too.
Max and the Midknights
Get ready for a hilarious medieval escapade from the author of the Big Nate series! Max wants to be a knight more than anything else, and when her uncle gets kidnapped by an evil king, she gets her chance. Max and her friends embark on an uproarious quest filled with missteps and shenanigans to save her uncle.
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute
The Lunch Lady books were the first graphic novels I ever read, and I was instantly enamored. A mild-mannered meatloaf server by day, Lunch Lady uses all sorts of special modified kitchen gadgets to catch bad guys when she’s not on duty. The stories are funny and clever and the illustrations are done in black, white, and yellow, an eye-catching combo.
Max Meow Book 1: Cat Crusader
Unexpected superpowers create unique challenges for Max and his best friend Mindy in this funny and adventurous graphic novel. In this series starter, Max must win back his best friend and save the kingdom from an evil overlord. It’s perfect for kids who love reading superhero stories filled with action and humor.
Donut Feed the Squirrels
Newly independent readers love this award-winning early graphic novel for kids in grades K-3. Norma and Belly want a donut, but to get one, they have to steal it. The two squirrels plan and carry out one failed heist after another, with the delicious donuts staying just out of reach.
Babymouse: Queen of the World!
Poor Babymouse. In her mind, she’s queen of the world with everything going her way. In real life, things aren’t quite so simple. These are the perfect introductory graphic novels for younger elementary school readers.
This graphic novel series is silly, quirky, and weird in all the right ways. It’s about two bug friends who explore their village and learn about nature and friendship. It’s perfect for kids who enjoy humorous stories sprinkled with realistic elements.
Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth
Kids who like superheroes, mutant robots, and humor will love every book in this graphic novel series. When Hilo crashes to earth, D.J. and Gina find him and help him acclimate to human life. But space robots have also landed on earth, and it’s up to the three kids to stop them and save the day. Plenty of humor, action, and full-color artwork make this series a must-read!
Squish: Super Amoeba
Squish loves comic books, and inspired by his favorite hero, Squish is off to save the world from the forces of evil. Or so he thinks.
Batpig: When Pigs Fly
Readers with a healthy sense of humor will be in stitches as they read this graphic novel about a young pig with superpowers. From the radioactive bat bite to the spandex suit, Gary’s action-packed adventures in crime-fighting are exciting and funny.
Ham Helsing #1: Vampire Hunter
Kids can’t get enough of this gut-busting monster-hunting adventure! Ham Helsing gets tasked with hunting a vampire—even though he’s done his best to avoid the job. Readers of all ages will devour this hilarious graphic novel over and over again.
It’s bad enough when you're a dragon who can’t breathe fire. It’s even worse when you get an F on your science paper. Danny Dragonbreath’s teacher tells him he has to redo the paper and so he and his friend Wendell head to sea to conduct research to see if they can earn an A this time around.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2022.