Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Year's Best: Nonfiction and Historical Fiction Graphic Novels for Kids and Classrooms

Reflecting on 2013, I thought I'd share my favorite non-fiction and historical fiction kids' grapic novels with you, hoping you'll find ways of incorporating them in your homes, libraries, and classrooms. For those of you interested in a wider reading list, I have also included links by other librarians, educators, and graphic novel aficionados who have listed their 2013 favorites as well. I've included a few outstanding "honorable mentions" in fiction (I just couldn't resist sharing them with you).

Before getting to my lists, I'd also like to thank you all for your visits this past year and wish for all of us that 2014 be a year of peace, prosperity, good health, happiness and success.


March: Book One (Top Shelf), by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. Gr. 6-10. Congressman John Lewis reflects upon his own life, the struggles of black men and women during the 1950s, and how he became involved in the student nonviolent movement in Nashville, Tennessee. [NOTE: Nate Powell also illustrated another book on the Civil Rights Movement, The Silence of Our Friends, which I placed on 2012's Best Graphic Novels list).

 Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas  (First Second), by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks tells how these three women began and followed their careers studying primates and the lessons they learned.

Relish by Lucy Knisley. One thing I loved about Knisley's 2008 memoir, French Milk, was her ability to write and draw about food in a delightful, mouth-watering way. With Relish, she explores her life in the kitchen while sharing some of her favorite recipes!

Historical Fiction

Dogs of War (Scholastic), by Sheila Keenan and Nathan Fox. Gr. 3-7 consists of three different stories set in three different wars: World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. While the stories are fiction, they've been meticulously researched and relayed in rich detail. Each vignette relates the trails and traumas,and dangers the dogs, their handler and fellow soldiers risk in battle, and the tolls the wars took on all concerned.

Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton (Candlewick), by Matt Phelan. Gr. 4-7 is a story molded on silent film star Buster Keaton's early life, while telling a story of young Henry, a boy from Bluffon, Michican and his love for the girl next door.  Henry meets the aloof and enigmatic Buster and a friendship ensues when a vaudeville troupe comes to town. While Henry is enchanted by the glamorous strangers, Phelan hints that Keaton sees something that he longs for in his friend’s more settled life.

Boxers and Saints (First Second) by Gene Yang - National Book Award finalist and two-book set that recounts the Boxer Rebellion (1900) from both sides - that of the Boxers (Chinese peasants who believed they could invoke ancient Chinese Gods/heroes to help them battle Western Imperialism and the Chinese Catholics they converted) and the Saints (the Chinese converts who wanted to  bring peace to war-torn China.

Honorable Mention - Fiction

Monster on the Hill: Book One (Top Shelf), by Rob Harrell. Gr. 4-7
Every town has its own monster in Harrell’s delightful version of Victorian England, and the townspeople enjoy the thrill of being scared.  All the towns, that is, except in Stoker-on-Avon. At the Town Council's bequest, an eccentric doctor agrees to help "fix" their dragon in the efforts of restoring his lost license. The town crier/street urchin yearning for adventure hides away and joins him and together they set out to help their monster find his voice and calling terrifying people again.

Battling Boy - an action-packed story about a 12-year-old demigod  whose rite of passage is to save the monster-pocked city of Acropolis before he can return home, 'a man.' He's up against some overwhelming monsters and odds.

More lists:
    In closing I want to thank you for your visits and comments this past year and send you my sincerest wishes for a happy, healthy, successful 2014 - may it bring us all peace and prosperity to us all.


  1. Have a very Happy New Year & all the best for 2014 ;-)

    Thank you for your visits ;-)

  2. Thank you Meryl for the most interesting and helpful posts this last year.
    I always enjoy coming here and learning new things and methods.
    I am going to pass on your recommendations to friends of mine with younger children.
    Have a wonderful healthy and prosperous new year.

  3. Happy New Year, Meryl...looking forward to more of your reading suggestions in the new year.

    abcw team

  4. There are some interesting books that I will have to look into. Happy New Year from An Arkie's Musings

  5. You have been a tremendous contributor to our little corner of the Internet.

  6. Young children and youthful readers certainly will enjoy this list. Kate, ABC Team

  7. Graphic Novels have become so popular...thanks for informing us on Katie's Favorite Things Blog Hop! I am a journalism teacher so I look forward to reading your writing tips!

  8. What a useful list. We will keep it handy for my kids. Thanks! Happy New Year!