I love this time of year. I love the twinkling of lights, the excessive amounts of tinsel, the trees, and the endless holiday movies. And, I also love thinking about different gifts I could get for those around me. As an author and avid reader, a lot of the times my first or second thought is a book. And I love the idea of the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóðið, or “the Christmas book flood”. On Christmas Eve, everyone gets a book. All so you can all curl up together to drink warm beverages, eat tasty treats, and dive into another world. Even if Christmas isn’t the holiday you celebrate, if the idea of spending a night reading a good book with your children appeals to you, and you are looking for a new book for them here are a few graphic novels you could try.
The first is Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel and illustrated by Christopher Steininger (HarperCollins, 2023). This is one of my all-time favourite books. I was a child when the novel came out and I actually voted for it to win the Silver Birch Award. Once I had kids of my own, I tried to introduce them to it. But anything Mommy loved as a child must be weird. So they refused to touch the book. But then, I received a copy of the graphic novel. My boys read it about 20 times in two days. Every time I looked they were reading it. So believe me when I say it is very good.
If you don’t know the story, Silverwing follows the story of Shade, a young bat as he takes his first trip south to the hibernaculum. Along the way, a storm blows him off course and away from the rest of his colony. But, while his journey is filled with new friends, like Marina, it is also swamped with dangers. From owls who want war, to blood-thirsty bats of the jungle, to rats in the sewers. Again, this is a great story, and it is an absolute delight to see it brought to life by Steininger’s illustrations. For ages 8 to 12.
If bats aren’t your children’s first choice, perhaps they would love to read graphic novels about robots. In that case, I recommend Rover and Speck: This Planet Rocks! by Jonathan Roth (Kids Can Press, 2022). In this cute graphic novel, Rover lands on a new planet and starts to explore. At first, all Rover can find is rocks. But, before getting too discouraged, Rover tries a new tactic and searches for metal and uncovers Speck, who is a rather nervous robot. Together they continue to look around until they find the planet’s rather rocky inhabitants. This is an adorably ridiculous story about robots and rock people. And Roth has sprinkled random facts about rocks, space, and robots throughout. For ages 7 to 10.
The third of the graphic novels for you to consider is Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis (Walker Books, 2019). The illustrations in this graphic novel are gorgeous. Story aside, I love slowly flipping through the pages and just admiring all of Meconis’ work. But while the images are fabulous, don’t just ignore the story. As someone who loves historical fiction, this book is fantastic. Now to be clear, it is not actually a true history, the author herself admits that she “cherry-picked a few events from the real history of the British Isles” and then created a fictional world around them.
This novel is about a young girl named Margaret, an orphan girl, who grew up in a convent off the coast of Albion. She loves it and dreams of becoming a nun one day, until a new inhabitant arrives. That’s Eleanor, the former queen of Albion who was ousted by her sister and determined to reclaim her throne. Readers will find themselves swept along, much like Margaret, in this tale of political intrigue, secrets, and love. All as Margaret strives to discover who she really is and what crime a baby could have committed to land her in prison for life. For ages 10 to 14.
The final book of the graphic novels I want to recommend is Buzzing (A Graphic Novel). Written by Samuel Sattin and illustrated by Rye Hickman (Little, Brown, 2023). Unlike the other books in this list, this story might be the easiest for your children to identify with. Because this book takes place in a school. Isaac, a 12-year-old boy, struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). And his intrusive thoughts, which are illustrated as big fat mean bumble bees, constantly distract him and put him down, which makes everything, including making friends, hard.
One day, things start to change: a group of kids invite him to play Swamps & Sorcery with them. Unfortunately, creating friendships isn’t like rolling a natural 20 to protect his mind. He finds himself needing to prove to his mother, and to himself, that he can quiet the bees buzzing around him. This graphic novel is a great look at OCD and the struggles that the individual and their siblings face when it rears its nasty head. If you are worried that your child might struggle with intrusive thoughts, even if it’s not to the extent of OCD, why not pick up this book and read it through with them. For ages 8 to 12.
As the holidays approach, I know I intend to make time to curl up on the couch with my kids, some hot chocolate, and lots of blankets so we can read books together. And I hope you are able to find some peace and quiet to enjoy a book with your family too.