When I was a kid, there was no better way to spend the summer than high up the branches of my favourite tree reading comics. Fast forward a few decades and those comics I loved are now graphic novels but I had never read one until recently. A co-worker suggested I read Giant Days, a young adult graphic novel by John Allison. The premise sounded good: three roommates at university become friends as they adjust to adulthood and life away from home. For whatever reason, I couldn’t get into the series. Before I knew it, my co-worker was challenging me with all kinds of graphic novels. She seemed determined to help me find something I liked and with her help, I did.
I found myself hooked on the Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman. This beautifully drawn teen series follows Charlie and Nick as they meet, become friends and Nick begins to realize his true feelings for Charlie. The series was followed by the Heartstopper Yearbook in 2022. (For more 2SLGBTQQIA+ reads, visit our 2SLGBTQQIA+ Information Guide and Your Next Queer Read.)
My next great find was Pumpkinheads: a graphic novel by Rainbow Rowell and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks. It follows Deja and Josiah, teenagers who have worked at the Pumpkin Patch at Halloween every year during high school. This season is different: Deja and Josiah will soon graduate and move on to university. As their last shift together draws to a close, the two friends take a whirlwind tour of “The Patch” and Josiah races against time to meet the girl of his dreams. Anything can happen on Halloween…
The adorable graphic novels by Bree Paulson, Garlic and the Vampire and Garlic and the Witch, are a fun way for young readers to dive into graphic fiction. Garlic and her vegetable friends Carrot, Celery, Potato and more, have been magicked into life to help Witch Agnes take care of her vegetable garden. The two novels show Garlic overcome first her fear of vampires and then a trip into the unknown as she travels to the Magic Market to gather supplies for Witch Agnes’s latest potion. Both are easy reads and lots of fun (I mean, Garlic really is …garlic!) As we find out in both stories, sometimes our fears aren’t nearly as scary as we expect them to be, especially when we have friends like Garlic does.
My kids are both artists and the colourful spray painted cover of this next book grabbed my interest right away. Ashley is a foster child, a spray paint artist and oh yeah, she’s a superhero too. Her foster mom is a scientist working on a special project. When Ashley mistakes some mysterious vials as spray paint to use for her murals, she develops some pretty awesome superpowers. But when the military discovers their secret project is missing, Ashley must defend her foster family from a dangerous villain. Will she get in trouble and lose her new foster parents? Or will she finally find her forever home? Find out in Primer: a superhero graphic novel.
A genie who just wants to grant his three wishes to a frog? A witch who turns music-makers and singers into farm animals? A wizard who tries to steal another wizard’s magic powers by giving him a pet parrot? Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and Simini Blocker present four unique and hilarious new stories in their collection of fairy tales for young readers, The Singing Rock (and other brand-new fairy tales).
Once I started writing this post, I realized I hadn’t read any adult graphic novels. Did you know there are plenty of non-fiction graphic novels in the library? As a gardener, The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food was a big hit for me. The book takes you through everything you need to know to get started with your own garden and includes great tips on how to plant (and when to plant it), how to test and fertilize your soil and whether sowing seeds or buying plants is best for different types of vegetables. The easy-to-read format features an avid gardener giving a helping hand to his neighbour who wants to start a garden of her own. It’s a great choice for new and experienced gardeners and graphic novel fans too.
I think the graphic novels I liked the most came from author Debbie Tung. Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: an introvert’s guide is full of sweet, relatable cartoons about the perils of socializing, dating and working in a crowded office, but finding out that surprise – lots of people struggle with social anxiety. The black and white cartoons are amazing and I like the way she draws great big eyes on her characters when they are happy or excited. Book Love is just that: a book about books; why the author loves them (more than people), the things she uses as bookmarks (old receipts, junk mail, clothing tags), and alternative uses for books such as “a way to avoid small talk with strangers”. As a book lover and library worker this one speaks directly to my heart. I also loved that she dedicated “Quiet Girl” in part to her husband for letting her “turn him into a cartoon every day”.
I’m currently reading my way through Toil and Trouble, the adorable Marshmallow & Jordan and Flawed. Toil and Trouble is a wonderful re-imagining of MacBeth, told from the points of view of the three witches. As someone who never enjoyed Shakespeare very much, I highly recommend the graphic novel version. Not only is the play told in a more story-like way, the graphic novel format really helps me see the events unfold – literally!
In Marshmallow & Jordan, a young basketball athlete suffers an injury that leaves her in a wheelchair. One day she befriends a mysterious baby elephant and takes her home to her mother who’s a vet. Although Jordan loves basketball, she misses playing alongside her friends. Is Marshmallow the answer she’s been looking for?
Flawed, which was made into a stop-motion short film, is a true story of a woman who falls in love with a plastic surgeon, despite her strong reservations about cosmetic surgery. It challenges everyone to love themselves exactly as they are.
Thanks to my co-worker D.F. for introducing me to a new genre of books. Until next time, happy reading!