2019 Comics for Kids You Should Keep an Eye On
All right, folks. Time for a round-up. We’re almost halfway through the year, so why not take a gander at some of the great graphic novels/comics for kids out so far (or about to come out)? You know I love my round-up posts, and what could be better than rounding up some seriously eclectic titles? I have read a LOT of 2019 comics so far. These are the eighteen that I’ve enjoyed the most. Let’s see if you agree (and if you can name any I haven’t seen yet that you absolutely adore):
Apocalypse Taco by Nathan Hale
A late night run to McDonalds goes terribly wrong. Two kids and a teen find themselves in a surrealistic nightmare, and must figure out who to trust in this delicious, horror graphic novel. And it is horror. Straight up surrealistic horror for kids, so don’t be handing it to any 5-year-olds. We just don’t GET a lot of truly weird books for kids these days. Nathan Hale’s been holding out on us. I will warn you that this. Gets. Weird. Like, cannibalism/people made out of teeth or arms / bee poop weird. I love it.
Camp by Kayla Miller
Click by Kayla Miller
You know that kid that gets along with everyone? That’s Olive. She has loads of friends, so why is she utterly alone when her friends group up for upcoming the variety show? Sometimes the person you click with best is yourself. I’ve been reading a lot of dark, older comics for kids and I think I was getting a bit burned out. Click, in comparison, is light and fun and just wonderful. It’s about a girl finding out what she does best, and it eschews all the usual tropes (mean friends, bullies, etc.) in favor of simple feelings like standing out from the crowd and feeling left out. I just exhaled in relief when I read it. Then I read the companion comic, Camp, and I was just as impressed. We’ve seen a lot of pretty horrific camp-related comics over the years (Chiggers, Be Prepared, etc.). What’s interesting about Camp is that Olive is still the kind of person who gets along with everyone but her friend at the camp, Willow, isn’t that way and has become incredibly clingy. I can’t pick just one of these two! Both of you books? Get onto this list, and pronto!
Dugout: The Zombie Steals Home by Scott Morse
The Bad News Bears meets Monster Squad. Stacy and Gina may be twins but their rivalry in baseball makes them enemies. When Gina puts a spell on Stacy’s glove the end result is a goofy baseball-chasing zombie that turns out to provide the best practice the team’s ever had. Can I tell you how much I love this book? I mean, zombies and sports are not new to the children’s book scene (anyone remember Zombie Baseball Beatdown?), but what I really respect about this book is that the sports element isn’t just tagged on there. Essentially, this is a baseball book that just happens to have a big old zombie in it. And the sports stuff really and truly works. I loved the writing and the humor especially. One of my top contenders this year.
Glitch by Sarah Graley
Izzy and Eric have been waiting FOREVER to play the new video game Dungeon City together. But when Izzy gets literally sucked into the game, she’s going to have to choose between her “friends” both real and virtual. Oh, I like this! We’ve seen the old sucked-into-a-video-game motif since the days of The Last Starfighter and Ender’s Game, right? What makes Graley’s book a little different is that its heart is really based on the idea of what it means to be a good friend. I liked how the book embraced its own logic without hesitation. And sure, you never really find out WHY the game has the powers that it does (or if other players of it are in trouble) but unless Graley is gearing up for a sequel (which she could, if she wanted to) it’s unimportant. Very fun.
Guts by Raina Telgemeier
If you didn’t know that Telgemeier had a new book out this year then you’re probably not a children’s librarian or bookseller. This one concerns anxiety, something I’m pretty sure a lot of kids can relate to. Until now the biggest comic talking about anxiety was the wordless Small Things by Mel Tregonning. Fans of Smile and Sisters will not be disappointed.
Lupin Leaps In: A Breaking Cat News Adventure by Georgia Dunn
This just in! Elvis, Lupin, and Puck are three cats brave enough to bring the latest in Cat News. Whether it’s spiders, houseplants, a new baby, or the cats upstairs (what are they DOING up there?) these intrepid reporters are here to give YOU the story. This is a newspaper comic series turned into a book, and I always have complicated emotions about that when I consider these titles for my lists. I would be mixed on it, were it not for the fact that it makes me laugh. Hard. So hard that I was reading it in my bedroom and my husband called up, “Why do you keep giggling?” Georgia Dunn knows cats, yes, but even if you don’t like them you’ve gotta adore the funny stuff at work here.
Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo
Your eyes do not deceive you. This is indeed an updated edition of Little Women. And the way Terciero tackles it, it adapts amazingly well. The girls now live in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn where their mom is a nurse and their dad is servicing in Afghanistan. Jo and Meg are stepsisters and Beth and Amy came after their parents married. Laurie’s next door, Beth gets cancer, Jo’s gay, so there is a LOT to go through. After reading this book my daughter was actually quite interested in the original Little Women too. And, let me tell you, it’s loads better than those cinematic updates we’ve been seeing in the theaters. The best proof that it’s good? You really wanna bop Amy upside the head much of the time. So. Right there.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
Packed with biting satirical humor and inventive imagery, this thought-provoking graphic novel stars 7th grade budding cartoonist Jordan Banks who becomes the “new kid” at a posh private school where he is one of the few students of color attending. The issues the guy is tackling here are intense, insightful, and biting. This is the book we’ve been waiting for, as far as I’m concerned. I like to call this one “Microaggressions and All Out Racism: The Book!” A necessary title.
Nico Bravo and the Hound of Hades by Mike Cavallaro
Where do gods get their goods? From Nico Bravo, of course! That’s why, when a headstrong ancestor of Beowulf comes in looking for a sword to kill off Cerberus, Nico has to set off to stop her before she causes a zombie apocalypse. Don’t worry. This one contains a whole slew of different mythologies in here, not just the Greeks and Romans. There’s a really peculiar unicorn/Vietnam subplot at work (I honestly can’t describe it any better than that) but it doesn’t really distract. Me? I liked it a lot. Different from everything else I’ve seen.
The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner
Some kids might be freaked out if they found out at age 13 that they were a witch. Not Moth! She can’t wait to use her new powers, but first she’ll have to tackle a tricky past that refuses to let her family go. While the idea of a girl discovering that she’s a witch and has powers isn’t necessarily new, this is a nice fresh take. Steinkellner has a keen sense of humor, which is a true asset when writing a book of this sort. And with her animation background the art really pops. It’s a strong graphic novel field this year, I’ll be the first to admit, but we should bear this little number in mind. In terms of tone, it sort of reminded me of The Prince and the Dressmaker.
Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths by Graham Annable
Everyone’s favorite fast-moving sloths are back. When a hurricane does away with their tree, Peter, Ernesto, and the rest of the slothy crew must find a new home out there in the big, wide world. Basically, this is what it would feel like if Ernie and Bert were sloths and had adventures (a weird description but I’ll stand by it). It may be a sequel but it stands on its own and, honestly, I think it’s even better than the first Peter & Ernesto.
Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen
Two girls meet in a wood. One is human and one is not. A clever delving into the monsters inside of us and how we deal with them. And what a pleasant surprise! Comics are becoming such repositories for metaphors these days. I swear that half the time the monsters can never be just monsters. This book also reminded me a lot of Small Things last year, what with the personification of bad feelings. Very fond of the art and writing and my kids were big fans. Definitely a contender.
Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis
For Margaret, growing up on an island of nuns has been the only life she’s ever known. So when dispossessed ruler Eleanor (dethroned by her own sister) comes to stay, the kid finds herself wrapped up in a tangle of secrets, lies, and unexpected truths. It is also chock full o’ nuns! I don’t know if the world was crying out for a lightly fictionalized retelling of Queen Elizabeth I’s years in hiding while Mary ruled the throne, but if it wasn’t it should have been. What we have here is a loving telling of what it’s like to grow up on a beautiful island with loving nuns, only to have the world encroach not just on the people you love but also on what you thought you knew to be true. Due to its size and some of its complexity, someone asked me if this would be more for teens. After long consideration I think I would slot it firmly in the kids section. This is probably because Margaret, its heroine, is such a real kid. Funny and gripping and tragic and lovely all at once.
The Singing Rock and Other Brand New Fairy Tales by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and Simini Blocker
What do a singing cow, a spell-casting parrot, a stressed out genie, and a vain ogre all have in common? They’re all collected in this comic-style collection of original fun fairy tales, that’s what! Tested this one out on my kids and while they liked all of them the clear favorite was The Sorcerer’s New Pet. I’m a sucker for fairy tales rendered into a comic form.
Stanislaw Lem’s The Seventh Voyage by Jon J. Muth
Muth adapts an old Stanislaw Lem short story into a comic. The end result is a wackadoodle treatise on time travel and how we are our own worst enemies. If you’re not confused while reading it, you’re doing it wrong. The question here is not whether or not this book is amazing. It is. Completely. No, I guess the question (again) is whether or not it’s for kids or teens. Not because it’s inappropriate or anything. It’s just ruddy complicated. In the end, I think it’s for kids because you are SUPPOSED to be confused by it. That’s actually the fun. And I love that Muth modeled the hero on Stan Laurel of Laurel & Hardy fame.
Stargazing by Jen Wang
Fans of The Prince and the Dressmaker rejoice! With record speed, Ms. Wang produces a comic that’s of the personal memoir ilk. Quiet Christine is nothing like bold, brave Moon. Yet upon meeting one another the two become instant friends. Moon claims to be from the stars, and there is something different about her, but it’s only when Christine starts to become jealous of her friend that the truth finally comes out. A simpler affair that Wang’s previous book for young readers, this is definitely the kind of book to hand to the fans of Hale, Telgemeier, Brosgol, and the like.
This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews
Every year on the Autumn Equinox Festival, the people of Ben’s town drop paper lanterns into the river. This year Ben is determined to discover where they go. Only he doesn’t expect his travel companion to be awkward Nathaniel, nor to find a world of talking bears, magic, tiny suns, and more in this dreamy adventure. Such a strange, marvelous, epic and dreamlike journey. At some point the internal logic of the book takes over so that when the heroes say they’re going to circumnavigate the globe, by gum you believe them. All you need are a couple Rice Krispie treats in your pocket and you’re good to go. Beautiful to look at and the emotions ring so true. A standout.
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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