With the nation largely on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic a lot of us are suddenly finding ourselves thrust into an unexpected role as we stay home with our children: teacher. If you’re like me, you’re doing your best with what you have available while you muddle through whatever the school district can send home to help. (You’re doing great, by the way.) You’re also probably looking for new ways to keep your kids busy and get them excited about learning.
That’s where this list can help.
We’ve put together a list of non-fiction graphic novel series for young readers. It includes some of my all time favorite series and I hope it will be of use. Also, while this list was made during in this particularly hard time, it will be just as useful months and years from now. As parents we always want to keep our kids engaged and learning whether it’s during a world-wide pandemic, a long weekend, or just the summer holidays. There are lots of great graphic novels and series here to help the kids pass the time.
I love First Second’s Science Comics series. There are nineteen books out currently with at least three more of them in the works and they cover a wide variety of topics. Is your son interested in animals? There are books about bats, dogs, cats, polar bears, sharks, and crows. Does your daughter love technology? There are books about robots and drones, flying machines, rockets, and cars. Volcanoes, wild weather, coral reefs and trees? They have you covered and so much more. Fun, engaging, and easy to read this series keeps things interesting by bring in a wide variety of writers and artists to teach your kids about just about anything they may want to learn about!
As you can probably tell by the similar name, this series is also released by First Second. But while Science Comics teaches kids about things, Maker Comics teach them how to do things. There are currently five books out with another planned – and I hope they release more! So far the books out now teach kids to Fix A Car!, Bake Like A Pro!, Create A Costume!, Draw A Comic!, and Grow A Garden! What’s even better is that pretty much all of the activities can be done at all. The subject matter is also presented in a fun, narrative way that will keep kids engaged while also encouraging them to try to do things themselves.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales
These are some of the most popular history graphic novels around so you’ve probably heard of them before. Written by Nathan Hale (not the historical one but also featuring the historical one), the so far nine books in the series cover a wide variety of moments throughout American history. Full of humor and dangerous, deadly encounters, they’re sure to keep kids entertained and engaged while also teaching them something about history. In our household we’re particularly fond of the Alamo All-Stars book but that’s just because we’re proud Texans.
Earth Before Us Series by Abby Howard
This is an interesting series that has not gotten nearly as much credit as it deserves. I’ve only had the chance to check out the third book in the series, Mammal Takeover!, but there are three books in the series which spans the era between dinosaurs and the evolution of mankind. They’re well illustrated, clever, and very funny. If you’ve got a reader whose interests tend toward pre-historic ventures then this is a great series to check out!
Big Ideas that Changed the World by Don Brown
Released by the same publisher as the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales and Earth Before Us books (Abrams/Amulet!), this as-of-now two book series takes a more technical look at things. It focuses on major advances in technology and how we got there. Rocket to the Moon! outlines the history of rocketry and space travel up until the first mission to the moon while the soon-to-be released (4/28/2020) Machines That Think! promises to walk readers through ‘thinking machines’ like calculators, computers, and more. Rocket to the Moon! was a great read and I’m excited to see more books in this series. These two books will be great for kids who like to know how things work and how technology has progressed over time.
The March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
The March Trilogy is a ground-breaking series that really shows how graphic novels can reach all sorts of audiences. The series has gotten a lot of attention so you may have heard of it previously. If not, March tells the story of Rep. John Lewis’s youth working alongside Martin Luther King and others during the Civil Rights Movement. I think it’s a particularly great series for kids to read because we’ve seen a rise in young people speaking up for their beliefs and John Lewis’s story shows that young people really can work to make a difference. It’s also particularly timely as it’s important to reflect on the progress we have made as a society while acknowledging how far we still have to go when it comes to racial equality. This is a longer series, too, so it’ll keep kids reading and thinking for quite a while.
Becoming RGB: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Journey to Justice Debbie Levy & Whitney Gardner
There are few people alive as iconic as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and now she has her very own graphic novel! Becoming RGB follows her life from her childhood through her amazing legal career to her nomination to the Supreme Court. RGB was a true trailblazer who overcame obstacles in society and the workforce then took women’s equality to court to help other women do the same. This is a great, inspirational book that’s perfect for middle school and high school girls who are looking for an empowering figure to learn about while at home. Plus, Whitney Gardner provides some excellent artwork to go along with the story!
The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix
I loved this book and so did Dash. In the interest of full disclosure it’s not exactly a graphic novel. Instead, The Faithful Spy is a sort of hybrid book that takes ‘highly illustrated’ to a completely different level. There are paragraphs of text and comic panels throughout with each page nearly completely illustrated in one way or another. The Faithful Spy tells the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and a failed plot to assassinate Hitler during WWII. Whether or not you – or your child – are particularly religious, Bonhoeffer is the kind of hero that kids will enjoy reading about and the setting and subject matter are bound to appeal to history buffs of all ages.
Tetris by Box Brown
If your kids are anything like mine, they love video games. My son in particular would rather be playing Fortnite more than probably anything else. That’s what makes Tetris a great pick for your older, teen readers. While it may be about Tetris, Box Brown takes the opportunity to also tell the story of the early development of video games as a whole. It’s great for kids who love both comics and video games and it could always lead them to other non-fiction books about gaming like Blood, Sweat, and Pixels (which is also perfect for teens) or even Console Wars.