by Jonathan King, author of The Inkberg Enigma
Graphic novels (comics, in book form) for kids have never been more popular — with authors such as Raina Telgemeier topping the New York Times bestseller list, and Dav Pilkey, creator of Captain Underpants, launching his new book with an initial print run in the millions.
Some of my favourite graphic novels draw kids in using familiar narrative and visual elements, but then springboard to fresh and bold places.
El Deafo by Cece Bell is a semi-autobiographical telling of the author growing up profoundly deaf (in a story world of long-eared rabbits). Cece of the story is awkward and isolated at school until she discovers her hearing device gives her super hearing powers; she reinvents herself as superhero El Deafo, makes a friend, and finds her place in the world. The book is touching, truthful and uplifting.
The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier tells a rip-roaring nautical adventure reminiscent of Tintin (eagle-eyed readers will notice his companions make a cameo) and Treasure Island, but with a fantastical twist. There are undersea creatures, magical boxes, a dangerous quest and friendships formed in adversity. The titular Walker is a brave hero, but also a real boy, who shows fear and upset go hand in hand with courage and fortitude. The book has a sequel too, Walker Bean and the Knights of the Waxing Moon.
Hilda by Luke Pearson has inspired a Netflix series of the same name. Hilda and her mother, and Hilda’s deerfox companion, live in a Nordic-flavoured world, rich with trolls, talking birds and mountain giants, but also with realistic relations between Hilda and her mother. A spiritual cousin to Miyazaki and the Moomins, the series takes fearless and resourceful Hilda on mythic adventures. Appealing graphic clarity and stories with action and emotional richness, make it suitable for readers both younger and older.
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill is a series of delightful fantasy stories, rendered with picture book clarity. The series takes familiar fantasy elements like dragons and a young blacksmiths protagonist, and presents a simple world of magic and wonder, but with inclusivity and heart, revealing a richer story world than its simple elements and gentle presentation might suggest.
Bone by Jeff Smith is a 1332-page epic to match Lord of the Rings for breadth and drama. Its crisp black and white style includes the cute, cartoon-like title character family, but also terrifying creatures and appealing humans, in a beautifully detailed world of jungles, deserts, mountains and fantasy villages. The book is a series of collected stories that encompass fantasy, humour, romance and adventure. For older kids (and adults).
The Inkberg Enigma is my first graphic novel — a mystery adventure for readers 8-12. Taking inspiration as broadly as Tintin, Jules Verne and HP Lovecraft, it follows a pair of tweens who investigate a mystery in their own Harbourside town, linked to a mysterious book containing an account of an historic Antarctic adventure. It’s about finding courage and companionship while unearthing the stories and secrets where you live.
Jonathan King is the writer and artist of THE INKBERG ENIGMA published by Gecko Press.
Any views or opinions expressed may not truly represent those of the FCBG.