by Brittney Reed-Saltz
When I need a quick read that will pick me up and put me in a great mood, I frequently turn to all-ages graphic novels. There’s no drawback to reading them: I can usually polish one off during my lunch break, I add titles to my list of potential recommendations for younger readers at my branch, and I get to enjoy great stories I might otherwise have missed.
My favorite stories often feature girls and young women finding–and using–their strength. It’s refreshing to read about girls who speak their minds, fight for what they believe in, or find the quiet power inside of themselves to endure or to reach out to others when things are tough.
Want to read a great girl-powered story, or find one to recommend to the younger readers in your life? Try one of my picks:
Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson and Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
If I left either of these off of my list, I would probably get complaints, and well-deserved ones at that. Lumberjanes follows the supernatural-tinged adventures of campers at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types and would be a great suggestion for fans of the show Gravity Falls. On the other hand, Nimona blends sci-fi and fantasy with a bushel of tongue-in-cheek humor to tell the story of a shapeshifter employed as a villain’s sidekick. It tends more toward YA territory.
Jonesy by Sam Humphries and Caitlin Rose Boyle
Jonesy is a “cool dork” with an unusual superpower: She can make anyone fall in love with anything… except herself. If you think that sounds like a recipe for chaos, you have no idea. Jonesy is a zine-making, fangirling powerhouse, and like most protagonists who are great fun to read, she has plenty of flaws. But at the end of the day, her love for her family and friends wins out, and she finds ways to make amends for her mistakes. Read this if you want a funny series with bold, colorful graphics and shades of Scott Pilgrim.
The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
This is a high fantasy story about a young, part-goblin girl named Greta who learns the art of blacksmithing from her mother. When Greta comes across a timid little dragon in danger, she discovers the world of tea dragons. With catlike temperaments, these little dragons grow tea leaves and flowers from their antlers. Soon Greta is learning the almost lost art of tea dragon keeping from a dragon named Hesekiel, and striving to befriend a timid young woman named Minnette. This is the epitome of a comforting read for me: a gentle and emotional story, lavish illustrations, and inclusion of different races, physical abilities, and sexual orientations. It’s appropriate for young readers, though it might hold adults’ attention more easily.
Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson
A young girl named Phoebe makes a new best friend when she throws a rock across a pond, only to hit a unicorn in the face. That unicorn is none other than Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, and the adventures that she and Phoebe have as they deal with goblins, parents, and elementary school are just as delightful as Marigold’s name. These comics are written as strips united by common characters and a loose plot, and are sort of like a more fantastical, female Calvin and Hobbes.
Help Us! Great Warrior by Madeleine Flores
Originally a webcomic, Help Us! Great Warrior is an action-packed fantasy title about a warrior who loves looking good while kicking butt, and who is harboring a secret that could endanger her position as a hero. It’s big on humor and surreal settings that remind me a bit of Adventure Time and should appeal to fans of Finn and Jake.
Jane, The Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault, translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ourieu
Sometimes, power is quiet. It’s not being happy and confident all the time. It’s also having the strength to endure a challenging or hurtful situation and to come out on the other side. This is the type of power on display in Jane, the Fox, and Me, which follows a young girl named Hélène as she copes with bullying through the companionship of fiction, a fox, and finally a friend who helps her see that there’s nothing wrong with her, regardless of what the mean girls say. This emotional graphic novel will resonate with anyone who has dealt with social ostracism. It’s quieter than all the other suggestions on this list, but it shows that strength comes in many forms.