Thematic Reading List: Graphic Novels with Strong Female Leads
In the last decade, graphic novels have made a place for themselves on the shelves of readers young and old. While often misconstrued with comic books, these visual stories are an excellent way for readers of all kinds to experience books. Many graphic novels are geared toward boys and reluctant readers, which is why this list focuses on the female leads found in these stories. The books in this list are all graphic novels with female main characters; some are their own unique stories, while others are graphic representations of well-known tales. These books are best suited to readers ages 8-12.
Contributed by: Mary Lanni
|The Stonekeeper (Amulet series book #1)
By: Kazu Kibuishi
After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. Before long, a sinister creature lures the kids’ mom through a door in the basement. Em and Navin, desperate not to lose her, follow her into an underground world inhabited by demons, robots, and talking animals. Eventually, they enlist the help of a small mechanical rabbit named Miskit. Together with Miskit, they face the most terrifying monster of all, and Em finally has the chance to save someone she loves.
|Beauty and the Beast: The Graphic Novel
By: Michael Dahl
Illustrated by: Luke Feldman
Presents a graphic novel version of the story of a kind and beautiful maiden who releases a handsome prince from the spell which has made him an ugly beast.
|The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel
By: Jeanne DuPrau
Adapted by: Dallas Middaugh
Illustrated by: Niklas Asker
In the year 241, twelve-year-old Lina trades jobs on Assignment Day to be a Messenger to run to new places in her decaying but beloved city, perhaps even to glimpse Unknown Regions.
By: Cece Bell
In this cleverly illustrated graphic novel, Cece Bell re-imagines her childhood self as a superhero bunny with deafness. Cece is only four years old when she becomes deaf. Her doctor gives her a Phonic Ear to help her hear. From then on, her life changes dramatically. The Phonic Ear, a box that hangs around her neck with cords and earbuds attached, makes Cece feel very insecure. Eventually, she realizes that the earbuds, buried deep in her long rabbit ears, give her the superpower of hearing others, even from far away. This superpower leads to the creation of Cece’s new secret identity: El Deafo.
By: Jorge Aguirre
Illustrated by: Rafael Rosado
Claudette wants nothing more than to slay a giant, but her little village is too safe and quiet.
By: Irene N. Watts
Illustrated by: Kathryn E. Shoemaker
Tells the story of Marianne Kohn, an eleven-year-old Jewish girl in Berlin in 1938 who experiences the division in her homeland due to the Nazi regime, and who eventually boards a boat to take her to safety in London.
|Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust
By: Loïc Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, and Greg Salsedo
A grandmother shares the story of her experiences in WWII with her grandchild in this graphic novel for young readers.
By: Ben Hatke
When a little girl finds an adorable robot in the woods, she presses a button and accidentally activates him for the first time. Now, she finally has a friend. But the big, bad robots are coming to collect the little guy for nefarious purposes, and it’s all up to a five-year-old armed only with a wrench and fierce loyalty to her mechanical friend to save the day!
By: Jen Wang
Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known.
|Princeless: Save Yourself
By: Jeremy Whitley
Illustrated by: M. Goodwin
Locked in a tower with her sisters and tired of waiting to be rescued by a prince, Princess Adrienne, her sidekick Bedelia, and her guardian dragon Sparky begin a quest to save themselves.
|To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel
By: Siena Cherson Siegel
Illustrated by: Mark Siegel
Dancers are young when they first dream of dance. Siena was six — and her dreams kept skipping and leaping, circling and spinning, from airy runs along a beach near her home in Puerto Rico, to dance class in Boston, to her debut performance on stage with the New York City Ballet.
|A Wrinkle in Time
By: Madeleine L’Engle
Illustrated by: Hope Larson
A graphic novel adaptation of the classic tale in which Meg Murry and her friends become involved with unearthly strangers and a search for Meg’s father, who has disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government.