By Katherine Handcock, A Mighty Girl Communication Specialist
If realism-based graphic novels amplify and deepen a story grounded in the real world, guess what an author and illustrator can do with a tale of pure fantasy! For young readers, it can be revolutionary to see new worlds, born entirely of someone's imagination, come to life on the page. A good combination of story and artwork can make almost anything seem real and who doesn't love the feeling of being absorbed in a good book?
With that in mind, the second blog post in our graphic novel series features books for children that are set in worlds of fantasy. Whether these stories make just a small tweak to an otherwise realistic setting — like adding friendly robots, escaped doodles, or alligators that really do live in the sewers — or create a completely new world to explore, these books will open kids' minds to the incredible possibilities inherent in storytelling. They might just be inspiring to come up with an amazing new world themselves!
For recommendations of graphic novels that are grounded in real life, check out the first post in our blog series, Life in Pictures: Mighty Girl Graphic Novels for Young Readers about Real Life. You also can browse our entire collection of over 100 graphic novels starring girls and women on a wide variety of themes in our special feature on the Top Graphic Novels Starring Mighty Girls.
8-year-old Mandy doesn’t show her emotions, not even when her beloved sister is heading off to college. But when her sister gives her a sketchbook as a goodbye present, Mandy experiments with drawing her emotions, only to have them escape and run rampant through the neighborhood! Fortunately, one of the monsters, Happster, is there to guide Mandy through the process of getting the sketches back on the pages where they belong — she just has to allow herself to feel the emotions that she fears will get out of control. This clever graphic novel provides plenty of fodder for discussion about emotional health and about respectful ways to express your feelings.
Gator’s habit of snapping at other neighborhood pets has left him lonely in the sewers, while Gabby’s preference for tuba playing over poolside gossip has isolated her from the girls on the street. When the unlikely pair meet, though, they discover that friends can sometimes be very different from one another! There are a few challenges to face but, in the end, they both learn and important lesson: true friends will appreciate you for exactly who you are. This charming and funny graphic novel for young readers is a great reminder that it’s good to march to the beat of your own drummer.
A little girl who loves to tinker and fix things finds a robot in the woods — and is shocked when the push of a button activates him for the first time! Soon, the pair are the best of friends, but the little robot is also curious about its own kind. Unfortunately, the large, sinister robots at the factory that made the little robot are looking for him too and they don’t care who they hurt along the way to get him back. Now, the two new friends will have to fight for the little robot’s freedom! This fun and charming story, which stars an inventive and intelligent Mighty Girl, will be a hit with any young reader who’s imagined having their own robot friend.
A little girl, lonely and bored, decides to visit her grandmother — but on the way, she falls asleep on the bus, and wakes to discover the quiet, seemingly magical wood at the last stop on the line. She follows a mysterious stag deep into a forest full of extraordinary creatures and strange, wonderful sights. But home and family are now far away, and the girl may find she can't go back the way she came.... This hybrid of wordless picture book and graphic novel tells a gentle story about loneliness, imagination, and love.
Adrienne Ashe never wanted to be a princess and she likes it even less when her father locks her in a tower at age 16 to wait passively for a prince’s rescue. So when she discovers a sword concealed in her prison, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She befriends her dragon guardian and sets off on a rollicking adventure to find and save her older sisters! With a little help from a clever but odd blacksmith, Bedelia, Adrienne is going to turn the kingdom upside down. Fans of this volume will also enjoy the sequels Book 2: Get Over Yourself, Book 3: The Pirate Princess, and the upcoming release Book 4: Be Yourself.
Hector, Terrence, and Dee have always wondered... what does the lunch lady do when she’s not dishing out meals? When they tail her to find out, they discover that she has a secret lair in her kitchen, and a secret identity devoted to seeking justice! In this volume, Lunch Lady takes on a nefarious substitute teacher, determined to win Teacher of the Year by foul means. Full of fun visual details and zany, quirky superheroes and supervillains, this graphic novel is sure to be a hit! Fans of Lunch Lady will want to check out the sequels, including Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians and Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta.
Bera is happy as a solitary troll, tending her island's pumpkin patch and staying out of trouble. But when a human baby arrives in the land of the trolls, all the other trolls want to dispose of it in various messy ways. Bera doesn't see why — it's just a baby, after all — so to deal with the problem, she decides to take the baby back to the land of the humans and return it to its parents. Can quiet, humble Bera protect the baby from multiheaded trolls, goblins, and even the former Head Witch of the Troll King? Funny and sweet, with hints drawn from folklore, this graphic novel shows that sometimes it's the most unassuming people who end up with a quest.
Claudette and company from Giants Beware! are back, and this time, it’s dragons locked in their sights! Years ago a dragon ate Claudette’s father’s legs and his magic sword, Breaker. When retrieving Breaker becomes critical to protect the village, Claudette is deeply insulted to discover her father is leaving her behind while he goes to collect the sword. So she, Marie, and Gaston set out on another adventure — hopefully more successful (or at least more straightforward!) than last time. A clever storyline and funny supporting characters, including seven lovelorn princes vying for Marie’s attention, will keep fans of the first book giggling.
Babymouse dreams of adventure and excitement but every day is the same. That is, until she hears about Felicia Furrypaw’s exclusive slumber party. Will she get an invitation and does she want one if it means abandoning her best friend, Wilson, and their planned monster movie marathon? Kids will love Babymouse’s vibrant imagination and recognize themselves in her rapidly churning thoughts. Fans of the series can check out the many other titles in the series, including Babymouse: Our Hero, Babymouse: Beach Babe, and Babymouse: Rock Star.
Zita the Spacegirl has faced incredible adventure as she tries to get herself and her friend Joseph back to Earth, but now she faces her greatest challenge yet! Wrongfully imprisoned on a penitentiary planet, Zita learns that the warden has a plot to dominate the galaxy but who will believe a convicted criminal? It will take friends both old and new to get Zita out of jail and save the day. This conclusion to Zita the Spacegirl and Legends of Zita the Spacegirl is full of adventure, wordplay, and creative world-building that will keep young readers spellbound.
Princess Mabelrose may not fit the “fair princess” mold, but she’s smart, courageous, and ready for anything! So when she’s captured by an evil dragon, Mabelrose escapes and decides to make her way back home rather than waiting for rescue. She’ll encounter trolls, a tiger king, and perhaps most unexpectedly, someone who might just be her true love. Parents will particularly enjoy how Mabelrose’s strength and courage comes from her loving, supportive family, while kids will enjoy the rollercoaster adventures and detailed artwork. Fans of Mabelrose will want to follow her adventures in the second volume, The Unremembered Lands, and the newly released third volume, The Dragon Queen.
When Phoebe is skipping rocks across a pond one day, she's shocked when she accidentally hits... a unicorn! To her surprise, this feat earns her one wish, which she uses to require Marigold Heavenly Nostrils to be her friend. Having a unicorn as a friend is just as awesome as Phoebe had hoped, and together they have some hilarious adventures — but their bond also provides a special connection between the previously lonely girl and unicorn that reminds each of them that they are something special. This box set includes the first four graphic novels in the series, Phoebe and Her Unicorn, Unicorn on a Roll, Unicorn vs. Goblins, and Razzle Dazzle Unicorn.
The story of Rapunzel gets a swashbuckling twist in this fun graphic novel! Rapunzel’s life in Mother Gothel’s villa should be idyllic, but she’s curious about what life is like beyond its walls and why she keeps dreaming of another family. When her curiosity leads to a shocking discovery, Mother Gothel banishes her but Rapunzel escapes thanks to her extraordinary hair. Now, with the help of Calamity Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk fame), Rapunzel is determined to see justice done. This fairy tale reimagining with a Wild West flair is sure to delight young readers.
After the mysterious Thimblewitch turns Maddy’s parents into kangaroo rats, she and her pet flying toad Ralph have to set off to save them! Going to their rescue won’t be easy: Maddy will have to face spider-goblins, scarecrow warriors, and more. New friends — including cloud cartographers Harry the bear and Silvio the raccoon — can help Maddy along the way, but in the end, her success will depend on her courage, creativity, and compassion. A fun magical debut for young readers!
11-year-old Mirka has no interest in knitting lessons or tips on how to find a husband; instead of settling down in her Orthodox Jewish town, she wants to go off on adventures and fight dragons! In the meantime, she practices in the only ways she can: standing up to bullies one day, battling a large, menacing pig the next. And when a mysterious witch appears with a quest that will get Mirka a real dragon-slaying sword, all of her skills will be tested to the limit! Fans of this charming combination of preteen angst, cultural tradition, and swords and sorcery will also enjoy the sequel, Hereville: How Mirka Met A Meteorite.
It all begins when Cleopatra — yes, that Cleopatra — finds a mysterious tablet that transports her through time and space. In the far distant future, she learns, a prophecy says that she will save the galaxy from a tyrant, once she’s learned a few things. Yasiro Academy isn’t much more interesting than her lessons back home — well, except for combat training — but with the help of her talking cat mentor Khensu, Cleopatra will have to learn how to be a great leader and a passable high school student. Cleopatra's story continues in the sequel Cleopatra in Space Volume 2: The Thief and The Sword.
Fans of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline will love this graphic novel adaptation. After entering an alternate world that seems like a strange (but better) mirror of her own, Coraline discovers that it’s important to be careful what you wish for — while this world is full of interesting things and delicious treats, it’s also home to the “other mother” who intends to keep her forever! And when Coraline’s real parents are kidnapped into the other world, she’ll have to find a way to free all three of them. Russell’s realistic illustrations make the other world even more eerie; kids will also enjoy getting to compare the images in the graphic novel to how they pictured the characters in the book.
A hint of the supernatural can tell a powerful emotional story. Catrina's family is moving to Bahia de la Luna, where the coastal air will help Maya's cystic fibrosis symptoms. Cat misses her friends and resents being forced to do the move, but she loves her sister and is terrified of Maya getting sick. So when their neighbor tells them that Bahia de la Luna is home to ghosts — not spooky specters, but the spirits of ancestors watching over them — Cat wants nothing to do with them...and is horrified to discover that Maya seems fascinated. As the Day of the Dead approaches, and Cat meets the ghosts face to face, she'll learn more about the Mexican side of her heritage — and learn to set her fears aside, for both Maya's sake and her own.
Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are best friends who are looking forward to a fun few weeks at camp, that is, until they see a woman turn into a giant bear! Suddenly, the friends find themselves in the midst of mysterious and supernatural adventures. Fortunately, “Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types” can provide them with all the skills they need. It’s going to be quite the unexpected summer! This collection gathers issues 1 to 4 of this fun series, which also makes reference to inspiring women of history. Fans of the first volume will also want to check out the upcoming Lumberjanes, Volume 2.
Young Hilda lives in a mountainous land and has few responsibilities — other than staying out of Deep Trouble. But when she chases after a mysterious tinkling bell, she discovers herself on a journey through strange worlds full of magic and mystery! Pearson’s story of small wood men, blue foxes with antlers, and one precocious little girl feels like a folk tale, and is full of vivid and colorful artwork. Fans of Hilda will enjoy following her adventures in Hilda and the Midnight Giant and Hilda and the Bird Parade, which follow Hilda as she moves from her beloved mountains to the big city of Trollberg.
L. Frank Baum’s classic gets a dramatic, vivid treatment from Marvel Illustrated! This graphic novel adaptation sticks close to the original novel, avoiding some of the changes in the 1939 movie, as it depicts farm girl Dorothy’s accidental arrival in the mysterious land of Oz and the chaos she causes as she tries to find her way home. Fans of this adaptation will want to check out Ozma of Oz by the same pair or, for the full Oz treatment, check out Shanower and Young’s Oz Omnibus, which collects all six graphic novels, plus a Wizard of Oz Sketchbook and the Oz Primer.
After tragedy strikes their family, Emily and Navin’s mother Karen decides to move the family to their great-grandfather’s house in the little town of Norlen. The locals believe the house is haunted, but the family discounts the rumors — until Karen is kidnapped by a monster! Emily and Navin discover they will have to follow her into another world if they want to reunite their family. Along the way, Emily discovers a stone amulet and learns that she has powers she didn’t know she possessed. This box set collects the first seven volumes of this popular and critically-acclaimed graphic novel series; for a single volume of the first book in the series, check out Amulet: The Stonekeeper.
Hope Larson brilliantly adapts Madeline L’Engle’s classic book into graphic novel format! Meg Murray just knows that her scientist father didn’t abandon the family, but she’s not sure she can find proof... until one stormy night, a mysterious stranger declares that the tesseract — the wrinkle in time — is real. Now Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and her neighbor Calvin O’Keefe must adventure through time if they want to have any hope of bringing Meg’s father home. This classic story of space, time, good, and evil, will be a hit with any science fiction fan.
Captain Yuri is trapped in the past until she redeems herself by righting a terrible wrong; until then, she’ll sail the seas as a pirate. When she saves Princess Noelle, who was being held hostage after her parents were killed and her brother was kidnapped, the unlikely pair realize that they each hold the key to the other’s solution. Noelle must find her brother and Yuri must stop the evil she set in motion, and then, finally, they can both return home. This fun adventure full of mystery, treachery, and destiny is sure to intrigue middle readers.
Masha is looking for an adventure and a place to call her own. Unlike many of her peers, she both believes the legends her grandmother taught her about the fearsome witch Baba Yaga and is courageous enough to seek her out anyway. Masha is clever enough to find Baba Yaga's hut on chicken legs, but if she wants to become the witch's assistant, she'll have to pass several tests — all while living in a place where deceit is the rule and where children are on the dinner menu (though not for long with Masha's intervention)! This vivid new release will fascinate anyone who likes imagining the denizens of fairy tales living in our modern world.
With her mysterious squirrel powers, Doreen Green, a.k.a. Squirrel Girl, has defeated supervillains when other heroes of the Marvel universe have met their match! Now, Squirrel Girl finally has her own comic series. In this volume, which collects issues 1 to 5, Doreen is moving out of the Avengers mansion — along with her squirrel sidekick, Tippy Toe — to start a computer science degree at the university. But trouble seems to follow her and soon she’s up against Kraven the Hunter, Whiplash, and even the mighty Galactus, all while dealing with classwork, crushes, and all the other business of college! Squirrel Girl is a lighthearted superhero story, perfect for younger Marvel fans.
Additional REcommended Resources
- For the first blog post in our series, which features graphic novels about real life, check out Life in Pictures: Mighty Girl Graphic Novels for Young Readers about Real Life.
- To browse our full selection of over 100 high-quality graphic novels, visit our special feature on the Top Graphic Novels Starring Mighty Girls.
- For more books with imaginative settings, visit our Fantasy & Science Fiction section.
- If these graphic novels inspire your Mighty Girl to create her own fantasy world, check out our blog post Fantastic Adventures and Amazing Tales: Encouraging Creative Writing and Storytelling.