The best graphic novels for adventurous kids

Liam Francis Walsh Author Of Red Scare: A Graphic Novel
By Liam Francis Walsh

Who am I?

In my opinion, a good adventure story does two things at once: it compels you to turn pages, while, paradoxically, also enticing you to get off the couch and go out into the beautiful, magical world, pregnant with unlimited possibilities, right outside your door, just waiting for you to notice it. I’ve hitchhiked, I’ve been lost in the jungle, I’ve sailed, I’ve run whitewater rivers, and I’ve written and drawn New Yorker cartoons and picture books. I hope these books are as hard for you to put down as they were for me, and when you do put ‘em down, it’s only to throw on your rucksack and head out in search of adventure!

I wrote...

Red Scare: A Graphic Novel

By Liam Francis Walsh,

Book cover of Red Scare: A Graphic Novel

What is my book about?

Peggy is scared: She's struggling to recover from polio and needs crutches to walk, and she and her neighbors are worried about the rumors of Communist spies doing bad things. On top of all that, Peggy has a hard time at school and gets taunted by her classmates. When she finds a mysterious artifact that gives her the ability to fly, she thinks it's the solution to all her problems. But if Peggy wants to keep it, she'll have to overcome bullies, outsmart FBI agents, and escape from some very strange spies!

The books I picked & why

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Hilda and the Black Hound: Hilda Book 4

By Luke Pearson,

Book cover of Hilda and the Black Hound: Hilda Book 4

Why this book?

I wish I’d known someone like Hilda as a child. Heck, I wish I’d been Hilda! She’s adventurous, she’s kind, she’s unafraid to right wrongs. She makes mistakes – how else is one to learn and grow? – but her heart is true, and she admits her errors and becomes an even better version of herself. This book is great for making you see the magical potential in truly mundane things (like the space beneath your sofa or behind your bookshelf!). The story is beautifully illustrated. I never want to leave Hilda’s world, and I’m always eager to return.

This Was Our Pact

By Ryan Andrews,

Book cover of This Was Our Pact

Why this book?

This is one I just discovered (and have only read once, so far) but I immediately ordered copies for all my nieces and nephews. An important element of the kind of adventure graphic novel I love is art that conveys a carefully observed world, one which reminds us that if we slow down and pay attention marvels will reveal themselves to us. This Was Our Pact does precisely that. It starts off with kids on bikes setting off into the night, following their curiosity, and then swerves into the fairy tale territory of ancient rituals and magical creatures.

Tom Strong - Book 1

By Alan Moore,

Book cover of Tom Strong - Book 1

Why this book?

Tom Strong is a throwback to classic pulp heroes, and the closest thing to a superhero you’ll find on my list. Tom is super strong, super smart, and super white, but that’s where comparisons to the heroes from which the author drew inspiration end! Tom’s Black wife and daughter are fully realized characters with thoughts and feelings of their own. Tom doesn’t punch out the bad guys, he doesn’t even believe in bad guys! Instead, he uses his intelligence to recognize that conflict arises not from malice, but from misunderstanding and incompatible needs and desires. With this in mind, Tom can use his super-intelligence to craft a compromise that reestablishes order. Far from preachy, eat-your-vegetables sermonizing, these stories are witty, layered, thought-provoking, and hilarious.

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

By Bill Watterson,

Book cover of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

Why this book?

While not technically a graphic novel, Calvin and Hobbes consistently deliver the cleverest, funniest, most biting, and most profound adventures to be found anywhere. The adventures of Spaceman Spiff and Tracer Bullet are unforgettable. But even just Calvin’s flights of imagination, walking in the woods or playing in the yard, or even trapped in a classroom, remind us that our imaginations may be the most thrilling and exotic place there is, and adventure is only a daydream away. These stories can be enjoyed by children for the thrills and laughs alone, or by adults for their layers of trenchant commentary. Like most cartoonists I know, Calvin and Hobbes shaped my worldview, made me want to be a cartoonist, and is still my favorite strip.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

By Herge,

Book cover of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Why this book?

Almost all the Tintin books are a delight, but this one has always been my favorite. It gets the mixture of suspense and humor just exactly right. In this one, Tintin stumbles into a mystery, which starts small and grows into a terrific hunt for a lost pirate treasure. The everyman who’s pulled into adventure by coincidence or mistaken identity is something that appeals to me because it reminds me that even if we’re not private eyes or secret agents we’re constantly adventure-adjacent! The Secret of the Unicorn reminds me that adventure is largely a matter of attitude: Tintin ends up at the center of adventures because he’s always curious and game – are you?!

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