The best graphic novels that tackle tough topics

The Books I Picked & Why

Sunny Side Up

By Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm

Book cover of Sunny Side Up

Why this book?

I love books that feel real and offer a glimpse at the lives of others. Sunny’s story about spending a summer in Florida with her grandfather at his retirement residence is realistic but definitely not boring! There’s a missing cat to find, a snapping alligator, and a mystery – why did Sunny’s parents send her to Florida by herself & what’s up with her brother? This graphic novel tackles the topic of substance abuse and its effect on families in a subtle manner perfectly suitable for a young audience. And if it leaves you wanting to read more – there’s a whole series!  

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Pilu of the Woods

By Mai K. Nguyen

Book cover of Pilu of the Woods

Why this book?

Mai K. Nguyen pairs really tough topics: grief, loss, and overwhelming emotions with beautiful and soothing artwork and a little bit of magic. When Willow gets upset and runs off into the woods she meets Pilu, a lost wood sprite. Together, Willow and Pilu help each other learn to deal with their emotions and find their way home. I love that the reader can learn alongside the characters without feeling like they are being taught a lesson.

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Living with Viola

By Rosena Fung

Book cover of Living with Viola

Why this book?

Rosena Fung pairs the tough topics of mental health and anxiety with delightfully whimsical and colorful illustrations. Livy is trying to fit in at a new school while navigating the pressure she feels as a child of Chinese immigrants. Viola is Livy’s anxiety personified. I live with my own version of Viola, so I found the story especially relatable. As Livy learns to deal with Viola, we also learn some great tips on dealing with our own anxieties.

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By Jen Wang

Book cover of Stargazing

Why this book?

I love Stargazing! On its surface, Stargazing is about friendship and family but it has many layers, making it the perfect book to read again and again. The story of Christine and Moon touches on the diverse experiences of growing up Asian in America, jealousy & conflict, social expectations & feeling comfortable in your own skin, and a little bit of magic. Except the magic turns out to be symptoms of a serious medical condition. With writing as beautiful as the art, this is a story not to be missed! 

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By Kat Leyh

Book cover of Snapdragon

Why this book?

I love books that have a touch of magic yet still feel realistic. And I think Snapdragon gets the balance just right. Snapdragon is the story of unexpected friendships. The main character, Snapdragon, is lonely until she befriends the town witch and Lu. Kat Leyh has done a wonderful job weaving LGBTQ themes into the story in a way that is natural and meaningful for younger audiences. 

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