The best graphic novels for reluctant readers

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a classroom teacher for 15 years who transitioned to writing children’s books. Starting with picture books, I now write graphic novels. My target audience is 2nd-5th graders and they really get my wacky sense of humor. My passion for silly comedy, from Abbott and Costello to the Marx Brothers, started at an early age and infuses my mission to help reluctant readers become enthusiastic and proficient readers. I feel strongly about this goal because I was once a reluctant reader and I can appreciate what these kids might be going through.


I wrote...

The Bumble Brothers: Crazy for Comics!

By Steve Metzger, Brian Schatell (illustrator),

Book cover of The Bumble Brothers: Crazy for Comics!

What is my book about?

Meet the Bumble Brothers! Whatever these clueless nine-year-old twins do, something always goes hilariously wrong! In book #1, Walter and Christopher must have the latest comic book featuring their favorite superhero, Frabbit – 1/2 frog and 1/2 rabbit. But Harold the neighborhood bully stands in their way.

Full-color illustrations enhance this 96-page graphic novel – the first in a three-book series for 7 - 11-year-olds. Featuring wacky misunderstandings, riddles that nobody gets, and goofy puns, reluctant readers will enjoy finding out what happens when these bumbling brothers and their neighborhood friends spring into laugh-out-loud action! The Bumble Brothers: Crazy for Comics is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Payback Time!

Steve Metzger Why did I love this book?

I have a confession to make.

Reading was not one of my favorite activities growing up. That might sound strange from a children’s book author, but it’s true. Nowadays, I like all kinds of books.

This hilarious graphic novel, which is chock full of wacky illustrations, is definitely one of them. Where were graphic novels when I was a kid?

Big Nate (actually he’s not that big) is a funny, mischievous, lovable 11-year-old, who gets into all sorts of ridiculously tricky situations with friends, family members, and teachers that keep the action moving and reluctant readers of every age actively engaged.

By Lincoln Peirce,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Payback Time! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The latest in this NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING series

Look out, Big Nate fans, it's Payback Time! In this newest Big Nate collection, everyone's favorite sixth-grade renaissance man is up to his usual schemes and misadventures - developing a strange allergy to Mrs. Godfrey, inflating his goalkeeper statistics, and even mentoring a kid in detention. But he's not the only one creating mischief. Francis, Teddy and Chad trade blows in an ongoing snowball fight, a bully finds an unexpected surprise in his locker, and Nate's rivalry with Gina takes a Halloween twist. Nate also courts disaster when a lunch room…


Book cover of Noodleheads Find Something Fishy

Steve Metzger Why did I love this book?

Tedd Arnold is amazing!

I’ve been a big fan since I started reading his picture books to my daughter. His whimsical-and wacky sense of humor is always on target for early readers.

In Tedd's latest work, the silly graphic–novel series, Noodleheads, he is ably assisted by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss.

The Noodleheads are a couple of pieces of hollow pasta (that’s right!) who don’t have the slightest idea how to solve the simplest of problems.

Planning to go fishing, they believe a toy boat will grow into a full-size rowboat if they give it food. (Somehow it does!)

Arnold’s inimitable illustrations combined with a ridiculous, pun-filled story will have young children chuckling on every page!

By Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, Mitch Weiss

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Noodleheads Find Something Fishy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Can a toy boat grow into a real boat? Mac and Mac think so. You'll laugh out loud at the funny adventures in this comic-style book.

Mac and Mac, as gullible as ever, decide that since fish live in schools, they must be smart. The fish in this funny story certainly are smart enough to outwit Mac and Mac--and so is their friend Meatball, who shows them how to get a bigger boat. But there's something fishy about his suggestion. . .

Illustrated by Tedd Arnold, whose Fly Guy series is a kid favorite, this graphic novel is perfect for…


Book cover of Action Presidents: George Washington!

Steve Metzger Why did I love this book?

Do you remember when learning about American history was mostly dry and boring?

I do…but that’s not the case anymore. This fact-based graphic-novel series of biographies make Washington and other Presidents come alive with wacky, slapstick humor that’s just right for middle-grade kids!

The true events of George Washington’s tumultuous and heroic life – from birth to death – are hilariously presented in jump-off-the-page illustrations and told through irreverent dialogue and silly jokes. All the big battles are here, but there’s no list of endless names and dates.

The father of our country was admirable and flawed, after all he was a slaveholder, but learning about him has never been more interesting.

By Fred Van Lente, Ryan Dunlavey (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Action Presidents as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

"A delightful, educational spin on history-and plenty of jokes," said School Library Journal.

"Sheer joy," praised Booklist in a starred review.

Finalist for the 2019 Excellence in Graphic Literature Award in Middle Grade Nonfiction

U.S. history comes to life like never before in this full-color graphic novel! We all know that George Washington was our first President and a hero of the American Revolution. But did you also know that he didn't want to be president, never thought he would fight in a war, and had teeth so bad that he hated to smile?

Wimpy Kid meets the Who Was...…


Book cover of InvestiGators

Steve Metzger Why did I love this book?

I love “noir” movies…don’t you?

Well, John Patrick Green has done the incredible job of combining a dark mystery with a graphic-novel format to create the first book in this irresistible series: InvestiGators.

When Gustavo, the world-famous cupcake chef, goes missing, Mango and Batch, two bumbling crime-fighting alligators, are on the case!

Packed with crazy gadgets, running gags (a mustache that incomprehensibly travels from face to face), dopey puns, and zany characters like Cici Boringstories (the news reporter), Dr. Jake Hardbones (the brain surgeon), and Houdino (don’t ask), this page-turner will have reluctant-reader middle graders – including my inner ten-year-old – laughing out loud and asking for more!

By John Patrick Green,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked InvestiGators as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Meet the InvestiGators. With their gadgets, know-how, and super-fast transportation system (they flush themselves down toilets to speed through the sewers!), Mango and Brash are the scourge of the super-villain landscape! As vest-wearing employees of the Special Undercover Investigation Teams, they solve all kinds of mysteries and frequently butt heads with their archnemesis: a former agent known as Crackerdile.

Riddled with puns, potty humour, absurdism, and hilarious twists, InvestiGators is the perfect series for Dog Man fans looking for their next great read! It's kid-friendly comics at their best.


Book cover of Cat Crusader

Steve Metzger Why did I love this book?

While growing up, superheroes were a significant part of my life – from TV’s Mighty Mouse as a young child to my elementary school years when comic books featuring Superman and Spider-Man took over.

I’m sure I would’ve been more invested in reading books at an earlier age if these “super” characters were featured in them.

With bright-and-bold illustrations and goofy pun-filled speech bubbles, this hilarious action-packed misadventure depicts how Max Meow acquires his powers (including a tail that shoots electric bolts), and combines forces with Mindy Microbe (scientist extraordinaire), to track down a magical space meatball.

When Max temporarily loses his superpowers, he learns that “You don’t need superpowers to be a hero.” Good advice for children of all ages.

By John Gallagher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cat Crusader as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Meet a secret superhero with CAT-ITUDE--Max Meow, Cat Crusader--in this purr-fectly awesome, hiss-sterically funny graphic novel series just right for fans of Dog Man and InvestiGators!

Max is just a regular cat in Kittyopolis, trying to make it big as a podcaster UNTIL he accidentally takes a bite of an RADIOACTIVE SPACE MEATBALL at his best friend Mindy's SECRET LAB. Then before you can say MEOWZA, Max becomes...The CAT CRUSADER! Being a super hero is fun--but not if you get so cocky, you forget your best friend! Will Max and Mindy make up? And together, can they save Kittyopolis from…


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The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

By Erica Silverman, Ginnie Hsu (illustrator),

Book cover of The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

Erica Silverman Author Of Wake Up, City!

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an award-winning author of picture books and early readers. I have set my stories in many kinds of locations, including a haunted house, an Eastern European shtetl, an English Renaissance village, and a working cattle ranch. For Wake Up, City, I turned to the setting I know best, the city. I drew on memories of walking to kindergarten in early morning Brooklyn. This book is my love song to cities everywhere. As a lifelong city dweller, I worry about the impact of urban spread on the planet, but I feel hopeful, too, because many cities are becoming more nature and wildlife-friendly. The books I'm excited to share celebrate city wildlife. 

Erica's book list on celebrating cities

What is my book about?

A unique and artful blend of poetry, science, and activism, this picture book shows how city dwellers can intervene so that nature can work her magic.

In Oslo, Norway: citizens create a honeybee highway that stretches from one side of the city to the other, offering flowerpots, resting spots, bee boxes, and beehives—even water fountains—every eight hundred feet.

In the Bronx, New York: a community rallies to clean their river and cheers at the return of the long-lost beaver population.

In Busselton, Australia: people make a rope bridge that swings high above speeding cars, creating a safe path for tree-hopping possums and squirrels alike.

Through a mix of lyrical poems, real-life success stories, and bouquet-bright artwork, The City Sings Green explores the environmental impact of humans and showcases the many ways that we can rewild cities across the globe. Together, we can welcome nature back!

The City Sings Green & Other Poems About Welcoming Wildlife

By Erica Silverman, Ginnie Hsu (illustrator),

What is this book about?

A unique and artful blend of poetry, science, and activism, this picture book shows how city dwellers can intervene so that nature can work her magic. Perfect for fans of The Curious Garden and Harlem Grown.

In Oslo, Norway: citizens create a honey-bee highway that stretches from one side of the city to the other, offering flowerpots, resting spots, bee boxes and beehives-even water fountains-every 800 feet.

In the Bronx, New York: a community rallies to clean their river and cheers at the return of the long-lost beaver population.

In Busselton, Australia: people make a rope bridge that swings high…


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