Monday, March 21, 2011

Graphic Novels for Kids with Autism

Jack, my son with autism, is a very good reader, but incredibly resistant to reading chapter books. I think that long pages of nothing but text are difficult for him. As a second grader, he still prefers picture books, comics and graphic novels.

With this in mind, I recently asked my networks to offer graphic novel suggestions for an almost-eight-year-old with autism. Suggestions poured in. Most of these we haven't had a chance to read yet, but we have a lot to choose from now. I hope these suggestions might help some of you as well.

Note: AutMont is not responsible for any echolalia/scripting that results from your children reading these books. AutMont is also not responsible if, after reading Calvin & Hobbes, your child tells you he wants to show you something outside, no a little bit farther outside, and then locks you out of your house. Not that that happened or anything. Ahem.

Bone by Jeff Smith: This is a nine-volume series about three "blobby creatures who have stumbled into a valley full of monsters, magic, farmers, an exiled princes and a huge, cynical dragon." (From Publishers Weekly)

Meanwhile by Jason Shiga: This is a pick any path story with 3,856 possibilities stemming from an initial decision of whether the main character wants chocolate or vanilla ice cream. I remember reading "choose your own adventure" books when I was a kid and they drove me crazy, but I can definitely see the appeal.

Geronimo Stilton series: This extensive series seems to be made up of more than 40 novels about mice having adventures. On a personal note, if you know my family, you probably know that I plan on purchasing these immediately. Check out the "Look Inside" feature for these books on Amazon. They look ideal for drawing a child into chapter books.

The Boxcar Children Graphic Novels by Shannon Eric Denton, Gertrude Chandler Warner and Mike Dubisch: I loved the Boxcar Children when I was a child and my oldest is madly in love with the series now. These graphic novels might be a fantastic compromise for Jack.

Akiko by Mark Crilley: This is a series starring a ten-year-old girl who sets off on interplanetary adventures featuring aliens and a quest to save a kidnapped prince.

Missile Mouse by Jake Parker: Another sci-fi series, this one starring a mouse. According to Booklist, Missile Mouse is "a gruff loner ideal for deep-space adventuring."

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson or Garfield by Jim Davis: Fair warning: although Jack adores both of these series, the characters are sassier than you might remember. While they make for some hilarious "scripting" incidents, some of those incidents are not well received at, say, school.

Classics Illustrated: If you want to be really sneaky and expose your child to literary classics, check out this series, which features books from Great Expectations to Treasure Island to The Count of Monte Cristo and The Invisible Man.

Star Wars Graphic Novels: There are a plethora of these available, from Clone Wars books to books of the movies to The Force Unleashed. Just search for "Star Wars Graphic Novels" on Amazon and you will find something for your little Jedi.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney: Not technically graphic novels, but easy to read books, with cartoon drawings on most pages, this series is a good transition for kids moving from picture to chapter books.

DC Super Pets: Another series, this one featuring superheroes, but in pet form. Think Ace the Bat-Hound instead of Batman and Krypto the Super-Dog instead of Superman.

Wuv Bunnies from Outers Pace by David Elliott and Ethan Long: Recommended by a friend and written by a friend of said friend (follow that?), this book looks like a fun tale of fuzzy space aliens and word play.

Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunders by Michael Townsend: For kids into Greek myths (like my oldest son), this looks like a fun way to learn about the stories, the morals and the history of the myths, using contemporary language and jokes.

Rapunzel's Revenge and Calamity Jack by Dean, Shannon and Nathan Hale: These are graphic novels that put a fresh twist on fairy tales.

Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi: This is a series of graphic novels focused on two children trying to save their mother. Based on the descriptions I found, this looks like it has some dark themes, so check it out before giving it to sensitive children.

Super Chicken Nugget Boy by Josh Lewis and Douglas Holgate: Proving that there is a book about everything, this series is about two elementary school kids who invent an imaginary crime fighter named Super Chicken Nugget Boy. In the first book, the kids' school is attacked by a giant French fry. I might have to check this book out just out of sheer curiosity.

The Legend of Zelda by Akira Himekawa: Fans of the Zelda video games will surely love these books featuring Link, the hero.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: Described as "a novel with words and pictures," this book has traditional pages of text interspersed with intricate drawings that do not just illustrate the story, but help to tell it, according to the author. At 550 pages, this book will either make your kid feel awesome for reading it or will be overwhelming. I think it looks fascinating.

Copper by Kazu Kibuishi: This collection of comic shorts, taking up only a few pages each, about a kid and his talking dog could be perfect for children who don't have the attention span for an entire cohesive book. By the author of the Amulet series.

Owly by Andy Runton: This series is the nearly wordless story of Owly and Wormy and their black-and-white adventures. This might be great for pre-readers as well.

Hikaru No Go by Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata: Another series, this one follows a sixth grader in Japan whose consciousness becomes fused with an ancient master of the game Go. Having not read this book, I'm curious as to how the authors make it work. If I were to buy it though, I would also buy a Go set and start teaching my kid about the strategic game.

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel: Yet another series, this one about a bad cat, who really seems like pretty much every other cat in the world. I liked the hairball puking on the pages I saw. It reminded me of my lame cats. I think my kids would laugh hysterically while reading these.

Stone Rabbit by Erik Craddock: For slightly younger readers (ages 4-8), this series is about a bored rabbit who goes on zany adventures through time and space.

Asterix by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo: There is a lot of dense writing in this comic book for kids, so make sure your child can handle all the words on the page. There seem to be dozens in this series, so if your child likes them, you are in luck!

Tintin by Herge: These stories featuring Tintin and his dog, Snowy, span historical and political events, fantasy and science-fiction adventures and mysteries.

PS238: A comic book series about young costumed heroes and villains.

Babymouse by Jennifer and Matthew Holm: There sure are a lot of mice in graphic novels. This series, which is decidedly pink, if that matters to your child, is about a mouse who uses her vivid imagination to take her on incredible journeys.

Lions, Tigers and Bears by Mike Bullock and Jack Lawrence: This is a story of stuffed animals charged with protecting their children from the monsters in the closet.

Amelia Rules by Jimmy Gownley: A series comic about Amelia, a young girl who has to move to a small town after her parents divorce. This is a coming of age series for girls.

Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce: A series about a middle schooler convinced that he is destined for great things.

If your child loves these graphic novels and comics and wants to try to create his or her own, check out Cartoon Cool, Cartooning: The Ultimate Character Design Book or one of any number of other books to help your child learn how to hone the craft.

If you haven't found what you're looking for here, you can always stop by your local comic shop to get their personal recommendation based on your child's age and interests.

Thanks to everyone who gave me suggestions. There were a couple of suggestions I got that I wasn't able to find online, so I might be missing some fantastic ideas. I think this is a good list to get started with though! Please let me know in the comments if you other great suggestions for graphic novels for young children.


toddlerplanet said...

Wow - what an incredible list!

Lucky Jack!

Leeann said...

This is an amazing list. Thank you so much. You are the height of awesome for reminding me of it.

Trey (9) has read a fair number of these books. He recently discovered Amulet and read them in short order. He loved Super Chicken Nugget Boy and both books by the Calamity Jack folks.

Oh! Another idea that Jack might or might not be ready for: Did you know there are Goosebumps books in graphic novel form? All three of my kids devoured several last summer. The author is RL Stine.

Does Jack like to draw? Trey is expressing a lot of interest in cartooning so I am going to pick up a couple of books about that tomorrow at the library.

Thanks again for reminding me about this list. I'm saving it to my Favorites!

Leeann said...

Oh, and...

I think it is limited your audience by referring to this article as Graphic Novels for kids with autism.
I think it's a great list for reluctant readers, regardless!

NG said...

Oh my gosh, we bought Meanwhile at a comic book convention we went to last summer. My daughter has spent probably a thousand hours reading it over and over. I have never gotten so much mileage from a book.

Sue @ Laundry for Six said...

My 8-year old is loving Bone right now. Love this list!

Ange said...

mine is an 11 year old, but we just got some chester crab comix, which are about historical things. The little guy can't read, but loves books, and is now very into SpongBob comics and Scooby Doo comics. I like the ones that tell the story of a cartoon that he's seen. They he can associate the story and sort of 'read'.

Anonymous said...

You mention using online searches and Amazon, but you can also contact your local library. Many children's departments carry graphic novels these days, and if your library doesn't you can suggest it :)

SO glad you recognize what works for your son and that you are willing to share with others - Thank you!

Andy said...

Great list. Have you also checked out Campfire's graphic novels? They're specifically aimed at young people and kids, and are great for reluctant readers.

Have a look here if you like -

~ Wendy ~ said...

Great list! But I have to agree with Leeann - you are limiting your audience with your title. My son (now 12) has dyslexia and it was and is always a struggle to get him to read BUT give him a graphic novel or comic book (Big Nate, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Super Hero Squad) and he is under the covers with the flashlight crying for "just 10 more minutes pleeeessee..." over and over like any typical young kid who loves to read. :)
Thanks for the list - I'm going to check out several of them for him over the summer.