popping with pictures!… graphic-novel style books for beginning readers

Easy-to-read kids’ books have changed enormously over the years.
It makes me so happy to see the range of styles and genres available now to new readers.

One of the exciting recent additions is graphic-novel style books — books employing comic panels and techniques, heavily reliant on visual storytelling, written with beginning readers in mind.


They’re a welcome change-up stylistically, for although there are increasing numbers of beginning readers ditching overly precious artwork and content,
still the visual sophistication and storytelling panache of graphic style books strikes a much fresher note for many children.
And for older-than-average beginning readers, or readers who are overwhelmed by lots of print for any number of reasons — these books are your friends!


Today I’ve got a starter batch, dipping into a variety of publishers and styles.
If you’ve got early readers in your sphere, I hope you’ll give these a whirl.
They also make fine read-alouds for younger siblings.

the party cover image

The Party and Other Stories,  by Sergio Ruzzier
published in 2018 by Chronicle Books

Three charming, funny stories about two pals, a fox and a chick. Their friendship takes a bit of work. Chick can be a bit pesky; Fox has to be the patient one. Perhaps Chick’s busy-body ways bring just that element of verve to Fox’s life that would otherwise be missing? In any case, we’d all be lucky to have a friend like Fox.

the party Sergio Ruzzier

Illustrated with Sergio Ruzzier’s typical warmth. Perfect for a sturdy beginning reader or for just sharing with preschoolers.

the quiet boat ride cover image

The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories,  by Sergio Ruzzier
published in 2019 by Chronicle Books

Luckily for us, a second volume of Fox and Chick stories has emerged this year.

the quiet boat ride Sergio Ruzzier

In three episodes, once again Fox demonstrates long-suffering kindness in his friendship with chattering, worrywart, oblivious Chick as they attempt a quiet boat ride, consider a chocolate cake, and attempt to catch an early morning sunrise. Ruzzier’s extraordinary artwork makes every panel a dream.

a trip to the top of the volcano

A Trip to the Top of the Volcano with Mouse,  by Frank Viva
published in 2019 by Toon Books

If you’re looking for snazzy, beginner-level, comic-style books, you had better know about Toon. With dozens of titles to their credit and always more coming, they are the go-to name for this genre.


Here’s a snappy adventure starring one intrepid and patient explorer and his sidekick, an antsy mouse with pizza on the brain! The two of them have arrived at Mount Etna for an expedition to the top of the volcano.


Discover cool volcano facts as we journey up the mountain and be entertained by mouse’s vivid reactions and one-track, pizza-loving mind! An awesome choice for beginning readers.

silly lilly cover

Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons, by Agnès Rosenstiehl
published in 2008 by Toon Books

Five very short vignettes see a little girl enjoying what each of the seasons has to offer, starting with spring, moving through summer, fall, and winter, before concluding with one last spring visit.

silly lilly interior

A dash of humor, simple, bold artwork, and an upbeat tone. Great choice for new readers.

super duper dog park cover

The Super-Duper Dog Park, by Aron Nels Steinke
published in 2011 by Chronicle Books

The Balloon Toons line from Blue Apple/Chronicle  is full of marvelous, quirky choices for young readers. Here, a group of kids and their dogs heads to the park in a groovy VW van.

super duper dog park interior

And what a park! Like Disneyland for dogs! Enormously imaginative fun.

good night planet cover

Good Night, Planet, by Liniers
published in 2017 by Toon Books

Liniers’ gorgeous artwork gives this book quite a different quality than any other on today’s list. It’s more of a classic picture book style of illustration, yet the story is told in panels and speech bubbles.

good night planet interior

After a child is in bed and asleep, what adventures might a beloved stuffed animal have? This one, named Planet, has quite an active night! Follow along in this tender, lovely story.

poppy and sam cover

Poppy & Sam and the Mole Mystery, by Cathon, translated by Susan Ouriou
French edition published in Canada in 2018; English edition 2019 by Owlkids Books

Sunny scenes of a meadowland set the stage for this lost-and-found mystery starring a little gal named Poppy, and her pal Sam, a panda.

poppy and sam by Cathon

When they pay a visit to Snuggles the mole, Poppy and Sam learn that his pretty pink eyeglasses have gone missing. Off they go to search, encountering more meadow friends and gobs of lost articles strewn hither and thither along the way. Minimal text and the added fun of spotting the missing bits and bobs before the entire conundrum is finally unravelled make this a fun choice.

stinky cover

Stinky, by Eleanor Davis
published in 2008 by Toon Books

Stinky is a squat, purple monster who lives in a cave with his pal, Wartbelly, a lumpy toad. Stinky loves all kinds of supposedly-disgusting stuff — pickled onions, mucky mud, stinky smells…ahhhhhh! But he is not fond of kids, candy, yummy cake and crunchy apples. Yuck!

stinky interior

Find out what happens when Stinky meets an actual kid named Nick in this funny, table-turning tale.

written and drawn cover

Written and Drawn by Henrietta, by Liniers
published in 2015 by Toon Books

Henrietta has a brand new set of lovely colored pencils and has settled in to craft her own little book.  Ingeniously, Liniers presents small panels depicting Henrietta and her cat, Fellini, narrating the story-making process…

written and drawn interior

…while front and center we are treated to Henrietta’s actual drawings and text in all its wild color and childish glory. This book is both a delightful little read and a great invitation to creating books.

peter and ernesto cover

Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths, by Graham Annable
published in 2018 by First Second

Peter and Ernesto are best friends. They live in the top of a tree in the rain forest where Peter is content as pie to just stay put.

peter and ernesto interior

Ernesto, on the other hand, wants to see “all of the sky,” to get out there and have an adventure.  Very un-slothy! So off he goes, leaving a mighty worried Peter behind. Follow the delightful adventures of both these guys in this delightful story with a minimum of words and a whole lot of heart!
(It’s probably my favorite of the  bunch today.)

the lost sloths

A sequel, Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths, published this spring, is equally jolly. And a third volume is due out in Spring 2020. Hop aboard the sloth train now!

otto's orange day cover

Otto’s Orange Day, by Frank Cammuso & Jay Lynch
published in 2008 by Toon Books

Otto the cat meets a magical Aladdin-style genie and makes his wish for a whole, entire world that’s orange!

otto's orange day interior

As with Midas of old, Otto eventually realizes that orange-everything is not as great as he thought it might be.  When he gets another wish, will his troubles be over? Or how exactly can he outsmart this slightly-peevish genie? Zippy fun!

glurb cover

Adopt a Glurb, by Elise Gravel
published in 2010 by Chronicle Books

This funny rapscallion is a glurb. Isn’t he so cute? You probably would like to have a glurb of your own.

glurb interior

Before you just jump into glurb ownership, however, you might want to learn a thing or two about them and this handy dandy guide is just the thing. All of this funny, quirky, wonderfulness, courtesy of the amazing Elise Gravel, who makes reading fun!


There are scads more of these types of books, light on words, high on pizzazz and good humor, ready to beguile your beginning reader.
Ask your librarian or independent bookseller and they’ll lead you right to ’em!