This list of the best graphic novels for girls by age will empower young females with stories that will stay with them throughout their whole life.
A while ago there was what the British call a “bun fight” online in which some people claimed that girls don’t read comics. Many commenters pointed out that girls have read and made comics for as long as there have been comics. My Mom learned to read so she could read Prince Valiant, and her long-gone collection of Betty and Veronica, Supergirl, and Lois Lane comics sound like it was pretty cool. Despite that, for a long time, there weren’t that many mainstream comics created by women or that centered on female characters. Things are getting better though- here is a list of great comics organized by age that the girls in your life might get excited about. As always, the age recommendations here are flexible- you know what your kid is ready for better than I do. While this list is aimed at girls, we believe any gender should be allowed to read whatever they want that is appropriate for their age, so be sure to check out our list of Best Graphic Novels For Kids By Age.
Preschool and Early Elementary School (Ages 4-7)
If I had infinite money, I’d buy a big stack of Rod Esipinosa’s The Courageous Princess and hand them out to anyone who held still long enough to take one. Unless it has a fanbase that I don’t know about, this is a criminally underrated comic. Princess Mabelrose is the daughter of the royal family of the tiny kingdom of New Tinsley. Her hero’s journey starts when she is kidnapped by a dragon. She uses her wits to escape, makes some new friends, finds some powerful magic items, and eventually liberates the Hundred Kingdoms from the scourge of the Dragon Queen! Unlike a lot of “let’s subvert the helpless princess story” stories, Princess Mabelrose isn’t a sassy princess. She has excellent manners and a pleasant demeanor that covers a spine of steel. Pages 59-60 of the second book have one of the great entrances in all of comics, with Mabelrose swooping in on her flying carpet. There is also a third book with an immense and terrifying dragon.
In a just world, Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade would have lasted a hundred issues and spawned a TV show. Creators Landry Walker, Joey Mason, and Eric Jones do a great job of contrasting Supergirl and her alter-ego, Linda Lee. It’s very easy to imagine being a student at her school and thinking that there is no possible way that gawky weirdo Linda could possibly be anyone important, much less the mighty Supergirl. There are some deep cuts for nerds here, with Streaky the Super Cat and Comet the Super Horse both making appearances. This comic has a lot to say about fitting in and making friends. Supergirl’s confrontation with Linda Lee’s friend Lena might be a good jumping-off point for a discussion about what it means to be a good friend. Make sure you check out our list of best comic for kids that love superheroes.
Elementary School (Ages 8-11)
DC Comics has been publishing some excellent all-ages material lately. Anti/Hero, by Kate Karyus Quinn, Demitria Lunetta, and Maca Gil is about two middle school-aged girls. Piper is super strong and Sloane is super smart. Piper is sunny, outgoing, and lives in a stable and loving home. Sloane is a brooding loner whose mother is sick and whose family is more involved in Gotham City’s organized crime scene than is healthy for them. Piper and Sloane are headed for conflict when a device explodes and causes their minds to switch bodies. Piper and Sloane learn that there’s a lot more to each of them than the other thought. Piper isn’t “good” and Sloane isn’t “evil”, what they are are two kids trying to figure out what to do with the lot they’ve been given. Anti/Hero is funny and has a couple of great new DC Comics characters that girls might see themselves in.
Rick Riordan’s half-bloods have all the luck. Their parents are beautiful Greek Gods and Goddesses whose names everyone knows. Calla Tafali is descended from a tentacled monstrosity who nobody in their right mind likes. Calla Cthulhu, created by Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Erin Humiston, Bill Mudron, and Mario Gonzalez has both humor and monster fighting. Calla’s uncle is the King in Yellow, a mind-shredding eldritch horror from beyond the depths of time who I have to say is being a real jerk about causing the end of the world. Like her Dark Horse Comics stablemate Hellboy, Calla struggles to reconcile her demonic nature and her stand-up girl nurture, while at the same time struggling against tentacle beasts from the void between the worlds who are trying to kill her.
Middle School (Ages 12+)
Robin Ha’s Almost American Girl is a good companion to Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade. They share the theme of growing up in a new place, although Almost American Girl is a much more complex and demanding read. Almost American Girl tells the story of how Robin Ha immigrated from South Korea to the US as a middle school student. Robin and her mother have a tough time at first. Robin doesn’t speak English well, and she misses Korea (and its comics) terribly. Their living situation isn’t great either. Robin’s mother marries a man who is no match for her in ambition or work ethic, and Robin struggles to connect with her new step-siblings. Things get better for Robin and her mother over time. Robin learns English, works hard at her art, and finds a place for herself in the US. At the end of the book, she takes a trip to Seoul and meets some old friends, but it’s clear that Korea isn’t home anymore. It’s both a happy and sad moment for Robin, and there’s much for readers to think about.
If you’ve been wondering what life was like in an isolated convent off the coast of Britain in the 1500s, then Dylan Meconis has made a great comic for you. At the beginning of the story, a girl named Margaret lives contentedly in the island convent of St. Elysia. A noblewoman, Eleanor, and some of her attendants come to live at the convent, and Margaret’s life becomes much more complicated. Eleanor is fascinating. Many nerds share her frustrating mix of being highly intelligent but never quite understanding the big picture in their own lives. Margaret learns that the home that she loves is also a prison for women who have displeased the King, or in most cases, for women whose husbands or sons displeased the King. The story is interspersed with lots of explainers about Elizabethan era life, like how a person becomes a saint or how to make embroidery. There aren’t that many historical fiction graphic novels, and there are even fewer that are for all ages and that are about women and girls. That makes Queen of the Sea a real find.
Victoria Jamieson’s heroine Imogene journeys from the safety of the Renaissance Faire where she’s growing up to a public middle school. Imogene aspires to be a Knight at the Renaissance Fair and in life, but she has to try on some other identities first. Unprepared for middle school, her life soon starts to get away from her. She fails classes and lies to her parents about it. She makes a friend and then betrays her. She comes into the orbit of a more popular girl, who both pulls her into her circle and dismisses her efforts to fit in. Eventually, she is suspended from school and has to learn that a true Knight apologizes and makes amends for the harm they’ve done. All’s Faire in Middle School took me to a world I had never visited: the world of Renaissance Faire performers. Imgone’s family and friends are rich in love but poor in actual money, providing a gentle lesson for middle-class readers in the fact that Not Everyone Lives Like You Do. If your child wants more to read, check out our list of the best graphic novels for middle school-aged kids.