Overcome Your Reading Slump with Graphic Novels!

I’ve been in a reading slump for a long time, and reading graphic novels got me out of it! Here are five that I read. I’m going to make another post on Flamer by Mike Curato because that was simply amazing.

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley is based on her experience moving to a farm when her mom moved to be with her boyfriend. She has a hard time with her stepsisters and stepdad. Lucy Knisley’s graphic memoirs are so heartfelt, and she doesn’t shy away from talking about uncomfortable feelings. It was a miserable experience for her, being put down by her stepdad and bossed around by her stepsister. He erased the chalkboard sign she designed! Her mom also did not have her back. I just feel so glad that Lucy survived this experience.

Bad Sister by Charice Mericle Harper is a memoir about being a bad sister — a really terrible one. She used the power of the boss, lies, blame, dare and trick, and eventually, her brother got hurt and broke his tooth. She learned that the most important powers are the power to lead and the power to forgive. The pranks she describes are so specific, you know they happened: eating half of a pie, daring the neighborhood kids to go in the inner tube, and not sharing her treasures from the dumper. I really enjoyed this, and what a meaningful apology and reflection.

Chunky by Yehudi Mercado is a memoir about growing up as an injured Mexican-Jewish kid in Texas. Hudi tried to get into sports to lose weight, but sports were not his thing. Chunky is his imaginary mascot/friend who cheered him on after each game and every season. Eventually, Hudi found that comedy was his sport. I loved how Hudi dealt with his weight and being bad at sports with humor, and his relationship with Chunky was super cute.

Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani is all about the music of the 60s and 70s! The main character and her cousin took a spin through time, going back to the women’s march on Washington, James Brown’s concert in Boston after Dr. King’s assassination, and more. I loved how colorful, clean and bold Nidhi Chanani’s art is. This was a very creative way of combining history, music and time travel.

City of Secrets by Victoria Ying is a steampunk fantasy with swtichboards, orphans and a secret society of four families! Victoria Ying is a storyboard artist, and that really came through in this graphic novel. I love Ever and Hannah, but I did not like the depictions of some of the men hitting the women workers.

Review of Nyuki and Flamer to come!

“Chance” by Uri Shulevitz

“Chance: Escape from the Holocaust” by Uri Shulevitz

One thing that has been on my mind for the past 4 years is the rise of fascism in the U.S. You cannot ignore it and it isn’t hyperbolic to wonder how close America came to becoming Nazi Germany. I noticed this book by “chance” at the library and immediately picked it up. I wanted to learn more about the Holocaust and how every day people resisted, or managed to escape, it.

Uri Shulevitz is a Caldecott Award-winning illustrator and picture book author. He is now 85-years-old and this memoir recounts his days in Poland, Turkestan, and France when he was a child escaping the Holocaust with his parents. Impressionist drawings and some photographs accompany the text. I would say this is not a strictly children’s book because there is a lot of cruelty, the kind that hits you when you look back as an adult.

One of the biggest connections I drew from Shulevitz to the U.S. today is when he mentioend how lucky he was to go through this ordeal with his parents. The U.S. separates children from their parents at the border. Both are escaping from home countries that have become inhabitable for them. Uri’s parents left him at several points during their journey from Poland to Turkestan because of illness, work opportunity, or being captured. Nonetheless, they managed to return.

That his family stayed intact and that he survived to become an artist is the theme of “Chance.” If he had not been named Uri, his father would have gotten USSR passports. If they had Soviet passports, they would have remained in Belarus. If they had stayed in Belarus, they would have been taken by the invading Nazis and died.

It goes to show that our survival had little to do with our own decisions. Rather, it was blind chance deciding our fate.

p. 249, Chance by Uri Shulevitz

It is the same with DREAMers and immigrants from Central America coming to the United States. Their survival has to do with the mercy of ICE, of Senators, of the President — people who have no idea who they are and what is at stake. Uri said that even after the Nazis had been defeated and his family moved to Paris, he was called a “dirty foreigner” by other children, and only seen as a Parisian outside of Paris. That resonates with how Americans see each other and the many divisions and cultural wars that you fight, even when you are technically “safe.”

My biggest takeaway from “Chance” is that safety is a gift and we are always one disaster, one chance away from fascism taking over. We can be vigilant and put in every effort, but safety is not guaranteed.

Graphic novels!

Graphic novels are so awesome! I wish they had been around back when I was a student. Graphic novels written just for kids. I love the CatStronauts series by Drew Brockington because it combines so many awesome things: cats, space/NASA, and our world. The author did an interview here about his process. It really is adorable and I’ve been loving the specific crossovers I’m seeing lately! Comics can really bring together people with different interests, and not the traditional reader. As a format, graphic novels are really powerful and I’m excited to see their applications in the classroom.

One such application is using non-fiction graphic novels for informational reading/writing! Drowned City is a GN about Hurricane Katrina, and it was definitely researched and a lot of facts went into the making. It really captures the short span during which the event happened, and I learned a lot about Hurricane Katrina. It would be so great to do a dual-text comparison of this and a news article, interview, or video on the same event. Kind of wish I was a teacher so I could design these kind of lessons!

Graphic novels can also be used for fantasy! Making Scents and Chasma Knights are both partly based in the real world with fantasy elements. Chasma is about a world where toys have power, and Making Scents is about a boy who has dog-like abilities. Graphic novels appeal to kids because a lot of us are visual learners, and as teachers, we are always pairing text with images to help clarify. It makes perfect sense that GNs would help all kinds of readers make sense of the story.

Lastly, I loved Cici’s Journal. It’s a two-part book about an aspiring writer/journalist. Cici discovers an abandoned zoo as well as a library book that has been checked out by the same patron for years. On her quests to uncover these mysteries, she alienates her best friends, her mom, and her mentor. The drawings and mementos are absolutely precious and really bring the story to life. I’ve always loved journal-type books like Amelia and other diary formats. They are so precious to read and to be honest, I’m still that kind of person.

Will you give graphic novels a try? If you are a teacher, might you incorporate GNs into your lessons?


Graphic novels and easy reads!

I’m very blessed that I’ve been able to read a lot lately. Aside from reading books that are related to each other or share a theme, I’m also reading one-off books just for fun! Graphic novels fit this niche perfectly. Sometimes you just need something to break the pattern and get you out of a reading rut.

I LOVED Brazen by Penelope Bagieu. I can’t say enough good things about it because each biography blew me away. She illustrates the stories of women, some famous, some unknown, who have done extraordinary things in their lives. There have been a lot of books like this, but this one stands out because the women in it are well rounded — they are flawed, they like/marry the wrong men, they grow old and more than a few of them have done sketchy things in their lives. That made their stories more powerful because they are real. Even powerful and inspirational make mistakes. We shouldn’t aspire to be perfect women, but women who are confident in our skins and BOLD <3.

Jedi Academy is a fun series for a non-Star Wars fan like me because I like the school humor part of it. My favorite character is nerdy and allergic (Allergenic?) Artemis. He is pretty much me. I love Jedi Academy because it would make kids feel like they are living the Star Wars life in their own schools and homes. Star Wars characters, they’re just like us!

The illustrations in Level Up are cute, but the story is a little bit dark. Gene Luen Yang is one of the Asian-Am graphic novel OGs, and Thien Pham did a wonderful job illustrating the story here. Despite the cover it’s really not a story about video games at all, but rather living up to expectations or following them because you choose to. It made me feel uncertain and to be honest, a little unsettled. Many Asian dramas have a way of making you feel that.

On a totally different note, it’s always a joy to read early reader chapter books. Just look at the title! How could you not feel good after reading My Heart is Laughing and When I am Happiest. I love Dani and Ella’s stories even when their lives are full of sadness. It kind of reminds of Kate DiCamillo’s books where the children have super sad lives but still are full of hope.



I just noticed that all of these books have a really unique format: poetry+memoir, text+graphic novel, letters, and picture book. I really am loving variety in what I read lately and they are all so wonderful!

1. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie – Wow, what a punch in the guts this memoir was. This is the kind of book that I am unable to read twice. Real life is intense and sometimes you don’t need to make up anything to make a story interesting.

2. The Marvels by Brian Selznick – Of the three graphic novels (Hugo, Wonderstruck, and this one) I think Wonderstruck is my favorite. The Marvels talks about a family of actors and how they came to their demise. It really shows the fine difference between truth and fiction and how we make meaning of what’s around us.

3. Unusual Chickens For the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones – I am a chicken lover so obviously I loved this book. So wonderful! I learned a lot about the care and keeping of chickens. I look forward to the sequel!

4. Mr. And Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire by Polly Horvath – Polly Horvath is becoming one of my favorite authors. I loved this book! I am really liking the format of the “big storybook,” which is like a grown-up chapter book+picture book. Mr. Bunny kept saying that Madeline has a big bottom! Poor Madeline.

5. Dear Farenheit 451 by Annie Spence – A book written by a bookworm, for bookworms. It was such a fun read! I wish I had a book buddy who read all of the same books as me and wrote their own version. Perhaps it would be called Dear Matilda?

Cozy fantasies

I loved every book in here, a lot!!!!!!! I think this might be the coziest group of books I’ve read.

Ling & Ting: Together in All Weather – It’s Grace Lin, so obviously I am a fan! I loved that she dedicated this book to her husband. Ling and Ting are always up to something and their episodes are always a treat. Here’s to the people with us in all weather ❤ .

5 Centimeters per Second – I cried reading this and I should’ve guessed I would. It is just like life to move too quickly and to pull people apart. I feel like both Tohno and Akari because I live in the present, but there is someone as important to be as Akari was to Tohno. I love Kanae too. I just want all the characters to find love and happiness. What a beautiful manga!

Neruda’s Book of Questions – I loved Pablo Neruda’s work ever since I read The Dreamer, which is about his childhood. He sure is a dreamer!!! He thinks of things we would never ever think of. His questions in 10 words can say so much than 50 words could. What a powerful and unique book.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus– This was a great book for kids and adults alike! Dusti Bowling is a future awards winner. Aven is my inspiration.

Everything on a Waffle – I adored this book! It is short and sweet, and I made the tuna noodle casserole from the recipes inside. It’s like Pushing Daisies, sort of.

I Am Pusheen the Cat – I read this while I was eating breakfast at a Taiwanese cafe. It’s Four Seas! after I came back from Knott’s. This was probably the most fun day I had this year before the hectic work schedule started 😦 .

I loved all the books here!


My favorite authors are Kate DiCamillo, Shannon Hale, and Grace Lin. I have read like ALL of their books!!!!!! and I would love to read them again.

Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? – I loved this book because I feel like Baby Lincoln 🙂 When I am an old lady I might go on a train and get lost as well. The kids she meets in this book are so adorable.

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon – DiCamillo is a master because she can create the most realistic yet cartoonish characters. How does she come up with Francine Poulet? It is so much fun! This series is like a comic book in a chapter book.

Real Friends – I looooove this book ❤ Shannon Hale is my favorite author and probably person if I knew her in real life. I love the story and illustrations. Baby Shannon 😥 I just want to be popular even though I wear glasses and am nerdy.

Fortune Cookie Fortunes – I love Grace Lin’s picture books, early readers, chapter books, and novels. Everything she writes and draws. I loved this book because it encouraged me in a lot of ways to stay positive.

Bringing in the New Year – Grace Lin does a good job of showing Chinese traditions like Moon Festival and New Year. I think the best thing about it is that they’re all based on her family and her childhood.

The grand scheme

A Wind in the Door – I loved this book because Charles Wallace is so brave. He takes every risk and travels to the tiniest space possible. It is a wonderful sequel to A Wrinkle in Time but I think I need to re-read it to get more sense out of it.

Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng is such a good writer!! One reviewer on Goodreads said “she knows so much about each of us.” The book is very intimate and a slow burn to a devastating end 😦 Sadly, it is the lives of ordinary people. I think that’s what makes it so depressing.

The Color of Earth – This is a manhwa about a young girl becoming a woman. It’s the first in a trilogy that (Spoiler Alert: ends in her getting married.) The scenery and symbolism is beautiful! It cannot have been easy becoming a woman in any era. It’s a clumsy process but also so relatable.

Breadcrumbs – This is a fairy tale that turns some stereotypes on its head. It’s like the Snow Queen, but the girl saves the boy and she is an adopted Indian American. This book is kind of a slow burn too and depressing because the adults don’t seem very supportive of the children at all! 😦

Wonderstruck – I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!! It’s about Ben and Rose, who are both deaf and their stories . It’s like watching a movie on a paper. It is such a awesome, sad, and wonderful story. It takes us to the 1920s and 1970s and museums in New York. I want to see my life depicted in this format although it might be kind of boring 😛

El Deafo by Cece Bell


I loved El Deafo! It was an adorable look into something tough. The book starts out with a 4-year-old bunny getting a spinal tap and finding out she has meningitis (OMG). 😥 But what follows that is something so inspiring and funny, as a reader I trusted Cece and knew that I wouldn’t be heartbroken or disappointed.

This graphic novel follows Cece, the author, throughout her elementary years. Cece transforms into El Deafo in her mind, but in real life something embarrassing is usually happening. Cece tries to find a best friend, but Martha, the best candidate, is scared that she will hurt Cece and possible make her blind when she is already deaf. What sweet bunnies!

This is a unique book that I don’t think I will find again. I loved that it was based on the author’s own experiences, rather than what a hearing person thinks a deaf person lives through. I especially loved the way that we get to “hear” what Cece hears with and without her hearing aid! El Deafo offers a unique perspective on hearing loss that is funny and sweet.

In the end, friendship prevails and El Deafo finds her sidekick ❤