Thursday, March 17, 2022

A Giant Stack of Catholic Graphic Novels

Graphic novels... do your kids or students love them?

What's your opinion? 

I've heard a lot of thoughts about graphic novels from parents and teachers during my time as an educator. In this post, I'd like to share some ideas with you about why I think graphic novels are a great tool for Catholic homes and classrooms, as well as a list of graphic novels that your kiddos might enjoy.

First, graphic novels are a format, not a genre. Lumping them as all good or all bad is like saying that all picture books are good or all chapter books are bad. Graphic novels are a format that combine images and words, often in the form of captions and speech bubbles, to share information. Similar to a comic book, a graphic novel is usually longer and stands alone, as opposed to a serial story. Just like a picture book or chapter book, graphic novels can be about any topic and vary in quality. Many Catholic publishers are taking advantage of the creative scope within a graphic novel to share stories from the Bible and lives of the Saints.

Benefits of Graphic Novels Overall:

  • The graphic novel format can bring important info (including more complex non-fiction topics) into the hands of reluctant readers or readers who need more support.
  • Graphic novels use tools that are a benefit to visual learners (which includes so many students!)
  • In storytelling, graphic novels utilize both written/verbal communication as well as visuals/non-verbals. To fully understand the nuance of a story, the reader must look at body language, facial expression, "sound effects" and movement. While the word count is certainly lower than a chapter book, there is not necessarily less information shared (there might even be more!).
  • Well written and illustrated graphic novels can develop and challenge reading skills like sequencing, making inferences, and understanding dialogue and perspective.
  • They are great for presenting a topic using less time than a chapter book. Graphic novels are more readily used in shorter chunks, making them perfect to pick up and enjoy for snippets of time (like at the end of class for my early finishers).
  • Emotions are often more obviously portrayed in graphic novels. This can be a great tool for teaching social skills, empathy, etc.
  • They appeal to older readers and welcome younger readers.
  • I don't recommend that a child ONLY read graphic novels- just like I encourage them to read across all formats and genres. Graphic novels can be part of that.
Benefits of Catholic Graphic Novels:
  • Catholic graphic novels use modern tools to communicate timeless truths. They are attractive to kids today, who live in a visually stimulating world. This style is appealing, encouraging them to pick up the book even if the topic doesn't initially catch their interest.
  • They allow a child to take in a greater breadth of info, hopefully leading them to then want to read something in more depth. A child can read several Saint biography graphic novels in the time it might take them to read a Saint chapter book. Both are good, but the graphic novel format can expand their overall knowledge and understanding.
  • The same is true with graphic novels about Scripture. While the actual Bible is of course the best, we still make use of picture book Bibles and short stories to teach kids. Graphic novels with Bible stories can help kids grasp the big picture and motivate them to read the full text of the passage in Scripture.
  • Catholic graphic novels offer great opportunities for cross curricular content in classrooms. A small group set of graphic novels on a Saint or Bible story can promote good conversation among readers, and use faith-filled content to teach sequencing, character development, plot, etc.
So, are you intrigued? I've been adding Catholic graphic novels to my classroom library for many years, so I've got a good stack to share with you today.
In the links below, I've included Amazon Affiliate Links. However, I've also included links directly to the publisher, and I always encourage you to consider shopping at a local Catholic book store or directly from the author when possible!

I'll start with graphic novels about the Bible, then Sacraments, then the Saints, then some inspiring people and fictional stories intended to catechize. I've given you a picture of the cover and a sample inside page, a run down of details like length and page size, and a short description of the book.

The Life of Jesus, by Alex Ben
  • Pauline Books & Media- 136 pages, 8"x11" softcover, full color glossy pages.
  • Also available in Spanish!
  • Stunningly illustrated with impeccable detail.
  • Chronicles Jesus' Incarnation from Birth through Ascension.
  • Includes quotes and captions paired with colorful, comic book style stories, this book would be a memorable read for any intermediate or middle schooler.  
  • Each page also lists the direct Scripture References to the included stories.  
  • The book is broken into themed chapters and has a great table of contents to help you find just the story you'd like to read.  

Illustrated Bibles for Children from Ignatius Press
The Illustrated Gospel for Children, by Jean-Francois Kieffer, Illustrated by Christine Ponsard
  • From Ignatius Press- Available here, use code KATIE25 for 25% off list price! (code active until 4/17/22)
  • And I'll be giving away a set of these on Instagram from 3/17-3/19/22!
  • Ignatius Press- Gospels 107 pages, others 47 pages, 7"x9" padded hardcover, full color glossy pages.
  • Keepsake quality hardbacks, these books are great for elementary aged students ready to read stories from the New Testament on their own. The illustrations and text are more simple, making them approachable and readable for younger kids.
  • The Gospel collection is great, but I also really like the individual books highlighting the miracles and parables of Jesus.
  • And I think that the Book of Acts can often get overlooked in children's books- the stories of the early Church are so important to their understanding of the gift of the Sacraments, participation in a parish community, and the continuation of Jesus' ministry through the Apostles.
  • The citation for each story is also included on the page, so the reader can also look up the whole story in the context as they are ready.

The Comic Book Bibles from TAN Books
  • TAN Books- 115 and 139 pages, 6"x9" softcover, full color matte pages.
  • Filled with rich illustrations, these comic book Bibles are most impressive because they contain the full text (RSVCE translation) of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.
  • I love that this is not a watered down version- it contains an approved, adult level translation, but coupled with the illustrations and movement provided in a graphic novel format, it is more readable (for both kids and adults!).
  • One tiny complaint is that the text is pretty small and the white margins are pretty wide- I do wish that the space was maximized.
  • Again, love that the Acts of the Apostles is included. This is a great resource, especially for older kids reading stories from Acts as preparation for receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Catechism of the Seven Sacraments, by Kevin and Mary O'Neill
  • StoryTel Press- 291 pages, 9"x11" hardcover, full color glossy pages.
  • My students thoroughly love this giant-comic-strip-Lego-illustrated-Sacrament-themed-Scripture-rich book. I actually have two copies now and they are pulled off the shelf almost daily. My first copy is in its fifth school year of use and is still in phenomenal shape.
  • The almost 300 pages tell the story of the Sacraments through the eyes of two kids, Fulton and Cynthia.  Exploring the connecting typology of the Sacraments as found in the Old Testament and the Church today, the book also weaves in Saints, morality, prayer, and more.  
  • My students are fascinated by the details in the Lego scenes that tell the story and enjoy finding bricks that they have at home to recreate the pictures.  I love the richness of the faith that is shared in such a multifaceted manner throughout the book, and how they use the Sacraments to weave together the story of Salvation History.  The graphic novel style compels you to keep picking it up, flipping to a new section, and reading more.  
  • There is also a handy glossary in the back, color coded sections by Sacraments, and frequent Scripture and Catechism references in the margins.  
  • Pocket Guide to the Rosary and a Pocket Guide to Reconciliation are also available.

  • Sophia Institute Press- 70 pages, 6.5"x10" softcover, full color glossy pages.
  • Three stories within the graphic novel teach about the Sacraments of Initiation. Characters Hannah and Andy carry the connecting story line through all three sections, learning about Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. The narrative teaches about each Sacrament naturally as part of the events of the story, and you can see Hannah and Andy grow and mature in their faith in each encounter with the Sacraments. 
  • Perfect for a kid preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation, or a sibling of a First Communicant or baby to be Baptized.

The Saints Chronicles, various authors and illustrators
Volume 1: Sts. Patrick, Jerome Emiliani, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Henry Morse, and Joan of Arc
Volume 2: Sts. Anne Line, Brigid of Ireland, Francis of Assisi, Nicholas, and Pachomius
Volume 3: Sts. Anthony of Padua, Ava, Samson, Bernadette, and Charles Lwanga
Volume 4: Sts. Willibrord, Margaret of Scotland, Rose of Lima, and Dominic
Volume 5: Sts. Ignatius of Loyola, Germaine of Pibrac, Pope Celestine V, Vincent de Paul, and Clare of Assisi
  • Sophia Institute Press- 116 pages, 6.5"x10" softcover, full color glossy pages.
  • The Saints Chronicles collection has a mature look for middle school or older readers and features five Saints in each book.  Well known Saints like Anthony, Patrick and Nicholas are mixed in with the lesser known Henry Morse, Charles Lwanga, and Pachomus.  
  • Creatively told by many different authors and illustrators, these books are almost like five individual comic books in one.

Pauline Books and Media Graphic Novels
St. Francis of Assisi: Messenger of Peace
Saint Joan of Arc: Quest for Peace (out of stock on Amazon, available at Pauline Books & Media)
Saint Bernadette: The Miracle of Lourdes (seems to be out of print, could look for a used copy)
Mother Teresa of Kolcutta: Saint Among the Poor (out of stock on Amazon, available at Pauline Books & Media)
  • Pauline Books & Media- 40-60 pages, 8"x11" softcover, full color glossy pages.
  • These books are shorter in length but with larger pages and comic book style illustrations.
  • I think they are great way to introduce kids to the lives of the Saints in a "quicker" format than a traditional chapter book.

More Graphic Novels from Pauline Books & Media
  • Pauline Books & Media- 119-196 pages, 6"x8" softcover, full color glossy pages.
  • This series of graphic novels from Pauline Kids are definitely some of the favorite books in my classroom- they are among the first to be picked up when there is free time at the end of class, especially by my 6th graders.
  • Several in this collection are Shounen-Manga style, recognizable to kids but packed with Saintly content.
  • My favorite this set is the story of John the Baptist. Based on Scripture (and a few tales from tradition about his life), the brightly illustrated book presents his whole life in one cohesive story- which you don't often see. The illustrations  use light and color in a compelling way that adds depth and emotion.


Maximilian Kolbe: The Saint of Auschwitz, by Jean-Francois Vivier, Illustrated by Joel Costes
  • Sophia Institute Press- 52 pages, 9"x12" softcover, full color glossy pages.
  • St. Maximilian Kolbe is a favorite of mine and is quite popular with my students, so this oversized book retelling his life was a great addition to my classroom library.
  • I always appreciate when biographies of St. Max include just as many details (if not more) about the way he lived vs. the way that he died. While his martyrdom in Auschwitz is a powerful part of his story, I am glad that this book also focuses on the extensive work he did in the decades before his arrest. The ways he chose to follow Christ and spread devotion the Mary, the Immaculata, as well as his ingenuity, generosity, and persistence are shared as part of the entirety of his life story.

  • Liturgy Training Publications- 48 pages, 9"x12" softcover, full color glossy pages.
  • This was a purchase from my local Catholic book store that I've often recommended although it was a bit hard to find online for a while. It is currently in stock at LTP and I recommend grabbing a copy or two! 
  • Fr. Tolton served as a priest in Quincy, IL and later Chicago, making him super relevant for my central Illinois classroom, but his story is for everyone. His life, which began in slavery, concluded with him pouring out his life in sacrificial generosity for his people as the first recognized Black Catholic priest in America. His mother escaped with her children while his father was away fighting in the Civil War. Augustus was captivated by his Catholic faith, but unwelcomed by many in his church and Catholic school. While pursuing a call to the priesthood, he was rejected by every seminary in America and had to travel to Rome to be ordained. He then came back to serve some of the very people that were already prejudiced against him. The challenging circumstances of his life are conveyed with hope and ultimately love in this graphic novel retelling for kids using appropriate emotion and detail.

Saint Comic Books
32 pages, 6.5"x10.5" softcover, full color matte paper pages
20 pages, 6.5"x10.5" softcover, full color matte paper pages,
Life is Worth Living: The Life of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (Not available online, contact the Sheen Foundation)
12 pages, 6.5"x10.5" softcover, full color glossy paper pages
  • This collection fits more of what you might think of as a traditional comic book- light weight paper, traditional style, and inexpensive. I picked up each of these at a corresponding shrine for each Saint/Blessed/Venerable, but am happy to see that you can order most of them online through the shrine gift shops. 
  • At around $3 each, you can't beat the value these provide. They also would be an affordable idea for a class or small group set to use for reading instruction. When I taught all subjects, I loved weaving faith into other content areas!

  • From Ignatius Press- Available here, use code KATIE25 for 25% off list price! (code active until 4/17/22)
  • Ignatius Press- 128 pages, 5"x8" softcover, full color glossy pages,
  • Fr. Goldmann was a seminarian in Germany at the beginning on WWII and was drafted into Hitler's SS.  This graphic novel biography (based on his autobiography by the same name) tells of dangerous and unbelievable events during the war that lead to his continued formation, secret ordination, and ministry to Catholics during a time when openly sharing one's faith often led to death.  
  • The first half of the book covers Goldmann's service during the war and imprisonment after.  It is followed by a text epilogue covering the events of the rest of his life as well as dozens of photographs and primary sources.  
  • The novel also includes a section with the script and sketches for the making of the graphic novel, which would be awesome for aspiring little authors.
  • Graphic novels and WWII are both perpetually popular content in my classroom library, so I knew this would be a winner among my 5th graders.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as well, and now need to borrow the original book from my dad.  The life of Fr. Goldmann gives us a different perspective of the good that triumphed during a terrible time in world history, the profound power of prayer, and the guidance and protection found in the shadow of His wings.

  • 50 pages, 9"x12" softcover, full color glossy pages
  • Also Available in Spanish!
  • This was a gift from some former students who have relocated to Florida. They came back for a visit, bringing a copy of this to add to my classroom library! It was so kind and generous of them to want to share new stories they are learning from their new diocese.
  • This graphic novels tells the story of the over 100 presumed martyrs whose Cause for Canonization was opened in 2015. They all were killed during the evangelization of Florida, and include Native Americans as well as European missionaries. The lives of Servant of God Antonio Cuipa and companions share about the early history of Catholicism in America.

The Adventures of Loupio, by Jean-Francois Kieffer 
  • From Ignatius Press- Available here, use code KATIE25 for 25% off list price! (code active until 4/17/22)
  • Ignatius Press- 42 pages, 9"x11" softcover, full color glossy pages
  • This sweet series chronicles the adventures of little Loupio, a friend of the iconic St. Francis of Assisi. With Brother Wolf by his side, he travels throughout 13th Century Italy facing challenges, solving problems, helping others, and learning about growing up.
  • I think the content and reading length of this series would make it perfect for emerging readers who enjoy beginning chapter books.

Brendan and Erc in Exile Series from Catholic Answers
The Truth is Out There:  Brendan and Erc in Exile, Volume 1, by Amadeus
  • Catholic Answers (You can get all three for $30 right now)
  • 119 pages, 8"x11" softcover, black & white (some color accents) matte paper pages.
  • This quirky and funny series features two futuristic space travelers who also happen to be wrestling with serious philosophical and theological questions. 
  • The humor and creative storyline present an original opportunity for mini lessons in apologetics and approaching the big ponderings of life. This is a great set of books for preteens and teens (and adults too!).

I look forward to adding more and more graphic novels to my classroom library as a creative way to bring evangelization and catechesis to my students in an attractive and relevant format! Did you see any new favorites?