Build Your Stack: Graphic Novel Nonfiction - National Council of Teachers of English
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Build Your Stack: Graphic Novel Nonfiction

This post was written by NCTE member Kasey Short. It’s part of Build Your Stack®, an NCTE initiative focused exclusively on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries. Build Your Stack® provides a forum for contributors to share books from their classroom experience; inclusion in a blog post does not imply endorsement or promotion of specific books by NCTE.


Often students are drawn to graphic novels because they think of them as more enjoyable and quicker to read than traditional texts. Nonfiction graphic novels engage readers and provide opportunities to teach students how to read nonfiction texts. When reading traditional nonfiction, students often skim or bypass the images and graphic representations entirely. Nonfiction graphic novels provide a unique way to teach students the value of reading images and combining what they learn through the words and pictures to develop a complete understanding of the topic. Additionally, graphic nonfiction helps to counter the idea that nonfiction is boring and inspires curiosity that encourages students to explore additional sources to deepen their knowledge about a topic or person.

Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

In this honest memoir, Robin shares her experience growing up in Korea and then unexpectedly moving to Alabama with a new stepfamily. In her memoir Robin gives insight into her immigrant experience as she navigates learning a new language, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, and ultimately discovering how creating comics helps her express herself.

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamison and Omar Mohamed

This book uses vibrant illustrations to tell Omar’s story of growing up as a Somali refugee in a refugee camp. It details his experiences in the camp, the sacrifices he made to get an education, and the time he spent waiting for an opportunity to come to America. The book shows the heartbreak and dire conditions of Omar’s time in the camp but leaves the reader with hope as they learn that he made it to America.

Sunshine by Jarrett Krosoczka

In his new graphic memoir Jarrett shares his experience as a high school student working at a summer camp for students who are experiencing serious illness. Through his experience the reader sees the value of human connection and finding hope in what seems like a hopeless situation. Also, check out his previous graphic memoir Hey, Kiddo.

Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts by Rebecca Hall

This powerful graphic novel tells the story of Rebecca Hall’s experience researching slave revolts led by women and then how she works to share their untold story with others. It also showcases what she learned in her research combined with fiction to construct what she thinks might have happened to these women.

A Fire Story by Brian Fies

This book tells Brian’s firsthand account of the 2017 wildfire in California. He reveals his own experiences during the wildfire and throughout the aftermath, while also weaving in other stories of members of his community and how they were impacted by the wildfire.

March Series by John Lewis and Nate Powell

This powerful and important trilogy recounts John Lewis’s personal experiences fighting for civil rights and many important moments of the civil rights movement. The books include moments such as John Lewis meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his participation in nonviolent protest, and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation adapted by Ari Folman and illustrated by David Polonsky 

This book tells Anne Frank’s well-known story with beautiful artwork that captures the emotion of Anne’s story. The images in this book help readers visualize her living quarters in the annex. The author also includes some full diary entries to showcase Anne’s authentic voice from her diary.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu

This beautifully illustrated book highlights women throughout history and across the world who rebelled against society’s expectations of them and who inspire today’s youth with their “brazen” approach toward life. This book can be read cover to cover or as individual snapshots of specific women.

Interested in learning more about the role of nonfiction in the classroom? In this new position statement, NCTE encourages educators to create space for nonfiction literature within curricula. Not meant to replace fiction or poetry, nonfiction should live and breathe alongside those genres in reading and writing instruction, literary analysis, critical literacy explorations, and more.

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Kasey Short earned a BA in middle school education from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill with a concentration in English and history. She earned a Master’s of Education in curriculum and instruction from Winthrop University. She is the Middle School Director of Studies and an 8th grade English teacher at Charlotte Country Day School, North Carolina.

It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.