Top 15 Graphic Novels for the Science Classroom

By Catherine A. Cardno — November 01, 2012 3 min read
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After Amy Wickner’s post earlier this week on a new paper that appeared in the New England Reading Association Journal exploring the use of graphic novels in conversation with science text books, I dropped an email to John Shableski, a publishing consultant and industry expert who has clocked some 400 hours leading graphic novel professional-development programs related to K-12 education. I met John a few months back at the Baltimore ComicCon, and I knew that he was interested in the intersection of science and graphic novels. I asked him if he had a list kicking around of good science-based graphic novels and he was kind enough to pull together 15 titles that, he says, represent the best the K-12 publishing industry has to offer.

As John wrote in his email to me:

With the explosion of graphic content in the education market it’s really not surprising to find a lot of great science-based graphic titles. I think what surprises so many folks I meet in the school’s market is that they don’t realize how many graphic novels there are and how many genres are available. From memoirs to physics and from historical fiction to poetry there are hundreds of new, and very good, works arriving with each new publishing season.

There are some key elements that are making this possible and we can thank teachers who see the connection between the comics medium and the discovery of a love of reading; storytellers and artists who also have a passion for subjects like science, history, and classic literature; and publishers who are now creating quality books.

Here is a sample listing of science-based graphic novels from a group of publishers who represent some of the best books teachers can get for their classrooms. Do note that teacher’s educational wholesaler can rebind books for the classroom as well. They can check with their library media specialist for the details.


1. The Basics of Cell Life With Max Axiom, Super Scientist, by Amber Keyser, illustrated by Cynthia Martin and Barbara Jo Schulz (Graphic Library, 2009).

2. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou, illustrated by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna (Bloomsbury USA, 2009).

3. Feynman, by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Leland Myrick (First Second, 2011).

4. The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA, by Mark Schultz, illustrated by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon (Hill & Wang, 2009).

5. Introducing Fractals: A Graphic Guide, by Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon and Ralph Edney (Icon Books, 2005).

6. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation, by Michael Keller, illustrated by Nicolle Rager Fuller (Rodale Books, 2009).

7. The Manga Guide to Calculus, by Hiroyuki Kojima, Shin Togami, and Becom Co (No Starch Press, 2009).

8. Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified, by Bunpei Yorifuji (No Starch Press, 2012).

9. Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth, by Jay Hosler, illustrated by Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon (Hill & Wang, 2011).

10. T-Minus: The Race to the Moon, by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon (Aladdin, 2009).

11. The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry, by Larry Gonick and Craig Criddle (Collins Reference, 2005).

12. Dignifying Science, by Jim Ottaviani (GT Labs, 2000).

13. Two-Fisted Science, by Jim Ottaviani (GT Labs, 2001).

14. The Attractive Story of Magnetism with Max Axiom, Super Scientist, by Andrea Gianopoulos, illustrated by Cynthia Martin and Barbara Jo Schulz (Capstone Press, 2008).

15. The Adventures of Commander Zack Proton and the Warlords of Nibblecheese, by Brian Anderson, illustrated by Doug Holgate (Aladdin, 2006).

This list just scratches the surface of science-based graphic novels that can be used in K-12 classrooms. According to John, if you search the term “graphic novel” in the Accelerated Reader program you will pull up nearly 3,000 titles; Lexile is also learning how to measure graphic content and they currently list just over 450 titles. A search on Amazon for “Graphic Novels, Science” (use the advanced search option) will also pull in over 500 titles ranging from early reader titles to Advanced Placement level, he notes.

How about your classrooms? Do you have any graphic novels that you’d recommend, or ones that you’d warn against using? Why?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the BookMarks blog.