Welcome to TweenCity!

Welcome to TweenCity!

This blog is designed to be a selection resource for children between the ages of 9-14, as well as a reader's advisory tool for both current and future librarians.

PLEASE NOTE: An appropriate age range is given for each title, however this is merely a suggestion. Children, especially tweens, read at many different levels which cannot be determined simply by age or grade level. Therefore, it is important to assess each child's reading level before suggesting titles. In addition, since this blog is designed for tweens only, some titles listed may also be appropriate for children older or younger than ages 9-14, but these ages will not be listed.

Ages 9-12: Elementary school level (Grades 3-6)
Ages 12-14: Middle school level (Grades 7-8)


For many young readers, nonfiction subjects can be dense and hard to comprehend at times. Textbooks can be dry and lifeless, leading to tweens who may feel like they "just don't get it." But instead of giving up, there is hope after all! Librarians have been recommending graphic novels to young readers for years now, and currently there is a growing collection of nonfiction graphic novels becoming available for tweens and teens. Here is a collection of nonfiction graphic novels reviewed and recommended for any tween collection.

Butzer, C.M. Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel. The Bowen Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0061561764. Ages 9-14.

This graphic novel follows the pivotal battle between the Union (North) and the Confederate (South) armies during the United States' Civil War fought in Gettysburg, PA. In 1863, the North was losing to the South, but due to a strategic set of circumstances and some military blunders, the North prevailed at the Battle of Gettysburg. Four months later, President Abraham Lincoln attended a commemoration ceremony for a Gettysburg Memorial and Soldiers National Cemetery and gave his famous Gettysburg Address.

Though limited in its use of words, Butzer's blue and grey images convey powerful moments and emotions during and after one of the greatest and most tragic battles ever fought on American soil. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is the highlight of the graphic novel, the artist drawing comparisons between our country's fight to end slavery and other civil right's movements throughout the history of America--from women's suffragists, the labor movement, and the civil rights movement, all the way to the gay rights movement. This powerful parallel makes Lincoln's speech even that more significant. Tweens will be able to use this graphic novel as a tool to draw their own comparisons between the events involving the Battle of Gettysburg, and those they are experiencing today.

Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel by C.M. Butzer from Elisa Mason on Vimeo.

Chase, John. The Louisiana Purchase: An American Story. Pelican Publishing Company, 2002. ISBN 978-0613568074. Ages 10-14.

Originally written as a daily comic strip which appeared in over 40 newspapers, Chase's Louisiana Purchase is the whole story--from the discovery of North America by explorers such as Columbus and Cartier, to the constant jockeying for possession of land by the colonists, the French and the Spanish which eventually led to the greatest land purchase by America. Other major players include the native Americans and Napoleon!

This dense collection of comic strips is rich in information, though easy to follow. Chase's use of simple black and white illustrations may not be visually stimulating, but his use of humor to tell a long and complex history creates a perfect balance for young readers. Tweens will find this history more accessible than what they'll find in their textbooks, which may help to aid or supplement their education, while history enthusiasts will eagerly and voluntarily read it from cover to cover.

Geary, Rick. The Murder of Abraham Lincoln. ComicsLit, 2005. ISBN 978-1561634255. Ages 12-14.

This graphic novel chronicles the events leading up to and following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, from March 4th-May 4th, 1865. Following the Civil War, Confederate sympathizer and actor John Wilkes Booth gathers a crew of conspirators in an attempt to kidnap Lincoln in order to negotiate the release of thousands of Southern prisoners of war. Then things escalate, and suddenly there is talk of taking out much of the US Executive branch. But as plans fail and time passes, Booth becomes anxious and frustrated and his plans for kidnapping take a more deadly turn.

The entire A Treasury of Victorian Murder series is a must read, but The Murder of Abraham Lincoln is perhaps one of the best. It is rich with history and facts, but is easy to follow and accessible to older tweens especially. The black and white illustrations have a classic feel about them, adding to the Victorian theme. Reluctant readers will find the whole story of Lincoln and Booth fascinating, perhaps sparking an further interest in this famous, yet tragic, slice of history.

[Some other titles in the large A Treasury of Victorian Murder series include A Treasury of Victorian Murder (ISBN 978-1561633098), Jack the Ripper: A Journal of the Whitechapel Murders of 1888-1889 (ISBN 978-1439563724), The Borden Tragedy: A Memoir of the Infamous Double Murder at Fall River, Mass. (ISBN 978-1417627561), The Fatal Bullet: The Assassination of President James A. Garfield (ISBN 978-1561632282), The Mystery of Mary Rogers (ISBN 978-1561632749), and The Beast of Chicago: The Murderous Career of H.H. Holmes (ISBN 978-1561633623).]  

Gonick, Larry. The Cartoon History of the Universe I: Volumes 1-7: From the Big Bang to Alexander the Great. Main Street Books, 1997. ISBN 978-0606226400. Ages 12-14.

Taking a generally historical and scientific approach, Gonick's first volume of cartoons begins with the creation of the universe in the form of the Big Bang, and in 368 pages covers three billion years. It makes its way through the dinosaurs, the appearance of man, the formation of the first great civilizations, and finishes with the conquests of Alexander the Great.

Unlike most other history books, Gonick's series of cartoons adds a touch of humor and silliness to the early events of the Universe and mankind. Instead of focusing on history from a "western civilization" point of view, as early history books did, he emphasizes the important role that women played in developing history and restores the black racial characteristics to the Egyptian dynasties. His black and white illustrations are meant to be funny and a bit over the top, but this adds to the book's appeal, especially for older tweens. However, due to some graphic content, this series may not be appropriate for younger tweens.

[Other titles in The Cartoon History series include The Cartoon History of the Universe II: Volumes 8-13: From the Springtime of China to the Fall of Rome (ISBN 978-0385420938), The Cartoon History of the Universe III: From the Rise of Arabia to the Renaissance (ISBN 978-1435242821), The Cartoon History of the Modern World Part I: From Columbus to the U.S. Constitution (ISBN 978-0060760045), and The Cartoon History of the Modern World Part II: From the Bastille to Baghdad (ISBN 978-0060760083).

In addition, other cartoon series relevant to tweens by Larry Gonick include The Cartoon History of the United States (ISBN 978-1435242708) and The Cartoon Guide to the Environment (ISBN 978-0062732743).] 

Hama, Larry. The Battle of Iwo Jima: Guerrilla Warfare in the Pacific. Illustrated by Anthony Williams. Rosen Classroom Books & Materials, 2007. ISBN 978-1404207813. Ages 9-12.

Relive World War II on the Pacific front in this stimulating graphic novel about the Battle of Iwo Jima. After offering some background to the nature of the war with the Japanese in the Pacific Islands, readers gets to live through the famous battle as they land on the shores of Iwo Jima, and systematically take the island one step at a time. From the raising of the American flag at the summit of Mt. Suribachi to the attacks on the ground and from the air, the American soldiers fought for over three weeks before winning this pivotal battle in the war.

Larry Hama showcases the details of the battle, highlighting its major players and heroes, as well as the human aspect of war. Gritty and realistic without the gore, this graphic novel and the others in the series are the perfect introduction to the major battles of World War II for young tweens. Reluctant readers will also enjoy the fast pace and action of the graphic novel, with its similarities in illustrations to other popular comic books.

[Other titles in the Graphic Battles of World War II series include D-Day: The Liberation of Europe Begins (ISBN 978-1404207868), The Battle of Guadalcanal: Land and Sea Warfare in the South Pacific (ISBN 978-1439540886), The Battle of Midway: The Destruction of the Japanese Fleet (ISBN 978-1439540879), The Battle of the Bulge: Turning Back Hitler's Final Push (ISBN 978-1404207820), and Pearl Harbor: A Day of Infamy (ISBN 978-1439540893).]

Mason, Jeff. (Ed.). 9-11: Emergency Relief. Alternative Comics, 2001-2002. ISBN 1891867121. Ages 12-14.

After the tragedies that occurred on September 11, 2001, many grieved for those they did not even know. Some were sad, others became angry, and many simply felt numb. 9-11 is a compilation of comic strips created by today's most celebrated and talented comic book artists. Each artist tells their own story of the days leading up to the attacks, where they or someone they knew were when it all happened, and how they felt in the aftermath.

This comic book, created to benefit the American Red Cross, was the artists' way of killing two birds with one stone--raising money to support those in need during a trying time and helping them to deal with their own personal grief and pain. Many who did not lose anyone or who did not directly experience the tragedy that was 9-11 felt guilty for their grief, and still many were scared of what it all meant for their future. Though today's tweens were somewhere in their toddler to kindergarten years when the attacks occurred, this collection is a striking example of living history--something that will keep the memory of what occurred in the forefront of our minds for many years to come. Some of the contributions contain graphic content or language, so this would be better suited for older tweens.

9-11: Emergency Relief, A Comic Book to Benefit the American Red Cross from Elisa Mason on Vimeo.

O'Connor, George. Zeus: King of the Gods. First Second, 2010. ISBN 978-1596436251. Ages 10-14.

After Kronos ate his first five children to prevent them from one day overthrowing him, his sixth son Zeus is hidden away on the island of Crete by his mother Rhea and grandmother Gaea. As a young man, unaware of his god-like status, he rebels against the fate he has been delivered by overthrowing Kronos and freeing his five brothers and sisters. He then goes on to battle the Titans for control of the Universe. Together, Zeus, his siblings and his future children, ruled as the great Olympians in this tale from Greek mythology.

O'Connor stays true to the more "Greek" transliterations of the gods' names, rather than the more familiar Latin versions. Though this may be confusing at first, he also provides a useful family tree at the front of the book to help keep each of the key characters straight.  Indeed, O'Connor's depiction of Greek mythology is reminiscent of tweens' beloved Marvel and DC comics, full of action and violence that will get any reluctant reader interested. The illustrations are colorful and jump right off the page, sure to draw the attention of reluctant readers.

[Other titles in the Olympians series include Athena: The Grey-Eyed Goddess (ISBN 978-1596436497), Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory (ISBN 978-1596437241), and Hades: The Wealthy One (Release date to be determined).]

Zeus: King of the Gods (Olympians #1) by George O'Connor from Elisa Mason on Vimeo.

Ottaviani, Jim. Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists. G.T. Labs, 1998. ISBN 0966010647. Ages 12-14.

Everyone has heard of Einstein, Darwin and Newton, but science would not be where it is today without the contributions of numerous women as well. The most famous is Nobel prize winner Marie Curie, who begins and ends this graphic novel collection of comic strips about other women scientists including actress Hedy Lamarr, Jewish exile Lise Meitner, DNA expert Rosalind Franklin, corn geneticist Barbara McClintock, and friend of the orangutans Birute Galdikas.

This complex graphic novel collection is more a biographical account than a scientific one, but it does a good job of identifying and highlighting the lives of women scientists, many of whom never got much, if any, recognition for the work that they contributed in the name of science. Each woman's strip is illustrated by different artists, giving the collection a fresh and diverse feel. Older tweens girls will relate to the message that women are capable of doing great things, and will hopefully be inspired to find their passion in a branch of science.

[Other titles about science by Jim Ottaviani include Two-Fisted Science: Stories About Scientists (ISBN 978-0613995634), Fallout: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard and the Political Science of the Atomic Bomb (ISBN 978-0966010633), and T-Minus: The Race to the Moon (ISBN 978-1416986829).]

Sacco, Joe. Palestine. Fantagraphics Books, 2001. ISBN 156097432X. Ages 12-14.

After spending the early 1990s in Israel and Palestine, Joe Sacco created a series of nine comic books depicting the events that occurred during his travels. Though a fine piece of journalism, Sacco chose to tell his story in the form of a graphic novel, hoping to give a voice to the Palestinian people. Though the comic book is not necessarily anti-Israel, it does give a face to people of Palestine and their centuries of struggles. And while he does not condone violence from either side, his story shows the circumstances that have brought them there, and discusses possible ways of restoring peace in the Holy Land.

Palestine is an excellent example of how a nonfiction graphic novel should be done. With just the right balance of history, current events, humor and the human element, Sacco is able to weave his individual stories into a big picture. His ability to gain the confidences of the Palestinian people, as well as his willingness to listen to and sympathize with their side of the story, allows the reader to draw similarities between the Israelis and the Palestinians (something not many of them are willing to do themselves). Tweens can learn a lot about the roots of current state of affairs in the Holy Land through this engaging documentary/photojournalism. Due to some violence, adult content and language, this graphic novel is more appropriate for older tweens and teens.

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. Pantheon, 2003. ISBN 0375422307. Ages 12-14.

In the first of two graphic novel memoirs, Marjane Satrapi recounts her childhood growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Following Marji from age six to fourteen, the memoir depicts an intelligent and outspoken young girl who is torn between the conservative restraints placed on her in public, and the radical beliefs upheld by her family within her own home. Marji is witness to both great violence and tragedy, as well as even greater love and affection. Told in a series of short "stories," Marji's depiction of the world around her is both child-like and profound.

It is this duality that mirrors Marji's transformation as she settles into her tween years. Though her experiences are on the extreme end of the tween spectrum, those her age will identify with her need to be herself, her passion for speaking up and being heard, and her everlasting spirit. Satrapi's black and white panels convey the stark contrasts between the worlds Marji is stuck between, and powerfully present this simple memoir during complex times. This graphic novel is more appropriate for older tweens and teens, due to some adult content and language.

[The sequel to Persepolis is entitled Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (ISBN 978-0375422881). It takes place during Marji's teen and adult years and is more appropriate for high school or older.]

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi from Elisa Mason on Vimeo.

Shone, Rob. Corpses and Skeletons: The Science of Forensic Anthropology. Illustrated by Nick Spender. Rosen Central, 2008. ISBN 978-1404214408. Ages 9-12.

After giving a background on forensic anthropology (bones) and entomology (bugs) with regard to crime scenes, Shone's Corpses and Skeletons follows the events of three famous cases involving unidentifiable bodies and how these forensic sciences helped to solve the case. Told in graphic novel form, the reader learns how a person's skeleton could be identified even in the 1800s, how maggots and insects can help determine time of death, and how forensic anthropologists and artists today can recreate a victim's face using the clues they find in the bones.

The entire Graphic Forensic Science series is a cohesive set, together displaying the entire picture of what goes on behind the scenes of a crime. The panels are laid out well and easy to read, and offer substantial insight to the field of forensics for the beginning enthusiast. Fans of CSI and other crime dramas will enjoy learning about the real (and sometimes gross!) science involved in forensics, and reluctant readers will easily be enticed by the colorful graphics and edgy content.

[Other titles in the Graphic Forensic Science series include Autopsies: Pathologists at Work (ISBN 978-1404214460), Crime Scene Investigators (ISBN 978-1404214439), Detective Work With Ballistics (ISBN 978-1404214347), Solving Crimes Through Criminal Profiling (ISBN 978-1404214378), and Solving Crimes With Trace Evidence (ISBN 978-1404214316).]

Graphic Forensic Science series by Rob Shone from Elisa Mason on Vimeo.

Shone, Rob, & Ganeri, Anita. Spartacus: The Life of a Roman Gladiator. Illustrated by Nick Spender. Rosen Central, 2005. ISBN 1404202404. Ages 9-12.

After giving a brief background on the history of the Roman Empire and its gladiators, Shone's graphic novel tells the story of a Thracian named Spartacus who becomes a gladiator after being enslaved by the Romans. Forced to fight to entertain the Romans, Spartacus rebels and, with his slave army, takes on the Romans over a period of three years. In a final battle, Spartacus is killed and his body is never recovered.

Spartacus offers much to be desired in its mere 48 pages. Reluctant readers will enjoy this rich piece of history, chock full of action and violence. Tweens will also relate to Spartacus' need to live his life on his own terms, and not those dictated to him by others. Spender's illustrations are reminiscent of classic Marvel comics, making this history lesson relevant to tweens today. Overall, the complete package is one that no tween will want to miss.

[Some other titles in the large Graphic Nonfiction series include Alexander the Great: The Life of a King and Conqueror (ISBN 978-1404202382), Julius Caesar: The Life of a Roman General (ISBN 978-1404202399), Cleopatra: The Life of an Egyptian Queen (ISBN 978-1404202429), Sitting Bull: The Life of a Lakota Sioux Chief (ISBN 978-1404202474), Elizabeth I: The Life of England's Renaissance Queen (ISBN 978-1404202467), and Harriet Tubman: The Life of an African-American Abolitionist (ISBN 978-1404202450).]

Spiegelman, Art. Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History. Pantheon Books, 1986. ISBN 0394747232. Ages 12-14.

Art Spiegelman tells the story of his father in this Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel. A Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, Vladek Spiegelman spent much of his time in Poland hiding from the Nazis until 1944 when he was captured and sent to Auschwitz. As Vladek recounts this harrowing tale, Art must come to terms with History and its devastating effect on his family, as well as his relationship with his father. For even though Art is sympathetic to his father's experiences, there is a part of him who is still deal with his anger towards him.

Maus is unique in that it tells a history of two generations--describing not only the terrifying occurrences of the Holocaust, but also the stress and despair it caused many of the children of those survivors. It's illustrations at first appear almost child-like--the Nazis are cats and the Jews are mice--but the underlying stories anything but. This juxtaposition adds depth and richness to his father's story, helping to make the unthinkable just a little easier to swallow. Tweens who enjoyed The Diary of Anne Frank or The Book Thief will want to add this to their reading list; yet another startling and moving tale of a history that still haunts many to this day. However, this graphic novel is more appropriate for older tweens and teens, due to some adult content and language.

[The sequel to Maus I is entitled Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began (ISBN 0679729771). While the first volume covers the struggles up until Vladek Spiegelman is captured by the Nazis, the second volume is the actual account of his experiences in Auschwitz.]

Sturm, James, & Tommaso, Rich. Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow. Jump At The Sun/Hyperion Books for Children, 2007. ISBN 978-0786839001. Ages 9-12.

Though this graphic novel bears his name, Satchel Paige is not the main subject of its message. Sturm and Tommaso tell the story of a retired baseball player, whose one encounter with Paige impressed upon him the idea that segregation and the Jim Crow laws might not apply to all blacks. Giving him hope for a future where his son might live in a world where blacks and whites can live together in peace. The story is rounded out with biographical information about Satchel Paige, and how his story as a sports hero defied the barriers of race.

While telling a simple story, the graphic novel conveys an even bigger concept involving a tumultuous period in American history--segregation. Most of its images are non-distinct, but the muted tones and lack of color add to the seriousness, and sometimes hopelessness, of the situation. Sports fans will enjoy the action of the games, and reluctant readers will learn a lot about history in this quick and fun graphic novel.

[Other titles in The Center for Cartoon Studies Presents series include Houdini: The Handcuff King (ISBN 978-0786839025), Thoreau at Walden (ISBN 978-1423100386), and Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean (ISBN 978-1423113379).]

van den Bogaert, H.M. Journey into Mohawk Country. Illustrated by George O'Connor. First Second, 2006. ISBN 978-1435261792. Ages 12-14. 

In the winter of 1634, a twenty-three year old Harmen Meyndertsz van den Bogaert and two of his friends travel from an outpost if the Dutch colony on the tip of Manhattan Island to the Iroquois country deep in what is now New York State. There they meet and trade with the Mohawk tribe, which controlled many of the trade routes at the time. Trading tools and weapons for food, shelter and furs, van den Bogaert and his friends also hope to establish a working relationship with the tribes in order to help strengthen the Dutch trade.

Using the journal van den Bogaert kept during his travels, O'Connor illustrates this unprecedented adventure for a young man living in America nearly 400 years ago. His illustrations are colorful and exciting at times, and desperate and savage at others. They also inject a touch of humor into this serious endeavor, inviting tweens to learn about and appreciate the immense responsibility it was for three young men to decide the fate of their entire colony. Fans of Joseph Bruchac and Louise Erdrich will enjoy this fresh look at one of the first recorded encounters with Native Americans.