Grab a Graphic Novel: History!

We’re highlighting our graphic novel collection by exploring tried-and-true cartoon classics, as well as fresh-off-the-press new releases. Pick up a graphic novel today!  

Our Grab a Graphic Novel blog series presents our latest reads from the aforementioned collection. Available at all five libraries, the collection encompasses comics, manga and, of course, graphic novels — anything that uses pictures as an intrinsic part of the storytelling process.  

This month, we’re headed to the non-fiction section to check out graphic novels on historical topics! Historical graphic novels are an amazing way to learn about our world, with all of the fun and engaging aspects that come along with the illustrated format. This handful of historical picks add faces to names, vibrant details to dates, and color the past in completely new, exciting ways.

Regardless of your age, PPL’s wide selection of non-fiction graphic novels will have something for you to learn about!

Junior and Young Adult Graphic Novels

Heretics!: The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy

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Description: This entertaining and enlightening graphic narrative tells the exciting story of the seventeenth-century thinkers who challenged authority–sometimes risking excommunication, prison, and even death–to lay the foundations of modern philosophy and science and help usher in a new world. With masterful storytelling and color illustrations, Heretics! offers a unique introduction to the birth of modern thought in comics form–smart, charming, and often funny.


Rocket to the Moon!

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Description: Rocket to the Moon! takes readers through the history of rocket building: from ancient Chinese rockets, to “bombs bursting in air” during the War of 1812, to Russia’s Sputnik program, to the moon landing. Beautifully illustrated and well-researched, this book is the perfect resource for curious readers and tomorrows scientists. It includes a timeline of space travel, a bibliography, and an index.


Black Heroes of the Wild West

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Description: Exploring American history and finding diversity at its roots! This graphic novel by James Otis Smith celebrates the extraordinary true tales of three black heroes who took control of their destinies and stood up for their communities in the Old West.

Born into slavery in Tennessee, Mary Fields became famous as “Stagecoach Mary,” a cigar-chomping, cardplaying coach driver who never missed a delivery. Bass Reeves, the first black Deputy US Marshal west of the Mississippi, was one of the wiliest lawmen in the territories, bringing thousands of outlaws to justice with his smarts. Bob Lemmons lived to be 99 years old and was so good with horses that the wild mustangs on the plains of Texas took him for one of their own.


The Great American Dust Bowl

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Description: On a clear, warm Sunday, April 14, 1935, a wild wind whipped up millions upon millions of these specks of dust to form a duster–a savage storm–on America’s high southern plains. The sky turned black, sand-filled winds scoured the paint off houses and cars, trains derailed, and electricity coursed through the air. Sand and dirt fell like snow–people got lost in the gloom and suffocated . . . and that was just the beginning.

Don Brown brings the Dirty Thirties to life with kinetic, highly saturated, and lively artwork in this graphic novel of one of America’s most catastrophic natural events: the Dust Bowl.


Series: Show Me History

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Description: See history through the lens of famous figures and influencers of their times with this perfect series for young, curious readers. Each Title includes full-color illustrations, a glossary of terms, a timeline of evens, and suggested further reading materials. Learn about Muhammad Ali, Alexander Hamilton, Harriet Tubman, and more by checking out the Show Me History Series in Non-fiction Junior Graphic Novels.


Adult Graphic Novels

Hip Hop Family Tree

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Description: The lore of the early days of hip hop has become the stuff of myth, so what better way to document this fascinating, epic true story than in another great American mythological medium, the comic book? From exciting young talent and self-proclaimed hip hop nerd Ed Piskor, acclaimed for his hacker graphic novel Wizzywig, comes this explosively entertaining, encyclopedic history of the formative years of the music genre that changed global culture.

This encyclopedic comics history of the formative years of hip hop captures the vivid personalities and magnetic performances of old-school pioneers and early stars like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, plus the charismatic players behind the scenes like Russell Simmons; Debbie Harry, Keith Haring and other luminaries make cameos.


I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi

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Description: In 17th century Rome, where women are expected to be chaste and yet are viewed as prey by powerful men, the extraordinary painter Artemisia Gentileschi fends off constant sexual advances as she works to become one of the greatest painters of her generation. Frustrated by the hypocritical social mores of her day, Gentileschi releases her anguish through her paintings and, against all odds, becomes a groundbreaking artist. Meticulously rendered in ballpoint pen, this gripping graphic biography serves as an art history lesson and a coming-of-age story. Resonant in the #MeToo era, I Know What I Am highlights a fierce artist who stood up to a shameful social status quo.



Pyongyang: a Journey in North Korea

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Description: As cameras are not allowed in North Korea, Pyongyang is a perfect example of the power of the graphic novel medium. Delisle’s critically acclaimed memoir captures his two months spent in North Korea as an animator. As one of the few Westerners who is able to visit the country, without an overt political agenda, he is able to gain personal insight into one of the most secretive nations on the planet. He wants to learn about North Korean culture, but his omnipresent guides restrict him at every turn. Delisle tries to answer the neverending question: do the people support their government or are they too scared to revolt? 


Tetris: The Games People Play

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Description: Alexey Pajitnov had big ideas about games. In 1984, he created Tetris in his spare time while developing software for the Soviet government. Once Tetris emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, it was an instant hit. Nintendo, Atari, Sega–game developers big and small all wanted Tetris. A bidding war was sparked, followed by clandestine trips to Moscow, backroom deals, innumerable miscommunications, and outright theft.

In this graphic novel, New York Times-bestselling author Box Brown untangles this complex history and delves deep into the role games play in art, culture, and commerce.


As we talk about different graphic novels, we can only feature a fraction of the awesome works within our collection. We’d love to hear from you as well! What is your favorite graphic novel? Leave a comment with your own recommendation! 

For more reading suggestions, check out the posts in our Plano Reads tag. We also have several virtual Book Clubs to appeal to any kind of reader.

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