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The 8 French Graphic Novels Everyone Must Read

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  • March 27, 2024
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  • 6 min read


Graphic novels have become a significant and influential part of the literary world. Their powerful combination of narrative and art can convey impactful stories with a level of intimacy and immediacy that prose alone cannot always achieve.

French graphic novels, in particular, hold a special place in this artistic genre. France has a rich tradition of bande dessinée, or “BD,” which has produced some of the medium’s most acclaimed and culturally important works.

Today, the Book Writing Bureau wants to introduce you to the 8 French graphic novels that everyone must read.

1.  Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is not just a story about growing up in Iran; it is a journey through the eyes of Marjane Satrapi as she navigates the challenges of identity, belonging, and change.

With each page, readers are invited into her world, experiencing the joys, fears, and resilience required to find oneself amidst turmoil. Satrapi’s simple yet powerful black-and-white illustrations cut to the heart of complex issues, making “Persepolis” accessible and deeply moving.

Through “Persepolis,” we learn about Iranian history and the courage to stand up for who you are in the world.

2.  The Arab of the Future by Riad Sattouf

The Arab of the Future by Riad Sattouf is an engaging graphic memoir that tells the story of Riad’s childhood. It explains life in two very different worlds – the Middle East and France.

Riad shares his experiences with honesty and humor, showcasing childhood innocence against cultural contrasts and political changes. The colorful illustrations bring to life the stories of his family. It highlights the struggles and joys of navigating between his father’s ideals and the realities of their surroundings.

This graphic novel is personal and universal, offering insights into the complexities of family, identity, and growing up in a world filled with contrasts.

In this story you encounter phrases representing the idea of duality and transition. It resonates with anyone who’s ever felt caught between places, cultures, or expectations.

3.  The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar

The Rabbi’s Cat, created by Joann Sfar, is a whimsical and engaging tale. This story tells the story of a cat who gains the ability to speak after swallowing a parrot.

Set in Algeria in the 1930s, this story is not just about the adventures of a talking cat. It also dives deep into themes of faith, love, and the multicultural fabric of society.

Readers are treated to a humorous yet insightful exploration of life’s big questions through the cat’s curious and often philosophical conversations with his owner, the rabbi, and others. The beautiful illustrations and unique setting make this story a visual and intellectual delight.

It’s a heartwarming narrative that invites readers into a world where different cultures and beliefs coexist.

4.  Sandcastle by Riad Sattouf

Sandcastle by Frederik Peeters (often mistakenly attributed to Riad Sattouf due to a mix-up) offers a mysterious and thought-provoking tale set on a secluded beach.

This graphic novel captures the essence of a day that starts like any other but quickly turns into something none of the characters expected. As the day unfolds, the people on the beach experience unusual changes.

Through its intriguing storyline and evocative illustrations, “Sandcastle” invites readers to reflect on the nature of existence, the inevitability of aging, and the preciousness of life. Sandcastle stands out for its ability to weave an eerie tale that stays with you.

5.   Algues vertes by Inès Léraud and Pierre van Hove

Algues vertes, a graphic novel written by Inès Léraud and illustrated by Pierre van Hove, investigates an environmental and public health scandal in Brittany, France. This hard-hitting journalistic work gets into the harmful effects of toxic algae blooms and the subsequent cover-ups by local officials. It’s a compelling read that artfully combines investigative journalism with the power of graphic storytelling.

6.  Cher pays de notre enfance by Étienne Davodeau and Benoît Collombat

Cher pays de notre enfance by Étienne Davodeau and Benoît Collombat focuses on the less talked about, often shadowy political events in France from the 1950s onwards.

The collaboration between a graphic novelist and an investigative journalist brings a unique blend of visual storytelling and deep journalistic investigation to the fore. This graphic novel does more than just recount historical events. It actively engages readers to think critically about the roles of those in power and the impacts of their decisions on common people.

Cher Pays de Notre Enfance is not just a book; it’s an eye-opening journey into the heart of France’s political history.

7.  Petit Paul by Bastien Vivès

Petit Paul” by Bastien Vivès has sparked considerable debate and controversy upon its release due to its bold narrative that ventures into sensitive themes. The story revolves around a young boy, Paul, who is in adult situations because of a unique physical attribute. This novel challenges the readers’ perceptions of innocence and the crossing of societal lines.

Bastien is a good storyteller whose work serves as a mirror reflecting the often uncomfortable truths about societal norms. Petit Paul is undoubtedly a conversation starter, pushing the boundaries of traditional graphic novel storytelling.

Whether admired or criticized, Vivès’s “Petit Paul” remains a significant work that encourages deep reflection on difficult issues.

8.   Bécassine by Jacqueline Rivière and Joseph Pinchon

Bécassine stands as a pioneering gem in the world of comics. It features the day-to-day escapades of a simple yet lovable Breton maid.

Created by Jacqueline Rivière and illustrated by Joseph Pinchon, the character first appeared in 1905. It marks a significant milestone in comic history as one of this medium’s first female protagonists.

The stories revolve around Bécassine’s adventures, misadventures, and her pure-hearted attempts to navigate the complexities of life.

Her distinctive attire and lack of a mouth have become iconic, symbolizing her character’s universal appeal across generations of readers. Bécassine’s tales are more than just comic relief; they are a valuable cultural artifact that provides insights into social norms.


Each of these 8 French graphic novels offers a unique window into different aspects of life and culture. Whether through personal memoirs like “Persepolis” and “The Arab of the Future,” or through investigative journalism as in “Algues Vertes” and “Cher Pays De Notre Enfance,” these works highlight the strength of graphic novels in portraying complex ideas and emotions.

“The Rabbi’s Cat,” “Sandcastle,” and “Petit Paul” push the boundaries of fiction and societal norms. It engages the reader’s imagination and moral compass. Meanwhile, “Bécassine” provides a nostalgic look at the early days of comic storytelling.

French graphic novels are vibrant and diverse, offering many stories. These 8 essential titles deeply look into human experiences, combining beautiful artwork with compelling storytelling. Whether new to graphic novels or a seasoned reader, each work has something profound to offer.

If these stories inspire you or spark a creative project, consider hire book illustrator. A professional illustrator can bring your stories to life with the same blend of visual art and narrative, making these French graphic novels compelling.

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