Best Graphic Novels for Your Middle Schooler (With Links to Independent Bookstores)
Do you have a middle-grade who loves reading graphic novels living under your roof? Then this is the list for them! But don’t be surprised if you’re drawn to these delightful, colorful stories as well.
How can a kid with severe allergies find a perfect pet to call her own? This is the story of Maggie, a fifth grader who is allergic to multiple species of animals. But she won’t let that stop her from having a pet, and she sets out to find the perfect creature. There aren’t a lot of middle-grade graphic novels dealing with allergies, so this one really stood out for us.
Starting a new school is always scary for our kids. Now imagine doing so with a giant hearing aid on your chest. Cece Bell’s graphic novel captures the experience of a deaf child’s struggles in a school with all hearing students. It’s a story of the challenges differently abled kids face when trying to make new friends. But the most impressive arc in this story lies in the way our main character comes to terms with herself and, in doing so, gets the best possible friend.
A magical pashmina transports Priyanka to India where she seizes the opportunity to learn more about her heritage. But is the vivid and colorful world she is in truly the real India? This is an adventurous and thoughtful look at family and truth—a story of self-discovery, living in two cultures, women’s choices, and social pressures. Your middle schooler will enjoy this wonderful story of searching and longing.
Happily ever afters don’t look the same for everyone. Katie O’Neill’s graphic novel is an LGBTQ fairy tale with all the basic components of a Disney princess story. Adorable animal characters who are also fiercely protective? An oppressive, evil person with a thirst for power? What about characters who go against what society expects of them? Yes, yes, and yes. It’s a great graphic novel for readers in middle school and creates a lot of talking points for parents to discuss with their kids after they read it.
Chmakova tells us the story of Jensen, who is getting bullied and doesn’t even know it. This is a great story to open up a discussion on the issue of bullying and both its obvious and subtle signs. Parents will appreciate how this heartbreaking issue is woven into the story in a nonpatronizing, accessible way. And middle schoolers will delight in the dynamically crafted characters, who undergo some or total change throughout the story.
Now here’s a graphic novel that manages to have a dark and creepy vibe without being downright nightmarish. Suee has just moved to a boring new town with her father, and she’s determined to get through the next several months of middle school with no complications. If that means dressing differently and not making any friends, so be it. Too bad her shadow doesn’t feel the same way. While this story is in large part a mystery, it also has some undertones of friendship, isolation, divorce, and the importance of belonging.
What are two middle school best friends to do when one wants to go to roller derby camp while the other signs up for dance camp instead? Roller Girl is the story of Astrid, who does everything with her best friend, Nicole, but now wants to explore a new interest. Victoria, the author, walks us through Astrid’s struggle to keep up with the older girls at roller derby camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. It’s a coming-of-age tale that will leave your middle schooler feeling they can handle anything life throws at them.
Kat Leyh’s Snapdragon is a graphic novel about young Snap, who befriends her town’s witch and discovers the strange magic within herself in the process. But our main character’s life isn’t at all rosy: She’s bullied at school, her family struggles to pay the bills, and her mom has an abusive boyfriend. On the surface it may feel a bit heavy, but middle schoolers today are more than ready for graphic novels like this.
The plot of Victoria’s graphic novel is simple: take a lifelong homeschooled middle schooler to public school. Now what if we made our protagonist a young squire? Will our knight-in-training manage to live up to the knighthood teachings? Impy’s journey navigating cliques, queen bees, the “right” clothes, and bullies is something many middle schoolers can relate to, whether they’re new to their school or not. This makes it a nice addition to our list of graphic novels for tweens.
Raina Telgemeier’s Smile addresses one of the most common childhood frustrations and embarrassments—braces! The main character breaks her two front teeth, and what follows involves braces, headgear, surgeries, and trips to every kind of “-dontist” imaginable. On top of all that, she’s got a new crush on a sixth grader and slowly realizes her friends aren’t all that friendly. It’s a great book for kids worried about getting dental work, particularly at an age when image matters.
Unlike the “-dontists” in Raina’s graphic novel, here at Staley Dental we make use of modern technology to ensure that each and every procedure is minimally invasive and as comfortable as possible. Request an appointment with us today! Our compassionate approach to children’s dental care soothes even the most apprehensive patients.