Have you or your kids ever read a graphic novel? No? Perfect. This post is for you.
Graphic novels are often (but not always) an overlooked genre for middle readers. We don’t know this for a fact, but as booksellers we’ve noticed that unless people are specifically looking for a graphic novel to read, that shelf is not typically perused with the other middle grade books. The question becomes:
We have a few theories. The first is that some people, grownups and children alike, think that because graphic novels have pictures, they don’t count as “serious reading.” This is not true. Graphic novels are illustrated, yes, but the stories are just as complex and compelling as traditional novels. The illustrations simply add another dimension to the storytelling.
Our second theory is that most of the time when people think graphic novel, they’re imagining old superhero comics, which don’t always appeal to every reader. For the record, superhero comics are classic; it’s why they’ve endured for so long. But graphic novels as a genre are really evolving to be more than that one type of story, which we think really broadens their appeal.
Here’s the great thing about graphic novels: they pull double duty. If you have a reluctant or struggling reader, graphic novels can be much more appealing than traditional chapter books: the illustrations add interest and lower the intimidation factor of seeing so many words on a page.
On the other hand, if you have one of those kids who reads everything in sight and has worked her way through all the books in your local library or bookstore, graphic novels are an untapped source of fresh reading material.
Now you’re thinking (or at least we hope you are): Okay, that all sounds good… but I don’t know ANYTHING about graphic novels!
That’s where we come in! We’re recommending some graphic novels that we love, all relatively new, and with stories about regular kids (not superheroes—sorry!). So in a few weeks when your kids are looking for good summer reads, or if you’re trying to keep them sharp during the break from school, why not try some of these fabulous graphic novels that currently reside on the shelves at blue manatee? (Click the book covers below for more information.)
SMILE and SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier
Telgemeier’s two Eisner Award-winning graphic memoirs are several years old, but they are still hugely popular. Smile is about growing up, even when you have to face life with braces and embarrassing headgear; Sisters is about family, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Oh, and let us not forget…
THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB series by Raina Telgemeier,
based on the series by Ann M. Martin
…Telgemeier’s brilliant adaptation of a classic series! This is the Baby-Sitters Club for a new generation, with all of our favorite leading ladies solving problems that range from business to friends to family. There are currently four books in this new series, and it has all of the fun and charm of the original with a new, modern twist.
RUTABAGA THE ADVENTURE CHEF by Eric Colossal
Enough about babysitting. Let’s talk about an ambitious little cook named Rutabaga, his magic cooking pot, Pot, and their friends Winn, Manny, and Beef. They travel far and wide defeating dragons, discovering new ingredients, finding monsters to have for (and/or to) dinner, and saving the day through cooking! Blend the real with the fantastical, add a dash of humor and a pinch of friendship, and you’ve got a delightful series for any young adventurer.
EL DEAFO by Cece Bell
One of our favorites! A 2015 Newbery Honor book and 2015 Eisner Award winner, El Deafo is a graphic memoir told from the unique perspective of a deaf girl/bunny named Cece (the story is loosely autobiographical, but all of the characters are bunnies instead of people). Cece struggles with her hearing impairment, and hates that her hearing aid marks her as “different.” However, with a simple shift in attitude, her difference becomes a superpower; her hearing aid allows her to listen to EVERYTHING—including secret teacher conversations…
AMULET series by Kazu Kibuishi
Fantasy readers, enter here! Lose yourself in the hidden world of Alledia, meet a mechanical rabbit named Miskit, and discover all manner of other creatures alongside siblings Emily and Navin. After Emily discovers a magical amulet in her great-grandfather’s basement, her mother is kidnapped by a mysterious monster. Coincidence? You’ll have to read to find out!
ROLLER GIRL by Victoria Jamieson
A 2016 Newbery Honor book, Roller Girl is all about girl power. When Astrid discovers roller derby, she thinks she’s found her calling—even though it separates her from her best friend of twelve years, Nicole. As Astrid struggles to make new friends without losing her old ones and to keep up with the bigger girls at derby camp, she begins to realize that she may be stronger than she thought.
BONE series by Jeff Smith
While it may be a little older (originally published in the 1990s), with ten Eisner Awards and eleven Harvey Awards to its name, this series is one you do not want to miss. Follow the three Bone cousins—Fone, Smiley, and Phoney—as they find new adventures around every corner (due largely to Phoney’s shady get-rich-quick schemes) after being banned from their hometown of Boneville. A great starting point if you are new to graphic novel reading!
THIS ONE SUMMER by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
A 2015 Caldecott Honor book, Michael L. Printz Honor book, AND Eisner Award winner, this is a story about growing up. Seems simple, right? But when has growing up ever been simple? Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. Her friend Windy is always there, too… but this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. A wonderfully told and beautifully illustrated coming-of-age story.
JANE, THE FOX & ME by Fanny Britt
If this book sounds familiar, it’s because we featured it on a previous blog post about bullying, a situation that almost every kid is faced with at some point. The case is no different for Hélène, who endures relentless taunts and nasty insults from a group of girls who used to be her friends. Fortunately, Hélène finds solace in a book, Jane Eyre, which makes her feel not so alone, as Jane helps her to find herself and discover that kindness still exists in the world.
BONUS: Some upcoming releases that we are PSYCHED about—
GHOSTS by Raina Telgemeier: “Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahia de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahia de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake—and her own.”
DOG MAN by Dav Pilkey: “When Greg the police dog and his cop companion are injured on the job, a life-saving surgery changes the course of history, and Dog Man is born. With the head of a dog and the body of a human, this heroic hound has a real nose for justice. But can he resist the call of the wild to answer the call of duty?”
LUCY & ANDY NEANDERTHAL by Jeffrey Brown: “For fans of the New York Times bestselling Jedi Academy books comes a hilarious new graphic novel series about two young cave kids living 40,000 years ago. The laugh-out-loud adventure features Lucy and her goofball brother Andy, as the duo take on a wandering baby sibling, bossy teens, cave paintings, and a mammoth hunt. But what will happen when they encounter a group of humans? Humorous and entertaining, Jeffrey Brown’s signature comical touch enlivens the scientific and historical content, including a special paleontologist section that helps to dispel common Neanderthal myths.”