If you’ve got a graphic novel loving tween in your life, you know that they tend to tear through new books with a zest unmatched by adults. And given the engaging illustrations, witty dialogue, and touching narratives, why wouldn’t they? Graphic novels are a great choice, both for readers who want to try something new and for more reluctant young adults who find the combination of written and visual storytelling to be a pathway to reading. Not only can graphic novels be entertaining, they also help readers to engage new parts of their brains when reading, and can provide inspiration for budding visual artists and writers alike. Whether the middle grader in your life is into realistic fiction, memoir, or history, there’s a graphic novel for them! Below are ten new (within the last year) middle grade graphic novels that are surefire hits for gifting this holiday season.
Class Act by Jerry Craft
The follow up to the Newbery Medal–winning New Kid, Class Act centers around Drew, a friend of Jordan’s from the first book in the series. As one of the few students of color at the prestigious Riverdale Academy Day School, Drew knows that he has to work ten times as hard just to be given the same opportunities that more privileged students take for granted. But when it appears that their own friend Liam can’t grasp the advantages he has, can Drew and Jordan keep their friend group together?
When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
Based on Mohamed’s own experiences in refugee camps, this is the story of brothers Omar and Hassan, who have known the Kenyan refugee camp of Dadaab as home for most of their lives. As they struggle for food, shelter, and appropriate medical care for the non-verbal Hassan, Omar sees a chance of going to school as a way to improve their living situation. However, this would mean leaving Hassan on his own and Omar struggles to find a way to both protect his brother and build a better future in this touching, graphic novel.
Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley
A perfect choice for any middle graders facing a big move or the blending of families. After her mom gets a new boyfriend, Walter, Jen is forced to move from the city to Walter’s farm, where she meets her new sisters Andy and Reese. Andy especially seems too perfect to Jen, who feels left out of the new family her mom is creating. And when Jen and Andy have to share a job at the local farmers market, Jen is sure she’ll never be able to do as good of a job as her sister. A heartwarming book great for fans of Raina Telgemeier.
Doodleville by Chad Sell
Middle grade readers who loved Sell’s Cardboard Kingdom books will want to grab this one! Drew, a talented artist, has created a universe of doodles…which rarely stay on the page! This isn’t too much of a problem until her doodles cause some problems during a class field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, where Drew is inspired to create the Leviathan (AKA Levi), her biggest, baddest drawing yet. As Levi starts to cause problems off the page, can Drew harness her feelings and the help of her friends to get him back in her sketchbook?
Snapdragon by Kat Leyh
Elements of magic, witchcraft, and folklore come together in this graphic novel. When middle schooler Snap runs into a problem, she seeks out the help of Jacks, seller of roadkill skeletons and rumored town witch. At first glance, Jacks is more quirky than she is magical, but as Snap begins to help her with her eccentric work, she uncovers secrets about both magical powers and her own family’s past that just might be the key to unlocking the town’s secrets.
Urban Legendz by Paul Downs, Nick Bruno, and Michael Yates
When his mother dies, Dwayne, his socially outgoing brother, and his policeman father move into his mother’s childhood apartment in Brooklyn. Feeling out of place in his new home, Dwayne is drawn in by a group of local kids working as vigilantes to stop the sinister monsters that have been causing trouble around the city. Fast-paced and action packed, this one is sure to be a hit.
Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner
Middle grade readers just edging into the Twilight years will delight in this humorous take on first crushes, vampires, and the unleashing of evil forces. When AJ returns to school from summer break, he decides this is the year he’ll finally get his vampire-loving crush, Nia, to fall for him. AJ’s plan, to dress and act like a vampire, seems foolproof, until he learns Nia’s not just obsessed with vampires, but also with slaying them.
Cub by Cynthia L. Copeland
It’s the 1970s and middle grade student Cindy is determined to carve her own path, even if it doesn’t involve behaving like her parents think proper girls should. When she gets the chance to intern with one of the few female reporters at her local paper, Cindy not only develops a nose for news, but also gets a firsthand look at the sexism women face trying to carve out their jobs in a male-dominated world.
Catherine’s War by Julia Billet and Claire Fauvel, Translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger
Inspired by a true story and translated from the original version in French, Catherine’s War takes place in France during World War II. Rachel Cohen has been moved from her family to a children’s home outside Paris, where she tries to forget about the war and focus on her photography. But when the Nazis begin to close in, Rachel must change her name to Catherine and go into hiding in order to stay alive. With her camera by her side, she creates a record of her days as a hidden child in France in a touching narrative that she hopes to one day be able to show her family.
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
Gene loves comic books, action heroes, and stories where the good guys win, and he’s written several successful graphic novels. One thing Gene isn’t so great at? Sports. Ever since he was a kid, he struggled with basketball and now that he’s an adult, the students at the high school where he teaches are poised to become California State basketball champs. Overcoming his old feelings about the game, Gene sets out to learn the stories of the students on the team, and finds out that they’re worth an action-packed comic of their own.
Whether they’re new to the graphic novel world or a devotee of the genre, middle graders are sure to see themselves in at least one of these middle grade graphic novels. If you’re looking for even more graphic novels sure to delight your favorite middle grade kid, we’ve got plenty more here and here. Happy Reading!