Raina Telgemeier is one of the most popular graphic novel author-illustrators. Readers love her books and the librarians tell me they get requests for books like Smile all the time! Whether you want more graphic novels like Smile, Guts, and Drama or want to inspire your kids to read non-graphic middle grade novels, this book list will help you put great stories in the hands of young readers ages 8-13!
I’ve divided this book list into two parts with 5 book choices each. First, choose from a selection of graphic novels like Smile. Second, find some good middle grade non-graphic novels for fans of Raina Telgemeier.
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Graphic Novels Like Smile
All’s Faire in Middle School
by Victoria Jamieson
Imogene (Impy) Vega’s parents work at the renaissance faire and Impy helps out as a squire. Although she fits right in at the faire, she feels out of place navigating the perils of sixth grade. Impy makes mistakes that alienate her peers and cause her to doubt herself. She works hard, though, and learns to make better choices.
by Vera Brosgol
I thought this graphic novel, based on the author’s childhood experiences, was so funny. Vera wants to fit in with the rest of her friends, but finds it difficult when her Russian-immigrant family can’t keep up with the Joneses. However, she has high hopes for a new Russian summer camp. After a bumpy start, Vera is able to harness her interests, identity and intelligence to salvage her summer camp experience.
by Jen Wang
This was such a lovely story. Christine’s mom invites a single parent and her daughter, Moon, to live in their guest house. Christine and Moon couldn’t be more opposite on the outside but learn they have more in common than they thought. Soon Moon shares a secret with Christine, a secret that turns out not to be what anyone expects.
by Jerry Craft
After I brought this book home from the library, my son loved it and read it ten times in a row! I’m not surprised because after I read it, I realized how nuanced this story is! Art-loving Jordan navigates a new school as one of the few kids of color in his seventh grade class. Craft’s story offers much to discover, even after multiple readings.
This Was Our Pact
by Ryan Andrews
Ben and his friends have made a pact. This year, after the lanterns at the Autumn festival are set adrift in the river, they will follow the lanterns to see where they go. They want to find out if the legend which says they turn into stars is true. However, the kids drop out of the pact one by one until only Ben and Nathaniel are left. They forge on, however, and what they discover and encounter is truly magical.
Novels to Read After Smile
Dear Sweet Pea
by Julie Murphy
Sweet Pea’s divorced parents live next door to each other in an effort to co-parent their daughter. While Sweet Pea’s friendships are undergoing a transition, a neighbor asks her to look after her mail. The neighbor is an advice columnist and Sweet Pea can’t resist answering a few of the letters. Understandably, she gets into a bit of a pickle! Funny and heartwarming.
Roll With It
by Jamie Sumner
Ellie loves to bake! Her cerebral palsy means her mom is a bit overprotective, and that she has to spend more time than she would like with doctors. Ellie’s grandfather has Alzheimer’s disease and so Ellie and her mom move in with her grandparents to help out. Starting a new school means Ellie finally finds some good friends and feels like she fits in somewhere. Roll With It is a marvelous book, tackling so many themes, but with good humor and likable characters.
Stanley Will Probably Be Fine
by Sally J. Pla
I found myself giggling quite a bit while reading this book. Stanley Fortinbras (love that name!) struggles with anxiety and sensory processing disorder. He even sometimes faints–how embarrassing! However, he loves comics trivia and pushes back against his worries to join in a a giant comics-trivia treasure hunt with his quirky new neighbor. Trivia Quest takes the pair all over the town, and Stanley works hard to overcome his difficulties to win the day.
The First Rule of Punk
by Celia C. Pérez
I chose Pérez’s book for kids who want books like Smile not just because it is an exceedingly good story, but because the format–text mixed in with collage illustrations and excerpts from Malú’s zines–will appeal to kids who love graphic novels. Malú is punk through and through, but her mom and the school administration don’t understand punk’s not a bad thing. So Malú sets out to convince them!
Pie in the Sky
by Remi Lai
Lai’s novel about a boy who emigrates to Australia with his mom and younger brother will touch your heart and tickle your funny bone. Woven into the narrative are comics revealing 11-year-old Jingwen’s emotional experiences as he grapples with learning a new language and navigating an unfamiliar culture. Jingwen is suffering from grief over losing his father and copes by baking cakes with his little brother. A wonderful book.
More books like Smile to check out: