Books are wonderful windows and mirrors that show us a wide variety of experiences. This list of LGBTQ graphic novels for middle grade readers includes realistic coming of age stories, fantasy tales and magical realism. The books feature characters who are gay, lesbian, transgender, nonbinary or queer.
In some of these graphic novels, queer identity is center stage, with characters who are discovering their gender identity; in other books, gender and sexual identity is naturally represented and taken for granted. The stories are funny, dramatic, suspenseful, tender and sad, just like real life.
If your child is cisgender, it may not occur to you to give them LGBTQ-themed books to read. However, we know that reading books fosters and anti-bias attitude, a worthy goal indeed. So if you have a young reader who loves graphic novels, these fantastic books will surprise and delight!
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OTHER BOYS by Damian Alexander
Author Damian Alexander's graphic novel memoir will speak to every middle schooler who has tried to figure out how to navigate school while managing complicated emotions. Damian is entering seventh grade and to deal with his trauma over past bullying, he decides to stop talking. After the death of his mother, he now lives with his grandparents and is beginning to confront new feelings he has towards other boys. Damian's history is revealed through flashbacks. His conversations with a therapist and a few new friendships help him cope. Ages 10 and up.
LILLA THE ACCIDENTAL WITCH by Eleanor Crewes
This is a lovely graphic novel. Lilla and her older sister, Dani, visit their aunt in Italy. While Dani is definitely into boys, Lilla finds her sister's interest a mystery. While in Italy, the shy Lilla discovers she comes from a long line of witches and studies a magical book to learn how to use her powers. She encounters Stregamama, a malevolent ancient witch, and in order to avoid disaster, Lilla must look within herself and claim her identity. Also, there is an adorable cat! Ages 8 and up.
THE PRINCE AND THE DRESSMAKER by Jen Wang
In Paris, Prince Sebastian's parents are looking for a bride for their son. In another part of the city, aspiring designer Frances sews marvelous dresses for Lady Crystallia. Prince Sebastian's secret is the connection between the two story threads (See what I did there? Ha ha). This is a story of secrets and identities, friendships and family, being true to yourself and being accepted by others. Ages 10 and up.
SWAN LAKE: QUEST FOR THE KINGDOMS by Rey Terciero, illustrated by Megan Kearney
In Bloom Kingdom, Princess Odette longs to study ballet, but she is cursed to take the form of a swan during the day. When she meets Princess Dillie (who has a prosthetic leg) of Rotbart Kingdom, the new friends decide to find a way to break the curse. During their adventure they are joined by Prince Siegfried of Montrose Kingdom, who is on his own quest to prove that despite not living up to traditional masculine virtues, he is good enough to rule. Ages 9 and up.
PRINCESS PRINCESS EVER AFTER by Katie O'Neill
Princess Sadie is locked in a tower and the offers of rescues by princes is getting tedious. Enter Princess Amira and her unicorn! The two become fast friends and set out on a rollicking adventure full of ogres, wicked sisters, and yet another prince. By the end, Sadie and Amira have grown in self-confidence and come a decision about what they want their own happily-ever-after to look like. Ages 8 and up.
BEETLE AND THE HOLLOWBONES by Aliza Layne
Beetle is a young goblin and aspiring witch who is reunited with her friend Kat Hollowbone. Their friendship has Beetle questioning her feelings about her relationship with Kat as well as with her friend Blob Ghost. But it turns out Kat's aunt is evil and has plans to destroy the mall where Blob Ghost lives. I loved this unique and fantastical graphic novel. Ages 10 and up.
THE CARDBOARD KINGDOM (series) by Chad Sell
This is a joyous tale of neighborhood kids who transform mere cardboard into the most marvelous imaginative world. Sixteen characters transform their world and learn about their own identities, making this book a wonderful tour de force! Ages 8 and up.
THE DEEP & DARK BLUE by Niki Smith
In a magical world, Hawke, a cisgender boy, and his twin, Grayson, are on the run. Their cousin has usurped power from their grandfather and the twins hope to right this wrong. They enter a mysterious group of women called the Communion of Blue who work to bind the world together with mystical threads. One twin wants to leave the Communion, but the other wants to stay, and other longs for a different identity and life as a transgender girl. Ages 10 and up.
DRAMA by Raina Telgemeier
Callie wants to be in her school's latest production but she doesn't think she can sing so instead she helps out as the set designer and is determined to create a Broadway-worthy show. The "drama" of the book's title could easily refer to the friendship and romantic entanglements of the middle school crew (when is middle school not melodramatic?) as well what happens on the stage. Ages 10 and up.
THE BREAKAWAYS by Cathy G. Johnson
In her search for a place to fit in at her new middle school, Faith joins the girls' soccer team. Faith loves to draw and has a vivid imagination. Her fellow C-team players are an eclectic group of kids who are navigating a host of social and personal circumstances, as well as exploring their identities. However, the friendships that develop allow them to support each other, and even though they never quite become good soccer players, they develop as people and as friends. Ages 10 and up.
SNAPDRAGON by Kat Leyh
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The town "witch," Jacks, agrees to help Snap with her rescued opossums if Snap will help her with her work collecting skeletons. It turns out that Jacks' work also involves helping release souls back into the natural world. During the course of the book, Snap is curious if she can work magic, learns about Jacks' past connection with her grandmother, and makes a new best friend who is transitioning. Ages 9 and up.
THE WITCH BOY (trilogy) by Molly Knox Ostertag
The Witch Boy is a parable about the risks of forcing others to conform to traditional gender roles. Aster, a boy, doesn't want to be a shape-shifter. He want to work magic and be a witch. However, only girls are allowed to study witchery and Aster studies in secret. His secret studies are observed by Charlie, a girl from the non-magical neighborhood and the two become friends. It's a good thing he was studying witchery, because his skills are required when another boy is in danger. I love the incredibly diverse cast of characters. Ages 8 and up.
THE TEA DRAGON SOCIETY (series) by Katie O'Neill
For kids who like fantasy but without all the potentially scary action, this oversized graphic novel series is a great start. Greta, a blacksmith's apprentice, meets Hesekiel and Erik, tea shop owners who teach her about the ancient art of tea dragons. At the end of the book there is a super fun guide to all the tea dragons and their care. Ages 7 and up.
THE ACCURSED VAMPIRE (series) by Madeline McGrane
For readers who like a bit of playful mischief, McGrane's graphic novel series may be just the thing. An evil witch forces Dragoslava the vampire to run errands and now Dragoslava must fetch a powerful grimoire. Two other young vampires join Drago on their quest. McGraine incorporates themes of belonging, prejudice and kindness into this funny tale which would be great fun to read around Halloween. Ages 8 and up.
MEG, JO, BETH AND AMY by Rey Terciero, illustrated by Bre Indigo
This modern day retelling of Lousia May Alcott's Little Women is set in New York City. The story follows the lives of four sisters in a blended, multi-racial family, and will appeal to fans of Raina Telgemeier. The sisters' father is stationed in the Middle East, their mother works double shifts and the girls take care of one another. The narrative follows the sisters as they cope with school work, chores and relationships, as well as interactions with their wealthy neighbor, Laurie. Ages 10 and up.
THE GOLDEN HOUR by Niki Smith
Manuel witnesses an attack on his art teacher, which leaves him with trauma-induced anxiety. He loves taking photos and uses photography as a way to help him cope with panic attacks and flashbacks. His friendship with Sebastian and Caysha, with whom he works on a school project, furthers the healing process, especially when he spends time on Sebastian's family's cattle ranch. I like the positive message about the importance of connecting with friends and finding solace in art and the outdoors. Ages 9 and up.
HISTORY COMICS: THE STONEWALL RIOTS by Archie Bongiovanni, illustrated A. Andrews
Using oral history, and documentary evidence, Bongiovanni and Andrews creatively tell the history of the Stonewall Riots. Three friends, Natalie, Jax and Rashad, time travel back to 1969 after Natalie's abuela tells them that she and her girlfriend were at Stonewall. Curious readers will want to use the end notes to discover material for further reading. Ages 10 and up.