Middle school kids love graphic novels. While some parents still think that "reading comics" doesn't count as reading, they couldn't be more wrong. These middle school graphic novels prove that!
These good middle grade graphic novels are perfect for kids in 6th - 8th grade, roughly 10-12 year olds. The realistic stories contain familiar themes that middle schoolers will relate to, like changing friendships, starting a new school, finding where you fit it, and navigating new emotions and changing bodies.
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Benefits of Graphic Novels
Graphic novels are excellent for encouraging reluctant readers, who may be intimidated by page after page of black and white type. The graphic format also encourages experimental styles, introducing kids to non-linear narratives, and getting them to look for clues in, and make inferences from, pictures.
High quality middle school graphic novels still contain important literary elements, like plot, character development, conflict and resolution. The interaction between visual elements and text promotes reading comprehension skills. So don't be discouraged if your middle schooler loves to read graphic novels Embrace it!
Best Middle School Graphic Novels for Ages 10-12
Now that you're convinced that it's okay for your kids to love graphic novels, here are some excellent choices.
Cub by Cynthia L. Copeland
In this funny middle school story, Cindy Copeland is working on her journalism skills. It's 1972 and Cindy doesn't run with the cool crowd but she's gaining confidence, making new friends (even a boyfriend!) and getting over how her best friend is now hanging out with the cool kids. One of my favorite aspects of this story is how Cindy's journalism endeavors have her interacting with important issues of the day like Watergate. This is a great choice for kids who like realistic graphic novels with lots of humor.
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Twin Cities by Jose Pimienta
12-year-old twins Teresa and Fernando are on the road to sixth grade where they will be attending different schools. Fernando is staying close to home in Mexicali, while Teresa is going to a school across the California border in Calexico.The two have very different experiences at school and with their peers, as well as engaging in familiar sibling struggles. An excellent and thoughtful graphic novel.
MORE: Graphic Novels with a Latino Focus
Freestyle by Gale Galligan
In New York City, eighth grader, Cory, loves being a part of the Eight Bitz dance crew, but he also wants to find time to indulge his love of yo-yo. And then there are his parents who have hired his classmate, Sunna, as his tutor because he needs help him to bring up his downward spiraling grades. How will he juggle everything? This is a great graphic novel for kids who like funny, realistic, contemporary stories and for fans of Raina Telgemeier.
MORE: Books for kids who like Raina Tegemeier
New Kid (series) 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. There are now two sequels Class Act, and School Trip.
MORE: Graphic Novels with Diverse Characters
Go with the Flow by Karen Schneemann, illustrated by Lily Williams
In this graphic novel, a group of girls are fed up with their school's emphasis on boys' sports, not to mention that the feminine hygiene dispenser in the bathroom is always empty. The girls work together through the ups and downs of every aspect of high school life: crushes, dances, sports, friendships, and more, in order to create a period-positive environment for everyone. An extra fun touch is the red tone of the illustrations!
All Summer Long (series) by Hope Larson
In this graphic novel, 13-year-old Bina turns to music after her parents shut down screen time. She uses music to work through her emotions about how her relationships with family and friends are changing as she gets older. A brand new graphic novel perfect for summer or when your 8th graders wishes it was summer!
MORE: 7th Grade Summer Reading List
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Graphic novels are a great choice for middle grade readers. Both my boys love thought Roller Girl was "awesome." For once, Astrid decides to try something different than her best friend. Instead of dance camp, she signs up for roller camp. Roller camp proves to be challenging, physically and emotionally and it is by participating in roller derby that Astrid discovers her inner strength.
MORE: Graphic Novels about Sports
Frazzled! (series) by Booki Vivat
Abbie Wu is starting middle school and she is looking for something to be "her thing." Abbie is also a little bit high strung and so when she and her friends decide to institute a lunch time revolution, the results are hilarious. Young readers who like their books to have a heavy dose of doodling will love this book. It's very refreshing and honest about the struggles of early teens trying to find their place, as well as all the embarrassing moments that take place on the journey.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
This tale is from one of the best loved graphic novelist. 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.
MORE: Middle Grade Books about Theater
Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, illustrated by Gabriela Epstein
Five middle school students are thrown together to complete their school's community service hours. Aside from the fact that they all speak Spanish, the students couldn't be more different. This graphic novel will remind us Gen X folks (high five!) of The Breakfast Club in which the characters seem to fit a stereotype but a more complex reality lies below the surface. The narrative has an intriguing structure. When they are called into the principal's office, each student tells their side of a story and much of the dialogue is told in both English and Spanish.
MORE: Graphic novels about tough topics
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.
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Just Jamie (series) by Terri Libenson
Just Jamie is one of the graphic novels in Libenson's "Emmie and Friends" series about a middle school peer group. Other titles include, Invisible Emmie, Positively Izzy, Becoming Brianna, Remarkably Ruby and Truly Tyler. At the end of seventh grade, Jamie is dealing with a scenario that will be familiar to many a middle schooler. She's not sure who her real friends are! The narrative, which is at times very funny, alternates between Jamie, and her friend Maya's, perspective.
Awkward (series) by Svetlana Chmakova
Peppi Torres is starting a new school and much to her dismay she trips in front of everyone! When another student tries to help her, the pair are teased and Peppi shoves her helper aside. It is a move she instantly regrets, and later she agonizes over how to apologize for her rudeness. The boy, Jamie, is in the science club, while Peppi and her friends are in the art club. The two clubs are at odds and when they are pitted against each other in a contest, things get tricky. Peppi tries to navigate the awkwardness of being friends with Jamie and her art club friends, as well as making honest choices.
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.
Great list but which graphic novels do you recommend for early high schoolers?
Hi Kyra, Thanks for your inquiry. I can't personally recommend many YA graphic novels as I have not well-read in that category. I would recommend the March trilogy by John Lewis, Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, and They Called Us Enemy by George Takai. You might take a look at this list from Epic Reads: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/ya-graphic-novels/