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Recently, while I was at the doctor, my physician confessed that her young kids just want to read comics and graphic novels, as opposed to “real” books. I couldn’t disagree with her more; graphic novels and comics absolutely count as books. Reading them requires your brain to operate on all cylinders. Not only are you reading text, you’re also reading pictures and artwork at the same time. It’s really quite a sophisticated format of reading, one that requires multiple skill sets working together. Today’s middle grade graphic novels are intellectually stimulating and fun, showcasing a diverse range of identities, backgrounds, and experiences. And that brings me to today’s list.
In this roundup of the best new middle grade graphic novels, you’ll find a sampling of genres, so there’s something for everyone, whether you like fantasy, adventure, realistic stories, and more. You’ll find a verse novel adapted for a graphic novel and a pick-a-path interactive book. You’ll find a fantasy novel with avian magic and a heist adventure novel. And you’ll find so much more. Since all of these books are new or upcoming releases, they’d make for some great summer reading picks. So put your hold requests through your library now; this summer is going to be epic for middle grade novel new releases.
Anne of West Philly by Ivy Noelle Weir and Myisha Haynes
This retelling of L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables is set in West Philadelphia. It’s there that Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert foster a teen girl, Anne. In her new home, Anne thrives, making new friends, participating in the robotics club, and getting what she didn’t bargain for… a family. Anne of West Philly is perfect for readers who liked the Little Women retelling Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.
The Aquanaut by Dan Santat
In Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat’s new middle grade graphic novel, Sophie mourns the death of her father, who was lost at sea. Left behind in her dad’s marine themed park, the Aqualand, Sophie is shocked when an “Aquanaut” shows up in the research lab. But the Aquanaut has surprises in store and tries to help Sophie free the park’s marine life languishing in captivity. Adventure-filled with beautiful artwork, The Aquanaut is the perfect summer read.
Isla to Island by Alexis Castellanos
Marisol loves her home in Cuba, where flowers bloom, food is delicious, and the people are warm and welcoming. But things shift in the country, making it more dangerous to stay there, and then Marisol’s parents send her to Brooklyn to a foster home. Brooklyn seems to be everything Cuba is not, and Marisol mourns her old life. Soon, though, Marisol learns to cope and thrive in her new hometown. Isla to Island is special because it is an entirely wordless graphic novel, one you won’t want to miss.
Wingbearer by Marjorie M. Liu and Teny Issakhanian
In this series opener, Zuli has special powers and was raised by bird spirits in the safety of her Great Tree. Facing a threat to her home, Zuli embarks on a journey with her guardian owl, Frowly, to save her family and save the Great Tree. The experience pushes Zuli outside her comfort zone as she discovers abilities she never knew she had.
June New Releases
Smaller Sister by Maggie Edkins Willis (June 14)
This debut explores the family dynamics between two sisters. Lucy loves her older sister, Olivia, even though the two butt heads sometime with growing pains. But then Lucy notices that Olivia is more withdrawn and more focused on food and on her body. Eventually, Lucy and her family realize Olivia has an eating disorder. As the family leans in on helping Olivia get help, Lucy gets pushed to the side. This important middle grade graphic novel raises awareness for young adults struggling with disordered thinking and their families.
Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine by Joy Rioux (June 21)
Fantasy fans will love Joy Rioux’s debut middle grade graphic novel as author-illustrator. Orphan Suri may be a street urchin, but she’s obsessed with monsters and dreams of one day taming them. When a new wagon joins her caravan, Suri gets the opportunity to put her monster-taming gifts to the tests. Adventure abounds in this first book in an exciting new graphic novel middle grade trilogy.
High Score by Destiny Howell (June 28)
Who doesn’t love a good caper story? In High Score, Darius James (AKA DJ) is looking forward to starting fresh at Ella Fitzgerald Middle, a new school where he can leave his reputation as a “fixer” behind. When DJ’s best friend and accomplice Conor is also transferred to Fitz, they try to steer clear of Lucky, who rules Fitz and its student economy that runs on tickets from nearby arcade called Starcade. But doing so is impossible when Conor is in debt to Lucky. Can DJ and Conor pull off a heist, get the money, and game the game system? You’ll race through this one to find out.
Valentina Salazar Is Not a Monster Hunter by Zoraida Córdova (June 28)
Valentina Salazar is anything but normal. Not only has she landed a spot in detention on the last day of school, she also burned down the school yard by accident, and all because she was trying to stop a fire-breathing chipmunk on the loose. Valentina comes from a long line of protector who are supposed to support magical creatures who somehow find themselves in our everyday world. But when Val’s father dies doing the job, Val’s mom decides to retire from protector duties, moving the family to a quiet town in upstate New York. Val gets one last shot at protecting when she spies a mythical egg on a viral video. Doing so gives Val another chance to live her destiny, while also unknowingly bringing her family to the attention of some nasty monster hunter foes…
July New Releases
Booked by Kwame Alexander and Dawud Anyabwile (July 12)
In a continuation of Kwame Alexander’s graphic novel adaptation of his novel in verse, The Crossover, we have a sequel, Booked. Whereas The Crossover focused on boys playing basketball, Booked is all about soccer. Our spirited hero, Nick, struggles with life on and off the field. Excellent artwork by Dawud Anyabwile brings this fresh and fun story to life.
August New Releases
Adventuregame Comics: Leviathan by Jason Shiga (August 2)
Jason Shiga’s novel is set in a Medieval village on the coast where the greatest threat is a massive sea creature called the “Leviathan.” Your job as the reader is to defeat the monster. In this interactive book, you’ll be able to take multiple paths and find many outcomes based on your choices. This exciting, interactive graphic novel has “Choose Your Own Adventure” vibes.
Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez and Gabriela Epstein (August 2)
Five kids each struggling inside and outside of school are required to do community service. All the classic kids are represented: the rich kid, the loner, the tough kid, and so on. Each of them think they have nothing in common with the others. But as they work together assisting someone who really needs their help, friendships blossom.
For more graphic novel articles, check out Middle Grade Graphic Novels to Lose Yourself In and YA Comics and Graphic Novels Hitting Shelves May – June 2022.