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Collecting Comics: Middle Grade Novels that a Middle Grade Reader Really Loves

I’ve shared with you before the struggles that Thing 2, now almost 11, has had with reading. From being diagnosed with dyslexia to the ways in which school reading assignments have made her hate reading, I’ve been working overtime as both a mom and a librarian to try and ignite that love for reading. Do you know what’s helping? Graphic Novels!! So today while regular C2 blogger Ally Watkins is on sabbatical – it’s summer reading program time! – Thing 2 and I are here to share with you some graphic novels read by and recommended by a middle grade reader.

Now if you know anything about me, I have often proclaimed that graphic novels are my archnemesis. Not because I don’t respect or value them, because I do, but because I don’t personally enjoy them as a reader and have found them over the years to be hard to evaluate and collect. Thankfully, I now have resident comics and graphic novel expert Ally Watkins saved into my phone and I talk to her regularly about GNs. In fact, she kindly gives me a lot of recommendations for my very favorite middle grade graphic novel reader. I have a long list of recommended titles we’re working through.

Here’s a look at some of the GNs Thing 2 is currently reading and loving.

Like most middle grade kids, Thing 2 LOVES Raina Telgemeier. I was very fortunate to attend BEA and got an advanced copy of Guts, which she loved. The Teen also read this book because she grew up reading Telgemeier and she also was a fan. One of the things we really liked about this book is that it talks openly and honestly about having anxiety, which several people in our house struggle with. This ARC has already been read several times by multiple people in our house and is highly recommended.

The Cardboard Kingdom is a super fun book about a group of kids who make a play kingdom out of cardboard. It’s about friendship and creativity. It’s inspiring and joyful. As a librarian, I love that it has built in fun activities that require nothing more than creativity and cardboard, something that libraries have in spades as we get shipments of books in large cardboard boxes. This book is a delight and is another title that she has read multiple times.

YA authors Meg Cabot and Kami Garcia have both joined the DC graphic novel line. Meg Cabot wrote the Black Canary graphic novel that you see pictured above. Kami Garcia wrote the origin story for Raven, from Teen Titans. We watch a lot of comic book movies in our house and we are regular Teen Titans Go watchers so both of these GNs were awesome!

I did a random search for middle grade grade novels and came across The Breakaways which I purchased with almost no information because it’s about a group of friends who play soccer. Thing 2 also plays soccer so I thought tying reading in with something she already loves might help. It came when I was at work and by the time I had gotten home she had already read it. It is a great coming of age novel in which a variety of characters explore things like their sexuality, friendships, and features a wide variety of middle schoolers who are just trying to figure out who they are.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale is another graphic novel that is popular with Thing 2 and all of her friends. The companion novel, Best Friends, comes out in August and we already have our copy pre-ordered.

I have a long list of GNs to try from Ally and they include series like Amulet, Zita the Spacegirl, Cleopatra in Space, Princeless and Roller Girl. Be Prepared is on its way to our house as we speak. Graphic novels are very popular and growing in popularity, especially among middle grade readers. Several publishing houses have started or have announced that they are starting graphic novel imprints this year and next. I’m calling a truce with graphic novels, they are my archnemesis no more!

Remember, reading graphic novels is reading! And I am thankful that they are helping my kid develop a love of reading after so many struggles.

Here are some other great recommended reading lists that we’re currently working our way through

7 Awesome New Middle Grade Graphic Novels 

Get Real with Middle Grade Graphic Novels

Best Middle Grade Graphic Novels of 2018

50 Must Read Graphic Novels

Middle Grade Graphic Novel Publishers

Oni Press

DC Press

Scholastic Graphix

And Here are Some General Resources About the Rising Popularity of Graphic Novels Among Middle Grade Readers

Going Graphic: Why Graphic Novels are the New Frontier in Middle Grade

PW: An Ever Growing Demand for Middle Grade Graphic Novels

Middle Grade Monday – Shannon Hale

Y’all, I cannot even. This is the state of my excitement right now.

You see, Shannon Hale is in my state, for the first time ever. And tonight she’s coming to my local bookstore. She’ll be promoting the third Princess Academy book, Princess Academy: the Forgotten Sisters, which isn’t even out until next week. I am so excited!

Shannon Hale is one of the first authors I ever met. It was at ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, probably about 10 years ago? I can only remember because she’d had her first baby and he was about 6 months old, and now he’s 11 (I think.) I had stopped by her booth on the vendor floor in the hopes that her line wouldn’t be too long. After all, Goose Girl was one of the best books I’d read in years, and I was sure that there would be a crowd. Lucky for me, there was no one there and I got to talk to her for about 45 minutes and meet her baby and husband when they stopped by. She was so lovely and approachable. It was one of the best times I have had meeting an author.

Cut to tonight – I’m sure it’s going to be crowded, but I am just as excited to see her! I’m planning on getting a copy of the new Princess Academy Book and taking all of my others to be signed.

To be honest, there are a lot of reasons to love Shannon Hale. First and foremost, of course, her books are amazing! I fell in love with Goose Girl when I read it and I book talk it (and the rest of the Bayern Books every year.) I love to watch the looks on the face of the less enlightened young men change from skepticism to interest, to excitement as I explain the story and talk about murder plots, epics sword fights, etc. She writes brilliant stories about complex female protagonists with agency. And they are wonderful.

The second reason to love Shannon Hale is her internet presence. Even though she has a myriad of responsibilities both as an author and a parent, she spends time advocating for those things in which she strongly believes, including reading for pleasure and the false dichotomy of ‘boy books’ and ‘girl books,’ to just name two. Also, if you follow closely, you’ll get to see the occasional tweet in her Twitter stream that cracks a window into the minds of her 4 year old twin girls, which is fascinating. For instance this, from this morning:

Thirdly, and finally for now, Shannon Hale’s books fall into what I like to think of as the ‘middle school sweet spot.’ There is nothing in them that might cause concern, even for an elementary student, but they are written in such a way as to have major mass appeal to all levels of readers in my population. Everyone from the youngest of my sixth graders to the oldest (and most jaded) of my eighth graders can find an engaging read with an appealing protagonist withing the covers of her books. And for that, I am truly grateful.

So, I’m off to see her tonight! You can expect a review of her newest forthwith!


***Post event update: Shannon is just as wonderful as I remembered. Probably more. Also, best presentation since Cassie Clare (strongly recommended.)