The best middle grade illustrated and graphic novels that deal with things outside of middle school

Terri Libenson Author Of Remarkably Ruby
By Terri Libenson

Who am I?

I’ve always been drawn to comics. I started out as a humorous card writer, and later I became a syndicated cartoonist and author. I collect graphic novels of all kinds and I appreciate the unique talent that goes into the collaborative marriage of writing and art. I especially love stories told with humor, and these types of books lend themselves so well to that. And, boy, do kids appreciate it, too (guess I’m still a kid at heart). As someone who’s read many, many middle grade graphic and illustrated novelsfor blurbs, reference, as well as for pleasure—I feel like an expert by now. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!

I wrote...

Remarkably Ruby

By Terri Libenson,

Book cover of Remarkably Ruby

What is my book about?

Ruby and Mia are total opposites. Ruby: A little awkward. Not a “joiner”. Loves to write poetry. Mia: Type A. Popular-ish. Wants to be class prez.

They used to be friends. But now they have nothing in common anymore… Or do they? Remarkably Ruby is a story about how there’s more to everyone than meets the eye. It is the sixth book in New York Times bestselling author Terri Libenson’s popular Emmie & Friends series.

The books I picked & why

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By Rob Harrell,

Book cover of Wink

Why this book?

One of my favorites, Wink is so funny, moving, and deeply personal. The main character, Ross, is diagnosed with a rare eye cancer (based on the author’s own experiences) and deals with that as well as a myriad of other issues (bullying, a crush, a best friend that’s moving away). What I love most is the character development. I swear I’ve met the same quirky people you’ll find in this book. There’s so much feeling poured into the story. There are also funny comics and rock music. What could be better?


By Yehudi Mercado,

Book cover of Chunky

Why this book?

To me, Chunky just bursts with color, feeling, and frenzy. First and foremost, the art is beautiful, and the color palette is eye-catchingly unique. That just sucks you into the story, which is so funny and well crafted. It’s a loose autobiography; Hudi is an overweight, Jewish Mexican American kid who is trying to please his parents by fitting in and attempting various sports; meanwhile, he overlooks his true talents: drawing and performing. To help him cope, he conjures an imaginary (and hilarious) cheerleading mascot, Chunky. This is Hudi’s journey of finding self-acceptance. The book is so funny and imaginative, I could read it over and over.

Fly on the Wall

By Remy Lai,

Book cover of Fly on the Wall

Why this book?

I absolutely love Remy’s writing style. It is so unique, quirky, and hilarious. I also love how she develops her characters, who are diverse and funny. The story is about Henry who wants to prove to his “helicopter” family that he’s not a “baby,” so he sneaks out to take an epic same-day trip by himself. His plans keep getting thwarted in comical ways. What I like most about this book is that the story is so layered (many little sub-plots and metaphors); it really has depth. I also love how Henry explores the meaning of friendship and family and how he ultimately learns to be a friend and accept love.

Allergic: A Graphic Novel

By Megan Wagner Lloyd, Michelle Mee Nutter (illustrator),

Book cover of Allergic: A Graphic Novel

Why this book?

This is a story about a girl who loves animals but discovers she’s allergic to all creatures with fur. Megan does such a great job of portraying Maggie’s feelings so starkly and truthfully, that she comes across as one of the most relatable, heartfelt characters. And the illustrations are spot-on. There are also fun and realistic side characters, like her new friend Claire and her annoying but lovable little brothers. Maggie’s journey to finding the perfect pet despite all obstacles helps teach kids about never giving up (yet going about it honestly) and counting on those you’re closest to. I found all the characters to be sweet, honest, and relatable.

Ghosts: A Graphic Novel

By Raina Telgemeier,

Book cover of Ghosts: A Graphic Novel

Why this book?

I love how Raina reaches out of her largely autobiographical work and delves into the world of spirituality and folklore. There’s also the very realistic, dire, and looming “ghost” of the character Maya’s cystic fibrosis. In the story, Raina masterfully weaves reality and fantasy. It’s an engaging journey about overcoming fear with the help of family and friends. And, as all her books are, it’s beautifully illustrated. As someone with a pretty strong spiritual bent, this book really resonates with me.

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