The ultimate tonic for reluctant readers (and a visual treat for any pair of eyes), graphic novels are growing more popular every year. Here are some of the best ones for tweenagers.
1. Smile (Raina Telgemeier)
When sixth grader Raina trips and badly bashes her two front teeth, it launches a four-year odyssey of painful dentistry, identity crises and mean girl meanness. Based on the author’s own youthful experiences, this book captures perfectly the confusion and dread of adolescent girlhood. Reading it, you’ll feel relieved all over again that those years are over.
2. Lumberjanes (Grace Ellis and Brooke Allen)
Five girls spend summer at a scout camp with a difference! Faced with weird woodland creatures (yetis, monsters, three-eyed foxes) and numerous mysteries to solve, they don’t have a quiet moment. There’s a definite fun Scooby Doo vibe going on here, and the smart and sassy gang are ideal role models.
3. Gotham Academy (Becky Cloonan and Karl Kerschl)
Tired of superhero books filled with brawny people punching lumps out of each other? It looks like DC Comics have finally got the message. This book is pitched squarely at middle school boys and girls, and sees our everygirl heroine Olivia sent to a very special school. Almost immediately, she’s knee-deep in ghost, super villains and a mysterious billionaire named Bruce Wayne. (That’s Batman, folks!) Great fun.
4. Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story (Nora Raleigh Baskin)
Who said graphic novels can’t tackle serious issues? In the 48 hours leading up to 9/11, four middle-schoolers go about their everyday lives in different parts of the country – completely unaware of the looming tragedy that will bring all their stories crashing together. Tackling heady themes such as grief, loss and racism without ever losing focus on the individual stories of the main characters, this is a triumph.
5. Sunny Side Up (Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm)
A touching tale that shows how graphic art can effectively convey sometimes difficult issues. Ten-year-old Sunny is packaged off to her grandfather’s home in Florida for the summer, to escape a family problem. A series of flashbacks gradually reveals details about the sad situation back home, and Sunny learns to open up to her doting grandpa. It’s a lovely tale, and surprisingly funny given its darker themes.
6. Awkward (Svetlana Chmakova)
A recent publication that has deservedly been a big success. Two awkward middle-school students – Peppi and Jaime – are set against each other by the mean kids. Their fake rivalry soon bubbles over into a full-on feud, between Peppi’s art club and Jaime’s science club. Will they resolve the silliness before things get really ugly? Told in a clear voice by believable characters, this book really hits home.
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