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Back-to-School Reading Ideas for Middle School (Grades 6-8)

Everyone’s either back to school or will be soon – it’s a perfect time to load up on some graphic novels and start some Fall reading! We’ve got some new releases and enduring classics for middle schoolers in this installment.

As a volunteer librarian in my local library, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks helping parents and kids alike find books to satisfy their summer reading lists; surprisingly, few graphic novels have popped on these lists. I’m hoping that with more and more teachers and librarians getting on board with graphic novels as a teaching medium, this will change.

Middle school is a great age to step up the graphic novel selections. Most middle schoolers can read mainstream graphic novel choices, it’s a question of finding age-appropriate – and school-appropriate – content. Luckily, authors and publishers are answering the call and putting out quality material that’s also fun for kids to read.

Graphic novels also keep both boys and girls interested. At this age, the drop-off in reading continues in boys, who start feeling it’s “uncool” to be a reader back in the higher grades of elementary school; girls may think graphic novels are “for boys,” which couldn’t be further from the truth!

Middle schoolers also have a lot of things vying for their time and attention – in addition to school, there is time with friends, the Internet, video games, texting and messaging, and television. Kids are multitasking more than ever, and their attention spans are shorter – we need reading material that is visually stimulating in addition to being an exciting read, and it has to catch their attention fast. What follows is a suggested list of graphic novels for middle schoolers based on these factors. As always, please feel free to recommend your own choices!


Coraline by Neil Gaiman is the graphic novel version of his novel (and movie), about a girl who ventures through a secret door in her new house – and discovers what initially looks like a fantastic new world, much better than the one she’s coming from. She finds out, however, that things aren’t always what they seem. Coraline is an award-winning graphic novel, receiving such accolades as the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Works for Young Readers.

Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese takes a look at three different Chinese characters – a student who moves to a new neighborhood and discovers that he’s the only Chinese-American student at school; the subject of one of the oldest Chinese fables, and a boy who embodies every Chinese stereotype. American Born Chinese has won numerous literature and art awards, and was a 2006 National Book Award Finalist.

Ah, middle school and the self-confidence and body issues that come with the onset of adolescence. In Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, protagonist Raina injures herself in a fall, and ends up dealing with braces, dental surgery, and fake teeth on top of all the usual (and some unusual) middle school frustrations. Smile is another award-winning book, receiving such awards as the 2011 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens.


George O’Connor’s Olympians series of graphic novels explores the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology. There are five books in the series so far: Zeus, Hera, Athena, Hades, and Poseidon; each researched by O’Connor. Each book recounts key adventures and a peek into the title gods/goddesses’ origins. The books are great reading!

Speaking of Olympians, the first three books in the ultra-popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan are available as graphic novels: The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, and The Titan’s Curse. For Egyptian god fans, Riordan’s first novel in the Kane series, The Red Pyramid, is also available in graphic novel form!

If you have a reader interested in American History – or want to cultivate someone’s interest – check out Alexander Lagos’ The Sons of Liberty, which tells the story of the American Revolution through the story of two young slaves on the run who develop superpowers.


Finally, for a more historically accurate – yet still fun – take on American history, check out Nick Bertozzi’s Lewis and Clark, telling the story of the two famous explorers, their dealings with the Native American community, and what happened after their famous expedition came to an end.

I hope your readers enjoy these books – next up, high school reads!


Reading With Pictures volunteer Rosemary Kiladitis is a longtime comic book reader, bibliophile, newly minted librarian, and mom of 3. She is a youth literacy advocate who loves reader’s advisory and thinks every classroom library deserves a graphic novel section.