Graphic novels are an excellent way to introduce your child to reading. They predominantly use illustrations to help the child follow the story visually but will also include captions to aid the story development and help the child’s reading skills.
Graphic novels are a wide-ranging literary genre, spanning anything from children’s stories that include adventures, animals, and basic literacy, to stories targeted at adults that include complex plotlines and adult content.
This list contains 20 books that sit somewhere in between. These graphic novels are tailored to the older child or young teenager and tackle themes that are relevant to this age group including issues surrounding school, friends, crushes, and parents.
The Baby-Sitter’s Club is a book that slots into this genre, following Kristy, who decides to set up a babysitter’s club after her parents struggle to find childcare for her younger brother. This group is made up of friends in junior high that take the children they’re looking after out on day trips and have adventures.
This series is relevant and funny, taking the reader through an array of issues such as irritating neighbors, school issues, annoying teachers, and dating.
If this sub-genre of graphic novels sounds like something you or your child would be interested in, stay tuned to explore 20 similar book recommendations.
Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
If you’re looking for a graphic novel that’s easy to read, light-hearted, and has an important, moral message, this one’s for you.
This book follows Shannon and Adrienne, best friends since they were super young. But when Adrienne befriends Jen, the most popular girl in school and the leader of a clique, their relationship changes.
Jen’s group often bullies others and frequently engages in mean behavior. Will Adrienne sacrifice her long-term friend Shannon for popularity?
Real Friends contains some brilliant life lessons for kids. Many children are in situations like this one, so this is not just a relevant story but a plot line that can offer advice and demonstrate the best way to deal with school hierarchies.
President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston
When a celebrity chef, Brianna’s favorite celebrity, visits her school to give a talk, Brianna thinks her advice is a ticket to fame. So when chef Miss Delicious says that her success began with being president of the fifth grade during her schooldays, Brianna makes it her goal to become the president of her fifth grade and follow in her footsteps.
President of the Whole Fifth Grade is a brilliant graphic novel about success, determination, fame, and ambition. A great, enjoyable read for anyone going through school.
Twins by Varian Johnson
Maureen and Francine are inseparable twins that have the same interests, likes, and hobbies. They have always been each other’s best friends and have been through everything together.
But when they start middle school, they begin to drift apart. Will their bond as twins keep them close or will the pressure of middle school come between them?
Twins is a brilliantly constructed graphic novel about friendship, school issues, and the bond between twins and siblings.
Best Babysitters Ever by Caroline Cala
This excellent graphic novel is great if you’re looking for an extension of The Baby-Sitter’s Club. The story follows Malia Twiggs, who follows in the steps of Kristy and creates her own babysitter’s club but instead of the picture-perfect babysitting Kristy and her friends offered, Malia, Dot, and Bree are not exactly cut out for the job.
Best Babysitters Ever is a funny, interesting graphic novel that fills in all the realistic gaps left by Kristy’s fun, adventurous stories.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
New Kid is a brilliantly honest portrayal of joining a new school. Jordan Banks is the only person of color in the new academic school his parents have enrolled him in. As someone who doesn’t fit in academically or racially, Jordan has never felt more out of place and is trying desperately to settle in.
This is an excellently-written graphic novel that explores the feeling of isolation, racial exclusion, and academic pressure – a must-read for anyone starting a new school.
Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk
Filled with brilliant moral messages, interesting plot lines, and gossip-like interactions, Making Friends is a story that offers an honest and real example of how different years or classes in school can affect your friendships and relationships.
Dany was comfortable with her friendship group in sixth grade but now she’s heading into seventh grade, everything is about to change. With a shift in forms and classes, the people she hangs out with change and inevitably, new cliques are generated.
Project Start-Up by Various Authors
This is an inspiring graphic novel that tells of the importance of ambition and determination. Hallie and Jaye are in the sixth grade and as part of their business class will have to work together to try and pitch their idea to the school – they want to come up with innovative and creative ways to make eating bugs seem more appealing.
Project Start-Up is based on the true story that tells of two Harvard freshmen who started a sustainable protein start-up company.
Click by Kayla Miller
Click is the long and award-winning series of graphic novels that follow Olive and her friends as they navigate school, friends, family problems, summer camps, and everything in between.
It is a great story that tells of the normality of friendship issues, waning relationships, and change. A brilliant series if you’re struggling with school or friend-related problems.
Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson
Invisible Emmie is Terri Libenson’s debut, now an award-winning author of multiple graphic novels and comic strips.
This story follows Emmie and Katie, two completely different girls, as they navigate the same school in different friendship groups.
Emmie is reserved, artistic, and shy, whereas Katie is much more outgoing and popular, and is always throwing herself into sports.
When an embarrassing note falls into the wrong hands, these two opposites finally collide.
This is a story of school embarrassments, crushes, friendships, interests, school issues, and drama.
Cub by Cynthia Copeland
Cindy is 12 and struggling with the complicated world of seventh grade. Bullies, friendships, boys, and rumors – it’s all very overwhelming right?
Well, when Cindy gets a rare internship with a local newspaper, she is drawn into the ‘real’ world and must now deal with adult struggles like workloads, misogyny, and corruption.
Cub follows Cindy’s mistakes, successes, and every awkward or heart-warming thing in between. A brilliant graphic novel for anyone going through school or interested in journalism.
Jacky Ha-Ha by James Patterson
This best-selling graphic novel is hilarious, unpredictable, and morally educational – you won’t be able to put it down.
It follows 12-year-old Jacky Ha-Ha who can’t help but make jokes, even in the wrong situations. She uses humor as an escape mechanism, to divert her from thinking about her mom, who’s fighting in a deadly war, or her dad whom she hardly sees.
Jacky Ha-Ha is full to the brim with hilarious jokes but underneath tackles some complex, emotive themes.
El Deafo by Cece Bell
This is an innovative and important graphic novel that every child should read. It follows Cece, a new student with hearing impairments. She has a giant Phonic Ear attached to her chest and is trying her best to fit into a new school, despite all the looks.
But when Cece realizes that her hearing aid has the power to pick up on conversations all around the place, including the teacher’s lounge, her outlook changes.
El Deafo is a fantastic book that will inspire deaf children and make hearing children more aware of the struggles that those with hearing impairments go through.
The Magnificent Mya Tibbs by Crystal Allen
Follow the life of Mya Tibbs, her brilliant best friend, and her cool brother. The first book in The Magnificent Mya Tibbs series anticipates Spirit Week, which Mya and her friend Naomi plan intrinsically. But when Mya is paired with Connie, a well-known bully, everything goes skyward.
These books are a fantastic addition to any child’s bookshelf, they explore themes of friendship, danger, bullying, and school, and are brilliantly informative.
The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
The Lemonade War is a great book that explores the beauty of different people. Siblings, Evan and Jessie are complete opposites but they expertly balance each other out.
While Jessie is a math whiz and Evan is an emotionally intelligent boy who talks like a grown-up, they both see the brilliance in each other.
This is a story of sibling love that will teach your child why it’s important that everyone is good at different things.
Guts by Raina Telgemeier
Exploring the true anxieties that go with school, friends, bullying, and assignments, Guts follows Raina who struggles to get to the bottom of her upset stomach.
While it seems like a bug to start with, Raina digs deeper into the things she’s got on her mind: friends, school, and extracurriculars. This story informs readers that mental and physical wellness are inextricably linked, allowing children to better understand themselves and their feelings.
Karen’s Witch by Katy Ferina
This is the first in the Baby-Sitters Little Sister graphic novel series, which is super similar to The Baby-Sitter’s Club but only focuses on younger characters.
It follows Karen, a young girl that spies on her neighbors. After closely watching Mrs. Porter, Karen is convinced that this neighbor is a witch.
TBH, This Is So Awkward by Lisa Greenwald
This innovative graphic novel series follows the standard school, friends, and bullying tropes seen in most of these recommendations but with a digital twist.
TBH, This Is So Awkward tells of a super-close friendship group, who communicate predominantly through text. But after one girl is sent a mean message, the school bans cell phones and these girls will realize how close they really are without digital communication.
Stargazing by Jen Wang
Set in a Chinese-American suburb, Stargazing hones in on the lives of two completely opposing girls. Moon and Christine soon become best friends despite all their differences when Moon moves in next door.
So, when Moon gets admitted to the hospital, Christine must be the best friend she needs and support is essential.
The Friendship Code by Stacia Deutsch
This is the first of the 7-book Girls Who Code series that encourages girls into STEM. The Friendship Code follows Lucy, who, after joining the school’s coding club, ends up in a new friendship group.
When Lucy gets cryptic messages sent to her written in code, she and her new friends must decipher their meanings.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
This #1 best-seller follows the life of Jin Wang, who must navigate a new school as the only American-Chinese student.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with some inspiration and given you an informative insight into what books to read next. Graphic novels are brilliant for any child, regardless of age, so even though this article focuses on school-related books tailored to the older child, there’s plenty out there to explore if you’re looking for someone a little younger.
Are graphic novels educational?
A lot of graphic novels, especially those targeted at children and YA audiences have interesting and important educational themes. These include science, geography, history, paleontology, and evolution.
Are all graphic novels targeted at children?
No – there is a range of graphic novels and comic books that are aimed at adult audiences and include adult themes such as violence, sex, and sometimes even drug use.
Can graphic novels help with development?
Yes – not only do they help to develop visual memory and reading skills but graphic novels can also boost creativity and teach kids about social skills, emotional control, and behavioral norms.
What are the main themes that run throughout children’s graphic novels?
Depending on what age range you look at themes can vary from animals and adventure to superheroes and school issues. This genre is huge, there’s bound to be something out there for you.
Dav Pilkey is often recognized as the most successful author of children’s graphic novels and comic books writing classics such as The Dog Man and Captain Underpants.