In my humble opinion, summer and fall are the perfect seasons for kids to plunk down and enjoy a big ol’ pile of new middle grade graphic novels. After all, in summer, they might want to be able to pick up and put down their reads easily; in fall, having a graphic novel might be better for reading while adjusting to their new school year. Fast-paced reads are always welcome, especially when also building vocabulary, emotional literacy, and reading skills. So it is a total win-win, and while graphic novels are wonderful year-round, there are just certain times when I start to really crave them.
In this list of 11 new and upcoming middle grade graphic novels, with narratives that really run the gamut. The range of quality books in this genre continues to impress, and it can be hard to narrow it down! However, I chose my faves after much intense pondering. There are hilarious and silly ones, fantastic, magical chronicles, and others that touch on realistic subjects like self-esteem and mental health. These are adventures, myths, and slice-of-life stories — truly, tales for any kid’s taste and mood.
As always, I chose titles that adults will enjoy as well (they were definitely fun for me!). If you are looking for some deep guffaws and poignant sighs, these stories will definitely get you there too. Once you finish with this list, be sure to check these lists too.
New Graphic Novel Summer Releases
The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor
I adored this graphic novel, which tells the story of Mei, a queer Chinese 13-year-old who works in the kitchen with her father in a logging camp. It is 1885 and Mei has a lot to deal with, including the locals’ anti-Asian racism, her burgeoning romantic feelings for her best friend, Bee, and figuring out where she belongs and feels good. Mei’s dad is the camp cook, and she helps out in the kitchen. She’s also the camp’s storyteller and spends a lot of her free time telling tales to the camp’s younger kids — especially about Po Pan Yin/Auntie Po, a Chinese version of Paul Bunyan. This is a heartfelt example of realistic fiction, and it really transports the reader to the time and place in a way that felt constantly engaging.
Chunky by Yehudi Mercado
This will be appealing for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Jerry Craft (i.e. most kids who read realistic-style graphic novels), as it touches on Mercado’s experience growing up in a Mexican-Jewish family in Texas. Hudi had a lung condition when he was younger and had surgery that caused him to put on quite a bit of weight. According to his doctors, Hudi needs to lose some of that weight, and so his parents push him to find a sport that he enjoys playing. Chunky, his imaginary mascot, keeps him going when things are tough. This is a story that kids will find lovable and relatable.
Cranky Chicken by Katherine Battersby
Split into vignettes, this graphic novel is delightfully weird. I related to the cranky chicken more than I would like (don’t worry, I’m working on it with my therapist), but damn if our grumpy little hero isn’t cute as all get out. It will be a hilarious read for all younguns, but maybe especially meaningful for prickly kids to see those bad moods don’t mean you won’t find friends. I’d be happy to read more of Cranky Chicken and Speedy the Worm’s best-feathered friend adventures, especially because the art is adorable and will keep readers enthralled.
Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani
I loved Chanani’s Pashmina, and this is a wonderful follow-up. The jukebox of the title isn’t just a retro music machine, but also a time-travelling apparatus. After Shaheen’s dad disappears one day, she and her cousin Naz go on a wibbly-wobbly journey to find him. Being a huge music history nerd myself, I love the way that the plot explores how music can influence historic events.
Pizazz vs. The New Kid by Sophy Henn
Pizazz is a charming character — despite her superhero abilities, she’s clumsy, socially awkward, and a little too easily irritated. In her first outing, Pizazz struggles to fit in at her new, non-superhero-filled school. She’s embarrassed about wearing the same outfit all the time (her costume) and especially about her cape. In the second book, she’s no longer the newest superhero kid in school. Initially, Pizazz is jazzed to show the new student around but then the two super-kids are pitted against each other by the popular girls, and so they got off to a terrible start. The changes in typography and vibrant illustrations will make this a fun book for reluctant readers to dive into, and the hybrid of the graphic novel and chapter book styles will appeal to all levels.
Mel The Chosen by Rachele Aragno and Translated by Carla Roncalli Di Montorio
Mel is frustrated because she feels like adults never listen. She can’t wait to grow up and be independent. When Mel is pulled into a magical world as its Chosen One, she comes across Alice in Wonderland-esque hijinks of animal tea parties and mystical royalty. The art is gorgeous, with a zesty colour palette, and it will be an engaging, eccentric adventure story for readers.
Upcoming Graphic Novel Fall Releases
Cat & Cat Adventures: The Quest for Snacks by Susie Yi (September 7, 2021)
Ever wonder what shenanigans your cats get up to when you leave the house? This graphic novel has the answer. There are adorable cats, magic portals, and a worthy goal: to find delicious snacks. When Squash and Ginny find themselves alone at home and missing snacks, they head off on an adventure to fix that problem. Their mission takes them on some wild rides — on a boat race across Mewmaid Ocean, a hot air balloon ride over Mount Lava, and to the Enchanted Rain Forest. Fans of Catstronauts and Babymouse will love this super cute, magical tale.
Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen (September 28, 2021)
The art is pure cuteness. Listen, I enjoy garlic as much as the next person, but did I know I could find it adorable? I did not. But, here we are, in love with this cute story about our heroine Garlic, who wants to defend her fellow garden vegetables by confronting the new vampire next door. (Unsurprising spoiler: the vampire is not as menacing as they’ve all assumed.) This is a very delightful way of telling a story about a protagonist who is more spunky than she ever imagined — battling anxiety to emerge victoriously.
Glorious Wrestling Alliance Ultimate Championship Edition by Josh Hicks (October 5, 2021)
A comical, affectionate take on wrestling culture, this will be especially appealing for professional wrestling fans. Along with delightful wrestling names like Gravy Train, Miranda Fury, and Great Carp, kids will find plenty of laughs in Hicks’ witty humour and over-the-top tone.
Living With Viola by Rosena Fung (October 26, 2021)
Oh anxiety, I know you well. And, unfortunately, so does Livy — Living with Viola’s protagonist. She knows it so well that she’s given her anxiety its own name (her shadowy, negative twin is the titular Viola). Many kids will find her story relatable, as Viola fills the page with loud, unwanted thoughts and feelings. The art is really wonderful, and I love how Livy’s internal world is portrayed so vividly with wild artistic flourishes. Many pages are a feast for the eyes, filled edge-to-edge with delightful visual metaphors, and Livy is a real charmer. This is one not to miss.
Tidesong by Wendy Xu (November 16, 2021)
This really reminded me of Studio Ghibli’s works. A young witch, Sophie, struggles to improve her magic while attending the Royal Magic Academy, the #1 magic school in the realm. Her mom and grandmother send her off to stay with relatives, Cousin Sage and Great-Aunt Lan, but they aren’t much help. They just put her to boring old work around their home. When Sophie tries to get better on her own, she accidentally smooshes her magic into that of Lir, a water dragon. This story will draw readers in immediately, and the visuals are perfectly paired with the fantastic story.
There you go, I hope that you enjoyed learning about these 11 new and upcoming middle grade graphic novels. Luckily, these are just a few examples from loads of options, so you will have plenty of other middle grade aimed graphic novels for you and your fave kiddos to read.