I work in an elementary school library. It will come as no surprise to learn that graphic novels are EXTREMELY popular there. And, you maybe know this about me, I also love graphic novels. I read as many as I can obtain and have had many conversations with staff and even admin at school where I try to be at least fake nice while I explain through gritted teeth that graphic novels ARE real books, ARE real reading, and no, I will not dissuade anyone from reading them or even them.
But here’s what I want to write about in this post: This school year, the fifth grade boys all started tearing through The Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels. Now, if you know me even a little teensy bit, you KNOW there is no world where I would classify anything as a “boy book” or a “girl book” (nor would I ever classifying gender as just “boys and girls”! ). All books are for all readers, period. BUT. Traditionally, in my school, the boys have not locked up to BSC. So when they started to check them out earlier in the year, they came up to the desk with them sort of hidden, or slid them to me with a smirk or weird look on their face. I heard them defending reading them to other boys. And then, something happened: so many boys read them. And then started reading other graphic novels that were more realistic (moving on from Dog Man, or Pokemon, or other fantasy-style graphic novels largely featuring creatures or animals). They started reading the graphic novels by Kayla Miller, Victoria Jamieson, Terri Libenson, Jennifer Holmes, and Shannon Hale.
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A few days before spring break, a boy came in toward the end of the day and asked for a recommendation for a longer graphic novel that’s realistic and about friends and school and stuff. I knew he’d been one of the crew reading BSC, so I recommended a bunch of the above authors. He listened politely and looked interested in a few, but asked, “Aren’t there any like that about boys?” And you know what? There are, of course, but not nearly as many. Not that I’ve found. He’d read The Crossover. The Berrybrook Middle School books were all checked out. The Dumbest Idea Ever was gone. He eventually settled on two by Kayla Miller, but he got me thinking about other books featuring boys. Here are five to recommend to your readers (in addition to the others already mentioned here).
A few notes on them: While many kids have read New Kid, especially as it was a contender for our state award a few years ago, not as many know there’s a sequel. And Shark Summer should definitely be on your radar—it’s been wildly popular in my school, with so many kids rushing my desk to get on the waiting list after I book-talked it that I had to make them guess what number I was thinking of it to figure out what order they would be on the hold list!
All descriptions are from the publishers.
Class Act by Jerry Craft (ISBN-13: 9780062885500 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 10/06/2020, Ages 8-12)
New York Times bestselling author Jerry Craft returns with a companion book to New Kid, winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the Kirkus Prize. This time, it’s Jordan’s friend Drew who takes center stage in another laugh-out-loud funny, powerful, and important story about being one of the few kids of color in a prestigious private school.
Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying “You have to work twice as hard to be just as good.” His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted?
To make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids. He wants to pretend like everything is fine, but it’s hard not to withdraw, and even their mutual friend Jordan doesn’t know how to keep the group together.
As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself?
New Kidthe first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal, is now joined by Jerry Craft’s powerful Class Act.
Truly Tyler by Terri Libenson (ISBN-13: 9780062894571 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/04/2021 Series: Emmie & Friends Series, Ages 8-12)
A story about being your truest self—and trusting your truest friends—from bestselling author Terri Libenson. Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Shannon Hale.
Cliques. Crushes. Comics. middle school.
Ever since Tyler started getting into art and hanging out with Emmie, his friends and teammates have been giving him a hard time. He wonders why can’t he nerd out on drawing and play ball?
Emmie is psyched that she gets to work on a comics project with her crush, Tyler. But she gets the feeling that his friends don’t think she’s cool enough. Maybe it’s time for a total reinvention. . . .
Don’t miss the rest of the Emmie & Friends series: Invisible Emmie, Positively Izzy, Just Jaime, Becoming Briannaand You-Niquely You: An Emmie & Friends Interactive Journal!
The Big Break by Mark Tatulli (ISBN-13: 9780316440554 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/31/2020, Ages 8-12)
A full-color graphic novel about growing up, growing apart, and monster hunting, perfect for fans of Real Friends and All’s Fair in Middle School.
Andrew and Russ are best friends obsessed with finding the legendary Jersey Devil that supposedly lives in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, right in their own backyards. They’re even making a movie about their desperate search for any sign of the mythical creature. But when Russ starts spending less time on their movie, and more time with artsy, first-chair violinist Tara, Andrew feels the cracks in their friendship begin to form.
Suddenly, all of Andrew’s favorite things are too babyish for Russ, and Andrew is left trying to figure out where he belongs without his best friend by his side. Then a rash of Jersey Devil sightings excite their small town, and the boys are thrown back together on a fevered hunt. Can Andrew and Russ put aside their differences for one last chance to find the monster of their dreams, or will the break in their friendship be too big to mend?
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson, Omar Mohamed, Iman Geddy (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780525553908 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/14/2020, Ages 9-12)
A National Book Award Finalist, this remarkable graphic novel is about growing up in a refugee camp, as told by a former Somali refugee to the Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl.
Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future . . . but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day.
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Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times Bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.
Shark Summer by Ira Marks (ISBN-13: 9780316461443 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 05/25/2021, Ages 8-12)
“Shark Summer is bursting with vibrant, expressive art….The characters are distinct and relatable…It’s a lovely read!”—Molly Knox Ostertag, author of the Witch Boy series”Eloquently chronicled in Marcks’s cinematic panels, friendships are formed and repaired parental relationships artic , and inner conflicts expressed and resolved. A winning production.” —Kirkus
When a Hollywood film crew arrives on Martha’s Vineyard with a mechanical shark and a youth film contest boasting a huge cash prize, disgraced pitcher Gayle “Blue Streak” Briar sees a chance to turn a bad season into the best summer ever.
After recruiting aspiring cinematographer Elijah Jones and moody director Maddie Gray, Gayle and her crew set out to uncover the truth of the island’s own phantom shark and win the prize money. But these unlikely friends are about to discover what happens when you turn your camera toward the bad things lurking below the surface.
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