I’m not the biggest non-fiction reader, but I will always say yes to a good graphic memoir. Honestly, I’ll read pretty much anything formatted as a graphic novel. How can anyone resist? If you’re trying to get your kids to read more non-fiction, memoirs, or just books in general, try tempting them with a graphic novel.
This list of graphic memoirs for kids features some of my all-time favorite reads. They’re all so emotionally resonant, and the illustrations are absolutely captivating. I’ve also included recommended ages for each book so whether you have an elementary schooler or teen, there’s a graphic memoir on this list for them.
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20+ Best Graphic Memoirs for Kids
Here are 20+ of the best graphic memoirs for kids:
A First Time for Everything
Published: February 28, 2023
I loved Dan Santat’s graphic memoir about his school trip to Europe at the end of middle school. Middle school Dan is shy and socially awkward. He spends most of his time helping his mom, who has Lupus, and gets made fun of a bit by some girls in his grade. Thankfully, his parents are determined that he sees the world, and they support his Europe trip. As they visit Germany, France, Switzerland, and England, Dan is swept up in many, many firsts, making for a life-changing trip. This is a great book for upper middle schoolers, as there is a first kiss in this story.
Published: November 10, 2020
In her graphic memoir Smile, Raina is just trying to enjoy being a sixth grader when an accident severely injures her two front teeth. Thus begins an unending series of visits to dentists and different treatment options. Throughout this process, Raina still has middle school to tackle.
Telgemeier’s Smile isn’t my favorite graphic novel/memoir from her, but it’s still one I enjoyed reading. This coming-of-age memoir highlights several important themes, including body image issues, unhealthy friendships, crushes, and bullying. Perfect for kids in grades 6 and up!
Big Apple Diaries
Published: August 17, 2021
Big Apple Diaries is Alyssa Bermudez’s graphic memoir detailing her life experiences in New York City between the 7th and 8th grades. Her middle school years also coincide with the attack on 9/11 and the book documents the impact on her and her circle.
Prior to that, though, Alyssa is an average tween who attends a Catholic co-ed school, likes doodling, and has a crush on a schoolmate named Alejandro. Her parents are also divorced, so she spends time between each of their apartments in New York. This is a much-needed personal account of 9/11 that will appeal to a younger audience. I would recommend this one to kids ages 11 and up.
Play Like a Girl
Published: September 27, 2022
In Play Like a Girl, author Misty Wilson chronicles her year on the boy’s football team in her town. When she gets mocked for wanting to play football with the boys, Misty determines she’ll sign up for the team with her best friend (who’s convinced because she wants time with boys). But the training process is rigorous, and playing football is physically challenging — especially with boys. It gets harder when her bestie gives up on Misty and their friendship.
This is a compelling, heartfelt middle grade graphic memoir about challenging the status quo, playing football, and finding your tribe. It will be a big hit for older middle schoolers discovering who they are and learning to stick to what they love regardless of public opinion.
Published: September 17, 2019
Guts is based on Telegmeier’s experience with anxiety as a tween. After a case of the stomach flu in their family, Raina becomes terrified of vomit and vomiting. Her parents take her to see a doctor who, after multiple tests assures them that Raina is “healthy as a horse.” Unsure what to do next, they take her to see a therapist.
This is my favorite Telgemeier book! If you’re looking for a fun, quick, but impactful book about anxiety, friendships, and empathy, this is the one for you.
Published: May 18, 2021
In Just Pretend, Tori Sharp shares stories from her life just before the seventh grade. Her parents are divorced, but not quite amicably. They bicker a lot still and because they share custody of Tori and her siblings, Tori is constantly between houses and sometimes wakes up unsure which house she’s in. The strained relationship is understandably hard on her, so she seeks solace in her relationship with her best friend and in storytelling.
Although this memoir is more slice-of-life and lacks a satisfying resolution, kids who enjoy writing will be drawn to this story, and all readers will enjoy the illustration style.
Published: August 26, 2014
Despite having always prayed for a little sister, Raina realizes as soon as her sister comes home with her parents that things may not exactly have worked out as she planned. The sisters squabble over the years until a three-week family road trip from California to Colorado changes everything. I loved this engaging portrayal of family adventure and mishaps with a dash of heart and plenty of sisterhood.
Published: June 22, 2021
Chunky is a new graphic memoir in which Yehudi (Hudi) conjures an imaginary friend/mascot, Chunky to support him through a challenging time in his life. Hudi is a funny kid with a serious interest in comedy and zero athletic prowess in a family of athletic people. At his parents’ urging, Hudi begins to try sport after sport — with hilarious results, and Chunky cheering him all the way. An entertaining, funny, and poignant graphic memoir about body image, sports, family, comedy and being Jewish.
Published: October 13, 2020
Starting at a new school is scary, especially with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here, she’s different. She’s sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.
Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom but anywhere her teacher is in the school—in the hallway . . . in the teacher’s lounge . . . in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All.
But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different . . . and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?
Published: May 2, 2017
Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends since Shannon came out of her shell in early elementary school. She had earlier been the shy middle child who never felt like she quite fit in anywhere. But with Adrienne, it was like she could finally exhale. But when Adrienne starts hanging out with the popular girl, Jen, Shannon suddenly doesn’t know where she fits in anymore. A realistic, moving depiction of the roller coaster that middle school friendships can be and how affirming it can be to find true friends.
Published: November 1, 2022
As one of the few Asians in her small Texas town, Christina and her Iranian-American best friend are nervous about trying out for their middle school’s cheer team. Unfortunately, tryouts quickly lead to heartbreak when Megan decides to partner up with another girl, leaving Christina to fend for herself. This one will appeal to fans of sports stories and books about life as a minority and child of immigrants.
Published: May 2, 2023
Sixth grade isn’t as great as Rex thought it would be. He’s the only kid who hasn’t had a growth spurt, and the bullies won’t let him forget it. His closest friend is unreliable, at best. And there’s a cute girl in his class, who may or may not like him back. With so much going on, everything is a blur — including Rex’s vision! So when he discovers that he needs glasses, and his family can only afford the ugliest pair in the store, any hope Rex had of fitting in goes completely out of focus. I loved this story!
Published: September 14, 2021
Meet Charise. She’s energetic, helpful, a model pet owner and full of inventions. But she’s also a bad sister. When she goes too far and breaks little brother Daniel’s tooth, can she redeem herself? Is an accident really an accident if you could have stopped it? But most importantly… What does it mean to be a good sister?
Maybe An Artist, A Graphic Memoir
Published: October 18, 2022
When Liz Montague was a senior in college, she wrote to the New Yorker, asking them why they didn’t publish more inclusive comics. The New Yorker wrote back asking if she could recommend any. She responded: yes, me.
Those initial cartoons in the New Yorker led to this memoir of Liz’s youth, from the age of five through college–how she navigated life in her predominantly white New Jersey town, overcame severe dyslexia through art, and found the confidence to pursue her passion. Funny and poignant, Liz captures the age-old adolescent questions of “who am I?” and “what do I want to be?” with pitch-perfect clarity and insight.
They Called Us Enemy
Published: August 25, 2020
George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his magnetic performances, sharp wit, and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.
It Won’t Always Be Like This
Published: September 20, 2022
Nine-year-old Malaka Gharib arrives in Egypt for her annual summer vacation abroad and assumes it’ll be just like every other vacation she’s spent at her dad’s place in Cairo. But her father shares news that changes everything: He has remarried. Over the next fifteen years, as she visits her father’s growing family summer after summer, Malaka must reevaluate her place in his life. All that on top of maintaining her coolness!
Malaka doesn’t feel like she fits in when she visits her dad–she sticks out in Egypt and doesn’t look anything like her fair-haired half siblings. But she adapts. She learns that Nirvana isn’t as cool as Nancy Ajram, that there’s nothing better than a Fanta and a melon-mint hookah, and that her new stepmother, Hala, isn’t so different from Malaka herself.
Almost American Girl
Published: January 28, 2020
Almost American Girl is Robin Ha’s graphic memoir detailing her move from South Korea to Huntsville, Alabama. Robin is 14 when she and her mother leave for one of their regular visits to the US. Except, this time it’s not Hawaii or any other vacation hotspot — it’s Alabama.
Robin is in for a shocker as her mom announces that she and Robin are staying put in America. Her whole life changes forever, as she struggles to assimilate while handling the ups and downs in her mother’s relationship. Great for kids ages 11+
American Born Chinese
Published: October 30, 2007
American Born Chinese tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny’s life with his yearly visits.
Their lives and stories come together with an unexpected twist in this action-packed modern fable. American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax.
Sunshine: A Graphic Novel
Published: April 18, 2023
When Jarrett J. Krosoczka was in high school, he was part of a program that sent students to be counselors at a camp for seriously ill kids and their families. In this memoir, he shares his account of his first summer at camp and how these kids and their families changed his life forever. This is perfect for kids ages 12+
When Stars Are Scattered
Published: April 14, 2020
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.
There they are: 20 of the best graphic novels for kids! Which of these books have you read and loved? What did I miss?
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