Pawcasso is what 11-year-old Jo names the basket-toting dog in town when a group of kids at the library mistake her for the dog’s owner. Jo is a lonely kid bored at home during the summer holidays and missing her father who works in a different city and visits the family periodically. She’s seen the dog walking through her neighborhood several times. The dog goes grocery shopping and can find its way home through pedestrian traffic and everything in town. As the kids fall more in love with “Pawcasso,” and by extension, Jo, she begins to enjoy having friends in her life. But what happens when the lie is exposed?
The best middle grade graphic novel series work to keep readers engaged — like any other tween series — because they’re already oriented. They know the characters and the world in the particular series, so it’s easier to keep going. So while I already have a list of middle grade graphic novels, I thought it would be fun to keep all of the series in one post! That way, readers strictly on the hunt for series will find them without hassle.
By now, you must know how I feel about graphic novels, but this list of the best graphic novels for elementary students (or young graphic novels) has been on my mind for months. I’ve read several of the “younger” books on this list and they’re just so funny! Early graphic novels are what chapter books are for middle grade non-graphic novels. They’re shorter, easier to read and follow, and often super silly — written to make you giggle. What could be better?
The best middle-grade graphic novels are just as good as any other good middle-grade books.
Measuring Up follows 12-year-old Cici who moves from Taiwan to the US with her parents, leaving behind her beloved A-ma (her grandmother). Thankfully, the adjustment period isn’t too hard on her. She makes friends quickly and her English is already pretty good. However, she and her parents struggle with American culture, like sleepovers, fireplaces, and she quickly stops bring Taiwanese food to lunch, preferring instead to learn to make American food, so she can blend in.
Although Cici and her parents want to bring her grandmother over for a visit at least, they can’t afford to yet. Cici misses her A-ma with whom she used to go to the market and cook. So when she stumbles upon a kid cooking contest, it feels like the perfect opportunity to earn $1000. The only problem is that Cici can only cook Taiwanese dishes. Fortunately, she’s paired up with an Italian-American girl, Miranda, whose father runs a restaurant (and who practically grew up working in a restaurant). Halfway through the contest though, each contestant has to compete alone.
Olive is excited to be going to summer camp this year, especially since her best friend Willow is also going. She’s looking forward to doing camp things and making new friends. As soon as the girls arrive, Olive jumps right into the friend-making and activities, but Willow is as adept as making friends and instead wants to follow Olive everywhere. Worse still, she tries to hold Olive back from making other friends or joining different activities, becoming sulky and giving her the silent treatment when she does.
At first, Olive handles things well, making compromises and forgoing opportunities to hang out with other campers just to keep Willow happy. Eventually, though, things start to get to her and the girls’ friendship becomes strained.
Real Friends is Shannon Hale’s graphic memoir of her middle school experience with real friends — and girls who weren’t quite friends. 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.
Twins Maureen and Francine Carter have always done everything together, but things have changed as they’re starting sixth grade. For one, they have nearly all their classes apart from each other, and Francine is dressing differently, trying to stand out from her twin Maureen
The girls are still figuring out their new dynamic when Francine decides to run for student council, and by some stroke of fate, her shy, terrified-of-public-speaking sister is also running for president. Despite the ground rules laid by their parents, things get a bit messy as both girls try to establish their personal identities while fighting to reconcile their relationship as twins and sisters.
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’s mother has been encouraging her to learn English like she has been doing, but Robin is uninterested, preferring to enjoy her Korean comics and spending time with her friends buying stationery and Korean street food.
When they arrive in Huntsville, Robin realizes that her mother is there to visit a man she has been corresponding with. His family welcomes them, but Robin feels out of place since she can neither speak nor understand English. She dreams of returning to Korea when the vacation is over. However, Robin is in for a shocker as her mom announces that she’s marrying this man, and 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.
In Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters, Raina and her little sister’s relationship is under the microscope. 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. Her sister is a fussy baby and often moody toddler who likes to play by herself. Plus, Raina herself has to learn to share space and time — and of course, she struggles in the beginning. The sisters squabble over the years until a three-week family road trip from California to Colorado changes everything.
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 anxiety manifests physically as a stomachache which further exacerbates her fear of vomiting and intensifies her anxiety. 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.
These 25 best middle-grade books about summer camp capture that summer feeling! While I’ve never attended summer camp, I love to disappear into one between the pages of middle-grade or even YA books. For this list, I tried to find books featuring summer camps and all their customs. A few of them are set at day camps, but the majority are full-on sleep-away camp books, complete with all the required drama and camp spirit.