Graphic Novels for Middle Graders


When my son came home from the library with A Wrinkle in Time, The Graphic Novel, my reaction was mixed. I was happy that Madeline L’Engle’s classic wouldt reach more readers now that it had been adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. But I also wondered if it would stop others – including my own children- from enjoying the original format.

Putting my emotional reaction aside, I figured it was time to start asking questions about graphic novels, a genre which has exploded in popularity in what literally feels like a wrinkle of time.

First of all, what’s the difference between a graphic novel and a comic book?

Essentially, graphic novels are book length narratives presented in comic book style. This differentiates them from comic strips without a central plot, like Garfield or Calvin and Hobbes. Graphic novels also tend to be longer and more complex than comic books that tell a story over many issues (usually covering a long period time) like superhero serials.

Read more about comics versus graphic novels at knowledge nuts  and wisegeek.

Are graphic novels good for reluctant readers?

According to the School Library Journal , graphic novels are ideal for attracting reluctant readers and introducing them to literature they might not encounter otherwise. They are also well suited to ESL students and provide scaffolding for struggling readers.


But Good ok Bad, a blog which reviews graphic novels exclusively, cautions that the genre should not be treated as a gateway for getting kids to read “real books.” Instead parents and educators are encouraged to treat graphic novels as a distinctive art form that have their own things to say and their own way of saying it.

Reading graphic novels may push children into more literary pursuits. Or they may just give kids an appreciation for good comics. Either way, reading graphic novels challenge children (and adults) to grow in empathy, understanding, and knowledge.

Are graphic novels good for all middle grade readers?

Based on my review of the literature, yes! The Junior Library Guild praises the genre for fostering both visual and verbal comprehension skills while exposing readers to interesting dialogue and satire, as well as affirming diversity.

Wow1Get Graphic: The World in Words and Pictures, a resource for teachers provides the following summary. Reading graphic novels:

  • Engages reluctant readers & ESL students
  • Increases reading comprehension and vocabulary
  • Can serve as a bridge between low and high levels of reading
  • Provides an approach to reading that embraces the multimedia nature of today’s culture, as 2/3 of a story is conveyed visually
  • Provides scaffolding for struggling readers
  • Can serve as an intermediary step to more difficult disciplines and concepts
  • Presents complex material in readable text
  • Helps students understand global affairs
  • Helps to develop analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Offers another avenue through which students can experience art

Convinced? Here are some book lists to get you started on your graphic novel adventure.

GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUND UP by the Mixed-Up Files

Let’s Get Graphic… novel! by the Mixed-Up Files

Top Ten Middle Grad Graphic Novel Series by the Nerdy Book Club

Best Graphic Novels for Readers, Reluctant or Otherwise (ages 3-16) by Pragmatic Mom

The Best Graphic Novels for Children divided by age group (K-2, 3-5, 6-8) by @your library

Slide Show of ten more recent middle grade novels from Kirkus Review

The Best Comics for your Classroom by The Graphic Classroom keeps an updated list broken down by age (including adults) and highly recommended vs. recommended, with a special list for reluctant readers

Great Graphic Novels for Kids by Good ok Bad provides a list, divided by age, and also ongoing reviews

Unleashing Readers provides list of nonfiction graphic novels

Gathering Books gives examples of non-fiction graphic novels that specifically deal with war and conflict (suitable for this time of year)

Have another suggestion? Please add it in the comment section below. Happy reading!

ID-100244202 Yolanda Ridge has enjoyed being part of the Mixed-Up Files. She will miss the group but is excited about following the new members and keeping in touch with the talented group of authors that make this blog possible.


Yolanda Ridge
  1. Three part series on graphics:

    This is link to last in series, based on age groups. Found you on Twitter through PragmaticMom! I triple heart graphics!

    • Excellent!. I just took a look at the series – a great resource on graphic novels for kids. And the rest of your site looks just as interesting. Thanks for the link. Glad you found us!

      • Thanks! Sharing your post! Love to promote graphics, which I’ve found can get an undeserved bad rap.

  2. I have thirty of my dad’s old Classic’s Illustrated (early 50s I think). Some of the original classics I’ve read. Some I didn’t. But the comics helped me decide if I wanted to.

    • I agree, Dave. I never had access to comics when I was growing up – I would’ve liked to have the choice!

  3. The kids who read Diary of a Wimpy Kid, continue to sometimes read these more exclusively for the illustrations/humor and for those struggling with reading, it lets them have the satisfaction of reading a “real book.” But, I’ve always thought that at least they are reading when they might not have before.

    • Good point, Brenda. There are a lot of books that do not necessarily fit into the standard “graphic novel” category but provide many of the same benefits.

  4. My daughter has dyslexia, and I’m convinced that part of the reason she loves graphic novels is because it’s easier for her to keep her place in reading. Also – I didn’t click through all the lists, but no list of graphic novels is complete without Cece Bell’s EL DEAFO.

    • Thanks for mentioning that, Wendy. I didn’t have time to get into alternative learning styles and graphic novels but I can see why every person likes different types of books for different reasons. I’m looking forward to checking out EL DEAFO!