6 Swashbuckling New Graphic Novels that Will Transport Middle Grade Readers

This crop of six new graphic novels has something for everyone, with tales about kid superheroes, science fiction wunderkinds, and mysterious portals to other dimensions, as well as realistic stories about the career of a young ballerina, and the personal accounts of six people who survived the Holocaust when they were kids.

The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid, by Kirk Scroggs
In this delightfully weird graphic novel, Russell is an unusual teenager letting the reader peek in on his private spiral notebook, where he tells his story and doodles pictures of his teacher, Mr. Finneca, who somehow resembles a vampire, Frankenstein’s monster, and Elvis. Russell’s parents found him in the swamp when he was a baby. They took him home and raised him as their own, even though he has green skin, vines growing from his body, one oversized arm, and a carrot where his pointer finger should be. In this zany adventure, Swamp Kid learns about his magical abilities—he can shoot out vines at will—and probes his mysterious origins with the help of Swamp Thing. The story is a fun combination of a tale of typical middle school woes mashed up with problems of a supernatural nature.

Black Canary: Ignite, by Meg Cabot and Cara McGee
This graphic novel tells another story of a teen who learns she has mysterious powers. Dinah Lance is a thirteen-year-old growing up in Gotham City who loves to sing in her rock band with her friends—but her voice has a shattering intensity. When she tells her father, Detective Lance, that she wants to learn about becoming a cop for career day, he shuts her down, insisting that Gotham City is too dangerous. But he can’t prevent the awesome powers of her voice from surging—or keep her from discovering her mother’s superhero secret—for long.

Just Beyond: The Scare School, by R.L. Stine and Kelly and Nichole Matthews
This graphic novel also explores weird phenomenon at a middle school. As it opens, a group of kids in odd white coats have escaped their dimension and have entered the “normal” middle school called The Scare School that mirrors theirs. But a frightening robot beast called a Drogg comes to collect them. Kids from the regular middle school discover the Drogg, and follow it through a portal to the school for the kids with the white coats, where the students are all dressed alike and are learning kindergarten-level material. Will the kids ever get back to their appropriate dimensions? This adventure ends on a cliffhanger to be resolved in the next installment.

Sanity & Tallulah: Field Trip, by Molly Brooks
Brooks continues the adventures of two girls living on a space station—the level-headed Sanity, and the enthusiastic and accident-prone Tallulah. In this story, the kids are going on a field trip to a planet, a place they’ve never visited. Sanity’s older sister, a space soldier whom Tallulah idolizes, is sent along to chaperone them, and they end up needing plenty of help when the planet’s asteroid defenses fail. Brooks’ universe is vividly imagined, and filled with bureaucratic errors, broken-down equipment, failed calculations and other everyday mishaps that make it feel real. Science and tech-loving kids will enjoy seeing Sanity and Tallulah craft ingenious solutions to the myriad problems outer space throws at them.

To Dance, by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel
Siena Cherson Siegel started dancing when she was a child in Puerto Rico, diagnosed with flat feet. Her mother wondered if ballet lessons would help. This started her on a journey that would eventually land the young dancer at the School of American Ballet in New York. Siena’s family moved, and she devoted herself to dancing. She appeared in performances with dance luminaries including Baryshnikov and Suzanne Farrell. Mark Siegel’s illustrations capture the long hours Siena spent rehearsing, the pain she endured, and the joy and beauty of each performance. This special edition of the Sibert Honor-winning book includes several pages of photos and mementos from Siena’s life as a young dancer.

Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shackleton and Zane Whittingham
The Holocaust’s horrifying, vast scale can make it seem incomprehensible to new generations. In this moving and somber graphic novel, Shackleton and Whittingham focus on six people who were children when they survived the Holocaust. The stories of the individual kids will help young readers comprehend what it was like to be swept up in these terrifying political events that tore children from their families and homes. Whittingham’s stylized drawings capture the Nazis’ brutality and the children’s innocence and fear. Heinz was a teenager when Nazis arrested his parents in Nuremberg and Heinz fled to England, where he was interred in a camp for “enemy aliens” because he was German. A quick-thinking neighbor saved Suzanne by lying that she was her daughter when the Nazis took Suzanne’s parents away in Paris. The end of the book includes photos and updates about the courageous Holocaust survivors, who chose to tell their painful stories in the hope that readers would be moved to prevent anything like this from happening again, and a list of resources for people wanting to learn more.

Has your young reader discovered graphic novels?

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