Even though I read mostly library books, my daughter reads and rereads her favorite graphic novels so often that it’s hard to resist buying them for her, especially right now when our local book stores need all the support they can get. Here are four of my daughter’s recent favorites that I also read and enjoyed.
by Varian Johnson & Shannon Wright.
Read from purchased copy.
Real-life twin Varian Johnson returns to the topic of middle school elections with this story that combines both elements. Maureen and Francine are twins and former best friends. Maureen is the smart, quiet one, while Francine is more talkative and social. But as they start sixth grade, they are suddenly in different classes, even different lunches. Maureen is crushed at first, and when she finds out that it was Francine’s request, she feels utterly betrayed. When the girls both run for class president, for different reasons, their rivalry threatens to tear their family and their mutual friends apart. Will their relationship survive? And can they both find their own places in middle school? Shannon Wright’s art echoes that of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson, amplifying the emotions and keeping the twins visually distinct. Combining the allure of twins with the ever-relatable topic of shifting friendships in middle school, this was an instant hit.
by Jerry Craft.
Quill Tree, 2020.
Read from purchased copy.
In this sequel to New Kid, the focus is split between our former narrator Jordan and his friend Drew, one of the few other Black kids at their private middle school. Though Drew’s known for his humor, things can still sting – things like a girl who likes him enough to bake him fresh treats every day, but won’t listen when he tells her to stop touching his hair. Or teachers telling him to be humble when he walks into class, when the white boys are told to act as if they own the place. The school also starts a new diversity & inclusion effort which is hilariously badly done, excluding the school’s Black teacher. And though Drew loves the grandmother he lives with and isn’t ashamed of their apartment, it still puts a strain on his friendship with rich, white Liam when he visits his mansion for the first time. As with New Kid, though the daily microaggressions are easy to catalog, the sense of humor, the joy in friendship, and the genuine heart with which the story is told make this a story everyone should read. My daughter has read it at least 15 or 20 times since we bought it for her.
Go with the Flow
by Karen Schneemann & Lily Williams.
First Second, 2020.
Read from library copy.
Three girls who are already friends, plus one new girl, bond on the first day of freshman year in high school. The new circle includes African-American Brit, who is amazing at math but has cramps so painful that she often has to miss class; uncoordinated blond Christine, just deciding if she’s comfortable telling people she likes girls, red-haired artist and rebel Abby, and tiny Asian-American Sasha, determined not to ruin her chances of friendship at her new school. When Sasha experiences the teen nightmare of getting her period unexpectedly on that first day, while wearing white pants, the other girls come to her rescue. But they are still filled with rage at the injustice related to girls and their periods. Why does Sasha’s accident carry such large and long-lasting stigma? And why do the boys get new football uniforms but the school won’t pay to keep period supplies in the restrooms? This is a story of friendship, struggle and activism, with a teensy bit of romance. The art is appealing done and shaded with reds and browns. Though the girls are in high school, it’s perfect for middle school. It took my own daughter two of the three weeks I had it out from the library to warm up to the idea of reading it (period stigma at work??), but once she did, she loved it, and read it at least once a day until I had to take it back.
Katie the Catsitter
by Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue.
Random House Graphic, 2021.
Read from purchased copy.
It’s summer in New York City, and both of Katie’s best friends are off to spend the whole of it at camp. Katie and her mother just can’t afford it, though, so she promises to write her best friend Bethany while hanging up posters in her apartment building offering to do odd jobs for her neighbors. After multiple failures, she winds up cat-sitting for the glamorous Ms. Lang, who has 217 cats with minor to major superpowers. As if that wasn’t enough excitement, Katie is sure she’s uncovering a mystery regarding one of the city’s super-powered residents – but is that person a hero or a villain? She’d love to talk it out with Bethany, but the once daily postcards have gotten fewer and farther between, leaving Katie feeling unsure of their friendship. Katie and her mother are white, while Bethany is brown-skinned and Ms. Lang appears African-American. This book is just lots and lots of fun, with a core of reflection about friendship underneath. It’s no surprise that my cat-loving daughter is also in love with this one.