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The Official “I Read Comics Summer Challenge” Recommendation List – Kid Edition!

You’re reading our recommendations for ages 8-12! For adults and teens, click here

If you want to participate in our I Read Comics Summer Challenge but aren’t sure where to begin, look no further. The BB staff collected 3 picks for EACH number of the challenge! Keep scrolling to get some awesome reccomendations.

1. Read a comic by a local author

Heart Takes the Stage: A Heart of the City Collection book coverHeart Takes the Stage: A Heart of the City Collection by Steenz
Heart Lamarr is a girl with big dreams who lives in Philadelphia with her single mom. She has her sights set on a life of theater, but she runs into plenty of drama off-stage, too. This collection of comics can be read independently from page to page, while also unfolding into a larger narrative about Heart and her friends. It’s perfect for a summer read, with the next collection Lost and Found out now!


Princess Pups book coverPrincess Pups by Lindsay Hornsby
Princess puppies who party in the clouds, battle a giant vacuum king, and still have time for pizza parties?! This middle grade comic created by local artist Lindsay Hornsby is oodles of fun, and-BONUS-we also have Princess Pups mini comics, stickers, and coloring books!


Science Comics: Bridges book coverScience Comics: Bridges by Dan Zettwoch
Follow Bea, Archie, Trudy, and Spencer (otherwise known as the BATS!) as they crisscross the globe using every type of bridge: beam, arch, truss, and suspension. Dan’s writing and illustrations make learning about bridges incredibly fun. We highly recommend this title and Dan’s other Science Comic about Cars.

2. Read a graphic biography, memoir, or other nonfiction

Pride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement book coverPride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement by Stella Caldwell
The LGBTQ+ community is so much more than rainbow flags and the month of June. In this beautifully designed dynamic book, young readers will learn about groundbreaking events, including historic pushes for equality and the legalization of same-sex marriages across the world. They will dive into the phenomenal history of queer icons from ancient times to the present and read about Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Audre Lorde, and more.


Wildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir book coverWildheart: The Daring Adventures of John Muir by Julie Bertagna and William Goldsmith
John Muir comes to life in this affectionate graphic format biography of the 19th-century environmentalist, inventor, and adventurer. Goldsmith’s charming cartoons, with black line drawings and washes of color, match the exuberant story; the result is a quick but deeply personal glimpse at a legendary figure.


Human Body Theatre book coverHuman Body Theatre by Maris Wicks
Welcome to the Human Body Theater, where your master of ceremonies is going to lead you through a theatrical revue of each and every biological system of the human body! Starting out as a skeleton, the MC puts on a new layer of her costume (her body) with each “act.” By turns goofy and intensely informative, the Human Body Theater is always accessible and always entertaining.

3. Read a comic by an author of color

Frizzy book coverFrizzy by Claribel A Ortega
Inspired by the author’s Dominican heritage, this book encourages kids to cultivate self love for their hair and push back against society seeing natural hair as something to hide. In the story, Marlene hates being in the salon and doesn’t understand why her curls are not considered pretty by those around her. With a few hiccups, a dash of embarrassment, and the much-needed help of Camila and Tia Ruby–she slowly starts a journey to learn to appreciate and proudly wear her curly hair.


Twins book coverTwins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright
This national indie bestseller follows a pair of twin girls whose typically tight relationship is put through the trials and tribulations of sixth grade. It’s totally precious and relatable – a must read!


Pashmina book coverPashmina by Nidhi Chanani
A tweenage girl trying to understand her identity and family history is magically transported to India via her mother’s old pashmina (scarf).

4. Read a banned comic

The Deep & Dark Blue book coverThe Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith
Princes Hawke and Grayson are forced from their kingdom after a coup and must live in disguise as Hanna and Grayce until they figure out how to return.They learn a lot about themselves and their identities in the process, with a beautiful message about queer identity.


The Magic Fish book coverThe Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
Technically this book is listed as twelve and up, but having read it (several times) we’re comfortable recommending it for a younger crowd. It follows Tien, a thirteen-year-old boy who struggles coming out to his parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam before Tien was born. Tien doesn’t know how to say “gay” in Vietnamese, but soon discovers that there are other ways to cross the language bridge, utilizing elaborately illustrated fairy tales he and his mother both adore.


New Kid book coverNew Kid by Jerry Craft
Winner of the Newberry Medal, New Kid is an honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real.

5. Read a manga

A Man & His Cat book coverA Man & His Cat by Umi Sakurai
In the pet shop he calls home, a chubby cat whiles away the hours, knowing no one is fussing over him. No one even spares the kitty a glance. So when an older gentleman comes into the shop and wants to take him home, the kitten himself is most shocked of all! Will the man and the cat find what they’re looking for…in each other?


Yotsuba&! book coverYotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma
The Eisner-nominated Yotsuba&! follows the titular Yotsuba, a precocious little girl who finds excitement and joy everywhere she turns, whether it be from her recent move into a new house, ice cream, or even mean, new neighbors!


Mao book coverSuper Mario Manga Mania by Yukio Sawada
If you can’t get enough Mario this summer, enjoy these stories from the Super Mario games in manga format.

6. Read an LGBTQ+ comic

Princess Princess Ever After book coverPrincess Princess Ever After by K. O’Neil
Everyone deserves to see themselves in a cute fairytale! When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey home and as they adventure against problems that arise. What does “happily ever after” really mean, and can they find it with each other?


The Accursed Vampire book coverThe Accursed Vampire by Madeline McGrane
This engaging, funny, and beautifully illustrated (those colors!!) book follows a trio of vampire children, who despite their many years on Earth retain their youthful perspectives. Dragoslava, the protagonist, is agender, a fact which is never questioned our mentioned outright–they are just who they are! The vamp kiddos soon find themselves taken in by a lesbian vamp/witch couple, and thus a found family story has begun. This is a fave at Betty’s Books, and for good reason!


The Moth Keeper book coverThe Moth Keeper by K. O’Neil
A story about coming of age and community, The Moth Keeper is filled with magic, hope, and friendship.

7. Read a comic that’s been adapted into a TV show or movie

Percy Jackson and the Olympians the Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel book coverPercy Jackson and the Olympians the Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan and Robert Venditti
Percy Jackson is now adapted into a graphic novel and movie series! Mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to suddenly be walking into twelve-year-old Percy Jackson’s life as Percy is the prime suspect of stealing Zeus’s lightning bolt. Greek Gods, something he didn’t think was even possible a few days ago, are suddenly parents and protons of everyone around him. He and his friends have just ten days to bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus; what will he have to face just to prove his innocence?


White Bird book coverWhite Bird by R.J. Palacio
Soon to be a major motion picture, starring Helen Mirren and Gillian Anderson! R. J. Palacio’s unforgettable graphic novel debut is a story about the power of kindness and unrelenting courage in a time of war.


Hilda and the Troll book coverHilda and the Troll by Luke Pearson
Hilda can never sit still for long without setting off on another adventure. She can’t resist exploring her enchanting world–a place where trolls walk, crows speak, and mountains move. The magic and folklore of the wild, windswept North come alive in this book about an adventurous little girl and her habit of befriending anything, no matter how curious it might seem. Now adapted as a Netflix show, and is a perennial classic at Betty’s house.

8. Read a new summer release

Indigenous Ingenuity: A Celebration of Traditional North American Knowledge book coverIndigenous Ingenuity: A Celebration of Traditional North American Knowledge by Deidre D. Havrelock and Edward Kay
Released in May, this book answers the call for Indigenous nonfiction by reappropriating hidden histories. From transportation to civil engineering, hunting technologies, astronomy, brain surgery, architecture, and agriculture, this book covers some of the knowledge of indigenous peoples throughout history.


Picture Day book coverPicture Day by Sarah Sax
(Releasing 6/27)

Everyone knows the most stressful day of middle school is picture day! And that’s exactly where this yearbook-worthy graphic novel series opener begins: with reinventing yourself, drama, popularity, and the friends who see you through. In the tradition of modern classics like Vera Brosgol’s Be Prepared, Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward, and Kayla Miller’s Click, Picture Day brings answers to perennial questions of what it means to be true to yourself–and a true friend.


Out There book coverOut There by Seaerra Miller
(Releasing 6/27)

Julia joins her dad for a roadtrip to the 75th anniversary of the UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico. Amidst lots of fun and zaniness at the festival, Julia begins to wonder where her dad’s alien abduction was real or not. Will this weekend bring them closer together or drive them apart? Out There is a touching, out-of-this-world graphic novel about a daughter, her father, and the aliens that may or may not be speaking to him.

9. Read a trade comic

Wait, what is a trade comic anyway? In traditional comics publishing, like DC, Marvel, Image, etc., comics are initially released as “single issues,” which is a fancy way of describing what’s more or less a chapter. A “trade” is a paperback compiling several–usually five, but occasionally more–of these single-issue comics from the same story, comprising one complete “volume.” So basically, this number is challenging you to dip your toe into more “traditional” comics! Not all are superheroes, don’t worry.


Star Wars the High Republic: The Edge of Balance Precedent book coverStar Wars the High Republic: The Edge of Balance Precedent by Daniel José Older
The young Wookiee Jedi Arkoff, his former Master Ravna, and her droid ZZ journey to Dalna to aid his fellow Jedi in the fight against the secretive faction the Path of the Open Hand. Arkoff’s longtime friend, Jedi Knight Azlin Rell, falls victim to an unseen force whose effect on the Jedi is unlike anything previously encountered. Will Arkoff’s past come back to haunt him, or will it be the key to tilting the balance in their fight against the Nihil over a century later?


Avatar: The Promise Part One book coverAvatar: The Promise Part One by Gene Luen Yang and Tim Hedrick
This series of digests rejoins Aang and friends for exciting new adventures, beginning with a faceoff against the Fire Nation that threatens to throw the world into another war, testing all of Aang’s powers and ingenuity!


Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur book coverMoon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur by Gustavo Duarte, and various illustrators
Lunella Lafayette is one of the most brilliant minds in the Marvel-Verse – and she’s only a fourth-grader! Moon Girl has brawn to back up her brains too – in the form of her big red T.Rex, Devil Dinosaur! Together, they’re making a huge impression on the world! It’s a rite of passage for any young hero to share a team-up with Spider-Man – but can Lunella, Devil and Spidey withstand the menace of the Pink Goblin?

10. Read a book from another local bookstore

It’s so important now more than ever to support as many local bookstores as you can. To finish up the Summer Challenge, read any book (doesn’t have to be a comic!) from another local shop.

Not sure where to go? Here’s a handy list of all the indie bookstores in the Midwest!


Happy Summer reading!