One of our specialties here at Betty’s Books is helping people of all ages get started with comics, graphic novels, and manga. If you’re new or shopping for a newbie in your life, the New to Comics! Series of posts is for you. This post features recommendations for readers new to comics who are “middle grade,” which we are defining as ages 9-13. Enjoy!
Kamome Shirahama’s Witch Hat Atelier is the perfect starting point for young readers trying out manga for the first time. This charming story follows Coco, who dreams of being a witch despite having no magic in a world where it’s something you’re born with… or is it? When a mysterious magician comes into town, everything Coco has been told turns on its head. Perfect for fans of Harry Potter and Kiki’s Delivery Service!
Imagine being able to throw tea parties with pet dragons! In Kay O’Neill’s two-time Eisner award-winning Tea Dragon Society, one doesn’t need to imagine. Softly fantastical, this book follows Greta, a blacksmith assistant who discovers a lost tea dragon at the market and subsequently learns how to care for these sweet creatures from tea shop owners Hesekial and Erik. The tender storyline and cute art style are great for readers just getting into comics!
In Jerry Craft’s Newberry award-winning book New Kid, artistic seventh grader Jordan Banks is forced to adjust to a drastically different cultural setting when his parents send him to a prestigious private school that feels like an alternate world from his own Washington Heights neighborhood. One of the only kids of color in his grade, Jordan struggles feeling torn between these two settings, trying to maintain his own identity while carving out a space for himself at school and at home.
This National Book Award Finalist story shines a light on the lives of Omar and his nonverbal brother Hassan, who live in a refugee camp in Kenya. Amidst the tough conditions of the camp, Omar feels responsible for Hassan, and so when the opportunity arises to go to school, he struggles with the decision. Doing so would give Omar more opportunities to help them both, but would also mean leaving Hassan everyday. Showing the daily realities of refugee children without exploiting their experiences, this story is a great starting point for kids to learn about the lives of children like Omar and Hassan.
Author Justin A. Reynolds and illustrator Pablo Leon bring forth a story perfect for young fans of superhero movies hungry for more! This book follows Miles Morales, who juggles being Spiderman, raising money for his mom’s home country Puerto Rico after an earthquake, and realizing the corporation sponsoring his fundraiser may not be as well-intentioned as they seem… Full of mystery and excitement, Miles Morales: Shock Waves is a perfect place for all the young Marvel fans out there to begin reading graphic literature!
In Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright’s Twins, Maureen and Francine Carter are–you guessed it–twins who do everything together, until starting middle school, that is. Suddenly Francine, now going by Fran, wants to partake in different activities and have separate classes from her sister, a fact that distresses Maureen to no end. Are the sisters’ days of best-friendship over for good? Check out this funny slice of life book to find out!
In El Deafo, Cece Bell tells the story of her childhood through little rabbit Cece, who is attending her first school devoid of deaf and hard-of-hearing children like herself. With a big hearing aid device strapped to her chest, she’s self-conscious in a way she wasn’t at her previous school, but soon learns the aid allows her to hear her teacher everywhere she goes in school! Can Cece use this newfound superpower to curb her equally newfound loneliness and finally make a friend?
What better way to get introduced into the comics medium than through a video game? Fans of the hit game Splatoon rejoice, for there is a manga series waiting for you! The book follows four Inklings who are competing in The Turf Wars–Goggles and Team Blue. Who will be crowned victor? Only one way to find out!
Author Lily LaMotte and illustrator Ann Xu bring you the delicious tale of Cici, a twelve year old who’s just arrived in Seattle all the way from Taiwan. Cici’s two biggest wishes in the world: fitting in and celebrating her grandmother, A-má’s, birthday, who still resides on the other side of the world. Cici discovers she can pay for a plane ticket for A-má by winning a cooking competition–but only knows how to make Taiwanese food. Is there a perfect recipe out there to help Cici find a space for herself in this new place while still holding onto her identity, and win the money for A-má’s ticket to boot? Pick up a copy of Measuring Up to see for yourself!
Now touting a Netflix adaptation, Luke Pearson’s Hilda and the Troll is a great place for young readers to begin their comics journey. Join precocious Hilda, a little girl who loves to explore the magical world around her, even when that world mixes her up in snowstorms and throws trolls at her! Simple and sweet, this book is a great intro into reading comic book series for the uninitiated.