Discover Yourself in a Graphic Novel

From coming-of-age stories to reimagined fairy tales, pick up these graphic novels that celebrate self-expression and self- discovery.

Apple Crush

Apple Crush By Lucy Knisley

After finally adjusting to life on a family farm with two brand new step-sisters, a young girl faces an even bigger challenge – figuring out where she fits in at her first year in middle school. This middle grade graphic novel explores family, friendship, and change!

Jen is just getting used to her life on Peapod Farm with her new stepsisters, Andy and Reese. But when the school year starts, there are even more changes in store for her. Jen has to navigate new friends and new challenges–but at least she’ll have Andy with her, right? As she starts the sixth grade, she finds that her stepsister seems way more interested in crushes and boys than hanging out with her, while Jen wants to know when the world decided boys and girls couldn’t be “just friends” anymore.

Jen’s story continues in the standout sequel to Stepping Stones that captures everything awesome (and scary) about growing up.

★“Readers looking for budding romance (or avoiding it altogether) will find characters to cheer in this autumn-themed follow-up.” —School Library Journal, starred review
Growing Pangs

Growing Pangs By Kathryn Ormsbee; illustrated by Molly Brooks

Introducing an irresistibly relatable graphic novel about friendship and growing up, “an excellent companion to Raina Telgemeier’s Guts and Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s Real Friends series.”—Booklist, Starred Review

New Friends. New grade. New worries?

Katie’s always felt different. She’s homeschooled, she has freckles, and her teeth are really crooked. But none of these things matter to Kacey. They’re best friends forever—just like their necklaces say. But when they go to summer camp, Kacey starts acting weird. What happened to the “forever”? And when Katie gets home, she can’t stop worrying. About getting braces. About 6th grade. About friends. She knows tapping three times or opening and closing a drawer won’t make everything better . . . but sometimes it helps stop the worrying. Is something wrong with her?

★“The story stays true to this child’s experience, and the art…  gives equal attention to the high points of Katie’s life while skillfully depicting her lows.” —Booklist, starred review

Twin Cities

Twin Cities By Jose Pimienta

Being twins means having a best friend forever . . . But when one twin goes to school in Mexico and the other goes to school across the border in Calexico, can that bond withstand the distance? A contemporary middle grade graphic novel about discovering who you are.

Luis Fernando and Luisa Teresa are twins, and they finally have the chance to stand on their own. Fernando is staying local in Mexicali, Mexico, and Teresa is planning to cross the border every day so she can go to a private school in Calexico, California.

Suddenly on his own, Fernando realizes that without his twin around. Desperate to not be alone in middle school, he finds himself making friends with the first kid who’s willing to give him a chance . . . only this new friend says and does a lot of things that Fernando isn’t too sure about.

Teresa is ready to thrive and stand on her own two feet, but she soon finds herself failing under the pressure of crossing the US/Mexico border every day. She no longer has to worry about being compared to her brother — but now she doesn’t have his support when she could really use it.

At home, both twins have a chance to reconnect. But instead, they find themselves pushing each other away. After all, being on their own is what they always wanted . . . right?

This is a truly contemporary story about siblings, middle school, and peer pressure. Twin Cities explores the importance of family, and also the struggles that come with trying to live up to standards that are impossible to meet.

★ “From start to finish, Twin Cities is a superbly crafted work of art and emotion that marks Pimienta as a creator to watch.” —BookPage, starred review

★ “Transcendently good.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ “Brightly colored, intricately detailed panoramas and montages convey one family’s experience living in a vivacious border community that is richer for its multitude of influences.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ “This graphic novel explores the relationship between young teenage twins as they traverse physical, personal, and cultural borders.” —The Horn Book, starred review

Scout Is Not a Band Kid

Scout Is Not a Band Kid By Jade Armstrong

A young girl in middle school will do whatever it takes to meet her favorite author—even if it means joining her school band! A contemporary graphic novel about making your dream come true—and the friends you make along the way.

When Scout learns that her favorite author is doing an exclusive autograph session at the end of the year, she’s determined to be there! She officially needs a plan…and when she finds out that her school’s band is heading to the same location for their annual trip, an idea takes shape. Being a band kid can’t be that hard, right?

As it turns out, learning how to play an instrument when you can’t even read music is much, much, MUCH tougher than expected. And it’s even harder for Scout when her friends aren’t on board with her new hobby. Will she be able to master the trombone, make new band friends, and get to her favorite author’s book signing? Tackling everything seems like a challenge for a supergenius superfriend supermusician—and she’s just Scout.

Maybe An Artist, A Graphic Memoir

Maybe An Artist, A Graphic Memoir By Liz Montague

A heartfelt and funny graphic novel memoir from one of the first Black female cartoonists to be published in the New Yorker, when she was just 22 years old.

When Liz Montague was a senior in college, she wrote to the New Yorker, asking them why they didn’t publish more inclusive comics. The New Yorker wrote back asking if she could recommend any. She responded: yes, me.

Those initial cartoons in the New Yorker led to this memoir of Liz’s youth, from the age of five through college–how she navigated life in her predominantly white New Jersey town, overcame severe dyslexia through art, and found the confidence to pursue her passion. Funny and poignant, Liz captures the age-old adolescent questions of “who am I?” and “what do I want to be?” with pitch-perfect clarity and insight.

This brilliant, laugh-out-loud graphic memoir offers a fresh perspective on life and social issues and proves that you don’t need to be a dead white man to find success in art.

Other Ever Afters

Other Ever Afters By Melanie Gillman

Once upon a time . . . happily ever after turned out differently than expected. In this new, feminist, queer fairy-tale collection, you’ll find the princesses, mermaids, knights, barmaids, children, and wise old women who have been forced to sit on the sidelines in classic stories taking center stage. A gorgeous all-new collection in graphic novel format from a Stonewall Honor-winning author and artist.

What if the giant who abducted you was actually thoughtful and kind? What if you didn’t want to marry your handsome, popular, but cold-inside suitor? What if your one true love has all the responsibilities that come with running a kingdom?

Award-winning author Melanie Gillman’s phenomenal colored-pencil art creates another “ever after” for the characters who are most worthy of it.

Explore Illustration

Don’t just read picture books, explore the gorgeous art in these picture books by acclaimed and award winning illustrators.

This Story Is Not About a Kitten

This Story Is Not About a Kitten By Randall de Sève; illustrated by Carson Ellis

A heartwarming picture book about a neighborhood coming together to help a kitten find a home, from a New York Times bestselling author and a Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator.

Contrary to what you may believe, this story is not about a kitten, hungry and dirty, scared and alone, needing a home. It is also not about the dog who heard the kitten meowing sadly. Even less so about the woman and child walking the dog, who stopped when their dog heard the kitten. Nor is it about the friends who brought a box for the kitten, or the man who offered it some milk. No, this story is not about a kitten at all—well, maybe a little—but more importantly this is a story about community, compassion, and generosity. 

Randall de Sève’s thoughtful and warm story is sure to fill readers of all ages with hope and the warm fuzzy feeling that rescuing animals brings. Wonderfully complemented by Carson Ellis’s breathtaking illustrations, this book is sure to be cherished by animal-loving readers everywhere!

The Long Ride Home

The Long Ride Home By Stephanie Graegin

A tender picture book that celebrates memories and friendship about a young koala and a friend who has moved away.

Little Koala has a long ride home, and every place her mother passes invokes a memory of her best friend: the ice cream shop where they giggled uncontrollably; the hill in the park where they crashed their bikes (that memory also lives on as a little scar on Koala’s knee), the library where they borrowed their favorite book again and again.
 
Koala’s friendship blooms beautifully on the page, seamlessly interwoven with the ride home, and soon we learn just why these memories are so important: Koala’s friend has moved away. The story ends on a lovely note of hope: Koala and her friend are still close, despite the distance.
 
The Long Ride Home is a universal and broadly appealing friendship story that explores the power of memory with tenderness, warmth, and heart. Stephanie Graegin expertly balances the bittersweet sensations of cherishing a moment long past with artwork that is rendered in soft, sepia hues in a way that only she can.
 



 

Mae Makes a Way

Mae Makes a Way By Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich; illustrated by Andrea Pippins

Tip your hat to fashion designer and civil rights icon Mae Reeves in this picture book biography written in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture!

"A fine introduction to a determined trailblazer." -The New York Times
 
Mae had a dream to make one-of-a-kind hats. But the path for a Black female designer was unclear, so Mae made a way, leaving her home in the segregated South to study at the Chicago School of Millinery.
 
Mae had the skills, but craved the independence to create her own styles. So Mae found a way. In Philadelphia, she became the first Black woman to own a business on South Street. Whether you were Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Marian Anderson or a lady from the neighborhood, Mae wanted you to look good and feel special in one of her original hats. 
 
A mother, a successful entrepreneur, and a community advocate, Mae led the way.
 
Published in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, acclaimed author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (Two Naomis) and award-winning illustrator Andrea Pippins (I Love My Hair) bring the life of fashion entrepreneur and civic organizer Mae Reeves to the page. And when you are done reading, explore Mae’s store and styles in person at her permanent exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The More You Give

The More You Give By Marcy Campbell; illustrated by Francesca Sanna

A modern-day response to The Giving Tree, this lyrical picturebook shows how a family passes down love from generation to generation, leaving a legacy of growing both trees and community.

Once there was a wide-open field, and a boy who loved his grandmother, 
who loved him back.

The boy’s grandmother gives him many gifts, like hugs, and Sunday morning pancakes, and acorns with wild and woolly caps. And all her wisdom about how things grow. As the boy becomes a father, he gives his daughter bedtime stories his grandmother told him, and piggyback rides. He gives her acorns, and the wisdom he learned about how things grow. His daughter continues the chain, then passing down gifts of her own. Here is a picture book about the legacy of love that comes when we nurture living things—be they people or trees.
 

Everything in Its Place

Everything in Its Place By Pauline David-Sax; illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

An inspiring and poetic story about reading, libraries, and overcoming shyness to find community.

I gather the books in my arms, and give them a hug. "Welcome back," I whisper.
 
Nicky is a shy girl who feels most at home in the safe space of her school library, but the library closes for a week and Nicky is forced to face her social anxiety. When she meets a group of unique, diverse, inspiring women at her mother's diner—members of a women's motorcycle club—Nicky realizes that being different doesn’t have to mean being alone, and that there’s a place for everyone.

Book lovers of all ages will find inspiration in this beautiful love letter to reading—and how words help us find empathy and connections with the world around us.

Random House Teachers and Librarians