November 17, 2017

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12 Marvelous Manga for Middle Schoolers

Middle school is a time of great transitions, and it can be hard to strike a good balance when choosing manga for older children and younger teens. Librarians need books that are exciting without being too violent, safe without being too babyish. The following books are appropriate for any collection serving middle schoolers yet still brim with enough drama, humor, and surprises to appeal to a wide range of readers.

Upper Elementary & Early Middle School

KANATA, Konami. The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home: Part 1. illus. by author. 480p. Vertical. 2015. pap. $24.95. ISBN 9781942993162.
Gr 3 Up –A boy and his mother adopt a lost kitten, Chi, but they must keep their new pet’s existence a secret because their building forbids animals. Readers will smile at the endearingly guileless kitten’s amazement at the world around her and giggle as she manages to escape despite her family’s attempts to hide or disguise her. Kanata’s cartoon art is gentle yet strong enough to propel the narrative through many wordless passages.

Konishi, Noriyuki . Yo-Kai Watch: Vol. 1. illus. by author. 192p. Viz Media. 2015. pap. $9.97. ISBN 9781421582511.
Gr 3 Up –With his wristwatch, Nate can summon magical creatures called Yo-Kai. There’s plenty of exaggerated humor as the boy learns about the abilities of the bizarre, entertaining Yo-Kai and plunges into adventure. Accessible and appealing, this fun series in the vein of Pokémon is full of energetic cartoon art that will entice reluctant readers who enjoy action.

Morishige, Takuma. My Neighbor Seki: Vol. 1. illus. by author. 176p. Vertical. 2015. pap. $10.55. ISBN 9781939130969.
Gr 3 Up –Though Rumi Yokoi tries to focus on her schoolwork, she is distracted by the antics of the troublesome Toshinari Seki, who, unnoticed by everyone but Yokoi, plays with dominoes and builds a tower from chess pieces. This is a simple and lighthearted story with over-the-top humor reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes, accompanied by lively artwork with many wordless spreads.

Middle School

Amagakure, Gido. Sweetness & Lightning: Vol. 1. illus. by author. 192p. Kodansha Comics. 2016. pap. $9.97. ISBN 9781632363695.
Gr 6 Up –Kohei, a recently widowed math teacher, and his daughter, Tsumgi, meet one of Kohei’s students, a girl named Kotori, whose mother owns a restaurant. Kotori teaches Kohei, whose late wife did all the cooking, how to prepare home-cooked cuisine for Tsumgi, and the three form a cautious friendship as the delicious fare they whip up reminds them of happier times. Multiple recipes with humorous instructions increase the awesome factor of this heartfelt story. Beautiful, expressive visuals deftly capture the characters’ emotional arcs.

Azuma, Kiyohiko. Yotsuba&!: Vol. 1. illus. by author. 208p. Yen. 2009. pap. $13. ISBN 9780316073875.
Gr 5 Up –Yotsuba, a free-spirited five-year-old who plunges headlong into everything despite the attempts of her father and neighbors to rein her in, is by turns endearing and frustrating. Readers will be moved by this beautiful story with a bittersweet edge and by how Yotsuba remains positive no matter what happens. The artwork reflects the protagonist’s sweet, naive nature and expresses how she sees even ordinary objects—an air conditioner, a cicada—with childlike wonder.

Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. adapt. by Crystal S. Chan. illus. by SunNeko Lee. 324p. (Manga Classics). Udon. 2016. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781927925652.
Gr 7 Up –Featuring elegant, expressive artwork that’s perfect for the darkly romantic tale, this faithful adaptation of Brontë’s novel makes the story of a governess who falls in love with her mysterious employer accessible to younger audiences. Keep an eye on the entire “Manga Classics” series for more reworked versions of great literature.

Enoki, Nobuaki. School Judgment: Vol. 1. illus. by Takeshi Obata. 192p. Viz Media. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421585666.
Gr 7 Up –In a world where the government has created the School Judgment System to deal with crimes that take place in schools, kid lawyers serve as defenders and prosecutors as they try cases filled with twists and turns. Exaggerated artwork, veering on caricaturelike at times, sets the mood, which ranges from serious to hilarious as the kids make legal arguments—and look downright adorable in the process. Clever and wholly original.

Midorikawa, Yuki. Natsume’s Book of Friends: Vol. 1. illus. by author. 208p. Viz Media. 2010. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421532431.
Gr 7 Up –Years ago, Takashi Natsume’s grandmother forced monsters known as yokai to obey her by making them sign their names in her “Book of Friends.” Now that she is gone, the yokai will stop at nothing to obtain their freedom—and Natsume, feeling pity for them, wants to help. This is an exciting, emotional, surreal fantasy, with artwork that’s full of movement and odd angles.

Minami, Maki. Voice Over!: Seiyu Academy: Vol. 1. illus. by author. 208p. Viz Media. 2013. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421559704.
Gr 6 Up –Aspiring voice actress Hime dreams of playing a cute character in an anime series, but her fellow students and even her teachers tease her because her voice is too rough. Readers will root for this hopeful underdog protagonist as she tries to overcome mean nicknames and learns that the coarse edges of her voice might conceal a power that she never expected. Elegant, dazzling artwork features attractive backgrounds that let the characters pop off the page.

Motomi, Kyousuke. QQ Sweeper: Vol. 1. illus. by author. 208p. Viz Media. 2015. pap. $9.97. ISBN 9781421582146.
Gr 6 Up –Q and his father can see monstrous creatures that drive people to despair. Fumi, a homeless girl who shares their ability, moves in with them and becomes a “sweeper,” using a broom to clean physical spaces and auras to drive away the darkness. Putting a whimsical spin on the paranormal genre, this memorable tale, featuring action and a hint of romance, as well as intricate, dramatic artwork, will appeal to fans of more lighthearted supernatural fare.

Suzuki, Julietta. Kamisama Kiss: Vol. 1. illus. by author. 200p. Viz Media. 2010. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421536385.
Gr 6 Up –When a poor, homeless girl named Nanami helps a strange man who’s being chased by a dog, he rewards her for her good deed by letting her live in his home. Nanami learns that the house is a shrine, that the man used to be a god, and that she is now the new deity. She tries to embrace her role, but there are plenty of challenges along the way. Exaggerated illustrations reinforce the madcap energy of this zany tale.

Yoshino, Satsuki. Barakamon: Vol. 1. illus. by author. 208p. Yen. 2014. pap. $15. ISBN 9780316336086.
Gr 6 Up –Award-winning calligrapher Seishuu, weary of criticism that he is conformist and dull, seeks inspiration on a remote island filled with beautiful vistas. The entire village is fascinated by Seishuu, and when he meets his new neighbor, an overly energetic child, he realizes he hasn’t found his longed-for tranquility. This is a gentle, amusing Odd Couple–esque story about different personalities clashing but learning to coexist.

Andrea Lipinski is a librarian at the New York Public Library.

This article was published in School Library Journal's June 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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Comments

  1. Terrific suggestions!

  2. Great stuff! Thanks, Andrea!

  3. Thanks so much for this! It is tricky to find good Mangas or graphic novels that are appropriate for middle schoolers with protective parents.

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