Summer Camp and Beyond: 24 Middle Grade Graphic Novels | Summer Reading 2021

Whether kids want to vicariously experience summer camp shenanigans, learn about the ultimate lemonade stand rivalry, or get a head start on Halloween with vampires and werewolves, there's something in these middle grade graphic novels for everyone.

Cover images: Kodi and The Accursed Vampire

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Whether kids want to vicariously experience summer camp shenanigans, learn about the ultimate lemonade stand rivalry, or get a head start on Halloween with vampires and werewolves, there's something in these middle grade graphic novels for everyone.

This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews. illus. by author. First Second. ISBN 9781250196958
Each year, during the Autumn Equinox Festival, the townsfolk release lanterns into the nearby river in honor of a local folk song. And every year, a group of boys ride their bikes along the river to follow the lanterns, always stopping partway through. This year, something is different.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. illus. by author. First Second. ISBN 9781626724440.
A fictionalized graphic memoir captures the ups and downs (let's be honest-mostly downs) of a stint at a Russian Orthodox summer camp.

Class Act by Jerry Craft. illus. by author. HarperAlley/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780062885517.
The fast-paced, riotously funny sequel to New Kid follows aspiring artist Jordan and best friends Liam and Drew as they begin eighth grade at New York City’s upscale Riverdale Academy Day School. This time, the narrative prioritizes darker-skinned Drew’s perspective, juxtaposing full-color artwork with Jordan’s grayscale cartoons to illustrate issues of race, class, and plain old pubescence.

New Kid by Jerry Craft. illus. by author. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062691200.
In the Newbery-winning graphic novel, Jordan Banks is anxious about being the new kid at Riverdale, especially since he'd rather be going to art school. He's even more nervous when he realizes that, unlike in his Washington Heights neighborhood, at Riverdale, he's one of the few kids of color.

Kodi by Jared Cullum. illus. by author. Top Shelf. ISBN 9781603094672.
An outcast named Katya stumbles upon a bear, Kodi, who is caught in a trap. After Kodi is saved, he returns the favor to his lonely friend. Dreamy watercolors set the tone in this intimate, touching read about discovering friendship and belonging in unexpected places.

Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge by Grace Ellis. illus. by Brittney L. Williams. DC Comics. ISBN 9781401296377.
It’s Lois Lane as we’ve never seen her—envious, anti-journalism, and 13. Her biggest fear involves her best friend Kristen Li going away to summer camp without her, but that’s OK because Lois has plenty of activities to distract them from the impending separation—like building up an online brand by posting videos in which she pranks others.

Best Friends by Shannon Hale. illus. by LeUyen Pham. First Second. ISBN 9781250317452.
Hale follows up her poignant graphic memoir Real Friends, which depicted the twists and turns of elementary school relationships.This time the author looks back on sixth grade.

Twins by Varian Johnson. illus. by Shannon Wright. Scholastic/Graphix. ISBN 9781338236132.
Bold artwork accompanies authentic characters in this pitch-perfect look at sibling rivalry and adolescent self-discovery during the dreaded middle school years. Heading into sixth grade with different hopes and expectations, twins Maureen and Francine find their once close relationship threatened—but their biggest challenge arrives when both decide to run for class president.

All Summer Long by Hope Larson. illus. by author. Farrar. ISBN 9780374304850.
It's a summer of changes for 13-year-old Bina. Her best friend Austin is off to soccer camp, her oldest brother and his husband are adopting a baby, and nobody has time for Bina. The second book about Bina, All Together Now, is reviewed below.

All Together Now by Hope Larson. illus. by author. Farrar. ISBN 9780374311629.
Middle schoolers Bina and Darcy have a strong connection through their friendship and their music. When Enzo volunteers to be the new drummer in their band, at first it seems like it will work out well for everyone. But their relationships start changing into something new and unexpected: Darcy and Enzo against Bina.

Beetle & the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne. illus. by author. S. & S/Atheneum. ISBN 9781534441538.
This spook-tacularly sweet, anime-inspired story follows 12-year-old goblin/witch Beetle and her best friend Blob Ghost, who uses they/ them pronouns and cannot leave a soon-to-be-demolished mall. Life grows more complicated when Beetle’s former best friend, Kat Hollowbone, resurfaces and feelings—yes, those feelings!—bubble over. Narratives overlap like gentle waves across a sumptuous orange and purple palette in this silly, life-affirming LGBTQIA+ romance.

Peng! Action Sports Adventures! by Corey Lewis. illus. by author. Oni. ISBN 9781620107577.
The members of the Foot Knux, an advanced kickball team from the All-World School of Sportsmanship, battle it out with supernatural powers in hopes of winning the championship. Talented in a variety of fringe sports, including Hacky Sack and break dancing, the athletes learn to master their special moves and beat their competitors no matter the stakes.

Snapdragon by Kat Leyn. illus. by author. First Second. ISBN 9781250171115.
Spunky and empathetic teenager Snapdragon becomes an apprentice to a local witch, Jacks, gaining responsibility and learning magic, all of which comes in handy as she faces changes, including her friend’s gender transition, bullies at school, and the discovery that Jacks was once romantically involved with Snap’s grandmother. Vibrant colors bring a lovable cast and more than a few spells to life.

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd. illus. by Michelle Mee Nutter. Scholastic/Graphix. ISBN 9781338568912
When newly discovered allergies upend Maggie's plan of adopting a puppy, Maggie is perturbed, but she perseveres, learning to live with allergies and brainstorming ideas for a new pet. Maggie also makes new pals here—she’ll find even more friends in elementary and middle school libraries, where readers will easily identify with her trials and accomplishments.

The Accursed Vampire by Madeline McGrane. illus. by author. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780062954350.
Three centuries-old vampire children find their bond tested when one of them is forced to choose between obligations and friendship. McGrane’s silly and spooky tale uses poignant moments about found families to touch readers’ hearts between bouts of laughter.

Chunky by Yehudi Mercado.  illus. by author. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen. ISBN 9780062972798.
Mercado describes growing up as an unathletic, chubby middle schooler whose parents pushed him into the world of team sports. But young Hudi greets challenges with humor and heart—and the unwavering support of his imaginary mascot, Chunky, a chipper, furry, horned pink creature. Mercado offers relatable insights into the life of a child who is eager to fit in but also coming into his sense of self, sometimes with the help of adults and sometimes in spite of them. 

Goosebumps: Secrets of the Swamp by Marieke Nijkamp. illus. by Yasmin Florez Montanez. IDW. ISBN 9781684058136.
When Blake visits her aunt one summer, she realizes that nearby Fever Swamp is full of werewolves—but the real monsters are her new friend Lily's monster-hunting family. In this latest original graphic novel, werewolves are a clear metaphor for racial persecution. A dynamic and thoughtful action story with a laudable but never preachy message about looking beyond prejudices and standing up to injustice.

Dear Justice League by Michael Northrop. illus. by Gustavo Duarte. DC Zoom. ISBN 9781401284138.
In this engaging book, kids write to the Justice League superheroes, asking questions that many readers have probably wondered: Has Superman ever been less than perfect? Does Green Lantern get tired of wearing the same colors all the time? Does Aquaman smell like fish?

Lemonade Code by Jarod Pratt illus. by Jey Odin. ISBN 9781620108680.
Preteen Robert, an aspiring mad scientist following in the footsteps of his mother, Doctor Mama, creates a high-tech lemonade stand that can deliver any flavor imaginable, but new neighbor Daphne serves Robert a dose of humble pie when her old-fashioned lemonade stand outperforms his. Drama ensues as the competition ramps up in this dynamic, fun tale that's a surefire gateway comic to weirder fare.

Anti/Hero by Kate Karyus Quinn & Dimitria Lunetta. illus. by Maca Gil. DC Comics. ISBN 9781401293253.
Piper’s and Sloane’s paths collide and they accidentally activate the invention: a body-switching device. Trapped in each other’s bodies, the two girls must work together to thwart evil plans.

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner. illus. by author. Aladdin. ISBN 9781534431461.
With her frizzy hair, her gap teeth, and her lack of friends, 13-year-old Moth Hush doesn’t fit in at school. She discovers why she doesn’t belong—she’s not like everyone else. As her powers activate for the first time, Moth learns that she’s from a family of witches.

Guts by Raina Telgemeier. illus. by author. Scholastic/Graphix. ISBN 9780545852517.
After her little sister brought home a case of stomach flu, young Raina woke up one night with an upset stomach and had to vomit. Then a boy in her class was made fun of for throwing up at school, and Raina worried about getting sick again. A new story from Telgemeier's childhood, this takes place when she was in the fourth and fifth grades.

Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable. illus. by Stephanie Yue. Random. ISBN 9780593306321.
Katie Spera, a 12-year-old living in an alternate New York City where Yelp-rated superheroes abound, earns money for summer camp by watching her neighbor's cats...but could her neighbor be a supervillain? A winsome mix of adventure, humor, and realistic middle grade problems, ideal for readers seeking the whimsy of Dav Pilkey’s “Dog Man” tempered with the reassuring tone of Raina Telgemeier’s work.

Stargazing by Jen Wang. illus. by author. First Second. ISBN 9781250183873.
With her surreal drawings, her penchant for bright nail polish, her lax study habits, and her inability to speak Chinese, Moon Li is nothing like the other kids in her Chinese American community.

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