Thursday, June 1, 2023

Kids Week: Best Bets for Middle-Grade Graphic Novels in 2023

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Middle-grade graphic novels are a category that has grown quickly in recent years, and that growth has brought with it a glut of books that all appear superficially to be the same. That’s not a bad thing, because a kid who liked a book will usually be quick to pick up another one with the same vibe, but the choices can be overwhelming. Here’s a look at six graphic novels due out in the summer and fall of 2023 that offer solid stories in familiar guises.

Super Boba Café, by Nidhi Chanani: The creator of Pashmina and Jukebox is back with another middle-grade magical-realist tale. After an embarrassing social media incident at school, Aria goes away for the summer to stay with her grandmother Jing-Li, who runs a boba tea stand in San Francisco. While Aria tries to figure out ways to bring more traffic to the café, Jing-Li is secretly cooking up a huge boba (tapioca ball) to feed to a monster who lives underground. If she doesn’t feed the monster, he causes an earthquake. This fun story teems with super-cute kittens and prairie dogs, and it also has a real sense of place, as Aria and her grandmother explore San Francisco and sample all its cuisines. The monster is more cute than scary, although the reader never learns exactly where it came from or how to make it go away, so there’s ample room for a sequel. (Amulet Books, October 2023; Ages 8-12; MSRP: $24.99 Hardcover/$16.99 Paperback.)

Yahgz, by Art Baltazar: Baltazar, co-creator with Franco Aureliani of the Tiny Titans comics, here brings his cartoony style and off-the-wall humor to the tale of two would-be warriors, a father and son, who face down a green gorilla, cross a river of mud, and handle other perils on their way to rescue the inhabitants of the city of Yahgz. With a similar comedic feel to Dog Man but somewhat slicker art, this book would be a good pick for fans of InvestiGators and other funny animal series. (Papercutz, August 2023; Ages 7-12; MSRP: $14.99 Hardcover/$9.99 Paperback)

Adventures in Cartooning: Create A World, by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, and Andrew Arnold: Three cartoonists use a comic to explain how to create comics. As in the first two volumes of this series, a knight and a horse guide the reader through the steps of creating a comic, or in this case, creating new worlds for the characters to explore. The authors use simple explanations and silly humor to get their points across. (First Second, August 2023; Ages 6-10; Paperback; MSRP: $18.99). First Second will also release an “enhanced edition” of the second book, Adventures in Cartooning: Characters in Action, with 40 pages of new material, in August.

All the Lovely Bad Ones, by Mary Downing Hahn, Naomi Franquiz, Brittany Peer, and Joamette Gil: A mischievous brother and sister decide to turn their grandmother’s inn, where they are staying for the summer, into a haunted hotel. The place already had a reputation for harboring ghosts, and the siblings’ supernatural pranks bring in plenty of new business. But it turns out that there actually are some spirits at the inn, and they don’t appreciate being awakened. (Clarion Books, August 2023; Ages 8-12; Paperback; MSRP $15.99)

Buzzing, by Samuel Sattin and Rye Hickman: Twelve-year-old Isaac has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and the creators depict the negative thoughts that plague him as a swarm of bees that hover around his head, making nasty comments or suggesting possible dangers. The swarm only seems to disappear when Isaac is absorbed in something he likes, such as drawing. When he joins an RPG group he makes a whole new set of friends, and the bees show up less and less, but his mother forces him to quit the group because she’s afraid it is impeding his progress. Not to be deterred, Isaac finds ways to continue gaming, and ultimately wins his mother over and begins to come to terms with his OCD. (Little, Brown Ink, July 2023; Ages 8-12; MSRP: $24.99 Hardcover/$12.99 Paperback)

Silverwing, by Kenneth Oppel and Christopher Steininger: There’s a big slice of the middle-grade audience that finds stories about plucky animal characters fighting for their survival absolutely irresistible. This one’s for them. It’s based on Oppel’s prose novel about a silverwing bat who is separated from his family during their winter migration and must find his way home, accompanied by a handful of other stragglers from different bat species. Oppel’s Silverwingprose trilogy has sold over 1 million copies and was adapted into an animated TV show. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, September 2023; Ages 8-12; MSRP: $23.99 Hardcover/$13.99 Paperback)

Click here for more ICv2 Kids Week articles on kids’ comics and graphic novels!

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