Since I just reviewed a batch of new middle-grade graphic novels with girl main characters, I thought I’d balance it out with a list of my favorite graphic novels with boy main characters.
On this list, you’ll find popular, highly-recommended choices that your readers who are ages 8 to 12 will love to read and reread.
(Because that’s the only thing about graphic novels that I don’t like –that they’re quick to read and over too soon. Sob! Meaning that they just beg to be reread. Don’t you think?)
Favorite Graphic Novels with Boy Main Characters
Big Nate Welcome to My World by Lincoln Peirce (series)
Big Nate’s life at school and home will keep kids laughing through the entire book. Hilarious!
Brave by Svetlana Chmakova
Jensen is the miserable target of the school’s bullies. His friends Jenny and Akilah decide to write newspaper articles to help him, but their plans made without Jensen’s consent hurt their friendship. The ups and downs and challenges of Jensen’s life (which he relates to a video game) show how he finds his confidence, stops the bullies, and grows into who he is.
First Cat in Space by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Shawn Harris
Absurdly hysterical, this is a bizarrely perfect adventure in space with a cat and a toenail-clipping robot who journey into space to stop the rats from eating the moon. Silly adventures ensue –like befriending a whale, becoming pirates, and answering a sphynx’s riddle — plus plenty of drama and creative world-building.
Super Sidekicks #1: No Adults Allowed by Gavin Aung Than (series)
Sick and tired of their superheroes, the kid sidekicks form their own team including a villain’s sidekick named Goo. When the superheroes find their sidekicks and the evil Dr. Enok kidnaps back Goo, the sidekicks take action to rescue their new friend. Kid-power, friendship, teamwork, and adventure, this graphic novel is sure to be a hit with 8 to 12-year-old readers!
Bone #1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith (series)
Adventure, excitement, and humor fill these captivating stories of a young bone boy named Bone and his cousins who are banned from Boneville. The illustrations capture each character’s depth so well, and the dialogue will crack you up.
Ham Helsing Vampire Hunter by Rich Moyer (series)
FANTASY / HUMOR / ADVENTURE
If you like adventure, potty humor, surprising plot twists, and quirky characters, then do not miss this entertaining story with heart and humor. And instead of vampire hunting, the hunter and vampire team up to fight the evil spider-woman who has been terrorizing the town, becoming friends instead of enemies. And the ending?–Perfection!
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, illustrated by Victoria Jamieson and Iman Geddy
A Somali boy and his brother grow up in a Kenyan refugee camp with their day-to-day lives filled with hunger and boredom. Omar doesn’t attend the dusty camp school until age 11 because he’s been caring for his younger brother Hassan who has special needs. When the brothers get an interview with the UN, Omar gets his hopes up…but they’re not approved. Years pass with many struggles but education and the camp friendships continue to be bright spots for Omar. The book ends with a bittersweet new beginning.
New Kid by Jerry Craft (series)
Jordan’s parents make him go to a private school across town where he’s one of the only kids of color. Besides having the tricky business of navigating friendships, he navigates the two separate worlds of his neighborhood and his school, racism, and balancing academics with art. This story feels truthful, relatable, and important.
Miles Morales: Shock Waves by Justin A. Reynolds & Pablo Leon
In this Spider-Man graphic novel adventure, Miles Morales is faced with a problem. As he struggles to juggle both his superhero and civilian lives at the same time, a fellow student’s father suddenly goes missing with just a few too many connections to strange supernatural activity in the area. Can he figure out what’s going on and save this innocent civilian?
Your Pal Fred by Michael Rex
Fred is a robot who brings kindness (and STICKERS!) to a dystopian world he makes better in this funny, warmhearted, and interesting story. When Fred discovers that two warlords are capturing innocent people to fight as soldiers for them, Fred knows what he has to do–ask the two bad guys to try peace. Will Fred succeed on his seemingly impossible mission?
This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews
Every year for Autumn Equinox, the town sends lanterns down the river to join the stars in the sky. Curious, Ben and Nathaniel, follow the lanterns on their bikes. Soon, they meet a talking fisherbear and are imprisoned by a potions maker. Eventually, they learn the unexpected, magical truth about the stars. It’s a compelling graphic novel adventure filled with curiosity, magic, and friendship –as well as a talking bear, a map-drawing crow, and a special journey to the stars.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dawud Anybwile
The Crossover graphic novel is a fast-paced read that packs a big punch visually and emotionally. Kids love Alexander’s lyrical writing and how he seems to just “get” the teenage human condition. Basketball player and twin Josh narrates his life in quarters, just like the game he plays. He writes about missing his twin when his twin, Jordan, gets a girlfriend. He shares about getting into trouble when he hits Jordan in the face with a basketball. And he reveals the pain of watching his father as his dad’s heart fails.
Legend of Brightblade by Ethan M. Alddridge
While his mom negotiates a peace treaty with the trolls, Elf prince Alto runs away to become a bard. He witnesses a sinister magical bard. Alto with his bard group including Ebbe and Clarabel know they must warn Alto’s family and stop the bad magic before it’s too late. If you like magical fantasy worlds, you’ll love this story about pursuing your passion, making friends who become family, and the magic of music.
Batman Overdrive by Shea Fontana, illustrated by Marcelo DiChiara (series)
You’ll zip through this exciting Batman origin story! Almost 16-year-old Bruce Wayne is angry at the world and doesn’t believe the story of his parents’ murder. At the same time, he also wants to restore his dad’s first car — a ’66 Crusader. Both the car restoration and his quest for truth help Bruce to realize the truth about Alfred and to make his first friends, Mateo and Selina. Bruce undergoes quite a character arc with a lot of growth in this book, from impulsive and angry to focused and collaborative.
Artemis Fowl The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin (series)
Also available as a full-text novel, this series is about an anti-hero evil genius kid named Artemis. He plots to steal the fairies’ gold which leads him to kidnap a fairy cop and hold her for ransom. Very entertaining.
Green Lantern Legacy by Minh Le, illustrated by Angie Tong (series)
Tai’s Vietnamese grandmother gives him her Jade ring. He wears it and discovers that he’s a Green Lantern who must protect the earth from evil like Sinesteo. Not long after, he discovers that the rich guy trying to take over the neighborhood for redevelopment turns out to be a Yellow Lantern working for Sinesteo. Lots of action, intrigue, and humor!
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale (series)
Boy readers especially like this series much more than I do with its sarcastic tone and the violence. No doubt, these introduce kids to history and can motivate kids to read so those are good things which might outweigh the violence for some. This particular story takes place during the American Civil War focusing on the ironclad steam warships with the battles, other military aspects of the war, and real people like William Cushing.
The Boy Who Became a Dragon: A Bruce Lee Story by Jim Di Bartolo
From his birth in San Francisco to life in Hong Kong during and after the Japanese occupation and move back to the U.S., you’ll learn that Bruce Lee was a troubled kid but also worked as an actor like his father. He experienced racism for having mixed-race heritage so Bruce left his home in Hong Kong for the U.S. where he’s more settled with several martial artist studios. He falls in love and becomes a movie star.
The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw by Mark Crilley
A boy named David asks a young woman named Becky to give him drawing lessons. She reluctantly agrees and she continues (reluctantly) to give him lessons on shadowing, loose sketching, negative space, proportions, and more. The Drawing Lesson is a marvelous graphic novel that both entertains and teaches.
Escape at 1,000 Feet by Tom Sullivan
This nonfiction graphic novel story with comic panels, documents, photos, and sidebars with facts recounts D.B. Cooper’s infamous plane hijacking from 1971–-a feat in which he escaped with $200,000 dollars and mysteriously dropped off the face of the earth.
Big Hero 6 #1: The Series by Hong Gyun An (series)
Hiro’s new life as both a college student and superhero with his friends Baymax, Go Go, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred is complicated. As superheroes, they’re trying to defeat a mother/daughter villain team called High Voltage. But at school, Hiro is assigned a mentor who hates him named Karmi, a student who was previously the youngest there until Hiro. And his schoolwork challenges seem overwhelming. Hiro learns from Baymax how his older brother also failed but continued to persevere. Adventurous and fun to read!