You never know what new middle grade releases will come out when– and which are good enough to share with you all. This batch of graphic novels happens to feature girl main characters. Why? I don’t know but I know many of your kids will love to read these new titles!
In addition to these five novels with female protagonists, keep reading to discover additional favorite graphic novels with female heroines. You’ll read about imperfect heroes who find their strength, who grow and learn, and who will stick with you long after you close the book’s last page.
These book choices are recommended for 9- to 12-year-olds.
Graphic Novels with Girl Main Characters
Ride On by Faith Erin Hicks
Norrie loves horses and the low-key stables where she works and rides. But when the new girl, Victoria, rejects Norrie’s offer of friendship, Norrie feels many strong feelings. We learn that Victoria had a bad experience with her previous friends and decides that no friends equals no drama. Their mutual friend Sam help connect Norrie and Victoria with a shared interest, and they find forgiveness and friendship. It’s a beautifully knit-together, relatable story of friendship, horses, being yourself, and growing in confidence.
Growing Pangs by Kathryn Ormsbee, illustrated by Molly Brooks
Katie’s homeschooled and has crooked teeth and red hair, but she knows that doesn’t matter because she has a best friend forever named Kacey. But when they start camp and Katie makes a new friend, Kacey gets jealous. But what’s even harder for Katie are the buzzing thoughts that tell her to do repetitive things, which are getting worse. During the school year, Katie and Kacey’s friendship deteriorates as Katie continues to make new friends and try new things like theater. Eventually, Katie tells her parents about the buzzing, and they get her help for what she learns are obsessive-compulsive thoughts. I love this story– the author (and illustrator) skillfully show realistic friendship changes and the challenges of a mental health issue.
Living with Viola by Rosena Fung
Smaller Sister by Maggie Edkins Willis
Fibbed by Elizabeth Agyemang
Everyone accuses Nana of lying and, as a result, she’s sent to visit relatives in Ghana. There, she not only hears her grandmother’s stories about Anase but she also meets the trickster spider and father of stories who can relate to not being believed for his stories. When her disbelieving cousins realize that Nana’s stories have been true all along, they join Nana and Anase to expose a bad company destroying the protected forest. Magic, folktales, advocacy, African culture, and the power of stories, this is a unique, beautifully illustrated graphic novel adventure.
More Middle-Grade Graphic Novels with Girl Main Characters
Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Stephanie Yue
Katie desperately wants to join her friends at their summer camp to earn money, she gets a job for her neighbor Madeline catsitting 217 super-smart cats with destructive behaviors and powerful abilities. Then she discovers that her neighbor might be the supervillain, Moustress. Then, when the Moustress gets captured, Katie decides she and the cats must save their friend.
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
My 10-year-old found this book SO RELATABLE — just like she struggles with confidence and speaking up, so does the main character, Peppi. This well-done graphic novel tackles the issues of friendships and confidence, among other things. (So glad I’m not in middle school anymore.) We highly recommend this graphic novel.
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
6th grade is hard enough for Raina but it’s even worse with braces, headgear, and friend troubles. My 10-year-old daughter loves this series that starts with Smile. She read Sisters four times the first week she owned it — they’re all excellent books and quite addictive. ALSO READ: Drama, Sisters
Aquanaut by Dan Santat
Wildly imaginative and totally enthralling, this is a heartfelt story of family, legacy, and protecting animals. When a lumbering “aquanaut” controlled by sea creatures stumbles into the Aqualand theme park, Sophia and the creatures uncover a nefarious plot by greedy investors. To save the park’s creatures, Sophia and the Aquanaut release them back into the wild. But will her uncle see the truth about his investors and about his brother’s last wishes?
Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter
A well-done middle-grade graphic novel about a child with allergies! Maggie is devastated that she’s allergic to the puppy she’s finally allowed to get. But, she befriends a new girl next door who becomes a fun, safe solace in her life…until that friend gets a puppy which Maggie interprets this her new friend not wanting to be friends anymore. Meanwhile, the story shows the process of allergy testing and regular allergy shots. Eventually, the two friends work out a solution for hanging out that won’t be a problem for Maggie’s allergies. The story ends with Maggie helping with her new baby sister and feeling like she doesn’t need an animal pet anymore.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Roller Girl shows the struggles of friendship and finding your place in the world as Astrid works hard to become a better roller derby skater, reconcile that her best friendship has ended, and develop a new one. (I recommend going to a roller derby event with your kids to help them know more about this cool sport for girls — it’s such a blast and would be helpful for reading this book.)
The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner
The other kids bully Moth when she dresses up as a witch for Halloween prompting a reaction that can only be MAGIC! Her mom reluctantly reveals to Moth that her family of witches gets their powers around age 13. Even though Moth wants to learn more, her mom won’t teach her. She’s helped by a talking cat and her mom’s magical diary yet it’s not until she learns more about her grandmother and the family legacy that she understands her powers. Growing up is never easy — but it’s a lot trickier when you get magic that you can’t control.
Primer by Jennifer Muro and Thomas Krajewski, illustrated by Gretel Lusky
16-year-old Ashley hopes her latest foster home will be a fit — they’re funny, quirky, and really accepting. Then, Ashley finds very special lab-created body paints in her foster mom’s closet and quickly learns that when applied to her body, they give her superpowers, different powers for each color; powers like fire, flying, and strength. Meanwhile, her not-very-nice incarcerated dad is giving her trouble and the government lab and military will stop at nothing to find the missing paints. Fast-paced, exciting, and perfect for readers who love underdogs, girl power, friendship, creativity, superheroes, and art!
Twins by Varian Johnson, illustrated by Shannon Wright
This year in sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran and wants to do different things than her twin Maureen. Maureen doesn’t understand but at least she has her other friends, right? Then, Fran decides to run for school president and so does Maureen. Will their relationship ever be the same? This book takes readers inside the world of twins, middle school, and changing friendships.
5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun
Gorgeous artwork sets the tone for an otherworldly story of five worlds that are falling into chaos. When one world attacks another, Oona Lee, a sand dancer, rescues two boys and they journey on a mission to light the unlit Beacons in order to save the worlds. But, they face a dark force and a devastating betrayal. One of our favorite sci-fi graphic novel book series!
All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson
Growing up, Imogene (aka. Impy) always loved her family’s part in the Renaissance Faire . . . that is, until middle school. Even though she gets her dream to work in the faire as a squire, she also just wants to be like the other girls at her school, too. Her journey is painful and honest as she figures out who she wants to be. It’s narrated as a hero’s journey which, with the faire background and middle school drama, feels perfect.
Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks
Sanity and Tallulah are two good friends who live on a space station. Sanity is a brilliant inventor — but her newest (illegal) creation, a three-headed kitten named Princess Destroyer of Worlds has escaped and is living up to her name — Destroyer. The friends look for their missing kitten but instead discover a big problem that will destroy the space station. While the station is evacuated, the friends work hard to stop the duct weasels and the engine from overheating. I love the space station setting, the super-smart problem-solving main characters, and the non-stop action.
Cub by Cynthia L. Copeland
In this historical memoir, Cynthia Copeland shares the time in her life when she got to be a “cub” reporter –when middle school was composed of predators and prey (she was prey), and she discovers her strength. While a mentor reporter helps Cynthia become interested in local and national politics and events like equal rights for women and Watergate, we also see Cynthia going “steady” with a boy and making new friends when her best friend dumped her. Wise, relatable, and thoroughly enjoyable to read, I loved this life snapshot of a girl coming into her own. (*Sensitive readers, this book includes the word cr*p.)
The Baby-Sitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin, illustrated by Raina Telemeter
This classic chapter book series is now retold in cartoons! Four best friends work together to handle all sorts of issues — from babysitting to emergencies, to competition from other babysitters. Your kids will love these excellent, addictive stories. ALSO READ: (The Truth About Stacey #2, Mary Ann Saves the Day #3)
The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks with Jordie Bellaire
The first book in an Asian-influenced series about an occupied city, we meet two kids from different clans and backgrounds who become unlikely friends. Kaidu is a Dao and new to the Nameless City where he’s studying to be a soldier. Rat is a street girl who teaches Kaidu how to survive in the city. Together they save the city’s leader from an assassination plot. The action and characters are compelling.
Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola, illustrated by Emily Carroll
Courageous and adventurous Masha knows Baba Yaga from her grandmother’s stories. After her grandmother dies, and her father remarries, Masha decides to become Baba Yaga’s assistant. To pass Baba Yaga’s tests, Masha uses her wits and the stories from her grandmother. She thinks she will fail when she rescues three children from Baba Yaga’s cage but she passes. Excellent storytelling and illustrations kept me totally enthralled in this not-your-average-fairy tale story.
Anti/Hero by Kate Karyus Quinn & Demitria Lunetta, illustrated by Maca Gil
Piper and Sloan are girls who are opposite in almost every way– super-strong Piper is a superhero and genius Sloane is a villain. But when Piper catches Sloane with a stolen device, it switches them into each other’s bodies. Besides developing empathy for each other’s lives and struggles, it’s really tricky for them to pretend to be the other person. Not to mention, Sloane’s evil grandfather, the Bear, has kidnapped her mom when Sloane didn’t deliver the stolen device to him. The girls work together to stop the Bear and switch back into their correct bodies. It’s an AWESOME story with an empowering message of empathy and friendship.
Kyle’s Little Sister by BonHyung Jeong
Grace constantly lives in her brother’s shadow, only having two friends who like her for her. But when the trio gets into a big fight, will their friendship be able to survive? And when will everybody stop comparing her to Kyle!?
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
Sunny’s summer vacation is spending time with her grandfather at his retirement home. (Not exactly her idea of fun.) Luckily, she meets the caretaker’s son, Buzz, and as their friendship and love of comic books develop, she also starts to deal with the real reason she’s there — her brother’s drug use. Well-written with an enjoyable narrative.
Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence
Not fitting in and finding your place in the world never was so out of this world! Avani hates her new school and the girls in her Flower Scouts troop who talk about makeup and boys. When she’s accidentally abducted by a friendly alien named Mabel, Avani joins Mabel’s Star Scout troop– a more crazy and adventurous group than her human troop, just like she wants. It’s always important to find your tribe of friends, even if they’re aliens. This is a fantastic romp through space with stunning illustrations. (And also endorsed by my 12-year-old daughter!)
Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz
Perfect for anyone who loves a good mystery story with themes of friendship and helping others. Unlikely friends, Jamily and Shirley aka. Bones join forces so they’ll be able to do what they want over the summer. Bones is observant and smart and while Jamila plays basketball, kids come to Bones with their mysteries. Jamila wants to be part of Bones’ crime-solving and together they investigate a stolen gecko at the swimming pool, finding that misunderstanding and jealousy can turn into understanding and friendship.