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Graphic novels exist in the same sphere as picture books: they both use text and illustration to create a cohesive story, and they both require a certain understanding of how visual narratives flow across the page. With the added length in pages, though, graphic novels stand apart as a unique way to show and tell longer, more complex stories to an audience that appreciates visual storytelling as much as textual (ie picture books for older audiences!).

Here are my favorite graphic novels published within the last 10 years for middle schoolers:

American Born Chinese
Written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang

Gene Yang tells the story of three seemingly unrelated characters whose lives and stories come together in an unexpected way. Trust me, the less you know about this book going in, the more you'll be amazed.
The Amulet series
Written and illustrated by Kazu Kibuishi

When their mother is kidnapped, Emily and Navin set out into a world of robots, talking animals, and flying ships to save her. But what Emily and her family has yet to learn is that Emily is a Stonekeeper, a sacred role in a much larger war. And she's essential to the survival of this world. Seven books have published in the series so far.
The Big Bad Fox
Written and illustrated by Benjamin Renner

Through watercolored, comic-style illustrations, this graphic novel tells the tale of a fox who dreams of being the terror of the barnyard, but ends up being Mommy to three baby chicks instead. And of course, there's Wolf, who won't stop hounding Fox about wanting to eat the baby chicks, and the local farm that's been on high-alert ever since Fox stole the chicks. So in the midst of all this hard decisions, what's Fox supposed to do when he finds himself actually caring for the baby chicks?
Bone
Written and illustrated by Jeff Smith

When cousins Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone are run out of their hometown, they mistakenly end up in a mysterious land filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures. Together with Thorn, Gran'ma Ben, and the Great Red Dragon, the three cousins set out on an epic journey that pushes everyone involved to their very limits.
Boxers & Saints
Written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang

In two volumes, Boxers & Saints tells two parallel stories. Readers follow the lives of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant whose village is slowly destroyed by Christian missionaries, and Vibiana, a lost girl who finds herself at home with Christianity. As their lives intersect, they discover who they are and what they truly believe in.
Broxo
Written and illustrated by Zack Giallongo

As the sole survivor of his tribe, Broxo spends his days hunting and hiding from the walking dead that occasionally wander by. When a princess named Zora arrives looking for Broxo's tribe, the two must come together to battle the living dead.
Drama
Written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Callie is a set designer for her drama department's stage crew, and this year she's determined to spend her middle-school-sized theater budget on a set worthy of a Broadway play. But of course, this is middle school, and nothing is ever that easy! Callie knows very little about the intricacies of the drama department, and it doesn't help that two new cute brothers have suddenly joined up.
The Four Points series
Written by Hope Larson and illustrated by Rebecca Mock

It's 1860 in New York City when 12-year-old twins Alexander and Cleopatra's father disappears. So they set out the find him, encountering countless dangers along the way that test the sibling's trust, bond, and faith. And that doesn't even count the pirates and gangs that are hot on their tail. Two books in the series have published so far.
The Nameless City series
Written and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks and colored Jordie Bellaire

Though seemingly from different worlds, Kaidu and Rat find themselves on a journey together to save their city. Warring factions break out and it’s up to Kaidu and Rat to make sure their city doesn’t get lost in the war. Two books in the series have published so far
Pashmina
Written and illustrated by Nidhi Chananir

Priyanka Das has lived her life filled with questions. Who is her father? Why did her mother leave India many years ago? And why won’t she talk about it? Pri thinks she’ll have to live her whole life surrounded by mystery until she discovers a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she puts it in she’s transported straight to India, guides included. But is this truly the India her mother left?
Real Friends
Written by Shannon Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen's #1, and some girls even result to bullying to stay on top. Every day is a roller coaster for Shannon as she learns how hard it is to find her real friends and why it's worth the journey.
Smile and Sisters
Written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

In this autobiographical graphic novel duo, Raina Telgemeier delves into braces, sisters, and the sixth grade. Raina humorously recalls the events in her life through flashbacks, and readers get to know what made Raina who she is today.
Suee and the Shadow
Written by Ginger Ly and illustrated by Molly Park

Suee has always been a loner, and that doesn't change much when she transfers to Outskirts Elementary. Especially given that bullied kids (called Zeroes) end up turning into zombies. But when her shadow suddenly comes alive and forms an evil plan, Suee realizes just how much is at stake in this small, creepy town.
The Sunny series
Written by Jennifer L Holm and illustrated by Matthew Holm

Young Sunny spends a summer with her grandfather as her family attempts to help her older brother find his way again. Summer learns about adapting to new family dynamics and understanding how those around us shape the course of our lives. Two books in the series have published so far.

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