best graphic novels for kids

Best Books For Teens Who Read 2 to 3 Grades Below

Books for Teens Who Read Below Grade Level

I received this tweet from Mama C and the Boys who are dear to me though social media. I love her blog on transracial parenting and though it, I feel like I know her boys. Her blog inspires me to be a better mom. She asked me via Twitter for a list geared to 12-15 year olds reading 2-3 grade levels below. I racked my brain for chapter books, graphic novels and non fiction for 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grade that is especially engaging.This list is a mix of middle grade that skews up (ages 9-12) and YA that skews down (young adult, ages 12-18).Let me know how I did and please make suggestions to grow this list. Thank you!p.s. I found a great list of books for boys from The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance.

@pragmaticmom would love a list geared to 12-15 year olds reading 2-3 grade levels below… Just saying!!

I am not a literacy specialist but when I think of teens who read two or three grades below, a few things come to mind:

  • There is not much difference between the decoding skills of my 10-year-old or my 12-year-old so the differentiation is in comprehension, content and format. My younger child gets confused by plots with flashbacks or too many characters.
  • These kids are probably reading two or three grades below because they don’t like to read. High interest books that will draw them in are key.
  • It’s also possible that these kids read and decode just fine but don’t enjoy the act of reading. Let’s try some different formats like graphic novels and magazines. 

Best Books for Boy Readers, Reluctant or Otherwise: Part 2 (Authors by Last Name M-Z) 

Best Books for Boy Readers, Reluctant or Otherwise: Part 3 (Non-Fiction)

These lists also have some good choices:

Best Chapter Book Series by My 6th Grader Because They Are So Awesome

Top 100 YA Books


Young Adult and Middle Grade Books For Tweens Who Read 2-3 Grades Below

A Twitter follower suggested the Orca Currents Series for Teens who read several grades below and I tried it on my Teen Reluctant Reader friend in Hawaii. It worked beautifully! He loved them and would read them happily. I liked how the books are very small, and short but with high interest topics. In his case, he loved skateboarding. There were a few with this theme that also combines Middle School socialization issues. It’s a winning combination!

Maximum Ride series by James Patterson

In James Patterson’s blockbuster series, fourteen-year-old Maximum Ride, better known as Max, knows what it’s like to soar above the world. She and all the members of the “flock”–Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman and Angel–are just like ordinary kids–only they have wings and can fly. It may seem like a dream come true to some, but their lives can morph into a living nightmare at any time…like when Angel, the youngest member of the flock, is kidnapped and taken back to the “School” where she and the others were experimented on by a crew of wack jobs. Her friends brave a journey to blazing hot Death Valley, CA, to save Angel, but soon enough, they find themselves in yet another nightmare–this one involving fighting off the half-human, half-wolf “Erasers” in New York City. Whether in the treetops of Central Park or in the bowels of the Manhattan subway system, Max and her adopted family take the ride of their lives. Along the way Max discovers from her old friend and father-figure Jeb–now her betrayed and greatest enemy–that her purpose is save the world–but can she?

This series has very short chapters with non-stop sci-fi action. The plot revolves around a small group of genetically mutated kids who can fly due to bird like bodies that include light bones and wings. It’s the extremely fast paced plot twists that will keep readers wanting more. The lead character is a girl but I found that boys are equally interested in this series as boys.

How to Rock Glasses and Braces by Meg Haston

Super-stylish and über-harsh, Kacey Simon is the social dictator of Marquette Middle School. But when an eye infection and a visit to the dentist leave her with Coke-bottle glasses, a mouth full of metal, and…a littthp, Kacey is dismissed by her popular friends, falling so far down the social ladder she can barely see the top, even with her magnifying specs.

With nowhere else to turn, Kacey has to hang with her nerdy neighbor and a boy who walks to beat of his own drum, but she’s determined to reclaim her throne. Will she climb back to the top? Or will she discover that hitting rock bottom kind of…rocks?

A queen bee girl bully turns nerdy and finds out what it’s like to be on the outside. Can she make it back into the cool crowd?

Worst Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure series by Hena Khan (Author), David Borgenicht (Author), Yancey Labat (Illustrator), Ed Stafford (Contributor)

A new thrill ride begins in the Amazon rainforest with the latest novel in the Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure series! Join an expedition of students exploring the Amazon jungle and face real dangers and decisions. Your choices will determine your fate. Will you survive your encounters with piranhas, tarantulas, mosquitoes, monkeys, and jaguars? Or will you be forced to return home early? Only you can decide how to survive. There are twenty-two possible endings to this adventure, but only ONE leads to ultimate success! Featuring dynamic comic book–style illustrations, and based on real, true-life facts about the Amazon, this story will be a surefire hit with anyone craving a fun, highly visual reading experience.

The reader gets to decide how the story will go down by making decisions along every step of the adventure with a choice of two possibilities. There is a fact guide at the back of each book that gives you realistic information on surviving this scenario. It has all the elements to engage a reader including interactivity, facts to learn something useful, characters of all ages and ethnicities to relate to, and an exciting adventure. I’m glad that this is a series!

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls) by Ally Carter

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school—that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class.  The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it’s really a school for spies. 
Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl.  Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real “pavement artist”—but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her? Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she’s on her most dangerous mission—falling in love.

Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume

Faced with the difficulties of growing up and choosing a religion, a twelve-year-old girl talks over her problems with her own private God.

Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life series by James Patterson

It’s Rafe Khatchadorian’s first day at Hills Village Middle School, and it’s shaping up to be the worst year ever. He has enough problems at home without throwing his first year of middle school into the mix, but luckily he’s got an ace plan for the best year ever–if only he can pull it off. With his best friend Leonardo the Silent awarding him points, Rafe tries to break every rule in his school’s oppressive Code of Conduct. Chewing gum in class–5,000 points! Running in the hallway–10,000 points! Pulling the fire alarm–50,000 points!

But not everyone thinks Rafe’s plan is a good idea, especially not the teachers, parents, and bullies who keep getting in his way. Will Rafe decide that winning is the only thing that matters? Are things about to go from magic to tragic? Find out in this hilarious–and heartwarming–#1 New York Times bestselling hit! Includes over 100 illustrations.

If your child liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid series then this is a great series perfect for middle schoolers.

Tales of a 6th Grade Muppet by Kirk Scroggs

On a scale of one to ten, sixth-grader Danvers Blickensderfer’s life is a solid minus two. But he really hits rock bottom when he auditions for the local talent show: his death-defying hula-hooping-ninja tribute to Gonzo the Great is beat out by the world’s most obnoxious middle school boy band, Emo Shun. 

With his daredevil dreams dashed, Danvers goes to bed… and wakes up feeling a little fuzzy-literally! He’s turned into a Muppet! 

Fortunately, there’s an internship open at the Muppet Theater and Danvers has a chance to meet his long-nosed, stunt-lovin’ hero! All aboard The Electric Mayhem bus as this misfit makes good and joins the zaniest crew ever: The Muppets!

This is another spawn of Diary of a Wimpy Kid that is perfect for 12-year-olds who want graphics to break up text.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there’s still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly. [Graphic Novel]
Covering her many years in braces, Smile also delves in the complications of the middle girl social scene and trading frememies for friends.

Drama by Raina Telmeiger
Raina Telgemeier, the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of the Eisner Award winner, SMILE, brings us her next full-color graphic novel . . . DRAMA!Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she’s a terrible singer. Instead she’s the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen, and when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier! Following the success of SMILE, Raina Telgemeier brings us another graphic novel featuring a diverse set of characters that humorously explores friendship, crushes, and all-around drama!

The True Story: The Lost Trail, Nine Days Alone in the Wilderness by Donn Fendler with Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Ben Bishop

Donn Fendler’s harrowing story of being lost in the Maine wilderness when he was just twelve, was made famous by the perennial best-seller, Lost on a Mountain in Maine. In Lost Trail, more than 70 years after the event, Donn tells the story of survival and rescue from his own perspective. Lost Trail is a masterfully illustrated graphic novel that tells the story of a twelve year old boyscout from a New York City suburb who climbs Maine,s mile-high Mt. Katahdin and in a sudden storm is separated from his friends and family. What follows is a nine-day adventure, in which Donn, lost and alone in the Maine wilderness with bugs, bears, and only a few berries to eat, struggles for survival.

The perfect realistic (because it’s a true story!) graphic novel for boys who liked The Hatchet or My Side of the Mountain. This is a perfect book for anyone who has been to Newport, Maine. Bonus points for knowing where Sebasticook Lake is. Donn, as a 12-year-old boy scout, spent nine days alone in the wilderness, struggling to survive with no supplies or weapons.

The Amazing Adventures of Nate Banks by Jake Bell

Sixth grader Nate Banks, who’s obsessed with comic books, leads a normal life until he discovers his history teacher may be a superhero.

As the three-time winner of the Ultimate Comic Book Trivia Championship of Knowledge, Nate Banks has always been the sixth grade’s biggest comic book expert. But when a mysterious new superhero shows up in town, not even Nate knows who she really is. And when he sets out to discover Ultraviolet’s secret identity, all of the clues seem to lead Nate to the least likely suspect-his uptight history teacher, Ms. Matthews! Could she really be moonlighting as a super-powered crime fighter? It’s up to Nate to find out!

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri

Eleven-year old Roger is trying to make sense of his classmate Robert “Yummy” Sandifer’s death, but first he has to make sense of Yummy’s life. Yummy could be as tough as a pit bull sometimes. Other times he was as sweet as the sugary treats he loved to eat. Was Yummy some sort of monster, or just another kid? As Roger searches for the truth, he finds more and more questions. How did Yummy end up in so much trouble? Did he really kill someone? And why do all the answers seem to lead back to a gang-the same gang to which Roger’s older brother belongs? Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty is a compelling graphic dramatization based on events that occurred in Chicago in 1994. This gritty exploration of youth gang life will force readers to question their own understandings of good and bad, right and wrong.

YUMMY wins a 2012 Street Lit Book Award in a new category created just for it: Emerging Classic. 

Greg Niri’s graphic novel tells the true but brief life story of a young gang member. It’s a gritty story told in a dispassionate way that makes it all the more real.  For those of us who don’t live in an inner city environment, this book expands our horizons and helps us appreciate what those kids deal with every day.

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

A Jane Addams Honor Book

Maine Library Association Lupine Honor Book

Skipping Stones Honor Book

ALA Amelia Bloomer Project Award Book

Bank Street Best Children’s Books List (Starred)

Boston Author’s Club Highly Recommended Book

Association of Children’s Booksellers Best Book

With both a girl protagonist and a male friend, this short multicultural chapter book transport the reader to a small village in Bangladesh where 10-year-old Naima tries to help her ailing father with his rickshaw business only to discover that her talent as an artist might be the key to a better future.

Odyssey 3 Ways

Stickman Odyssey by Christopher Ford

When Zozimos is banished by an evil witch (his stepmother!) from the kingdom of Sticatha-the kingdom he was next in line to rule-he trains at battle (if you call chasing after butterflies training), travels across stormy seas (thanks for that, Poseidon), slays golems and monsters (with a lot of help), charms beautiful women (not really), and somehow (despite his own ineptitude) survives quest after quest. By the love of Zeus, though, none of it brings him any closer to home!

It does, however, make for one quirky, original, giggle-provoking graphic novel sure to appeal to any kid interested in Greek mythology, or merely looking for an entertaining read. [graphic novel]

This is a stickman VERY abbreviated version of The Odyssey but it might spark a deeper interest in Greek Mythology which is also on the 6th grade Common Core Curriculum. There are worse ways to learn about the classics!

The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds

“Gareth Hinds brings THE ODYSSEY to life in a masterful blend of art and storytelling. Vivid and exciting, this graphic novel is a worthy new interpretation of Homer’s epic.”
—Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series

Fresh from his triumphs in the Trojan War, Odysseus, King of Ithaca, wants nothing more than to return home to his family. Instead, he offends the sea god, Poseidon, who dooms him to years of shipwreck and wandering. Battling man-eating monsters, violent storms, and the supernatural seductions of sirens and sorceresses, Odysseus will need all his strength and cunning—and a little help from Mount Olympus—to make his way home and seize his kingdom from the schemers who seek to wed his queen and usurp his throne. Award-winning graphic artist Gareth Hinds masterfully reinterprets a story of heroism, adventure, and high action that has been told and retold for more than 2,500 years—though never quite like this. [graphic novel]

Stickman Odyssey makes this graphic novel version look like a serious tome, but it will give readers the real story via graphic novel so it’s still an easy and engaging read.

Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. When his mom tells him the truth about where he came from, she takes him to the one place he’ll be safe—Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island). There, Percy learns that the father he never knew is actually Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon Percy finds himself caught up in a mystery that could lead to disastrous consequences. Together with his friends—a satyr and other the demigod daughter of Athena—Percy sets out on a quest to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

There are now two Percy Jackson series. The first one is strictly Greek Mythology. The second one combines Greek and Roman mythology. Throughout it all is Percy Jackson, ADHD hero and son of Poseidon. Pair up the movie with the first book for a compare and contrast.


Picks from @PamTee

The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The book that launched Sherman Alexie onto the YA market is now available in a deluxe collector’s edition! Beautifully designed with a gifty new look that includes a foil-stamped, die-cut slipcase and 4-color interior art, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike.

In his nationally acclaimed, semi-autobiographical YA debut, author Sherman Alexie tells the heartbreaking, hilarious, and beautifully written story of a young Native American teen as he attempts to break free from the life he was destined to live.

Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce

Big Nate is going for broke!

Mighty Jefferson Middle School always wins. Then Nate decides it’s time to go from zeroes to heroes! Will Nate crack under the pressure of the “Ultimate Snowdown”? Or lead P.S. 38 to its biggest victory ever?

Gone by Michael Grant

In the blink of an eye.

Everyone disappears.


Everyone except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not a single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Gone, too, are the phones, internet, and television. There is no way to get help.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.

It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen and war is imminent.

The first in a breathtaking saga about teens battling each other and their darkest selves, gone is a page-turning thriller that will make you look at the world in a whole new way.

Warriors series by Erin Hunter

Fire alone can save our Clan…

For generations, four Clans of wild cats have shared the forest according to the laws laid down by the powerful ancestors. But the warrior code is threatened, and the ThunderClan cats are in grave danger. The sinister ShadowClan grows stronger every day. Noble warriors are dying — and some deaths are more mysterious than others.

In the midst of this turmoil appears an ordinary housecat named Rusty . . . Who may yet turn out to be the bravest warrior of them all.

 Star Wars Infinity Series

The first title in a series of non-continuity Star Wars stories shows what happens when Luke Skywalker and the rebels fire on the Death Star and miss their mark. A Graphic Novel. Original.

Picks from @Alicia_Dean_ 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

Greg Heffley is in big trouble. School property has been damaged, and Greg is the prime suspect. But the crazy thing is, he’s innocent. Or at least sort of.

The authorities are closing in, but when a surprise blizzard hits, the Heffley family is trapped indoors. Greg knows that when the snow melts he’s going to have to face the music, but could any punishment be worse than being stuck inside with your family for the holidays?

Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renee Russell

It’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid for girls in this hilarious new novel!

Dork Diaries follows eighth grader Nikki Maxwell as she chronicles through text and sketches her move to a snooty new school; her epic battle with her mom for an iPhone; her enthusiasm for drawing and art; and a love/hate fascination with the new school’s queen bee, a girl named Mackenzie, who becomes Nikki’s rival in a schoolwide art competition. Nikki writes about friendships, crushes, popularity, and family with a unique and fresh voice that still conveys a universal authenticity. Nikki’s sketches throughout her diary add humor and spunk to the book, a surefire hit with tween girl readers.

Ramona series by Beverly Cleary

Ramona is off to kindergarten, and it’s the greatest day of her life. So why is she sitting on the bench while the rest of the students play the game gray duck? Laughs and minor upsets abound in an enormously popular story starring the one and only Ramona Quimby!

Picks from @CourtneyLarking

my 9th grade low readers (boys) loved Pete Hautman‘s Godless.

“Why mess around with Catholicism when you can have your own customized religion?”

Fed up with his parents’ boring old religion, agnostic-going-on-atheist Jason Bock invents a new god — the town’s water tower. He recruits an unlikely group of worshippers: his snail-farming best friend, Shin, cute-as-a-button (whatever that means) Magda Price, and the violent and unpredictable Henry Stagg. As their religion grows, it takes on a life of its own. While Jason struggles to keep the faith pure, Shin obsesses over writing their bible, and the explosive Henry schemes to make the new faith even more exciting — and dangerous.

When the Chutengodians hold their first ceremony high atop the dome of the water tower, things quickly go from merely dangerous to terrifying and deadly. Jason soon realizes that inventing a religion is a lot easier than controlling it, but control it he must, before his creation destroys both his friends and himself.

 Godless is a great book choice. Also Rash by same author.

Rash by Pete Hautman

Consumption of alcohol: Illegal.

Football and other “violent” sports: Illegal.

Ownership of guns, chain saws, and/or large dogs: Illegal.

Body piercings, tattoos: Illegal.

It’s late in the twenty-first century, and the United Safer States of America (USSA) has become a nation obsessed with safety. For Bo Marsten, a teenager who grew up in the USSA, it’s all good. He knows the harsh laws were created to protect the people. But when Bo’s temper flares out of control and he’s sentenced to three years of manual labor, he’s not so down with the law anymore.

Bo’s forced to live and work in a factory in the Canadian tundra. The warden running the place is totally out of his mind, and cares little for his inmates’ safety. Bo will have to decide what’s worse: a society that locks people up for road rage, or a prison where the wrong move could make you polar bear food.

Picks from @OzLady41563

Billy Hooten: Owlboy by Tom Sniegoski

Billy Hooten is a weird kid. He gets beat up a lot, and spends the rest of his time doggedly trying to build a robot. One day, Billy Hooten hears a cry for help coming from the cemetery that borders his backyard. Against his better judgment, he runs toward it. And after that, everything changes for Billy Hooten. Because Billy Hooten, you see, is Owlboy. A quickthinking, goggle-and-feather-wearing superhero who protects the bizarre and monstrous citizens of Monstros City, a city that exists under Billy’s hometown of Bradbury, Massachusetts. But is Billy truly worthy of the moniker Owlboy?

Oh, and add the Billy Hooten, Owlboy series by local author @TomSniegoski to your list! Funny, exciting & a little gross 🙂

Try These Realistic Fiction and Non-Fiction Picks for 8th Grade

The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

A short book with a lot of boy appeal.

Since it was first published in 1987, the story of thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson’s survival following a plane crash has become a modern classic. Stranded in the desolate wilderness, Brian uses his instincts and his hatchet to stay alive for fifty-four harrowing days.

This twentieth-anniversary edition of Hatchet contains a new introduction and sidebar commentary by Gary Paulsen, written especially for this volume. Drew Willis’s detailed pen-and-ink illustrations complement the descriptions in the text and add a new dimension to the book. This handsome edition of the Newbery Honor book will be treasured by Hatchet fans as well as by readers encountering Brian’s unforgettable story for the first time.

I found this list through Twitter from Teacher Vision.

Al Capone Does My Shirts and Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko

  • historical fiction set in a time period recent enough for kids to easily relate to the setting.
  • set in one of the most famous prisons in the world but are appropriate for younger readers.
  • stories that showcase the importance of family, tolerance, and friendship.
  • award-winning novels that read like movie scripts.
Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water. I’m not the only kid who lives here. There’s my sister, Natalie, except she doesn’t count. And there are twenty-three other kids who live on the island because their dads work as guards or cook’s or doctors or electricians for the prison, like my dad does. Plus, there are a ton of murderers, rapists, hit men, con men, stickup men, embezzlers, connivers, burglars, kidnappers and maybe even an innocent man or two, though I doubt it. The convicts we have are the kind other prisons don’t want. I never knew prisons could be picky, but I guess they can. You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. Unless you’re me. I came here because my mother said I had to.

Final Four by Paul Volponi

Four players with one thing in common: the will to win.

Malcolm wants to get to the NBA ASAP. Roko wants to be the pride of his native Croatia. Crispin wants the girl of his dreams. M.J. just wants a chance.

March Madness is in full swing, and there are only four teams left in the NCAA basketball championship. The heavily favored Michigan Spartans and the underdog Troy Trojans meet in the first game in the semifinals, and it’s there that the fates of Malcolm, Roko, Crispin, and M.J. intertwine. As the last moments tick down on the game clock, you’ll learn how each player went from being a kid who loved to shoot hoops to a powerful force in one of the most important games of the year. Which team will leave the Superdome victorious? In the end it will come down to which players have the most skill, the most drive, and the most heart.

You don’t have to play basketball to get sucked into this gritty story of four boys from different backgrounds who are using their skill on the court to chase their dreams. This is a great pick for teens. [Young Adult for ages 12 and up]

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances  O’Roark Dowell

From bestselling author Frances O’Roark Dowell, a “funny and winning” (Kirkus Reviews) tale of one teen’s quest for normalcy—and the much more exciting detours she takes along the way.

Janie Gorman is smart and creative and a little bit funky…but what she really wants to be is normal. Because living on an isolated farm with her modern-hippy parents is decidedly not normal, no matter how delicious the goat cheese. High school gives Janie the chance to prove to her suburban peers that she’s just like them, but before long she realizes normal is completely overrated, and pretty dull.

     If she’s going to learn how to live large (and forget the haters), Janie will have to give up the quest and make room in her life for things from the fringe—like jam band, righteous chocolate, small acts of great bravery, and a boy named Monster.

     Ten Miles Past Normal is a quirky road map for life—and also a reminder that detours are not about missing out, but about finding a new way home. [Young Adult for ages 12 and up]

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

First published by Viking in 1967, The Outsiders immediately resonated with young adults. This groundbreaking novel was like nothing else out there?it was honest and gritty, and was a deeply sympathetic portrayal of Ponyboy, a young man who finds himself on the outside of regular society. Forty years later, with over thirteen million copies sold, the story is as fresh and powerful to teenagers today as it ever was.

That Was Then, This is Now by S. E. Hinton

Companion to The Outsiders, That Was Then, This is Now is S. E. Hinton?s moving portrait of the bond between best friends Bryon and Mark and the tensions that develop between them as they begin to grow up and grow apart. Now, it too is available in this great new package featuring the larger trim size, eye-catching new cover art, and all-new bonus material. And, like The Outsiders, the new edition will also maintain the same pagination as the previous edition?making it ideal for continued classroom use.

The Skateboarding Field Manual by Ryan Stutts
Skateboarding 101: evolution, tricks, etiquette and dealing with the law.

Are You Afraid Yet? The Science Behind Scary Stuff by Stephen James O’Meara
Uncover the scientific truth about the strange and unusual.

Show Me How: 500 Things You Should Know Instructions for Life From the Everyday to the Exotic by Derek Fagerstrom and Lauren Smith
Fighting a shark, getting out of car in a mini skirt – it’s all here.


Sports Illustrated for Kids

National Geographic Kids

Teen Vogue


Boys Life

Girls Life

best graphic novels for kids

To view any book at Amazon, please click on image of book.

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. vanita

    This is an excellent list girl. I absolutely love Percy Jackson. I would definitely suggest it if your kids is just not “felling” reading. It’s a great book to get them excited. I can absolutely see oldest teen enjoying Maximum Ride, i just keep forgetting to tell her…
    vanita recently posted…Growing Dreams Into RealityMy Profile

  2. Great recs! I actually got ‘How To Rock Glasses & Braces’ for my daughter’ ‘Smile’ is on request at the library. The books assigned for summer reading by the school did not seem interesting at all! Both girls love the Wimpy Kid/Middle School/Big Nate books as well (especially my 8.5 year old). I’d like to add a book that I thought was really, really good (I read it before the kids did): Tangerine by Edward Bloor. I think boys will especially enjoy this one!

    Thanks for all the great lists!

    • Hi Monise,
      Thanks so much for your book rec. I will add it to the list. Let me know what your daughter thought of How to Rock Glasses and Braces. My kids and friends gave it rave reviews. Also Smile has been kid approved by every kid I know … and we just did it for a 4th grade book club. I haven’t seen the TV show for How to Rock but I’m sure that might help the book get some press.

      My 12 year old also loves the series If I Told You I Loved You, I’d Have to Kill You … it’s a fun series about a girl spy at a special spy school who has to keep her secret identity. 4 books so far, I think, in that series. Her 6th grade friends all love it and exchange the books.

  3. Ann

    Great post idea!

    Looks like there is no shortage of reading ideas to engage. One other thing came to mind for me as a dyslexic person – mature enough content for the child’s age with less big words and more pictures – I would think Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the other graphic novels you picked are perfect!

    Several here interest me – like the Hatchet!
    Ann recently posted…Mother Rabbit’s LatestMy Profile

    • Hi Ann,
      That’s a great point. The word to image ratio is so important for kids who have dyslexia or who find too many words (or the font too small, or the leading too tight) as to make the book intimidating. Another strategy: use an eReader! You can adjust font size and leading easily and that helps for dyslexia and it’s a relatively easy fix with the new Nook, Color Nook, Kindle and other eReaders. We didn’t have that option growing up!

  4. Ann

    Great point about ereader!
    Ann recently posted…Klutz Activity Book Giveaway!My Profile

    • Hi Ann,
      It’s nice that the new technology can really help kids with dyslexia or just kids who need bigger font size and leading spacing to make reading less intimidating. They’re not so expensive either!

  5. Love this list–and really appreciate the link back too! I have shared this with a few teachers, and will continue to get it out there.
    Mama C and the Boys/ Catherine recently posted…Significant males in our lives dayMy Profile

  6. Audrey Ryanes

    That is a great list. I will make sure that I get some of those books for my kids. The ereader idea is totally awesome.
    Audrey Ryanes recently posted…http://www.kimkardashiantapenews.comMy Profile

    • Hi Audrey,
      Thanks so much. I just read Yummy, a graphic novel about an inner city street gang member that I will add to the list. Please let me know which books your kids like and I’ll add to the list too!

  7. leo

    nice post,good point about the reader


    • Hi Leo,
      Yes, I’m really excited about eReaders as a way to get kids who need bigger font or more spacing between lines to read. And they are not that expensive! Ah, the advantages of new technology these days!

  8. Great list of great books. I’m a little concerned that I would consider many of these books to be “challenging” books rather than books suited to struggling readers. It’s not enough that books be “action packed” or “high interest” for reluctant or struggling readers. Many readers would be overwhelmed by the prospect of reading a Percy Jackson book. While it’s ideal to gradually entice reluctant/struggling readers to challenge themselves some will need to start a little smaller. For this group I would recommend hi/lo books. Orca Books publishes an excellent range of books for struggling high school readers called SOUNDINGS. They also have a series for middle grade readers called CURRENTS, a series of sports based mysteries and an upcoming series about young performers. Lorimer Books has similar series – one on sports and one on high interest topical themes for teenagers. (Full disclosure – I write for both these publishers!)

    • Hi Gabrielle,
      I have heard that the Orca books are great for struggling readers. Thank you also to the Orca folks who offered some to me. I need to check out your catalog and put in a request. It’s great that there are books targeted specifically to reluctant boy readers with high interest and low difficulty.

      The books on the list that seem overwhelming are, I think, meant for struggling readers on the older side. I also think that struggling readers benefit when the books are read aloud to them OR they hear them as a book on tape. Percy Jackson type of books are perfect for that because 1) they support middle grade curriculum (we have a mythology unit), 2) are widely read by their classmates and thus they can feel included, and 3) have a great action packed storyline (plus movie version!) to draw them in.

      Kids benefit from books being read to them THE SAME as books they read to themselves. Shared reading or just reading aloud to them are strategies I’d recommend for parents with reluctant readers.

  9. Heather Jones

    I would like to second the recommendation of the Orca series. I am a teacher-librarian in a high school but have also been in a grade 7, 8, 9 school as T-L. The Orca series are a great way to get reluctant readers interested in reading. They are about 100 or so pages long, themes that the students are interested in and don’t talk down to them. They are also written by well known authors so if they enjoy an author, they may take out one of their other books that are a more difficult read. The sports series’ books are a bit longer but is a good next step.

    • Hi Heather,
      I’m excited to review two Orca books. I’ve heard LOTs of great things about them. Is there an Orca book with a skateboarding theme? I need one for a reluctant reader friend of mine in 7th grade.

  10. Heather Jones

    There are three books with a skateboarding theme in the Orca books. The high school series – Orca Soundings – has one called “Grind” by Eric Walters (a favourite author); the Orca Currents series that is aimed more at grades 6 – 8 has “Skate Freak” by Lesley Choyce; in the Orca Sports series is “Powerslide” by Jeff Ross. The Orca Sports books are longer in length but still at a lower reading level. The Orca Sports series is proving popular in my school library with grade 9 boys who are weaker readers or lack reading confidence.

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