New Summery Graphic Novels for Ages 7-15

July 29, 2021 § 1 Comment

I can hardly keep up with all the graphic novels hitting bookshelves these days, but I’m not complaining, since they continue to make readers out of my kids. (Not convinced they count as real reading? Read what I said here.)

I had initially intended this to be a round-up of new favorites, only I found too many to fit in a single post. So, I’m limiting today’s post to favorite new graphic novels with summer themes. I realize back-to-school season is right around the corner (for some, it’s already here), but in our house, we are in blissful denial. We’ve just wrapped up summer swim team, and my kids are packing their bags for sleepaway camp. We’ve still got time with friends in Maine, time with cousins in Boston, and a family reunion in Rhode Island—fingers and toes and more fingers crossed for good health—and we’re determined to savor these precious days. It seems only right that our reading material should match the view outside. I hope you agree.

(Sadly, this means my Favorite Graphic Novel of the Year so far won’t make the cut, since it’s not set in summer. Those of you on Instagram know what I’m talking about. But the rest of you will have to wait for the ring of the school bell.)

by Remy Lai
Ages 7-10

Perfect for newly independent readers looking for longer graphic novels to sink their teeth into, Pawcasso is 100% adorable. Who wouldn’t be charmed by a shaggy, tan-speckled dog who shops on his own?

It’s summer vacation, and Jo is bored and lonely. Her mom has her hands full with her twin brothers, so Jo is left to her own devices, wandering around her small town. That’s how she happens upon an off-leash dog with a basket and a shopping list in his mouth, making his way in and out of shops. When the dog enters the local bookstore, where a children’s art class is gathered, the kids assume Jo is the dog’s owner—and ask her permission to paint the precocious canine. Jo, excited at the prospect of making friends, doesn’t correct them, and before she knows it, she’s embroiled in a cascading wave of lies that spans days and weeks, until the dog’s real identity brings everything to a crashing halt.

What starts as an innocent omission becomes a complicity that weighs heavily on Jo’s conscience, and we never stop routing for her to come clean. What’s never in question is her love for Pawcasso—and the playfulness and empathy he ignites inside her.

Long Distance
by Whitney Gardner
Ages 9-12

Shhhh, I’m slipping this graphic novel into my daughter’s trunk so she’ll have a fun surprise at sleepaway camp (assuming she changes her underwear enough to discover it). Long Distance is the zaniest graphic novel I’ve ever read, with a twist I’m willing to bet your kiddos will never see coming (I sure didn’t).

When Vega’s two dads force her to move to Seattle (not cool) and then ship her off to a sleepaway camp designed for kids who have trouble making friends (really not cool), she’s determined to wallow in her misery. To be sure, she’s not going to make friends with the other oddball kids at the camp (though she might enjoy stargazing, if she can find the state-of-the-art telescope advertised in the camp brochure).

But then things take a turn for the…really, really strange. It turns out this isn’t your run-of-the-mill sleepaway camp but a cover-up for a…well now, you didn’t really think I was going to finish that sentence, did you? Regardless, Vega is going to have to bond with her campmates and solve this wackiest of mysteries—or risk going down with them.

Shark Summer
by Ira Marcks
Ages 9-13

Goonies meets phantom sharks in this cinematic novel steeped in the folklore of Martha’s Vineyard, perfect for those who like their summer reads equal parts atmospheric, creepy, and rich in the highs and lows of middle-grade friendships. Gayle Briar has just been dealt a crushing blow (literally) to her pitching streak for the local island softball team; she isn’t speaking to her teammates and, to make matters worse, her mother no longer has the cash to open The Black Cat Creamery, the dream that brought them to the Vineyard in the first place. Elijah Jones, aspiring documentary filmmaker, is summering on the island because his dad is reporting on Hollywood invasion’s of the island to film a blockbuster shark movie. Gayle needs money, and Elijah needs his breakout chance, so the two enter a youth film contest hosted by the Hollywood crew. Their subject: a mysterious island girl nicknamed “ghastly Maddie”—or, rather, the dark story she shares with them, about a haunting dating back to the 1800s.

At nearly 300 pages, Shark Summer is an action-packed thrill of a ride that doubles as a postmodernist meditation on storytelling, about what it means to follow a story and what stories are better left untold.

The Way of the Hive: A Honey Bee’s Story
by Jay Hosler
Ages 8-12

I was going to tell you about the latest in the ever-popular Science Comics series—and with Spiders as its topic it’s a timely one for summer (and mandatory reading for my kids, because I’m growing tired of spider hysteria)—but then I read Jay Hosler’s stand-alone The Way of the Hive: A Honey Bee’s Story, and it blew the competition away. This book takes the science comics genre to a new level, packing a staggering amount of science into a compelling narrative arc, with laugh-out-loud humor and philosophical undertones. Say what?

Across five chapters buzzing with bee trivia—much of it imparted through interspecies conversation—we follow a newborn honey bee named Nyuki, who’s inquisitive, impatient, and not entirely sure he’s cut out for life as a honey bee (or, for that matter, death as a honey bee). His crash course becomes our crash course, as he encounters larvae metamorphosis, comb construction, Queen creation, pheromone secretions, hive defense, pollinator seduction, bee dances (“shak[ing] my honey makers”), honey production, and the numerous predators lying in wait outside the hive.

Amidst all the science, Nyuki wins us over with his earnestness, wrestling with questions beyond where to find the next batch of nectar. What kind of bee does he want to be for his short time on earth? And what kind of legacy is worth leaving?

Turtle in Paradise
by Jennifer L. Holm & Savanna Ganucheau, color by Lark Pien
Ages 9-12

Every summer needs some historical fiction, and Turtle in Paradise: The Graphic Novel is absolute perfection. A graphic adaptation of Jennifer L. Holm’s Newberry Honor-winning novel, which was inspired by the author’s great-grandmother, it is stirringly rendered and gorgeously colored, tugging at the heart strings on every page.

It’s summer of 1935, and eleven-year-old Turtle has been sent to live with her mother’s sister in Florida’s Key West, where the rundown houses are largely populated by immigrants from the Bahamas and everyone has funny nicknames. Despite her demure appearance, Turtle suffers no fools, which makes her a perfect match for her ragtag boy cousins and their so-named Diaper Gang. They spend their days carting around neighbors’ babies in a wagon in exchange for candy, scamming free ice cream from Soursop Jimmy, and searching a nearby island for alleged treasure.

If my daughter is any indication, today’s readers will be struck by how free-reign and scrappy these kids are (and did adults really trust their teething babies to these snot-nosed kids?!). But what’s most gratifying is watching Turtle’s hard-won cynicism dissolve, as she finds the family she never knew she needed.

The Girl from the Sea
by Molly Knox Ostertag; color by Maarta Laiho
Ages 12-15

“The love of a selkie is something special. It comes in like a storm from the sea, all sudden and powerful and impossible to predict. And in its wake, things are changed forever.” This infectious, brilliantly colored graphic novel gives new meaning to the phrase “summer fling,” as fifteen-year-old Morgan falls for a mysterious girl who washes up on her island hometown and claims to be part seal.

Morgan had grand plans to make it high school without anyone finding out she likes girls: not her depressed, divorced mom; not her volatile little brother; and not her gossipy group of friends. But Keltie throws Morgan’s neat little boxes into complete chaos, challenging her not to wait a moment longer to be who she was meant to be—and have the summer of her life in the process. But is it possible Keltie has a secret of her own?

Readers might recognize Molly Knox Ostertag from her middle-grade graphic series, The Witch Boy. Now, with The Girl from the Sea, she proves herself equally adept at appealing to the young teen audience.

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All of these books were purchased by me. All opinions are my own. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small kickback from qualifying purchases through the links above, although I prefer we shop local and support our communities when we can. If you’re in the Alexandria area, please consider shopping at the beautiful Old Town Books, where I assist with the kids’ buying!

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