Graphic Novel Book List & Projects for Middle School Students

Each quarter my students choose an outside reading book based on a theme that I have chosen. The first quarter were teacher recommendations, the second quarter was Common Core exemplar texts, and this quarter I have selected graphic novels.  My students will have six weeks to read a text from the list below and then choose to complete one of the projects from a differentiated choice menu.

Thanks to many recommendations by other educators and perusing, here is a list of graphic novels for middle school students:

Journey into Mohawk Country adapted by George O’Connor is the diary of Dutch explorer Harman Van den Bogaert’s 1634 journey among the Mohawk people in what is now northern New York State and Ontario.

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis is the exploration of the life and ideas of philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell and his quest for absolute truth.

T- Minus by Jim Ottaviani is a narrative of the United States’ and Soviet Union’s race to the moon in which the engineers and mathematicians are as much the heros as and astronauts.

Clan Apis (Active Synapse) follows the life of a single bee. In doing so, the reader learns how ecosystems work, why life cycles are important and why the food chain is vital.

Dignifying Science by Jim Ottaviani spotlights several pioneering female scientists. Do you know who Marie Curie, Heddy Lammar, Rosalyn Franklyn are? Read this graphic novel to find out about the numerous women who have made a critical impact on science and our understanding of the world. 

Laika by Nick Abadzis spotlights the Soviet dog who was the first animal to orbit the earth and the female scientist who took care of him. Abadzis gives life to a pivotal moment in modern history, casting light on the hidden moments of deep humanity behind history.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang Chronicles the story of  two young men: Jin Wang and The Monkey King. Jin is the only Chinese-American student at his new school. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he’s in love with an all-American girl. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He’s ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there’s no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other?

Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow  by James Sturm Baseball Hall of Famer Leroy “Satchel” Paige (1905? – 1982) changed the face of the game in a career that spanned five decades.  Much has been written about this larger-than-life pitcher, but when it comes to Paige, fact does not easily separate from fiction.  He made a point of writing his own history…and then re-writing it.  A tall, lanky fireballer, he was arguably the Negro League’s hardest thrower, most entertaining storyteller and greatest gate attraction.

 To Dance, a Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel Dancers are young when they first dream of dance. Siena was six — and her dreams kept skipping and leaping, circling and spinning, from airy runs along a beach near her home in Puerto Rico, to dance class in Boston, to her debut performance on stage with the New York City Ballet.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland.

Cardboard by Doug Tennapel Cam’s father gives him a cardboard box for his birthday and he knows it’s the worst present ever. So, to make the best of a bad situation, they bend the cardboard into a man and to their astonishment, it comes magically to life. But the neighborhood bully, Marcus, warps the powerful cardboard into his own evil creations that threaten to destroy them all!

Brain Camp by Susan Kim is an old fashion scare story about two kids who form a friendship at a camp where strange things are happening among them.

Epileptic by David B is his autobiography about growing up with an epileptic brother. In search of a cure, their parents dragged the family to acupuncturists and magnetic therapists, to mediums and macrobiotic communes. But every new cure ended in disappointment as Jean-Christophe, after brief periods of remission, would only get worse. An honest and horrifying portrait of the disease and of the pain and fear it sowed in the family.

 Level Up by Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham Dennis Ouyang lives in the shadow of his parents’ high expectations. They want him to go to med school and become a doctor. Dennis just wants to play video games—and he might actually be good enough to do it professionally.

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge Paige Turner has just moved to New York with her family, and she’s having some trouble adjusting to the big city. In the pages of her sketchbook, she tries to make sense of her new life, including trying out her secret identity: artist. As she makes friends and starts to explore the city, she slowly brings her secret identity out into the open, a process that is equal parts terrifying and rewarding.

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri In 1994, in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side, a 14-year-old girl named Shavon Dean was killed by a stray bullet during a gang shooting. Her killer, Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, was 11 years old. Neri recounts Yummy’s three days on the run from police (and, eventually, his own gang) through the eyes of Roger, a fictional classmate of Yummy’s. Roger grapples with the unanswerable questions behind Yummy’s situation, with the whys and hows of a failed system, a crime-riddled neighborhood, and a neglected community. How could a smiling boy, who carried a teddy bear and got his nickname from his love of sweets, also be an arsonist, an extortionist, a murderer?

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