Book Reviews

3 Backlist Middle Grade Graphic Novels I’ve Read and Loved

In order to address my ever growing backlog, I wanted to make this list of graphic novels I’ve loved and wanted to recommend. Don’t wait on these like I did! Just so you know, the links below are affiliate links!

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen

Garlic feels as though she’s always doing something wrong. At least with her friend Carrot by her side and the kindly Witch Agnes encouraging her, Garlic is happy to just tend her garden, where it’s nice and safe.

But when her village of vegetable folk learns that a bloodthirsty vampire has moved into the nearby castle, they all agree that, in spite of her fear and self-doubt, Garlic is the obvious choice to confront him. And with everyone counting on her, Garlic reluctantly agrees to face the mysterious vampire, hoping she has what it takes.

After all, garlic drives away vampires…right?

Okay I had been seeing Garlic and the Vampire all over my social media for months now. And I finally decided to read it. Me and five million other people, because my library’s hold was forever. But it was so worth it. Get on the library queue now! Immediately I was struck by the illustration style. I am going to always love a story about animate little vegetable people. But even more so, the color palette was incredible warm and the illustrations had the right amount of charm and realism. Garlic and the Vampire is profoundly sweet.

It’s a story about being pushed out of our comfort zone and not judging people by what we think. I am a forever fan of Garlic. Because it’s about not judging the vampire by what we think. About not only being brave, but also being open minded. And all through the lens of vegetables. This one was so precious and I immediately went back to my favorite panels after finishing. I can see why everyone loves this one! Find Garlic and the Vampire on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Indiebound,, & The Book Depository.

The Tryout by Christina Soontornvat & illustrated by Joanna Cacao

When cheerleading tryouts are announced, Christina and her best friend, Megan, literally jump at the chance to join the squad. As two of the only kids of color in the school, they have always yearned to fit in-and the middle school cheerleaders are popular and accepted by everyone. But will the girls survive the terrifying tryouts, with their whole grade watching? And will their friendship withstand the pressures of competition?

(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

The Tryout is a book that not only balances the racism that breaks my heart – especially for middle grade readers – but also the joy in embracing ourselves. In knowing where we come from, celebrating our home, and what makes us different. The Tryout examines this quintessential middle grade experience which I’m not sure we ever grow out of – the pressure to fit in. To try to fit ourselves in a mold of what people want can require a price. A way in which we betray ourselves, the ones we love, and more.

I also loved the biracial representation in The Tryout which is loosely based on the author’s experiences. It’s a story about disappointment and the struggles of growing up. But it’s also about knowing our own history, the people who support us, and to lean into what we love about ourselves. Find The Tryout on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Indiebound,, & The Book Depository.

Freestyle by Gale Galligan

Cory’s dance crew is getting ready for a major competition. It’s the last one before they graduate eighth grade and go their separate ways to high schools all over New York City, so they have to make it count! The group starts to have problems as their crew captain gets increasingly intense about nailing the routine, and things go from bad to worse when Cory’s parents ground him for not taking his grades seriously. He gets stuck with a new tutor, Sunna, who he dismisses as a boring nerd… until he catches her secretly practicing cool yo-yo tricks. Cory wants to learn the art of yo-yo, and as his friendship with Sunna grows, he ends up missing practice and bailing on his crew — and they are not happy about it. With mounting pressure coming from all sides, how is Cory supposed to balance the expectations of his parents, school, dance, and his new friend?

(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

First of all, who doesn’t love the idea of a middle grade break dancing crew? Freestyle is a tender middle grade graphic novel about friendship. What I loved about Freestyle is that it examines when we have our “set” group of friends, but also find new ones. I think this lesson we have to learn as middle graders is huge. It’s when we can become self-concious not only about ourselves, but things we’ve always done. There’s something about sharing our friends and how that feels, which I think is a universal feeling for all of us.

So I loved how Freestyle examines this theme of friendship. Because it can leave us feeling unmoored. In this transitional space, Freestyle fits the gaps in a heart warming way that also addresses the pressure of studying and performance. How we feel – already at that age – that we are only seen for our grades or ‘success’. And what happens when it’s not what we care about. Find Freestyle on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Indiebound,, & The Book Depository.


What’s your favorite backlist middle grade graphic novel to recommend?

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