List Coordinator: Nic Willcox

Smile, a memoir of Raina Telgemeier’s sixth-grade year and its dental drama, was an instant classic when it was first published in 2010. Readers who love it will likely also devour the Telgemeier’s other colorful, relatable works such as Drama, Sisters, and Ghosts. When they’re done with those, try giving them some of the titles from the following list.

Amelia Rules, vol. 1: The Whole World’s Crazy

Written and drawn Jimmy Gownley
ISBN: 9781416986041
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009

Elevator pitch: Nine-year-old Amelia’s life is going through some changes: her parents just got divorced, she’s moving from New York City to a small town, and, worst of all, she has to start at a new school. However, she makes some new friends and before long you’ll be laughing along as Amelia and her pals tackle the Gym Class System, the dreaded Sneeze Barf, and more.

Why this next: Gownley does a great job of portraying both the laughter and pain of the middle grade years, much like Telgemeier does in Smile and Sisters.

(Contributed by Kristen Lawson)


Written and drawn by Svetlana Chmakova
ISBN: 9780316381307
Published by Yen Press, 2015

Elevator pitch: On her first day at a new school, Peppi finds herself in an embarrassing situation only to inadvertently push away Jaime, the boy who attempts to help her. A few months later, Peppi has found a comfortable place in the school’s art club, but she is still trying to find the courage to apologize to Jaime—which is made more difficult by the art club’s feud with the science club, to which Jaime belongs.

Why this next: Like Smile, Awkward is a story about real tweens navigating the sometimes funny, sometimes uncomfortable world of adolescence. The artwork is appealing, and features diverse characters of all body types.

(Contributed by Jessikah)

The Dumbest Idea Ever!

Written and drawn by Jimmy Gownley
ISBN: 9780545453479
Published by Graphix, 2014

Elevator pitch: When a bad case of the chicken pox prevented 13-year-old Jimmy from entering his championship basketball game, he discovered some new hobbies.

Why this next: Stories about the author’s own trials, tribulations, and throes of his young adolescence—zits and all—will appeal to fans of Telgemeier’s works.

(Contributed by Amy Estersohn)

El Deafo

Written and drawn by Cece Bell
ISBN: 9781419710209
Published by Harry N. Abrams, 2014

Elevator pitch: Cece has lost most of her hearing, and when it’s time to transfer to a new school, she’s really nervous. Will being different prevent her from making any friends?

Why this next: The terrible dental apparatuses in Smile and Cece’s Phonic Ear both set the protagonists apart at school, but both manage to adjust to life even though they are a little bit different from their peers.

(Contributed by Kristen Lawson)

Hereville, vol. 1: How Mirka Got Her Sword

Written and drawn by Barry Deutsch
ISBN: 9781419706196
Published by Amulet Books, 2012

Elevator pitch: Mirka Herschberg lives with her sister and stepmother, who both have all kinds of advice about what to do with her life, but she really wants a sword and a dragon to battle. She will have to make do with the local witch, giant pig, and sword-owning troll, but are they any match for a bold eleven-year-old girl?

Why this next: Preteen frustration in a Jewish Orthodox community meets fantasy adventure in this middle-grade series that will have fans demanding the next book as they finish each one.

(Contributed by Thomas M)

Roller Girl

Written and drawn by Victoria Jamieson
ISBN: 9780803740167
Published by Dial Books, 2015

Elevator pitch: Astrid and Nicole have been inseparable their entire lives, but when Astrid decides to join a roller derby camp instead of ballet in the summer, their plans and friendship hits a snag. A few months of derby hijinks, new friends, and dyed hair ensue as Astrid tries to navigate those tricky months between elementary and junior high.

Why this next: If you liked Smile for the themes about the difficulty of growing up and changing friendships, then this should be your next read. Roller Girl also gives a fun inside look at the world of Roller Derby.

(Contributed by Danielle Boyd)

Sunny Side Up

Written by Jennifer L. Holm
Art by Matthew Holm
ISBN: 9780545741668
Published by Graphix, 2015

Elevator pitch: Sunny is a sweet girl who isn’t quite sure why she has been shipped off to spend her summer vacation with her grandfather in Florida. All she knows is that it has something to do with her brother and no one will talk about it. But how bad can Florida be— Disney World is there, right?

Why this next: People who were fans of the family aspects of Smile as well as the pains of growing up will find a lot to love in Sunny Side Up. It also has some great humor involving alligators, missing cats, old people, and toilet paper.

(Contributed by Danielle Boyd)

Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary

Written by Keshni Kashyap
Art by  Mari Araki
ISBN: 9780618945191
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012

Elevator pitch: As an assignment for her honors English class, Tina keeps an “existential diary” about her life as a gifted high school sophomore. She has humorous insights about being friend-dumped by her former best friend, getting kissed on the mouth by a skater boy, and family drama.

Why this next: Like Smile, this is a realistic, funny story about a girl’s school and family life. As with Tomboy [see below], the content is a bit more mature than Smile and it might not be appropriate for Smile’s youngest readers, but high schoolers who grew up with Smile should enjoy it.

(Contributed by Renata Sancken)


Written and drawn by Liz Prince
ISBN: 9781936976553
Published by Zest Books, 2014

Elevator pitch: In this funny graphic memoir, Liz Prince reflects back on an awkward childhood, where she didn’t quite fit in with other girls OR other boys.

Why this next: Tomboy is similar to Smile in that it humorously draws on the author’s real childhood experiences. The content is a bit more mature than Smile and it might not be appropriate for Smile’s youngest readers, but high schoolers who grew up with Smile will enjoy it.

(Contributed by Renata Sancken)


Written by Sharon Emerson
Art by Renée Kurilla
ISBN: 9781416995258
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010

Elevator pitch: Five middle schoolers form a rock band and start to get popular. However, when one of the band members suffers a tragedy, the others have to decide whether they’re going to rally together or crack under the pressure.

Why this next: This realistic story has a nice blend of humor and heart, and the artwork is fairly similar to Telgemeier’s.

(Contributed by Kristen Lawson)

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries


    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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