Awkward – where the middle grade meets the graphic (novel)

Chmakova_Awkward_HC.jpg-200x300Peppi Torres is the new kid at school, and it’s middle school. No matter how much she plans ahead to survive it all with grace, it seems like things go wrong in a big way. She drops all her stuff and gets lumped in with the school nerd. She gets away from him by being mean, regrets it, doesn’t say anything, and then ends up having him as her science tutor. Oh, the daily humiliation! Oh, the awkwardness of it all!

Awkward is Peppi’s story first, but the characters and situations ring true to anyone who’s had an unpleasant time of it at that age. There’s a boy obsessed with sunspots, a girl focused only on beating the science club at anything, mean kids, and quirky teachers. The story captures those intense moments when you think you know who you want to be, but you just haven’t gotten there yet. It seems like everything is ganging up on you to keep you from getting there. Waiting is not easy. (True for Elephant & Piggie in the Mo Willems’ book of the same name. No less true for a twelve year old.)

Comic books were not considered literature when I was a kid. It didn’t matter; I still loved what I loved — the thrill of getting a new comic book, reading the story, and looking at the weird ads. It was always over too soon. A few things have changed with comics and graphic novels since then, especially the quality of the storylines and the variety of topics. (There might well have been great storylines and huge variety when I was younger, too, but I was mostly a Richie Rich fan. Enough said.)

And there are still people who don’t feel that the work counts as “good” reading. I frequently have parents come in to the library who don’t want their kids to read graphics, because they need to be reading “real” books. Really? Not even for fun? With video games, Netflix, and distracting apps, you’d think people would be happy to have kids read anything. Have they even picked up a graphic novel in the last ten years?

I think they’re just assuming they know what graphic novels are all about. And they’d mostly be wrong. Graphic novels might not be for everyone – some people just don’t really like the visuals along with the text – but there is such variety and such good stuff that it seems nuts to take away the option from any young readers. Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward fits right in there with the best of them.

Some other favorites:

Amulet series – Kazu Kibuishi

Zita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke

El Deafo, Cece Bell

Babymouse, Squish series, and Sunny Side Up – Jennifer Holm

Big Nate series – Lincoln Peirce

Roller Girl – Victoria Jamieson

Smile, Drama, Sisters – Raina Telgemeier

Jedi Academy series – Jeffrey Brown

Also graphic versions of The Graveyard Book, The Lightning Thief, The City of Ember, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Wonderstruck, The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick (a text/graphic blend)

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4 thoughts on “Awkward – where the middle grade meets the graphic (novel)

  1. Angie says:

    Richie Rich! There’so a blast from my childhood past!

    Like

  2. My rugrat (she’s 6) loves graphic novels and comic books. I encourage it as much as I can, but we hit a wall where she wants me to read them to her, and I mostly flatly refuse. I can do graphic novels a bit better than comic books, but both of them – something about the mix of text and pictures – quite literally gives me a headache.

    Regardless, though, I buy them for her. Her daddy buys them for her. She checks them out from the library. She’s *reading*. It might not be what I’d choose for her, but there’s nothing better than to hear her in her room absolutely cackling as she reads from her favorite comics book. (She’s a Calvin and Hobbes girl. But, also, Batman!)

    Like

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