10 Next Reads for Kids Who Love Raina Telgemeier

by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

On a recent bookshop visit with a friend and her very cute niece, said niece was angling hard for an innocuous-looking illustrated novel. “Eh, this looks okay, but why don’t you get a real book?” said my friend. After a little more back and forth, her response to her niece’s request became a hard “No.” A thicker, text-only book was the only way to go — she wanted her niece to “challenge” herself.

I’ve been there. I’ve felt the fear that my child might not absorb enough SAT vocabulary words to get through life, that one comic book could lead her down a path of ruin and unemployment. I understand the embarrassment that is watching your second grader’s copy of Geronimo Stilton slip out of her backpack as her classmate’s mom tells you that her Little Genius Reader is chilling with the annotated Anna Karenina.

But here’s the thing I’ve learned: Comic books, illustrated stories, graphic novels — these are real books. Beautifully real. As complicated and nuanced and rich with narrative as any fat book with a tiny font. And as a longtime literacy instructor, I know that a graphic novels provide a wonderful tool for helping young readers learn how to make inferences from literature and extract meaning from a variety of different types of texts. “A graphic novel like The Arrival, with a narrative deepened through visual art,” says librarian and author Jesse Karp, “creates a layered experience that affords the opportunity to expand the emotional understanding of the subject and inspire empathy.” Plus, kids LOVE them. Graphic novels are a popular pleasure read, and what better way to promote literacy, engage children in reading, and boost reading skills than by encouraging reading for pleasure?

One of today’s most popular authors of illustrated novels is Raina Telgemeier. Telgemeier exploded onto the middle grade scene with the semi-autobiographical and wildly popular Smile, and released the companion graphic novel Sisters soon after. Smile won a Boston Globe-Horn Book honor, the first graphic novel to do so, and Telgemeier’s 2012 Drama was the winner of a Stonewall Book Award Honor from the American Library Association. And, as one frequent 5th grade patron of a NYC school library recently told me, “Her books are just … funny and real.”

If, like many, your Telgemeier fan has devoured her realistic, funny, and vivid tales multiple times, here are a few other titles that they might enjoy:

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2017 and updated in 2023.