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What to Read Next: Raina Telgemeier

While Raina Telgemeier has been extremely popular over the last few years, this year I cannot keep any of her books on the shelf. I have multiple copies of each of her titles, and all of them are checked out with waiting lists. In a day, I have five to six requests for her books. Since I can’t feed this need quickly enough, I’ve been trying to come up with a list of read-alikes to satiate my students’ Raina Telgemeier hunger.

And I have the best resource available! My wonderful colleagues at Good Comics 4 Kids.

So tell me: What comics would you recommend to for readers who have read all of Raina Telgemeier’s books or are just hungrily waiting for her next one?

Brigid Alverson, Robin Brenner, Eva Volin, and Scott Robins all chime in with their suggestions below:

El Deafo by Cece Bell
This gem appeals to young readers in a similar way to Telgemeier’s memoirs. Bell’s title is a memoir focused around her hearing loss at a very young age and her progression through the years dealing with a giant, unavoidably obvious hearing aid that made her stand out but also, she feels, gave her superpowers. As with Smile and Sisters, the journey covers the traditional issues of navigating friendship, growing up, and figuring out how to be yourself. The art is engaging and clear, depicting both the period details and characters’ expressions with great finesse and humor. —Robin

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
Although a bit older than Smile and Sisters, Hicks’s work is equally strong in voice, artistic merit, and girl-centric storytelling. Friends with Boys is based partially on the creator’s own experience of having been home schooled up until high school. The portrait of this family, with the recent departure of their mother and the strong connections between siblings, will particularly appeal. —Robin

Hilda Series by Luke Pearson
These titles may skew a bit younger and venture in to more fantastical territory than Telgemeier’s works, but Hilda is a curious, intelligent, and adventure-seeking protagonist. Fans will delight in her adventures, and Pearson’s lush art is gorgeous without being crowded. —Robin

The Amelia Rules! Series by Jimmy Gownley
Gownley’s style is strongly reminiscent of Schulz’s Peanuts, full of rambunctious shenanigans as much as more emotional beats. Amelia, over the years, has become the strong-willed but relatably vulnerable heroine of a whole cast of young characters recognizable to any kid navigating tweenhood. —Robin

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
To be published in Spring 2015, Jamieson’s new middle grade graphic novel, based on the author’s own experiences as a roller derby girl, will resonate perfectly with fans of Telgemeier’s books. Twelve-year-old Astrid is excited to sign up for derby camp for the summer, but her best friend decides to go to dance camp instead. In this poignant and heartfelt story, readers will experience Astrid’s journey in learning more about what friendships are and how one summer can change everything. —Scott

Tomboy by Liz Prince
Prince’s memoir shares the honesty and charm of Telgemeier’s books but explores mature topics like gender, identity, and how difficult early adolescence can be when one feels different than everyone else—perfect for readers on the cusp of YA. Prince’s illustration style is raw, with simple black and white line art, and perfectly reflects the difficult but touching narrative as readers are invited into Prince’s experiences growing up. —Scott

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch
This fantasy story shares two things with Telgemeier’s works: A clear-lined style that is easy to “read” visually and a sharp eye for the telling details of everyday life. The story is set in an Orthodox Jewish community, so the dress and customs of the children may be unfamiliar to some readers, but there are certain aspects of pre-teen life that are universal. Deutsch’s story has a strong supernatural element, as Mirka encounters a witch and a troll, whom she battles to get a sword she will someday use to kill dragons, but he also keeps it grounded in real life—Mirka’s battle with the troll is a knitting duel. —Brigid

This One Summer, by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
This story of two girls who vacation together every summer shares the emotional immediacy of Telgemeier’s work. The main character is on the cusp of adolescence, trying to figure out the teenagers who are a few years older than her and dealing with complex feelings toward her close friend, who is younger than her (both chronologically and emotionally) and her parents, who are going through issues of their own. This book is both deeper and darker than Smile and Sisters and probably more suited to a slightly older reader. —Brigid

Bad Machinery, by John Allison
A bit edgier and funnier than Sisters and Smile, Bad Machinery is set in a British grammar school (which seems to correspond to an American middle school) and features a mixed cast of teens and pre-teens, boys and girls, who investigate mysteries in between snarky comments and torturing their teachers. It’s available as a webcomic, and Oni Press is publishing the print editions; the first two volumes made the YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens list as well as a number of other lists, and the third volume is due out December 10. —Brigid

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks
While this title is also a bit “older” than Telgemeier’s titles, it does share that feel of a YA novel, which I believe Drama, Smile, and Sisters all have. The story has a universal theme of unlikely friendships and troubled family life, and there are lots of shenanigans, too. There’s lots of laughter and some crying for readers who want a good read. —Esther

Chiggers by Hope Larson
When Abby goes back to summer camp, her best friend, now a counselor, is too busy for her. The other girls seem too cool for Abby and only Shasta seems mildly interesting, but the rest of the kids find her strange. Though set in camp, unlike Telgemeier books, the titles do share that same coming of age, friendship won and friendship lost that that Tegemeier so effectively draws. -Esther

To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel
More of an overview of her life than a snapshot of a specific time, this autobiography tells the story of a dancer’s dream, the work it took to achieve said dream, and what moving on once that period in her life was over meant to her as a dancer. An oldie (if any modern graphic novel for kids could be considered old) but a goodie. —Eva

Archie Comics
Maybe it’s because they’ve been around so long, but Archie, Betty, Veronica, and the rest of the Riverdale gang are often overlooked when it comes time to talk about great comics for kids, which is a real shame, considering Archie Comics are some of the most diverse comics on the market today. But kids, tweens in particular, haven’t forgotten them, and fans of Raina’s books often gravitate towards them while waiting for their turn to come up on the Telgemeier holds list. Having the chance to “experience” what it’s like being in high school, having crushes, or holding down a first job gives tweens a chance to figure out how they want to live life before that real life comes crashing in. —Eva

Marble Season by Gilbert Hernandez
A semi-autobiographical story by a legendary creator, this graphic novel is set in a 1960s Southwestern suburb where big brothers are bully/protectors, comics are king, and the betrayal of a best friend can seem insurmountable. Much more gentle than his comics for adults, Hernandez’s look back at childhood is charming and will appeal to Raina’s older demographic. —Eva

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.


  1. Also highly recommended: Pix One Weirdest Weekend by Gregg Schigiel and the G-Man series (Learning to Fly, Cape Crisis, Coming Home, and the G-Man Super Journal) by Chris Giarrusso.

  2. Don’t forget the Cybils awards have a graphic novel category.

  3. Don’t forget

    Awkward/ by: sventlana chmakoua

  4. brynn rice says

    so i loved smile

  5. Maya Chavez says

    and Brave!

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