Being the resident system otaku, I was asked by one of my colleagues today for a list of titles for one of her preteens. She’s 12, and her parents are very conservative about what she reads. To this point, she has only been allowed to read J level manga unless her mother approves of a particular YA title. This isn’t uncommon with manga; a lot of parents think that they are all full of violence and nudity (to be fair, plenty of titles are). The librarian was looking for a more extensive list of titles that the mom would approve of, and I thought it would be useful to share my recommendations here:
Azumanga Daioh- Child prodigy Chiyo is skipped five grades and ends up in tenth grade. This manga follows Chiyo and her new-found friends through their high school experiences- lots of visual gags, lots of Japanese culture, no violence or sex to be found. A great slice of life, but will appeal more to a female audience.
Yotsuba &!- From the same author as Azumanga, this is actually a J level title but with broad appeal. Yotsuba is an odd little story about an odd little girl and her adoptive fathermoving to a new town. See the world through Yotsuba’s eyes- I guarantee you’ll laugh.
Shaman King- Your best bet for a boy whose reading allowance is limited. Shaman King follows the story of Yoh and Manta as they battle against evil spirits that are invading Tokyo. Fantasy violence, not graphic.
Miracle Girls-Toni and Mika are telepathic identical twins. They try to keep their special powers a secret but are rapidly coming under suspicion. Meanwhile, they face the same hurdles every teenage faces- especially relationships. A light-hearted fantasy read.
Gakuen Alice- When Hotaru leaves her best friend Mikan behind to attend a
school for geniuses in Tokyo, Mikan takes it on herself to track her down. She discovers that Hotaru is in “Alice Academy”, a school for kids with special powers. Additionally, it is discovered that Mikan has a power as well and she is accepted into the school. Another good fantasy choice starring a younger set.
+Anima- Four children who posess inate animal abilities travel together in search of a place to belong to. Their abilities cause them to be shunned by so-called normal people and chased by those who would abuse their abilities. Non-realistic violence. Another good choice for young males, though this has a greater cross-appeal than Shaman King.
Fruits Basket- The Sohma family is cursed; whenever they are hugged by a member of the opposite gender, they transform into a zodiac animal. Tohru discovers this by accident and finds herself bound to keep the families secret unless she wants her memory to be erased. Far too cute- the zodiac animals are super kawaii.