Monday, March 5, 2012

The Case For Graphic Novels....

      It happens at least once a week at my library: the classic, "parental graphic novel block." Well meaning parents come marching up to my desk confiding that their children are reading, "those darn comic books". They then ask me for help getting their child to read, "real books." Now I'm not going to say that I prefer graphic novels above all else in the children's section... I think chapter books and graphic novels both have their own special qualities to add to the reader experience.

        And in a way, graphic novels have changed a lot in the last couple of years. Growing up, these parents didn't have the likes of Dave Roman, Dan Santat, Raina Telgemeier, Jarrett Krosoczka, Jenny Holm and Matt Holm. So I try to take a deep breath and put on a smile before persuading parents that there are many types of books, and maybe we could look at both kinds for their children.

           In order to raise consciousness on the awesomeness of graphic novels, I started a Graphic Novel Book Club at the library. It seems to be most popular with eight year old boys, but I've always believed eight year old boys know more about awesomeness than other people anyways.

         Either way, I thought I'd share some of our experiences in the club for all the graphic novels naysayers out there. I've read articles that say people like reading graphic novels because they're "easy" and it doesn't take as much effort to read them. I have to say I've been surprised at how much the kids in the book club analyze the books. While reading Dave Roman's Astronaut Academy, one of the boys pointed out a detail  with Hakata Soy's crime fighting team assembling their space ships into a giant droid and how the pieces fit together. We spent fifteen minutes analyzing this one passage.

        I've also heard naysayers complain that graphic novels, "aren't real art". I'm going to bring up another example from our meeting on Astronaut Academy. Dave Roman uses Renaissance art techniques in several of his panels, such as chiaroscuro (when one half of an object is blinded in light and the other in shadow for those people who aren't art nerds out there.) The kids looked at Renaissance paintings to compare how both used this lighting technique. One of the kids noticed that it makes the panel a lot more dramatic feeling than just the regular lighting.

         Plus, the abstract nature of graphic novels, (see Scott McCloud's book, Understanding Comics for more explanation,) helps the reader put themselves in the story more. Which leads to more critical thinking about, "What would I do in that situation?" When we discussed Dan Santat's Sidekicks, the kids made up their own superheroes and disguises like, Anonymous and Shape Shifter.  Mind you this is after we had a twenty minute debate about whether a DNA transfer would chance your personality... the jury is still out on that one... what do you think? Comments?

Either way, I'm hoping some of these points will make those reluctant graphic novel readers, give this exciting format another chance. I think you'll find, you're missing a lot.


  1. It's interesting how some children devour comic books. I wasn't keen for some reason and the same is true of graphic novels. Not sure why. I'd love to read Tamara Drewe, but when I found it was a graphic novel I changed my mind. Maybe I'll get it from the library. Hmmm, now there's a thought.
    I can appreciate it works for some though.

  2. My boys love comic books and graphic novels. And honestly, the content and vocabulary in them keep them running to dictionaries and encyclopedias, so that qualifies as educational. I'm all for them!

  3. My son loves graphic novels and that's the first place he heads to the library. I encourage it and am happy he's enjoying what he's reading.

  4. I read a few online graphic novels, but they're always works in progress. Perhaps I should pop down to a library and take a look at some ones that are actually complete!

    On another note, I've awarded you with a Liebster blog award, an award for enjoyable blogs that have under 100 followers! x

  5. There really are a lot of varied opinions out there when it comes to graphic novels it seems. It's true though, they're not for everyone. I just think they deserve a place right next to chapter books and other fiction.

    Sara, thanks so much for the Liebster blog award! The Character Blogfest was great because I got to meet all you interesting bloggers out there. Sometimes the internet can be daunting. If you're interested in looking into graphic novels, you might want to look into Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol. It's a newer one that I think might suit your tastes based on what I know about you from your blog.