The second to last day before Spring Break, one of my student brought in Kampung Boy. I realized then just acknowledging the graphic novel as a valid literary form wasn’t really the same thing as respecting it as one. So I assigned myself a genre study project for homework. Thanks to @donalynbooks, @readingcountess and our local branch of the public library, I spent my Spring Break reading comic books…uh, graphic novels. Here is what I’ve learned…
- The pictures matter. I know that sounds like a “no duh” comment, but I am a traditional reader. For me the pictures are supposed to supplement the text. But in a graphic novel the pictures tell the story just as much as the words do. You can’t skim them without losing meaning.
- The words matter. I think most people who dismiss this genre do so because they think there is no text. If the author chose to add text, it matters.
- Some of the stories are really complex. Really, really complex. Pictures don’t always mean easier. I had to reread parts of some of these books to understand what was going on.
- They are quick to read. This is probably what would draw slower readers into them.
- They’re not just for boys. Most titles I read would appeal to both genders and some are written especially for young women.
- They are hard to get lost in…at least for classic readers like me, and there are a lot of kids who want to get lost in a book. That means graphic novels, as cool as they are, aren’t an automatic in with kids.
Final summary: While I’m not ordering a class set of anything anytime soon, I’m definately ordering a few texts to be part of the class library for next year.
- American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. If you still think graphic novels are childish, read this award-winning book. It is my favorite out of the bunch.
- The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim. A collection of three stories. Just OK.
- Kampung Boy by Lat. A humorous look at growing up in Malaysia. I read this one a few months ago and liked it so much I want to use it when I teach memoir next year.
- The Plain Janes by Cenil Castellucci and Jim Rugg. A pretty easy storyline to follow, but I loved the take on teen rebellion in this one. Very upbeat.
- Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell. A wonderful fantasy novel that follows a girl attending a mysterious boarding school. Light and fun, but with enough twists and turns to keep readers interested.
- Laika by Dick Abadzis. I likes this surprising story of the first dog in space. It would seem like a boy book, but much of the story is about a female scientist’s relationship with a dog. More girl.
- Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria and Warren Pleece. What would happen if vampires just had ordinary lives? Violent but entertaining. As a middle school teacher, not sure if this is one to put on my shelf, but would recommend if I knew parent wouldn’t mind.
- Journey into Mohawk Country by H.M. van den Bogaert and George O’Conner. The text is taken from the journal of a Dutch colonist in the 1700’s. O’Conner just illustrated it. This book belongs in a history classroom; it gives such insight into that time period.
- The Arrival by Shaun Tan. A completely wordless novel, it beautifully illustrates the immigrant experience. Another great link to social studies.
- Postcards: True Stories That Never Happen edited by Jason Rodriguez. An anthology of short stories based on real postcards. Some stories were wonderful; others not so much. Quite a few were not appropriate for the classroom.
I have a few more on my list…will add them as I read.