Monday, July 2, 2012

First Foray into the Graphic Novel

So, graphic novels.  They are all over the place right now, right??  I've been hearing about them for a long time, but up until now had never read any.  It's funny because when I was still officially majoring in art history, I was hoping to write my thesis on illustration from children's books, but that wasn't really taking off well with professors.  However, I was shocked to learn that while that wouldn't be ok, graphic novels would be perfectly fine!?  Of course if they were for adults...Anyways, I've digressed.  So as I've been helping my mom a lot with my little brother's journey of actually learning the mechanics of reading (he LOVES stories and books, he'll literally sit and listen to an audiobook for ages and has way advanced comprehension skills!) but for the longest time, and we're still not over the hill, he's struggled with getting himself to actually do the reading, to sit and read himself.  But Jess, he'll tell me, Why do I have to do it, you can just read to me or I can listen to a book!  So, we're still struggling with this, but I've been reading and thinking a lot about the possibility of introducing him to graphic novels.  Because he's the type of person that along with listening to stories, absolutely LOVES images, I guess I've imparted some of my art history-ness to him...but he'll literally just sit there and have a pile of books and go through them looking at the pictures; and I'm thinking how I can I continue this but add in him actually reading the words too!  So, I finally decided to get some graphic novels, and I discovered that our library has a small section of them (and confession, I got two for myself as well hehe).

So, we've had the books for under a week, and he has already read, all by himself, all three of Geoffrey's Hayes' "Benny and Penny" books, he loves them (as do I)! He's already looking forward to the fourth one coming out this fall, Benny and Penny in Lights Out! And he can't wait to check out the Toon Books website which has a bunch of great resources and FUN available for free online! And yes, these don't have that much text, but they are probably around the same word count as "readers" and he seems to enjoy these so much more!  And he's changing his voices for the characters, conveying the emotions more, and just with these three books, his fluency has become better!  And I think it's definitely the combination of the words and images working together, but in a different way from picture books.  And I think he picks up on it to, but probably can't explain it, because although he's getting more comfortable reading picture books himself, sometimes he says, No, Jess, that's not a reader!  You have to read that to me.  But with these he just jumped in!  So if any of you wonderful readers have suggestions for more great graphic novels for young readers let me know!

I just finished my first graphic novel today as well!  I read Siena Cherson Siegel's "To Dance".  It was a lovely book filled with wonderful images.  I think that this medium really added to the story because graphic novels seem to me to add alot of movement to the works because your eyes are moving across them at a faster rate, and so that adds to the sensation of the feeling of dancing a ballet.  And now that I finished that, I started a bit of Barry Deutsch's Hereville: How Mirka Got her Sword.  I first came across this book at the Jewish Museum in New York back in May, and I just thought the cover line was so great: "Yet another Troll-fighting 11-Year Old Orthodox Jewish Girl".  So far it's pretty good, although my one complaint is the characters look and act older than they are supposed to be... but maybe it's just me.

Would love to hear of any good or bad experiences you've had with graphic novels, especially the young reader variation!


  1. Hi,
    I read your piece about graphic novels with interest. It's odd but I have never got on with them and my daughter (9) doesn't like them either, or comics. We both find that too much is going on on the page to focus on the story. But it's a good thing to try - lots of boys love them. I'd be tempted to say not to worry too much about your brother not being ready to read for himself yet. I think it will come - it's just great that he enjoys stories. What might help in the future is to take him to a bookshop and let him browse and choose something. With Holly (now a prolific reader) she was hesitant at first but when she discovered something she wanted to read (Enid Blyton's The Famous Five) she was away. Hope that helps!

    1. Thanks so much for your feedback! I'm hoping there will be that flash moment with him as well, where it just clicks and he's sort of off and running with reading. It seems to me, just from what I've learned, but I may be mistaken, that bookshops in the UK are still really great places to go and have your child walk around and pick a book, however here in the States, unless you have the benefit of having a independent bookstore, bookstores like Barnes and Noble are just full of distractions, toys and movies and games all over the place and it wasn't like that just a few years ago it's gotten worse. We used to take my little brother there and books were actually the focus and he wanted to get a book, but now it's kind of the last thing on his mind all he wants to do is go look at the toys, so it's hard to get him to pick a book...

      But I've tried it a bit at the library we kind of find books together, but so far he leans towards books I would read to him instead of himself :) But I can't really complain since he's still getting books and loving them which is awesome!

      And I'm still not totally sold on graphic novels, I mean I think some of what I saw with them this past week was interesting, but I still prefer picture books and novels; I think part of graphic novels appeals to that part of this younger generation that lives on quick movement, and overwhelming visual that comes with the amount of television and movies and games today. But I think some of them are interesting :)

  2. I've heard the term, but I wasn't even sure what "graphic novel" means. I looked it up. I guess it's kind of like a comic book, but longer & bound like a 'real' book?

    So, I guess I don't have any to recommend for you. I haven't ever tried to read any. But, I love how you are working so hard to find things your brother enjoys reading. My daughter is 11 and I STILL work hard finding books she'll enjoy. In fact, a little of the YA and tween books I've read are to either find something for her or make sure it is appropriate. And, then she only reads a small number of the ones I recommend for her!

    Thanks for your comment on my Stalin/Lenin post. I have such a poor grasp of history! But, I'm working on it! Anyway, as far as people in the Gulags still thinking Stalin was the good guy... they were saying that people in the camps were writing Stalin telling him how bad it was in there. They thought that he surely didn't know what was going on and if he only knew, he'd put a stop to it. It's amazing the false persona that Stalin created for himself! He looked like a great guy! But, he was so deceptive.

  3. I had one I hated (Anya's Ghost) but I'm still trying and totally interested. :)

    1. I'll definitely note that :) I've seen that one around alot and I thought it looked ok from the cover but then when I looked inside I wasn't as convinced anymore... I'm not at all hooked on graphic novels, but they were interesting to try out, but I much more prefer actual novels or picture books!!