A few months back, a mom came to the library with her young son (about fifth grade) in tow. She told me he hated reading. She wanted to fix that, but nothing seemed to grab his interest. So I asked him what he liked (cars? sports? ninjas?) and what some of his favorite movies were. He liked action and adventure, but just couldn’t get into reading. So I brought him to the kid-friendly graphic novels and gave him Stormbreaker, the Alex Rider adaptation.
His mom was a bit tentative at first – a graphic novel? really? – but was fine with it in the end. I explained how graphic novels are fantastic books to get kids into reading because they contain pictures, but aren’t picture books. The kids still read the text, but they don’t have to imagine what’s going on – it’s right there. And while the imagining part is (in my opinion) the best part of reading, this can get a kid into reading until they’re ready to lose the artwork. (Or, continue reading with the artwork – but I’ll get to that later.)
To my surprise (and complete delight) his mom came back a few weeks later and told me how much he’s enjoying the Alex Rider graphic novels, and how he wants more. I recommended a few other series, and was so happy with the update. I also gave her the non-graphic Alex Rider books, as well as Percy Jackson, in case he wanted to jump onboard there. And if he wasn’t ready? Well there are bunch more graphic novels to delve into.
This has worked a few times since (other popular graphic novels): Smile, Babymouse, Big Nate, and, for a little older, BONE, Artemis Fowl, The Lightening Thief, and even the re-done Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew stories), and encouraged me to not only read those books, but look into YA/adult graphic novels, too. I was raised with Catwoman and X-Men comics, I delved into Sin City, Hush, and Sandman in college, and later Scott Pilgrim when the movie came out, but since then it’s been strictly books.
But you know what? There are some fantastic graphic novels out there! Much like my fiction, I stuck to contemporary (no superheroes, that is), and checked out the following books that I HIGHLY enjoyed:
- Blankets by Craig Thompson (very long, very beautiful story about family, faith, and first love)
- War at Ellsmere / Friends with Boys / Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong all by Faith Erin Hicks, with the later written by Prudence Shen. (Three awesome stories that taught me to love Hicks’ drawings. The first is about a girl’s first year at boarding school, and the chaos that ensues. The second follows a girl’s first year in high school as she makes friends and is haunted by a ghost. The third is about a gaggle of kids trying to win a robot battle, and the bonds formed when forced to work together.)
- Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgaol (Another story of a girl being haunted by a ghost, and growing up.)
- Drama by Raina Telgemeier (Drama happens both on and off-stage.)
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (I’m pretty sure everyone knows this powerful story by now, but I’m happy I finally read it.)
- Cardboard by Doug Tennapel (Cardboard monsters come alive!)
And you guys? I think i’m hooked. Many of these stories boiled down the high school/college experience with few words and beautiful drawings. The simplicity of the text is brought to life by beautiful drawings. And most of the time, the text is just as beautiful. I can’t wait to read more.
Graphic novels – great for kids and adults.