Our Children’s Department Graphic Novels collection is rapidly expanding. Good thing; the books circulate so constantly they would never fit on the shelves otherwise. Why, you ask, does the Children’s Department have what appear to be comic books (gasp!) on its shelves? Let me attempt to answer that question with some information about the genre.
Graphic novels first came on the scene as literature for adults and teens. As with all literature, some were written purely for recreational reading, others were highly regarded works of literature. For his 2 Maus graphic novels Art Spiegelman in 1992 won a special Pulitzer Prize (the committee did not know how to categorize the books). Children were attracted to the graphic novel format, but the content of the early books was definitely geared to older readers. Publishers took note and began producing graphic novels for a younger audience.
There are now children’s graphic novels that are works of fiction and non-fiction, as well as graphic novel series. Art Spiegelman is advisor to the Little Lit Library of graphic novels for the very young. He also contributes his own work to the Little Lit books. Some children’s books that have graphic novel versions are Brian Jacques Redwall, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl. Wind in the Willows has a graphic novel treatment and those ageless detectives, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, have their own graphic novel series.
My personal favorite of all of our graphic novels is Clan Apis by Jat Hosler. This tale of a spunky bee larva who doesn’t want to metamorphose (“Sounds kinda scary…I’ll pass”) combines humor with biological facts about honeybeesand ecology. (Hosler is faculty member in the biology department at Juniata college in addition to being a graphic novel writer and illustrator.) My second-favorite is the Coraline graphic novel, which I found to be as chilling as the original text. Those button eyes are really creepy.
Children reading at all levels, from beginner to advanced, can find a suitable graphic novel. Just as pictures give cues to vocabulary words when a child is learning to read, the visual nature of the graphic novel allows children to read at a higher level than a text-only format.
Next time you visit the Children’s Department (or whatever library or bookstore you visit to browse for books) pick up a graphic novel and read a good picture.