Who doesn’t love pictures? Most of us were introduced into the world of reading through pictures book. While many of us eventually migrated to the full-text books, others of us refuse to relinquish our pictures. Graphic Novels are a fantastic alternative to those who want to enjoy more sophisticated themes, but still enjoy illustrations. However, graphic novels have had a rough history. Graphic novels have been around since Egyptian times, but the “modern” graphic was conceived in the 1930s with the introduction of the Superman comic books (Quick side note: there is a difference between graphic novels and comic books. Comic books tend to be a series about a particular character that is told through multiple issues. Graphic novels tend to be a single book that discusses and addresses more complex and sophisticated themes). Children soon were flocking to the stores for the newest copy of Superman. The immense popularity of this reading literature made comic books a 50 billion dollar industry by the 1950s.  However, its rise to fame was not an easy road. Some adults saw comic books as trash that polluted people’s minds. Even today, the fight to allow children and teens to read and enjoy graphic novels/comic books can be an uphill battle. This is unfortunate as graphic novels offer readers a different reading medium. It is also a fantastic alternative for reluctant readers.
From experience I have had little trouble convincing a reluctant reader to take a graphic novel. If a parent is hesitant and expresses concern about the book being valid reading material, I always bring up studies about reading and graphic novels. I mention that it actually takes a higher reading comprehension to read a graphic novel than a traditional book format. Readers can skim sentences and still grasp what is happening with the story. For a graphic novel, readers must connect the text with the image to decode the story (Sturm, 2013). Normally, the term “higher reading comprehension” reassures parents. My hope is that parents/educators/other librarians will understand how amazing graphic novels can be.
Blankets by Craig Thompson
My boss who is a great lover of graphic novels recommended Blankets to me. Set in Wisconsin, Thompson illustrates and writes about his coming-of-age in his faith-based community.
I’m not sure if it is my exhaustion at the end of the semester or the book itself, but I was not blown away by Blankets. Almost all of my friends raved about this book. I enjoyed Thompson’s illustrations, but I thought the storyline was ok. One of the main central themes was Thompson’s faith and unfortunately, I thought it was underdeveloped. He praises himself to be a Jesus freak, but I did not get that vibe from the illustrations or text.
Thompson’s relationship with Raina was also lacking. They meet at bible camp and he spends two weeks at her house. I thought this would be the ground-breaking moment, but the plot once again fell flat. I read this book about two weeks ago and this is what I remembered out of the romance:
1. Thompson’s religious parents allow him to go spend two weeks with a girl who he just met. I did not grow up in a fundamental household, but I can assure you that my mother would have laughed me out the door with this request.
2. Thompson and Raina snuggle a lot.
3. Raina wants space and Thompson gives up on her.
Overall, I thought this one was ok.
How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden
Sarah Glidden is a 26-year-old political leftist Jew. Obsessed with the politics of Israel, Sarah decides to use her birthright trip to discover/uncover the situation in Israel.
Again, I thought this was an ok book. the illustrations are colorful and invite the reader’s eye, but I quickly became disinterested in the text. I know a smidgen about the birthright trip and the politics in Israel, but this book just did not do it for me. I think it was hard for me to connect with Sarah. Her attitude about the whole trip was off-putting. Other reviewers have also complained by Sarah’ attitude. I could probably go into other aspects of the text, but this one element just killed the book for me.
My Friend Dahmer by Derf BackDerf
I had the pleasure of meeting Derf Backderf at the 2013 YALSA Coffee Klatch. It was kind of surreal to know that he knew one of America’s most infamous serial killers. His book My Friend Dahmer looks at Dahmer before he committed his first murder. This book will make you sympathize and not sympathize for Dahmer at the same time.
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
This might be a graphic novel geared towards juveniles, but adults will appreciate Raina’s memoir. In 6th grade Raina had to deal with a devastating injury to her two front teeth. In addition, she had to learn how to navigate the hierarchy of middle school, including crushes and “friends.” I have not yet met someone who has not liked this graphic novel. It was like reliving my 7th grade year.
Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown
This is a Star Wars satire. Brown has made Darth Vader into a single dad raising Princess Leia. I will admit that I have never seen Stars Wars, but I even got most of the references. It will make you laugh.
1.The National Coalition Against Censorship The American Library Association & The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. “Graphic Novels: Suggestions for Librarians.” ALA. http://www.ala.org/offices/sites/ala.org.offices/files/content/oif/ifissues/graphicnovels_1.pdf (accessed May 12, 2014).