Becky posted that the new issue of The Edge of the Forest is up and has an article on graphic novel adaptations of regular books. I’m feeling ambivalent about this trend. On the one hand, I think it is great that canonical stories are being produced in formats that are accessible to more visual-spatial folks. Some kids just prefer reading pictures to lots and lots of words on a page and why shouldn’t they have access to Shakespeare and Beowulf and the like. On the other hand, I can’t help but think someone is trying to “redeem” comics; give them some seriousness. So that it is okay if you are reading Beowulf in graphic novel form but the vast comic landscape is still considered somehow less than real literature.
I’m not a huge reader of comics myself but I do have friends who are big readers. And I think that there is a need for people to really value the visual elements of this genre. There is important stuff in the pictures. Same with picture books probably. Too often we think that kids should grow out of this visual material into “real” books with lots of words. Many of us are discovering some really good picture books for older readers. And recently I was picking out picture books for a very young reader (she’s 2) and recognizing the importance of good artwork in my selection. Have you ever looked, really looked, at the collage work in Ezra Jack Keats or Eric Carle?
So I’m feeling my way a bit. But also trying to learn as I go. And Tigger clearly loves comics. Our trip to Belgium showed us that. So I’ve been keeping an eye out for good material.
Thanks to Stephanie‘s tip about Unshelved, I’ve come across a new resource. A newsletter about comics and graphic novels for educators and librarians, Diamond Bookshelf. I figure it is worth a look. And from that link, I discovered a prize-winning graphic novel set in rural Southwestern Ontario (okay that is still 10 hours drive from here, but it is the same province!) with a 10 year old protagonist, Essex County Vol 1: Tales from the Farm. The first volume of the trilogy is even in our library. Yes, I have requested it.
Because I don’t trust parental guidance information, I’ve also requested the English translation of Persepolis. My kid reads the Guardian Weekly. She was talking to me about the Pakistani elections the other day. She also read about what’s going on in Gaza and an article about honour killings. I think she might be able to cope. Maybe I’ll look for that one about Palestine, by Joe Sacco, too. There are serious graphic novels out there for adults that aren’t adaptations of other genres. They are just plain serious treatments of serious topics in a graphic genre. Hopefully, a bigger market for similar material for kids (in the English language; the French material seems plentiful) will develop.
Unserious is good, too. I don’t want to imply that graphic novels are only worthwhile if they treat serious subjects. I think we need to learn to appreciate graphic novels and comics for what they are, though. And to see the variety of subjects that can be presented this way. I suspect that some stories are better in this genre. And the more we study art, the more I learn to appreciate what is going on in the visual part of these. And maybe that’s where we need to rethink them. Appreciating the art in both picture books and graphic novels. Galleries that are accessible in our own homes.
Edited to add: There is a good activity about comics and graphic novels at Sharing Understandings. Scroll down to “Comics and Graphic Novels”.