Graphic Novel Webinar

Last Thursday we did a pretty neat webinar–Let’s Get Graphic: Kids’ Comics in Classrooms and Libraries–sponsored by TOON Books, Rosen Publishing, Scholastic Graphix, and First Second. In fact, we were having such a lovely time spreading the good word that we ran over the planned hour, and didn’t have a chance to get to some of the questions we got from the audience. Happily, our librarian presenter extraordinaire, Eva Volin, offered to answer some of those questions here.

What’s the difference between a graphic novel and an illustrated novel?

A graphic novel is a story told primarily through the use of sequential art.  An illustrated novel uses images in conjunction with text to tell the story.  An example of a graphic novel is American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang.  An example of an illustrated novel is The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick.

We have numerous requests at our library for advanced reading material that is age appropriate, ie. a second-grader reading at a sixth-grade level. Are there any graphic novel titles you would recommend for this type of student?

As you know, “a second grader reading at a sixth grade level” just means that the second grader in question is able to recognize and process words as quickly as a sixth grader can.  It doesn’t mean that the second grader is ready to deal with the same concepts sixth graders can deal with.  Series that may work for this reader include Knights of the Lunch Table, Lunch Lady, Babymouse, Magic Pickle, Sam and Friends, Tiny Tyrant, and Swans in Space.

What is your opinion on the recent challenge to Jeff Smith’s Bone in Apple Valley, MN?  The challenge was overturned by the reconsideration committee there, but the contestant had stated that the book was inappropriate for an elementary library due to smoking, drinking, and gambling references in the book.

This is yet another reason why it’s so important for school and public libraries to have a collection development policy that specifically addresses graphic novels.  My opinion on the matter is much the same as Jeff Smith’s.  The smokers, drinkers and gamblers in Bone are all adults.  Heck, most of those adults aren’t even human and none of those adults are encouraging children to drink, smoke, and/or gamble.  (And in several states all three are perfectly legal activities for adults to engage in.)  If, in your community, there is a fear that upper elementary and middle school students will start emulating Great Red Dragons then maybe you have something to worry about.  But if kids in your community are emulating dragons en mass, there may be bigger things to worry about than comic books.

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