What's the deal with graphic novels?|
First off, clarification--"graphic" here means "with pictures" (not that other meaning). Basically, a graphic novel is a book length comic book. Don't care for them much? Then you might not be a visual learner, or maybe you just haven't read the right one. (Ahem, might I suggest looking into a lovely little story with the intriguing title of rapunzel's revenge?)
At this point, I've published five novels for young readers. Every signing I've done, I've met those "side" kids--the ones standing off to the side. The mom would be there with her enthusiastic daughter who loved the goose girl, and off to the side the other daughter or son, half hidden behind the mother.
"What kind of books do you like to read?" I'd ask.
They'd shrug, and the mom would let me know indirectly that this particular child wasn't a reader. I firmly believe that everyone is a reader--non-readers are just the ones who haven't discovered their ideal book yet. And I longed to be able to have a book to hand those side kids, a book that wouldn't intimidate them away with 300-plus pages of tight text. Often those supposed non-readers are visual learners, and they need something visual to hook them, grab their interest, and help them to tell themselves the story they find on the page. I'm ecstatic to at last have a book of my own for the side kids! It's so fantastic to see a kid who thinks he doesn't like books read a graphic novel in one sitting. His confidence swells. "I read this! I read an entire book by myself." And he goes off to find another book. Graphic novels are fantastic for those readers.
And not just for so-called reluctant readers. I certainly wouldn't fall into that category, and I love them. I like to trade off with my reader, graphic novel after prose novel, to sort of cleanse my reading palate. Graphic novels challenge my brain in a different way. They have a cinematic quality to them, but they're so much better for the brain than just watching a movie. Your brain is putting ideas together, interpreting visual clues, assigning action to the white space between panels. It's brain exercise that feels like indulgent fun. What could be better?
I had at wonderful experience speaking at the Utah PTA conference recently. I mentioned rapunzel's revenge and why I thought graphic novels are such an important medium, especially for certain kinds of readers who need a visual hook in order to process information and read a book. A lovely mother came up to me after to share. She has a daughter in middle school who has autism. She didn't read, and specialists told her parents that she would never read. Her mother bought her some manga because she thought she could look at the pictures. The girl taught herself to read by reading graphic novels and now has an insatiable appetite for reading ever since. I get goose bumps again just by retelling that. How marvelous!
I think we've only just begun to see what kind of stories we can tell with this medium, especially for younger readers. I'm excited and honored to be in this field. And for those still skeptical, especially parents, I want to say, Don't fret! Give it a chance. A graphic novel may be just what your reader needs. My husband read comic books almost exclusively from ages 9-15--he got A's in high school, a college scholarship, and is a lifelong reader (not to mention writer). It's good for the brain!
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