When my son came home from the library with A Wrinkle in Time, The Graphic Novel, my reaction was mixed. I was happy that Madeline L’Engle’s classic wouldt reach more readers now that it had been adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. But I also wondered if it would stop others – including my own children- from enjoying the original format.
Putting my emotional reaction aside, I figured it was time to start asking questions about graphic novels, a genre which has exploded in popularity in what literally feels like a wrinkle of time.
First of all, what’s the difference between a graphic novel and a comic book?
Essentially, graphic novels are book length narratives presented in comic book style. This differentiates them from comic strips without a central plot, like Garfield or Calvin and Hobbes. Graphic novels also tend to be longer and more complex than comic books that tell a story over many issues (usually covering a long period time) like superhero serials.
Are graphic novels good for reluctant readers?
According to the School Library Journal , graphic novels are ideal for attracting reluctant readers and introducing them to literature they might not encounter otherwise. They are also well suited to ESL students and provide scaffolding for struggling readers.
But Good ok Bad, a blog which reviews graphic novels exclusively, cautions that the genre should not be treated as a gateway for getting kids to read “real books.” Instead parents and educators are encouraged to treat graphic novels as a distinctive art form that have their own things to say and their own way of saying it.
Reading graphic novels may push children into more literary pursuits. Or they may just give kids an appreciation for good comics. Either way, reading graphic novels challenge children (and adults) to grow in empathy, understanding, and knowledge.
Are graphic novels good for all middle grade readers?
Based on my review of the literature, yes! The Junior Library Guild praises the genre for fostering both visual and verbal comprehension skills while exposing readers to interesting dialogue and satire, as well as affirming diversity.
Get Graphic: The World in Words and Pictures, a resource for teachers provides the following summary. Reading graphic novels:
- Engages reluctant readers & ESL students
- Increases reading comprehension and vocabulary
- Can serve as a bridge between low and high levels of reading
- Provides an approach to reading that embraces the multimedia nature of today’s culture, as 2/3 of a story is conveyed visually
- Provides scaffolding for struggling readers
- Can serve as an intermediary step to more difficult disciplines and concepts
- Presents complex material in readable text
- Helps students understand global affairs
- Helps to develop analytical and critical thinking skills
- Offers another avenue through which students can experience art
Convinced? Here are some book lists to get you started on your graphic novel adventure.
GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUND UP by the Mixed-Up Files
Let’s Get Graphic… novel! by the Mixed-Up Files
Top Ten Middle Grad Graphic Novel Series by the Nerdy Book Club
Best Graphic Novels for Readers, Reluctant or Otherwise (ages 3-16) by Pragmatic Mom
The Best Graphic Novels for Children divided by age group (K-2, 3-5, 6-8) by @your library
Slide Show of ten more recent middle grade novels from Kirkus Review
The Best Comics for your Classroom by The Graphic Classroom keeps an updated list broken down by age (including adults) and highly recommended vs. recommended, with a special list for reluctant readers
Great Graphic Novels for Kids by Good ok Bad provides a list, divided by age, and also ongoing reviews
Unleashing Readers provides list of nonfiction graphic novels
Gathering Books gives examples of non-fiction graphic novels that specifically deal with war and conflict (suitable for this time of year)
Have another suggestion? Please add it in the comment section below. Happy reading!
Yolanda Ridge has enjoyed being part of the Mixed-Up Files. She will miss the group but is excited about following the new members and keeping in touch with the talented group of authors that make this blog possible.