Monday, September 29, 2008

VERY Interesting Non Fiction for Kids: GRAPHIC NOVELS

Today, I have to share some exciting news --- Juvenile/MG Graphic Novels now have their own home in two major bookstore chains and my public library! There I was, perusing the Children’s Department of my local chain store and eureka: a beautiful, prominent, entire wall of books labeled “Graphic Novels” located next to the MG novels; not in their normal spot, hidden between rows and rows of chapter and series books. Placing my coffee drink on a shelf, I plopped down on the floor and set to explore.

My love of Graphic Novels started after 9/11 - a moment of reflection for many people. At that time, I decided to put aside my toy design business and delve into my passions: cartooning, middle grade novels, and art and creativity for children. Graphic novels were all my passions in one big happy place. After The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick won the 2008 Caldecott, I blogged excitedly about the news. Many friends commented that they knew that I’d be cheering. Hmmm, guess I’m getting a little reputation. And, yes, I guess I'm stretching the boundries of this blog BUT I like book talking Graphic Novels and, well, they are classified as non fiction, so here it goes...

At the 2007 SCBWI-LA conference, I attended Mac McCool’s Graphic Novel Workshops. If you are at all interested writing in this genre, Mac is an amazing, interesting, inspiring teacher. He just recently penned an article in the 2009 CWIM on Graphic Novels --- the most complete source of current information on the genre. But the most inspiring session I attended that year was on the Graphic Novel market. Many teachers and librarians in the audience gushed and praised how graphic novels are reaching out to reluctant readers and creating book lovers. A fifth- grade, reluctant reader would rather not read than carry a first-grader’s picture book… but, give him a graphic novel at his reading level and he reads… and still looks cool! “They don’t want to have to carry around a ‘baby’ book.” There were a few tears in the session… myself included.

Graphic Novels are considered/shelved in the non fiction category (741 or so). Over the years, I have asked several sources why Graphic Novels are labeled non fiction. General answer has been, "Because they are comic books." Hmmm??? Our local public library recently moved the graphic novels to their own area. I asked the librarian why it was moved (thinking that it was because GNs deserved their respectful area). As it turns out, they were moved out of the 700 area because… parents complained about the certain GNs with more adult material. Yes, I’m a daily reader of YALSA and Child lit listserves and have heard all about those objectable GNs, but my marketing side wants kids of all ages to get their hands on their age appropriate Graphic Novels. (Umm, I don’t know how moving the 741s down two shelves is going to prevent younger readers from accessing these objectable GNs.)

My son’s third grade teacher just finished reading to the class The Invention of Hugo Cabret. (When I heard this, I sent her a ‘woohoo’ note.) My son, who reads way beyond his age, asked me to order a copy for him from the most recent book club selection, so he can read it for himself. Happy mom moment.

Back to my earlier point, I'm rather outspoken about art and creative thinking for kids. Graphic novels add a right-brain element to reading… not to mention another creative medium to tell a story. As I sat on the floor ‘studying’ the current graphic novel offerings, I got a few looks when I moaned “Whoa, cool” after I read the subtitle to Susan Schade and Jon Butler’s The Fog Mound – Travels of Thelonious:
"Part Graphic Novel, Part Traditional Story, It’s an adventure like no other!"
Whoa, cool! Who wouldn’t want to read that?

Note: I was going to post a survey/selection of Graphic Novels but it seems like I got a little carried away on my GN podium/soapbox/rant... guess I'll have to postpone that list to another post. Until later!


Anonymous said...

I work in a middle/jr. high school library. I can't keep graphic novels on the shelf!

Last year I decided to combine my "picture books" with graphic novels, drawing books, etc. I created a whole new section. Putting the picture books with the graphic novels reduces some of the stigma for the kids.

In making this move, I created a fiction and nonfiction section - and kids are starting to pick up some of the graphic novel biographies and nonfiction titles.

I even have my English teachers ready to purchase a classroom set of a graphic novel to support their teaching of "The Odyssey."

So far it is a big success!

wheelertop said...

I only recently started reading graphic novels (because I work with reluctant readers and want to start using them more). The thing that has amazed me is how much harder they are for me to read, because so much information is carried in the pictures. It's almost like I feel a part of my brain groaning over work it wasn't used to doing. But reluctant readers tend to find it so much easier. Which only goes to show that they DO bring a set of skills to their reading-- a set that isn't as well developed in us "traditional" readers.

Wendie O said...

Graphic Novels are catalogued in the 'How to Draw' section of the library -- 741. So are the Garfield books, the Peanuts, the Tintin books, etc. All of which we librarians simply pull out of that area and place at the end of the normal J fiction area. (leaving the instruction books in the 741, but pulling out the resulting 'drawn' stories.)

Just as a side note -- Fiction is 813, but libraries pull them out and put them into their own displays, too. (and you thought fiction was separate from nonfiction.)

Our library has three sections of fiction/ graphic novels. 1) for elementary students. (Hooray for Babymouse and Owly and a bunch of others)
2) for Middle School (too graphic -- old definition -- for parents of elementary students)
and 3) for High School. (anything goes and usually does in the Japanese imports as well as home grown series.)

Most of the nonfiction graphic books (To be a dancer/ The Wright brothers' one/ and a few others) are also catalogued 741 -- so we simply pulled them out and placed them with the other graphic novels. The kids don't care. And they do get read.

-wendieO, writer, librarian, and more

Anna M. Lewis said...

Thank you all for your comments!

Janelle-I just read The Arrival (amazing) and can't wait to mention it to my son's teacher to complement their huge emigration unit this year.

Wheelertop- I'm right and left-brained so I wonder if I 'see' GNs differently? Hmm...
We all see and interrupt what we read differently... that's what makes us all special!
I just read Amulet---I was surprised how strongly I was pulled into the story.

Wendie O-Fantastic to see that the GNs in all areas are getting into the right hands.
I second the Hooray for Owly and Babymouse... and Robot Dreams, Bumperboy, Shark Hunters... whoops, those are for another post!

Mickey Schafer said...

Just found this site, and must say I'm very excited. I teach at the college level, but have young children so am constantly prowling for good stuff. I would also like to ask for a recommendation though...our school has a common reading program for the entire freshman class and we are welcome to suggest books. I though a graphic novel (non-fiction seems to be the preference) would be an interesting suggestion, certainly less dry than some of our recent picks! Any suggestions?

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