If you ever want to see me get all fired up, all you have to do is tell me that graphic novels and comic books are the same thing.
Seriously. I will give you an earful. Just ask the ladies I work with.
I get a little frustrated with parents at the library that refuse to let their kids read anything with pictures in it. They tell their kids that it is too easy for them, or that it is a waste of their time.
Shamashnofingofinhafin! (That is me being frustrated. Add lots of guttural noises in there as you read it.)
Let me prove my point using only two examples:
Maus, by Art Spiegelman is the story of his father, Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew and Haulocaust survivor. It has won 11 awards, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.
Persepolis is the memoir of Marjane Satrapi, who grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It has also won a handful of awards.
When I was 10 years old, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I found this charming little book on my parent’s book shelf entitled “Animal Farm” by George Orwell.
As you can probably imagine, I was never the same. If you are unfamiliar with Animal Farm, quick sum up: it’s not really about animals. It’s about communism.
I think if you were to hand either of these books to a child looking for a “comic book”, they would have a similar experience.
So my point here is that graphic novels are not the same thing as comic books.
The thing I love about graphic novels is that they can tell a story in an entirely new way. I think people often confuse art in books as a way to make content more simple. In some cases, yes it does. But the intent of a TRUE graphic novel isn’t to save the reader from having to read lots of words. The purpose is to connect the reader to a story and to characters in a different way.
Am I suggesting you let your kids ONLY read graphic novels? Heck no. In fact, I am not a fan of graphic novels that have been made from books that have already been written. I will suggest you read Coraline by Neil Gaiman over Coraline the graphic novel, every time. That’s kind of a bad example though, because I hated that book with a fiery passion. But, it was the best I could come up with off the top of my head.
Of course there are other graphic novels that aren’t as heavy handed as these two. Let me give you a few examples of graphic novels that I highly recommend for intermediate aged readers. (Don’t get me wrong though- I LOVED these as an adult.)
These graphic novels have powerful messages for kids to learn about hard work, overcoming insecurities, finding your own identity, being passionate about what you love, and dealing with difficult family problems.
As far as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, Baby Mouse, Geronimo Stilton, Captain Underpants, and other middle reader books written in that style go- I am not as passionate about those kinds of books. I do think that parents don’t give them as much credit as they deserve. The Lexile scores on those books far outweigh those in a comic book, where there are only a few words per picture.
The thing is that there is not only one right way to tell a story; or to receive a story. I think novels, graphic novels, plays, poetry, movies, audiobooks- each have their own way of impacting a person. Throwing graphic novels out the window, or writing them off as things for children simply because they have drawings, is a mistake.
And that’s all I have to say about that….for now.
What do you think?
If you are confused about the difference between graphic novels and comic books, I found this wonderful article that explains it better than I could.