Thursday, May 14, 2009

Graphic Novels: My Experiment

Last week's Booking Through Thursday topic was graphic novels. In my response, I admitted total ignorance on the subject. However, by spending a little time reading other BTT answers, I got some great suggestions and decided to test the water myself.

Heather left a comment directing me to her very informative post. She pointed me toward Graphic Novels: Everything You Need To Know by Paul Gravett. My library didn't have this title but, thanks to inter-library loan, I was able to pick it up just a few days later. It is an excellent primer on graphic novels. Gravett lists 30 of his favorite titles and goes on to show sample pages (complete with suggestions on how to read them). He also points out themes, keywords, and special features. By leafing through this book, I found I was drawn to color illustrations...and preferred to steer clear of the sci-fi, super hero, fantasy world.

So, I checked out American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. It won the Michael L. Printz Award, was a National Book Award finalist, and was mentioned by at least a couple of bloggers. American Born Chinese tells three separate stories. First is the Chinese fable of the Monkey King trying to rise above his heritage. The story of Jin Wang, a lonely, Asian American middle school student trying to fit in is next. Finally we have Chin-Kee (purposely the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype) who ruins his popular cousin Danny's life with his yearly visits. Yang then weaves these stories together and delivers a powerful message of self-acceptance. I'm glad I had the opportunity to read American Born Chinese and will be suggesting this title to my nephew in middle school.

This experiment with graphic novels was definitely a success. I feel like I've gained a (very) basic idea of what they're all about and an understanding of their appeal (especially to 11 year old boys). They won't become a favorite genre, but I will consider reading another. I hear there is a Pride and Prejudice graphic novel coming soon....


  1. I'm so glad you liked the book... that's awesome! Yeah, the Marvel website has some images of the Pride and Prejudice graphic novel, which look amazing.

    I think I liked The Watchmen so much because it was kind of anti-super hero (not something I've ever really been into). I'm planning to dive into Maus, American Born Chinese, and Unfunny Home as my next ones, to explore graphic novels as memoir/cultural landmarks.

  2. You need to learn how to read a graphic novel? Looks like I would have to start with something basic whereas graphic novels are concerned.

  3. Heather,
    I checked the Marvel website and found the Pride & Prejudice images!
    Hope you enjoy your next graphic novels, and thanks again for helping me get started.

  4. Violetcrush,
    They were basically just saying that you should read each frame and look at the picture before continuing on to the next. Sounds like commom sense to me, but I guess there are people that just quickly read an entire page without looking at the drawings at all and then go back to study the illustrations.

    I'm glad I didn't buy the book, but it was good to browse through and get a basic overview of the genre.

  5. Here's one that isn't for young boys! I believe it qualifies. I read it years ago, and just loved it to pieces. Ethel & Ernest A True Story by Raymond Briggs. He is the fellow who did the children's book, The Snowman. Oh, my you would love it, JoAnn. It is the story of the author's parents done in drawings and words. I will read it again someday so I can write about it on the blog.

  6. Thanks, Nan. My library doesn't have this one, but it's coming through inter-library loan...hopefully next week.

  7. I am as ignorant as you--sometimes I feel that Graphic Novels are just so much work! My library has the book that was recommended to you--Everythiing You Need to Know. I think I may go pick it up tomorrow. And wow! I read Ethel and Ernest years and years ago, before the graphic novel craze--I didn't realize that was what I was reading but did think it was pretty unique--duh! :)
    Thanks for this post--

  8. Kim,
    That's exactly what I thought of graphic novels - too much work! But, American Born Chinese really has a great message and I enjoyed reading it (my daughters thought it was pretty funny that Mom was reading a comic book!). If your library has Graphic's definitely worth taking a look, even if you don't bring it home.

    I can't wait for Ethel & Ernest!

  9. I'm glad to see your experiment went well. I enjoyed reading American Born Chinese last year. I just started reading graphic novels last year and the genre is now one of my favorites.

  10. Vasilly,
    I'll be experimenting more with graphic novels. I have several suggestions filed away from last week's Booking Through Thursday.


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