Graphic novels, stories presented in comic strip format, are a relatively new style of book that has taken children’s literature by storm. This style of book, while making some adults crazy (myself included, at one point), has made reading entertaining for a lot of kids who may not find their way into a book otherwise.
This style of book can make storytelling more accessible and appealing for kids because there are illustrations that go along with the text. This way, even if a child comes to a word they don’t know, the comic illustrations may help them figure out what the word is. Additionally, those readers who are reluctant to pick up a book may do so because of the visual appeal. Now, I can be a “book traditionalist” just as much as the next person, and I completely understand the desire to want your child to pick up a novel, one without illustrations. However, I would like to share with you just a couple of the recently published graphic novels that are more like a typical novel, but just happen to have pictures.
The New Kid by Jerry Craft is a recently released graphic novel that I feel is appropriate for readers in fourth grade and up. The main character, Jordan, is starting seventh grade at a school where he is one of very few African-American students enrolled. Jordan is to trying to navigate the normal issues of adolescence, like making friends, wanting the newest gadgets he can’t afford and dealing with seemingly overbearing parents. However, he also has to deal with issues of being the new kid at a school where most of the other kids are wealthy, as well as balancing old friendships from the neighborhood with new friendships from school. Author Jerry Craft tells Jordan’s story very well, and the ability to see the expressions on the characters’ faces adds to the reader’s understanding, especially with sarcasm and other middle school expressions.
The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell is another great graphic novel that covers a variety of complex issues that you would expect to see in a traditional novel. The many characters in this book are all connected through their cool summertime activity of creating a their own fictional community of cardboard characters. Through each chapter we learn the background of each kid, including their struggles of divorced parents and annoying siblings, among others. The illustrations in this novel are important because they really bring the cardboard kingdom to life, and the themes in the book are ones that many kids will be able to identify with.
Ultimately, most of us parents just want our children to be able to read well and hopefully enjoy reading as well. I’m here to tell you that learning to read well takes practice, which means reading books. Sometimes that practice to become a better reader or that avenue to enjoying reading may come in the form of a graphic novel.
Deana Metzke is a wife, mom of two, blogger and book lover who is trying her best to raise children who will enjoy reading long after she’s gone. She is a literacy coach at a Springfield elementary school, which strengthens her drive to help all children become book lovers. You can find her talking about children’s books on Twitter at @DMetzke or on her blog, raisingreaders.site.