Saturday, August 10, 2019

Refreshing Graphic Novels

August 8, 9 and 12 are teacher work days in my district, and 6th graders start on the 13th, with 7th and 8th starting the next day. I love being back at school! My favorite thing in the world is getting books to students.

Graphic novels are NOT my favorite thing. They just aren't. I don't like to read them myself, and it worries me when I have students who will read nothing else. I know that most librarians and teachers are all "We LOVE graphic novels! They get kids to read!", but... do they? More often, they use graphic novels to avoid reading, and this is what worries me. As an occasional treat, absolutely! Read a graphic novel every single day. But read some other books as well. Reading only one thing, whether it be fantasy or dog books or nonfiction, is a very narrow way to experience the world. If I can read football books, anybody can read anything.

Do I think that parents, teachers, and librarians should rip graphic novels out of children's hands and tell them to read "real books"? Of course not. Do I think that, on occasion, a graphic novel is not the best choice for a school project? Yes, I do. Also, occasionally, Harry Potter books or books with talking animals as characters are not the best choice for projects, and I've had students actually cry about that. Again, I'm not saying students can never read Warriors books. I'm just saying that maybe they can read two books every year that aren't something they've read before.

Now, before everyone spouts off on Twitter that I am a horrible person who should never be allowed near children (and it's been done before, for other reasons), let me say this: My library HAS graphic novels. We have a LOT of graphic novels. Eight shelves of them. I am using a small windfall in my budget to refresh the collection, in fact, so we will have even more.

Also, I am allowed to have opinions, even if they diverge from the popular ones.

But does a little of my soul die when I spend $15 on a book like the ones below, that will start falling apart in two years? (I get it, the paper is heavy. The pages fall out.) Yep. It does.

Am I the only one? For the record, I am also not a fan of picture books. (Except for Nancy Rose's squirrel books. Man, those are fantastic.) To me and my own personal children, picture books were what were read to us before we had the skills to read chapter books. But I do have some picture books in the library as well.

Tessier, Greg and Amandine. Chloe
Published May 2nd 2017 by Charmz (first published February 2011)
Library copy

Chloe is in 8th grade, and feels awkward. She looks up to popular girls Anissa, Naomi and Leslie even though they are shallow and mean to everyone. She copies their fashion style, and talks her parents into taking her shopping to trade out her t shirts and jeans for belly baring tops and mini skirts. She does make a few nice friends and is still kind to people around her, and she feels that she is successful in her middle school mission because an older boy decides he likes her, making Anissa and her friends jealous.
Strengths: This is a colorful series of graphic novels akin to Telgemeier's The Baby-sitters' Club, and has lots of friend drama with a late middle school/high school setting. Also, a lot about fashion if readers are looking for that.
Weaknesses: Argh! Perhaps the French are at a different place in the women's rights movement? And they let tween girls show their midriffs at school? Or has life changed this much since 2011?
What I really think: This is exactly why I try to read everything before I buy it. This wasn't horrible, and it will certainly get read, but it's just not something I really liked or thought was good. On the bright side, if I have students who gravitate towards these, I know they can alternately use a book with a good, strong female character! (Which we aren't allowed to say anymore.

It's a series that also includes:

Ms. Yingling


  1. Personally, I appreciate that you have the courage to share views that you know are unpopular :-). I have worried about my daughter only reading graphic novels, especially when she herself expressed that reading them made reading regular novels more difficult. But it's working out ok for us. She's slowly dipping into more text-driven books, and her reading test scores are good. Whatever you think of testing, it's refreshing to me that she can read mostly GNs and still do well - I think the fact that I have read aloud most of the Harry Potter books has helped. Anyway, keep expressing your opinions, please. I value it!

  2. A mom on my kids' soccer team was getting her Phd in education in graphic novels and she said that graphic novels are great for reading comprehension because you have to infer the story not just from the words but also from the images. I think the term is "visual literacy" but it also extends into other areas such as STEM for reading maps and graphs. And lately, my kids tell me that standardized tests are ALL ABOUT interpreting graphs.

  3. I think it's good to have a balance - it certainly doesn't improve kids' love of reading to have people take away the books they love and tell them they're not "real books" but that's not what you're doing! You're encouraging them to expand their horizons and that's great! And yes, the French graphic novels are... interesting. I've got several series from Papercutz and the girls are much more sexualized than I'm comfortable with, but they check out... anyways, for kids who struggle to move between the two types of media, I like illustrated novels or graphic blends. When you think about it, chapter books USED to have illustrations in them, even if only black and white, or color plates! I think they should do that again.