A Revelation about Graphic Novels

I’ve never been much a fan of graphic novels. I can appreciate the art. And I have been taught about the literary significance of this new genre. They just haven’t appealed to me much.

Graphic novels are a combination of comic style art and storytelling. Readers have to navigate sometimes a whole page at a time, rather than the traditional linear style of reading, line by line. Sometime the reader has to read an image and its accompanying text vertically, sometimes speech bubbles overlap each other, and sometimes, like I said above, a whole page of image has to be read. This very visual genre is a sophisticated type of storytelling for a generation of readers that is already very adept at reading images and at reading text from multiple angles. (When you read a website, you can access information in a variety of ways—there is almost no one right way to get information on a website, and young readers are picking up this skill much faster than those of us who have always read left-to-right and top-to-bottom.)

Today, thanks to the recommendation of a young friend and professional reader, Maddy Posner, I purchased and read (in one sitting!) Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge. Reading this book was a completely new reading experience for me. I did have to navigate pages in a whole new way, but this story made it very easy. And I really don’t know how this book could have been written any other way. As a reader, I got to see inside protagonist Paige’s head and inside her art journal entries. It was magically expressed. Perhaps my favorite thing about Page by Paige, though, was that as I was reading it, not only did it speak to me and remind me of my insecurities as a high schooler, but I kept thinking of people I had to recommend it to throughout my reading excursion. I literally thought of five specific people who would love it for different reasons. The reader gets to watch Paige develop her voice right before his/her eyes. She moves from introverted and insecure to confident and ready to take risks . . . because it is a graphic novel, we get to see it.

The writing was beautiful and lyrical and the words are often woven into the artistic images. The art is pen sketches that reflect the feelings and attitudes of an insecure high school girl who has just moved to the big city.

This is what graphic novels should be—not just comic books but visual representations of stories. I hope you will pick up Page by Paige (for 5th graders and up) or Roller Girl (Jamieson) or Smile (Telgemeier) or El Deafo (Bell) or The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Selznick) or BabyMouse (Holm) or Lunch Lady (Krosoczka) or any one of the other very interesting graphic novel titles that we carry. They may not be your favorite genre, but the style is very likely going to speak to your kids.

Mike Butler2 Comments