Graphic Novels

My son recently discovered graphic novels (which back in my day were just “comics”) and has totally and utterly fallen in love with them. He zips through them faster than other books, and comes looking for more. Graphic novels are a really great “gateway” to reading in that the picture to text ratio is quite high, the stories are usually very engaging, and there are lots and lots of great choices out there. The art is also totally incredible in most books.

The New West Lit Fest, a multi-disciplinary event taking place in New West May 13-19 (with a few pre-events: Pecha Kucha on May 6th, and the Farmers Market Author Market on May 12, both of which kids are welcome at) has a special workshop on graphic novels. “How to Read a Graphic Novel”, features local author and artist Kurtis FIndlay. This workshop is suitable for adults who don’t get it, like me, and also for your older kids. From the Lit Fest folks:

“How to Read a Graphic Novel” focuses on one very specific part the comic page: The panel. What is a panel? What is the purpose of panels in storytelling? How do panels relate to each other? How do you arrange panels on a page in a way that guides the reader? Filled with examples from comic masters like Will Eisner, Art Spiegelman, and Jack Kirby, and practical exercises in creating comics, this workshop is for those wanting a better grasp on the use of panels in their storytelling.

Kurtis is no stranger to the comics world. He has a daily webcomic called Kids, Eh? that showcases how hilarious his children are, hosts The Pullbox Podcast, an online graphic novel reading club that explores comics of every kind and digs deep into what makes them great and has published Chuck Jones: The Dream that Never Was, the definitive history book on a long forgotten comic strip by Chuck Jones, the creator of several Looney Tunes characters.
If you are at all intrigued by graphic novels, make time in your calendar to go to this workshop, which is from 7-9pm Tuesday May 17 at the Gallery in Queens Park.
Here are some great early graphic novels (recommendations from me or my friend Catriona, who has two young boys):
  • The Flying Beaver Brothers – this six book series features Bub and Ace, who are flying beavers who seem to get into an awful lot of hijinx. This is a really great early reading, and features a lot of onomatopoeia with lots of oof, urgh, and aughs. My son easily read all six books (and re-reads them over and over to this say) and was very proud of himself for accomplishing it. Great for a K or grade one reader.
  • Johnny Boo – this series has lots of titles and would be considered an easy reader graphic novel, and a great entry point. Catriona describes them as ‘Kind of like Elephant and Piggie – silly and simple. The boys love reading them out loud together pretending to be different characters – and the characters are adorable ghost best friends hanging out.”
  • Publisher Toon Books makes all sorts of great ones, often available at the library. Catriona recommends these two as a good start.
  • Bone – this series is, according to Catriona, “…hands down one the best graphic novel series for kids. It’s a first step into the world of immersive epic fantasy … [her son] didn’t take a break when reading the 9 volumes.” Here’s a great article outlining more about the series, and Catriona points out that adults will love this one, too.
  • Amulet – this series wasn’t cheap from Scholastic, but it is really really well done and the story is gripping, plus they’ve invested into some web-based interactive stuff to go along with it. Creator Kazu Kibuishi designed Amulet with older kids in mind (the story starts off with a tragedy and there’s lots of monster-y creatures and suspense moments). They are really beautifully drawn and written and worth hunting down. (links go to the US Scholastic site, because the interactive stuff is more full fledged than on the Canadian site).