While sitting at the Youth Services desk at the library I often hear parents and teachers say, “No, don’t get a graphic novel. Find a “real” book.” I confess that I may have uttered these words myself to my 2 boys as they were choosing books like Bone, Amulet, and Captain Underpants. In the past year, though, I have learned that graphic novels ARE real books and have REAL benefits for all readers. 

If you are unfamiliar with graphic novels they are full length books written in a comic format with complex plots, dynamic character development, and interesting conflicts. There are graphic novels that address a variety of different topics such as super heroes, life at school, science fiction, dinosaurs, history, and even the works of Shakespeare have been adapted to a graphic novel format. In 2020, for the first time ever, a graphic novel by Jerry Craft called “New Kid” won the prestigious Newbery Medal.

Graphic Novels have a great deal to offer readers of all levels. Here are just a few of the benefits.

  • “When students read visual narratives, the activity in the brain is similar to how readers comprehend text-based sentences. However, when students learn to read graphic novels with an analytical eye, depth and complexity are added to the reading process.” (Northwestern CTD)
  • “Graphic novels allow readers to read above their independent reading level so they can engage in more challenging texts. ‘The combination of words and images in (comics and graphic novels) provide an opportunity for scaffolding for some readers and also a new modality that interests and attracts more capable readers,’ explains educational researcher G. Yang. ‘When kids read enjoyable, complex, and compelling stories, they are motivated to read more, so graphic novels can be great stepping stones to longer text works.’” (Today)
  • “These books offer all readers a way to practice important reading skills such as building vocabulary, understanding a sequence of events, discerning the plot of a story and making inferences. And comics give young readers training in visual literacy — helping them read and interpret images — an essential skill in our highly visual world.” (Washington Post)
  • “Reluctant readers are often enticed by graphic novels. These visually stimulating stories create a gateway to a deeper understanding of a text. As cartoonist Judd Winick says, “Graphic novels allow the reluctant reader to slide into the story without as much of the heavy lifting as prose might require.” These readers can quickly begin to develop literacy skills such as general reading comprehension, inference, and building new vocabulary, as they leap into the narrative without struggling with the format of a traditional novel.”  (Resilient Educator)

Graphic novel fans are familiar with titles like Bad Guys, Smile, Baby-Sitter’s Club, and Dog Man. Here are some other great graphic novels you can find at the O’Fallon Public Libary.

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

What would you do if a mysterious, red button dropped from they sky? Why, you would push it of course! That is exactly what Zita and her friend Joseph do, opening a portal to another dimension. When Joseph is dragged into the portal by giant tentacles, Zita decides she must follow and try to save her friend. The book is filled with her adventures on another planet which includes aliens, Screeds, menacing machines and even a giant mouse. It is a wonderful story of friendship, compassion, and bravery.

The graphics in this charming story are beautifully done and tell much of the story about a young boy named Henry, and his summers spent with a visiting Vaudeville troupe. The main character enjoys seeing the elephants and zebra and acrobats, but what he really enjoys is his time spent with one of the actors who is just his age – Buster Keaton. Henry is fascinated with the comedy and lifestyle that Buster has and Buster longs to have a “normal” life of baseball and fishing like Henry. This story will teach you something about the early life of silent film star Buster Keaton and it will leave you thinking about the lessons contained in its pages and pictures.

Bluffton by Matt Phelan
Mad Scientist Academy by Matthew McElligott

Fans of Ms. Frizzle in the Magic School Bus Books will love Dr. Cosmic in the Mad Scientist Academy. In The Dinosaur Disaster a group of unusual students arrive at their new school where they find that their teacher, Dr. Cosmic, was tied up by the class pet, Oscar, a dinosaur! The students go on to learn about fossils, dinosaurs, their eating patterns, their movements and to much more. The Mad Scientist Academy does a great job of combining interesting facts, excellent illustrations and a fun story.

This nonfiction book by Don Brown takes a look at humankind’s trip to the moon. He illustrates the earliest rockets, tells about the inventor’s inspirations and explains some of the details and challenges of each space flight. The light tone and occasional humor in the novel keeps the reader engaged and informed. Don Brown does include some of the tragedies that occurred in the quest for space travel, but it is done in an age appropriate manner that is truthful with children about the good and the bad of our desire to fly the moon.

Rocket to the Moon by Don Brown

Find these graphic novels and more in the graphic novel aisle of the Children’s Department on the 1st floor of O’Fallon Public Library.

One response to “Graphic Novels are “Real” Books, A Reader’s Advisory from Youth Services”

  1. The Autumnlands, Vol. 2: Woodland Creatures (The Autumnlands #2) by Kurt Busiek – The Help Desk Book Blog Avatar

    […] graphic novel is surprising in its treatment of the themes of power, magic and betrayal. I like how the animals […]


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