On Graphic Novels

I don’t normally do discussion posts on TRT, but I do them on occasion when I stumble into something middle-grade related that isn’t focused on a lot in the middle-grade sphere. One such thing is graphic novels.

Today, graphic novels are becoming increasingly popular and commonplace, but they still aren’t regarded as actual novels. I can see why this is, but I also have to point out that there’s not really any way to skim a graphic novel. A reader has to read every panel, every picture, every text book, in order to understand what is going on. Not only that, but graphic novels are entirely different experiences than pure books or pure movies. They’re more along the vein of picture books. They develop stories through pictures, expressions, dialogue and thoughts. Plot is something that gets developed in the process.

So sure, graphic novels and regular novels each have their own merits, but the real point is that both can be used to tell stories.

Recently, I had to do a cultural project on a novel and I chose Gene Luen Yang’s AMERICAN BORN CHINESE, which is one of my favorite novels of all time and also one of the first graphic novels that I ever loved. It’s a middle-grade story told through three intertwining stories that come together to portray themes that talk about culture, acceptance and identity.

I knew I could write a report on the book when I picked it, and I was happy that my teacher was okay with me using a graphic  novel, but I learned a lot from the experience of writing a report on a graphic novel. I know that most teachers don’t accept graphic novels for reports, and there are plenty of good reasons for that, but as the children’s book graphic novel section becomes wider, I hope that more teachers come to accept books for reports.

Whatever can get students reading, and keep them reading, will inevitably help them more than forcing them to read something that they have zero interest in. While writing my report was hard, it was more because of the intertwining aspect of AMERICAN BORN CHINESE than the picture part of it. As the children’s/YA section of the book world becomes bigger, I hope that kids will have an environment where they can love what they read and talk about what they love to read.


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