March 17, 2013

Graphic Novel Suggestions

My classroom library.
If you read my blog post on attending Emerald City Comic Con, then you know I bought a lot of books. The beauty of graphic novels is that low readers can comprehend complex plots with VERY high vocabulary, they can finish them quickly, and they LOVE them. I've got a lot of visual learners in my classes, and graphic novels are better than candy for many of them.

Imagine a kid who has never willingly picked up a book, finished it on their own, nor enjoyed the experience. Now, give that kid a graphic novel. The transformation is nearly immediate and a truly beautiful thing to witness. My reading intervention class is a different group of kids from the beginning of the year because of graphic novels- SSR is actually silent, and not the, "I have to be quiet so I'm going to fall asleep" sort of quiet. It's an electric sensation, watching my students devour books!

Here are some FANTASTIC graphic novels that should be in every middle school library (in my humble opinion).  

Side note- All of these are appropriate for middle level readers.
Avatar: The Last Airbender- The great cartoon (not the terrible live action movie) has been expanded by these graphic novels that are too hot to stay on my book shelves. There are lots to choose from- The Lost Scrolls, The Lost Adventures, The Promise, The Search, Zuko's Story and The Earth Kingdom Chronicles. I LOVE ALL OF THEM.

The following graphic novels are based on full-length novels and could be additions to a class set or help low readers follow along with the story. Or, you could just get them because they are great.
The Girl Who Owned A City I loved this story growing up. A plague wipes out all the adults on the planet and the children learn to survive. One ten-year old girl stands up to gangs and starvation and dares to own something worth having in a time when everyone takes what they need.
A Wrinkle in Time I used to have the hardest time getting kids to try this series, but not anymore!
Artemis Fowl  The thrilling stories of an evil mastermind (who just so happens to be a kid) and his fantastic adventures. 
Witch and Wizard Similar to the Hunger Games, a brother and sister accused of witchcraft must survive being sentenced to death.
The Lightning Thief I love this series and everything that goes with it (except the movie) and while there are some changes to the story in this version, it's still really good.

Now come a whole bunch of random recommendations that I have tried to group by theme, but really, it's just a list.
Maus- I recommended this in my blog post about Holocaust novels. It does have a heavy subject, so keep that in mind before you purchase/recommend it to kids. The Nazis are represented by cats, the Jews (and the Nazis' other victims) are drawn as mice- an amazing analogy. It is written by Art Spiegelman, who is telling the true story of his father. It is also the first graphic novel to have won the Pulitzer Prize. 
Cardboard/Bad Island/Ghostopolis- Doug TenNapel's style is so different, and each story he has created is wonderful. In my experience, these are popular with boys who have had troubled home lives, but everyone who has picked them up has enjoyed them, including me!
Smile/Drama- My girls have just gobbled up these books by Raina Telgemeier (though recently, a young man admitted to me, quietly, that he thought these books were, "actually pretty good"). My students really relate to the themes of social awkwardness, trouble with friends and learning to be yourself.
Astronaut Academy- Raina's husband, Dave Roman, has written this fun series, which is suited for younger students, but is still a fun read for all.
Friends with Boys- This story, by Faith Erin Hicks, has a wonderful plot of finding out who you are in high school, with the additional problem of dealing with a ghost. 
Anya's Ghost- Speaking of ghosts, Anya not only has to deal with a most pernicious spirit, but must also come to terms with her identity as an immigrant in America. Written by Vera Brosgol.
American Born Chinese- Sensing a connection here? This one, by Gene Luen Yang, is a told in a complex, three part story, and has some potentially inappropriate implications at the beginning that have to do with peaches...but other than that, it's a great story about accepting who you are.
Rust- This one is a lightning quick read (mostly pictures) with themes of war, loss and trying to be human. It is a three part series by Royden Lepp. Royden also visits schools to talk about being creative in your future careers. 
Mouse Guard- If your kids like to read about animals, then this one is a great pick. If they like to read about honorable warriors, suggest this one. If a student creates their own stories or is constantly doodling, then this self-published series might be a good inspiration for him/her. Written by David Peterson.
Memorial- This is my personal favorite. It is by Chris Roberson and it is a very complicated story that involves memory, stealing moments, and imagining all possibilities. It combines many of my favorite literary characters (such as Peter Pan, Mulan, Robin Hood and Sinbad) into a thrilling story that I couldn't put down. 
Marvel: All Ages- The problem I've had with comic books is that there are too many to read to make sure they are appropriate, and boy, are some of them inappropriate.  I haven't added a single super-hero comic book in my classroom because of this. Until now. Marvel has alleviated this problem by releasing stories about our favorite comic book heroes in stories that ANYONE, no matter their age, can read and enjoy.

If this wasn't enough, or you're looking for a different age level, then check out this book that was created by two librarians: A Parent's Guide to the Best Kids' Comics. It provides not only a summary and suggested age level, but also a page from the book so you can check out the artist's style.

Happy Reading!

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