Graphic Novels: Sophisticated Enough for Adults

At the advice of a colleague, I took some time to read some fiction, only to find out that the first book I picked turned out to be a biography. Nonetheless, I was engrossed in the graphic novel called Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth. For all those who look down at writing that isn’t in the traditional western canon of literature, they are certainly missing out on some complex, innovative, and satisfying story telling. It turns out to be about math, logic, and insanity told from the perspective of famous mathematician/logician Bertrand Russell. Unbeknownst to me, there is even a bit of educational philosophy along with traditional Greek math and philosophy as well. So much for non-educational reading. It’s been on my list for a year and I finally got to it. Who knew?

I’m guessing that those who dismiss graphic novels as literature have yet to read a good one cover to cover. Earlier this year, from a recommendation of a middle school English teacher, I read a graphic novel called American Born Chinese. Not only is it engaging, it deals with serious topics such as cultural biases, racism, self-loathing. It has a very literary quality to its structure, but overall, is an excellent work, was glad it was recommended to me, and am also glad to see him engaging his students with that book. It also happens to be the 2007 Printz Award Winner (The Caldecott/Newberry for Young Adults).

I did finally manage to relax and read some fiction though, yet it’s amazing how reading fiction can spur one to want to learn more about the factual events about the time and place where the story is set.

I’ve found the graphic novels for younger students (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or The Adventures of Ook and Gluk, for example) have a high engagement quality, are great for reluctant readers, but are still lacking in the sophisticated story telling. I have two new goals. 1) To find a graphic novel of literary quality for second graders, and 2) To ensure that the literature I give my students to read engages them in a way beyond the text. There is definitely a place for graphic novels in schools.

Happy 2011!



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