Graphic Novels

I admit, I wasn’t always in favor of graphic novels for my son. I thought of them as glorified comic books- with not as much value as chapter books or novels.

But my son really seemed to enjoy them, and insisted on reading them multiple times among other (more traditional) reading. So I looked a little closer, and discovered that just like with any other type of book, the quality is more important than the genre.

For Aidan, graphic novels have provided a bridge between picture books and novels. He enjoys illustrations, and going abruptly to a book with no pictures was disappointing.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was managing this transition himself. He started with Geronimo Stilton books which are not graphic novels, but use colored text and intermittent illustrations that ease the reader towards more complex books. Aidan tried the BabyMouse series and Squish series by Jennifer Holm, the Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosocszka, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, and the Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce. He then moved on to more sophisticated graphic novels such as The Origin Story of Batman and Redwall. I even introduced him to intelligent comic strips along the way (Calvin and Hobbes!), which he loved.

Contrary to my fears, he still reads regular novels, and he still loves reading. When we run errands or travel, his companion of choice is a book. So I’m glad I’ve learned to expand my perspective on graphic novels. Just in time for my next emerging reader.

Appreciating the Genres

As a children’s book writer, I have a good appreciation for the genres of our field. I began my journey in children’s book writing with picture books, and currently I am working on three middle grade novels. My critique partner Joanna rocks the young adult segment.

As my son gets older, he still enjoys having picture books read to him but his choices are different when he reads for himself. He is reading chapter books, but I am struck by the broad range of choices in this genre.

Aidan really skipped over the beginning chapter books, like Frog and Toad, or Nate the Great. They didn’t seem to be “meaty” enough for him. He enjoys adventures, especially those in far away locations or times. The Magic Treehouse books are right up his alley. He frequently connects things that he learns about (Ancient Rome for example) with what he read in a Magic Treehouse book. We are lucky to have a family friend that gave us a big collection of Jack and Annie books (thank you Chrissy!).

I read a Facebook post this summer where Moms were discussing chapter books with appropriate content for young kids. One mom suggested Geronimo Stilton. I had never heard of him. Luckily, our library had some of the books, so we tried them out. And Aidan fell in love.

The Geronimo Stilton books are written in first person by a mouse named Geronimo Stilton. He is the editor of the Rodent Gazette, and the books are told in his voice. He is the “author” ala Lemony Snicket. (Spoiler alert: the books are written by Italian author Elisabetta Dami, distributed by Scholastic in the US)

Image 1

The really creative part of the Geronimo Stilton books is how they bridge the transition from picture books to novels. I’m sure many children miss the rich images from picture books when they move to longer books. In the Geronimo Stilton books, there are plenty of illustrations, maps, and pictures. They also illustrate the text. Yes, the text. They use colors, different type faces, even illustration to further illuminate the words. This comes in quite handy for a child who is actively expanding their vocabulary. Combine all this with an exciting adventure story, and you’re on your way!

Image

If you haven’t yet checked out Geronimo I encourage you to give him a try. There are currently 55+ books in the regular series plus 7 graphic novels. He even has his own web page with games and videos, as well as places to draw and write.

What other chapter book gems would you recommend? Please share in the comments!