Do you believe in magic? What about the magic of books? And what about the supercool, superlative magic of graphic novels? Well, actually I think all books have supercool and superlative magic powers; but graphic novels with the cool combination of their art-work and the stories they tell, seem to fit very coolly into the “super” part of it.
If you are a frequent visitor to my blog, you know I am a reader of all sorts of books; and yes, I do/have done my fair share of reading graphic novels too. And that is why I was surprised I did not know who Will Eisner was (if you are wondering who he is too, read on..).
Will Eisner: The Father of Graphic Novels
The first week of March (March 1 – 7) is Will Eisner Week; and it was created in honor of the man who is considered the father of the graphic novel – William Erwin Eisner.
Wikipedia states – Will Eisner was an American cartoonist, writer, and entrepreneur. He was one of the earliest cartoonists to work in the American comic book industry, and his series The Spirit was noted for its experiments in content and form. In 1978, he popularized the term “graphic novel” with the publication of his book A Contract with God.
Reading about Will Eisner and his work certainly inspired me to read more of his books. And hopefully I will get to one of them soon enough (considering the number of books I already have on my TBR!)
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The Superlative Magic of Graphic Novels: An Introduction
What is a Graphic Novel?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a graphic novel is “a full-length (esp. science fiction or fantasy) story published as a book in comic-strip format.”
In another definition that expands upon the OED one – from Michael Schumacher’s Will Eisner biography, graphic novels are —
book-length works of sequential art expanded in scope [beyond science fiction and fantasy] to include biography, memoir, history, and other types of non-fiction.
After looking at a couple more definitions, and also looking at what a comic book means as well as what a novel means, here is another definition in my words:
In short, a graphic novel is a pictorial representation of a regular novel, or simply, as the words themselves say, an illustrated novel. So like a novel, a graphic novel
- has a beginning, a middle, and an end
- is full-length,
- has a common narrative thread
- and is meant to be read as a full story (even if it is part of a series, just like a trilogy or other series in novels)
How is a Comic Book Different From This?
Compared to a graphic novel, a comic book is generally smaller. It is a serialized excerpt of a longer narrative; and comic books are issued regularly over a period of time. For example, the Archies comics, Marvel and DC comics, the Indrajal comics I read as a kid growing up in India, and even the Amar Chitra Katha.
The Superlative Magic of Graphic Novels??
So what is that superlative magic of graphic novels? Like I mentioned in a post about picture books, graphic novels are a wonderful breeding ground of readers.
The Reluctant Reader
Do you see that reluctant reader? Have you seen them glance at a magazine or flip their way through comics? Most likely, yes. But even if the answer is no, the chances they will peruse the pages of a graphic novel is way higher than expecting them to thumb through a regular one.
So hand them a graphic novel; and next step, slowly but surely, it is more reading. And whether it is more graphic novels or the regular ones, it should not matter at all.
What matters is that the reluctant reader is no longer reluctant, but simply a reader!
The Visual Reader
Then there are those readers who have never graduated from picture books and comics to novels. It could simply be because they process information better visually, through a combination of images and dialog versus just narrative. Or simply because they enjoy the graphical/illustrated medium better. [note I am not a trained educator but simply a passionate life-long reader of all sorts of books]
What better way to get them to read novels than these graphic novels? I for one know I enjoyed reading the Manga classics series recently for classics I wanted to return to after having read them years ago and for classics I completely missed reading earlier. This included Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice,
The Time-bound Reader
For readers of any age, time is often a constraint; and graphic novels provide that perfect middle ground – the ability to read novels in a format that is quicker to finish.
Most often, the graphical adaptations of the novels I have read have certainly taken me way less time to read than the original novel itself (and I can attest to the fact as I read both of them).
Also, if the graphic novel is an adaptation of a different novel and if it is done well (luckily for me, I enjoyed all the adaptations I read so far), the graphical versions will retain the essence of the story.
Isn’t that magical?
Therein lies the superlative magic of graphic novels – the power to turn more people into (more consistent) readers.
Graphic Novels For All Ages
- When Stars are Scattered (9 – 12 years, and up) – A brilliant powerful graphic novel and memoir rolled into one wonderful package.
- Check out many more brilliant selections for young readers from the Cybils Awards 2020 nominations listed here
- George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy (I wanted to read this right after I finished a heart-tugging nonfiction read that narrated the story of Kiyo Sato)
- If you have always wanted to read Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Nah Harari, then pick up the graphic adaptation to get started!
- The Tale of Genji: Dreams at Dawn
- Poems to See By: A beautiful graphical adaptation of an anthology of poems.
- Manga Classics (including Huckleberry Finn, The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility)
My Amazon Picks
Additional Reading Resources
- The Truth about Graphic Novels (Virginia Tech – eJournals)
- Let’s Get Graphic: 100 Favorite Comics And Graphic Novels (NPR)
- Why Graphic Novels Are Storytelling Quicksand for Reluctant Readers (In a Good Way) (ReadBrightly)
- Why Are Picture Books Important (My blog!)
References, h/t: University of Maryland Research Guides, Britannica
Blast From the Past
The Graphic Novel Book Review
This was a book I reviewed ages ago, and decided to include this in this rehashed, repurposed post, for it is all about graphic novels after all!!
Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Comics
Title: Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Comics: Tales of the World’s Wildest Beasts
Author: Rudyard Kipling
Illustrator: Pedro Rodriguez
Length: 144 pages
Genre: Children’s Comics & Graphic Novels (8 – 11 years, and up)
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Ever wonder how the leopard got his spots or how the elephant got his trunk? Well, look no further! In this comics compilation of Just So Stories, famed author and worldwide explorer Rudyard Kipling travels from the Horn of Africa to the deserts of India and discovers the truth behind four of the world’s wildest beasts.
Rudyard Kipling is definitely a well-loved author and even if people have not read him, many have definitely watched his stories come to like in ‘The Jungle Book’, ‘Kim’ and more.
His short stories are as delightful as his novels and pack a whole lot of wit, wisdom, and oodles of fun. You can read Rudyard Kipling’s original Just So Stories collection here online, thanks to Project Gutenberg.
This book is a graphic adaptation of some of his ‘Just So Stories’ and they are funny even in this retelling. The comics retain the original plots but tell them with a more modern twist on them and the wacky illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the stories.
Each story has a research page in the beginning and a conclusion at the end that adds to the story. The book also includes a few fun facts on the main characters/animals at the end of each story.
Some of the included stories are How the Leopard got his Spots, How the Elephant got his Trunk , and How the Camel got his Hump.
My son’s comments on these stories
“They are funny and totally interesting. I laughed so hard my pants fell off. My favorite story is ‘The Lazy Camel’. “ (mine too!)
Get It Here
Amazon || Book Depository || BookShop || IndieBound
Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley for sending me a digital review copy of the book above. I was not compensated for my review. My thoughts on this book was in no way influenced by the author or publicist. They are my personal opinions formed when I read the book.
The Quirky Prompts
March 2021 Update: This were blogging prompts/questions I used to answer on a on-and-off basis and I included this one as it somehow matched that superlative theme I had going!
The first one from BlogHer from years ago (when I wrote this original post in 2013).
If you were a superhero, what would be your hidden superpower?
My hidden superpower – I guess would be lightning speed – in everything I do – then I would be finally able to accomplish all I plan to in the 24 hours each day and in life. Mind reading was a superpower I gave thought to but am not sure I would be comfortable with it at all. But I guess knowing exactly what powers the others possess will help. That might be a superpower I would love to have.
And Now, the End Of This Post
Dear reader, I would love to hear your thoughts on this post. Have you read any of the featured/mentioned books? Your thoughts on any that you have read, and similar recommendations for me are always welcome. What would be your hidden superpower?
47 thoughts on “The Superlative Magic of Graphic Novels”
Just So Comics. Hmmm. May have to take a look at this!
I enjoy recommending The Night Circus. It's a wonderful world to get lost in filled with fascinating characters!
I’m big on personal growth and love anything to do with self-help and mindfulness. In my younger days, I read a lot of friction books but now I’m drawn to self-help books.
I divide my time between fiction and non-fiction (and non-fiction is more about science, history, etc)
The power to turn people into readers! Love it. And certainly, that is magical. I haven’t ever read a graphic novel, but I think I understand why they might appeal to those who do, because I have watched onscreen examples. I know it’s not the same, but I am thinking of the music video for the Take on Me song and an episode of Mad About You – they both made me feel almost like I was taking in the novel along with the character.
With comics and graphic novels, some kinds appeal more to me than others.. And there are some I never got into reading. My DH and I used to watch the Mad About You show and I’m trying to recall what episode it was!
I love reading your blog posts. I am an English Major and I think the reading and novels are in fact magical and have a great influence on us.
Thanks so much Sarah! Definitely boosts me up to hear you say that.
I loved learning about graphic novels vs comic books. That’s the one genre I’ve never really explored. My superpower would be the ability to get things done on command. Write an article-SNAP-it’s done. Cook dinner-SNAP-it’s done. I even want the “SNAP” to go along with it.
Now why didn’t I think of that superpower?!! Always enjoy your comments Leah..
I love these recommendations! Seems interesting and the covers are so nice too! I love reading books like this.
Graphic novels do not interest me, but I can definitely see their place.
Not all graphic novels interest me too but I do love some of them a lot 🙂
Always love your recommendations
What an extensive list of graphic books! How I loved reading Rudyard Kipling books with my grandchildren when they were younger. It’s time to pull them out for Lia soon.
Kipling is always wonderful to read..
My daughter loves My Little Pony graphic novels! She recently read a book called The Okay Witch that was in graphic novel form as well.
I need to check that one out.. sounds interesting
I was never a graphic novel reader until last year when I was asked to review two of them and enjoyed the way they were set out and the illustrations. I can now see the appeal.
that’s cool.. which ones are they?
I enjoyed them as a child but confess that I haven’t picked one up in decades.
🙂 You will love When Stars are Scattered..
I have to get those Manga classics for my daughter!
they are certainly a cool way to read these classics
I love having diverse books, especially for my students!
you and your students will enjoy these for sure
These are great collections of books.
thank you Sonia
My son LOVES to read graphic novels. He will love these!
glad to hear that.. 🙂
I loved reading graphic novels with my son when he was younger.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a graphic novel but now i might try one
Graphic novels are wonderful options. My kids love looking at them now. Reading them will be fun as they learn.
definitely agree with that..
I love graphic novels!
My youngest son enjoyed these and got me hooked with a couple!
that is cool!!
I haven’t ready any of these, but I do love a graphic novel, especially graphic novels for middle grade.
I knew you would love these
I read novels like this and just enjoy my standard time.