Picturebooks! Graphic Novels! Digital Media for Children!
“ ‘What is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?’” (Carroll, 7)
From our Hosts: There are so many mediums that feature more than just words and enhance a story in a multitude of ways. Examples may include graphic novels and comics, audiobooks, or even multimedia novels. On this day, we will be talking about those books and formats that move beyond just the words and use other ways to experience a story. Which books stand out to you in these different formats?
The stories in these formats can be expressed powerfully, and they can be amazing.
For example, many people don’t realize that the 500+ page long book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is, in fact, a graphic novel. At the same time, it’s a kind of a hybrid text that challenges the picturebook form, because it did receive the Caldecott Medal in 2008, and that award goes to the best picturebook of the year published for children. A mixture of wordless pages and pages of text create a powerful cinematic story that will leave your jaw hanging open. Trust me. You will be wonderstruck, and then you will have to go out and read the next graphic novel of Selznick’s, sporting the same title (Wonderstruck).
As I write this post, I have next to me my copy of To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel. This is a slimmer novel than Hugo Cabret, geared towards ages 8 and up, and it’s a beautiful memoir about Siena’s journey toward her destiny as a dancer. A dancer myself, I appreciate and frequently re-read this graphic novel.
It’s important to realize that we “read” visual text just as we read written text, but it’s a different kind of literacy at work. It’s a visual literacy. Sometimes it may take us longer to read a graphic novel, because we do have to pay close attention to the images. It’s the same for a wordless picturebook. If you know David Wiesner’s work, you will know that it can take just as long or longer to read one of his wordless picturebooks, as it does to read a picturebook with text. The images are everything when there are no words, and our eyes skate their surface for clues in the story.
Then, there is Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. I read Maus as part of my graduate program in children’s literature, and I can still remember the silence of the room in which I read that sobering graphic novel. The two volumes of the story detail the experience of the protagonist as a Jew during the Holocaust and include his deportation to Auschwitz. The two volumes won the Pulitzer in 1992. It’s considered one of the most distinguished graphic novels, and you’ll know why, if you have read it. If you haven’t, go ahead and add it to your TBR. It’s about to topple over anyway.
Finally, I have to mention Shaun Tan. Many readers think it’s strange, bizarre, and downright confusing. But, I love Tales from Outer Suburbia!! Maybe it’s the fact that it’s so strange. Or maybe it’s that I find it refreshing that there are stories that don’t have clear cut endings. Because—isn’t real life that way? And how about the extraordinary aspects of the ordinary life? That’s what Tan is getting at in his Suburbia tales. They are intriguing. But don’t take my word for it. Go discover their bizarre-ness and their strange mysteries on your own.
I don’t have time to talk about different types of digital texts for children. We’ll save that for another day.
Until then, Happy Armchairing at BEA!