How Graphic Should I Get?

Amulet 4:  The Last Council

Author:  Kazu Kibuishi

I was geeked to pick up the fourth installment of the Amulet series this week–new books only come out once a year, so it is a real event.  I reread the first three, then burned through The Last Council.  In general, the Amulet books chronicle the adventures of a sister and brother who originally go into this fantastical other world to save their kidnapped mother.  The sister inherits a magic amulet that is needed to defend this embattled world against evil elves and other assorted bad guy monster types.  The Last Council turns some of my original thinking about characters on its ear, making some allies seem like enemies and vice versa.  Who can our heroes really trust?  How can they triumph?  I don’t know, and I suspect we’ll see several more books in this series before all is resolved.  And that unpredictability within the good vs. evil theme is part of what makes the story compelling.  Oh, and the pictures are cool (my favorite are of the walking houses.)

This series is SUPER popular in my classroom with both girls and boys.  I really should invest in multiple copies to satisfy the demand for these books…but that brings me to my quandry.

I grew up with comics.  I personally have collected (boarded, bagged, and boxed for preservation’s sake) hundreds of comics.  I really enjoy the occasional graphic novel.  And I have a shelf of graphic novels in my classroom, from Wimpy Kid to Amulet to Bone to graphic novellizations of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.  At this time of year, that shelf looks bare as many young readers jump at the chance to start the year with “comics”.  The reason I’ve invested in so many graphic novels is partly because I want to share my love of this kind of reading, and partly because I’ve been able to use graphic novels very successfully to reach struggling and reluctant readers over the years.  But at this time of year, as I look across my classroom and see only  a handful of kids with “more substantial” novels in their hands, I get anxious.  How much actual reading is really going on?  Reading graphic novels is different than reading regular novels–the skill sets are not identical, and I don’t do lots of explicit instruction with graphic-style text.  So I worry that time is wasted.  Not because graphic novels are easy readers–far from it, they are often incredibly rich, but it seems to me that my young readers don’t have the skills to get more than the surface…and fifth grade readers need to dig a bit deeper.

Last year I took the graphic novels off the shelf in February, proclaiming that we would take a break from them to put our focus on more traditional novels.  This worked pretty well, and the majority of my comics-junkies adjusted and even flourished.  I may do the same again, or maybe have an every-other-month availability.  But is this necessary, or am I just being old-fashioned?  Sometimes I can’t distinguish between my gut instincts and my fear response, and this may be one of those times.

How graphic should I get?


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. hloney
    Sep 17, 2011 @ 12:38:06


  2. BookMama
    Sep 28, 2011 @ 21:29:52

    I really like your approach with having the kids take a break from the graphic novels/comic books. My son is in fifth grade and is a voracious reader – novels, graphic novels, comic books, you name it. I wholeheartedly support his interest in the graphic novels/comic books and for the most part I let him read whatever he wants to read, but there are times when we go to the library that I tell him novels/non-fiction only.


  3. BookMama
    Sep 28, 2011 @ 23:16:11

    Heh, it turns out that he loves the Amulet books and is thrilled to know that there’s a new one out. (Hubby just read the first one, too, so I guess I’m going to reserve them ALL at the library!)


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