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Library Corner: If you haven’t read a graphic novel yet, it’s time to start

Anna Szczepanski
Colorado Library Consortium
”Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me“ by Mariko Tamaki

If you haven’t yet read a graphic novel, don’t fret. But don’t wait, either.

Growing at a rate of 15% per year for the past three years, graphic novels are one of the fastest growing book markets in the publishing world. There are lots of reasons for their popularity: They are fun to read and provide all of the satisfaction of a novel or a nonfiction book, but in a quick and easy-to-read format.

What is a graphic novel, exactly? The term was adopted as a broad catch-all for visual, sequential books that tell a complete story. Think comics with speech bubbles and captions. But as opposed to a collection of comic strips like Peanuts in which each strip is a snapshot in time, a graphic novel has more in common story-wise with a chapter book.



And, if you aren’t confused yet, the term encapsulates graphic biography, memoir, classics and nonfiction under its misnomer “novel.” So, a lot of graphic novels aren’t novels at all. The label refers to the format of the book rather than the content.

Why read graphic novels? For children and teens, the format has tons of benefits. Graphic novels draw in reluctant readers, and they teach all the elements of literature but visually. Want a full story arc with a beginning, middle, and end? It’s there. Character development? For sure. Cause and Effect? Yep. Foreshadowing? Check. All the elements that make reading fiction so engaging are there — but the pictures contribute as much as the text in showing the reader the way.



For adults who don’t like the idea of reading a “comic book,” I cannot stress enough that graphic novels can tell very complex, dark, and important stories in a way that holds your interest.

If reading sequential panels seems confusing at first, you may be surprised at how quickly your brain adapts to the format. Compare it to reading subtitles when watching a foreign film. At first, it seems like a chore but soon you’re so wrapped up in the story that you forget what the format is — it’s the story that matters.

Ready to try a graphic novel? These are some of my favorites available at the Grand County Library District, but ask your local librarian for more recommendations.

“The Real Pigeons” by Andrew McDonald

Younger Readers (ages 5 -8) — “The Real Pigeons” series by Andrew McDonald, and “Bad Guys” series by Aaron Blabey.

Mid-Grade Readers (8 -12) — “Stepping Stones” by Lucy Knisley, “Twins” by Varian Johnson, “Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales” by Nathan Hale (Nonfiction history series), and “When the Stars are Scattered” by Omar Mohamed (memoir).

Teen Readers (12-17) — “Check, Please!“ By Ngozi Ukazu and ”Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me“ by Mariko Tamaki

“March” by John Lewis and Nate Powell

Adult Readers — “March” by John Lewis and Nate Powell (three-book series, autobiography/history), “Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir” by Tom Hart, and “The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry“ by David Carlson (true crime).

Anna Szczepanski is a library consultant for the Colorado Library Consortium. She regularly has numerous graphic novels checked out for herself and her 9-year-old son.


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