It’s fitting that the first post on this blog is about graphic novels, because I enjoy reading them more than most genres. When I taught them as a high school teacher, there was always a reaction (sometimes from parents, sometimes from administrators, but always from students). There is so much more to like than just the words! A good graphic novel will interweave art and text to tell the story, and what’s left out in the language is many times better told in the picture.
In my Young Adult Literature class, we’re reading American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang and Blankets, by Craig Thompson. The former is a story about a middle schooler who just came to the country, and with dry humor the narrator gives the reader a glimpse into some of the absurdities immigrants must face. Blankets is Thompson’s memoir, and chronicles his life from a young boy through to adulthood. The majority of the memoir, however, focuses on his senior year in high school and the love he has for a girl he met at church camp. (I don’t want to give too much of either plot away, so I’ll leave it at that. Just know they are more complex than this.)
ABC was a refreshing read. It’s unique storytelling comes together in the end, even though I was a tad confused getting there at times. But what I really enjoyed about the novel was the humor. I found myself laughing out loud often, which allowed me to have sympathy for the character, but not without dignity.
Blankets is one of the most honest graphic novels I’ve read. Because of this honesty, it would surely be a tough book to defend if a parent challenged me. Not that I couldn’t defend a high schooler reading the book, but I always made sure to have a signed consent form before putting it in their hands. (What’s great about tagging a book with a consent form is that you guarantee it will be read.)
So what are your thoughts on teaching these graphic novels? What about graphic novels in general? Do they have a place in the English classroom?