Book Recommendations: Graphic Novels

Books for the Classroom
Of my many passions as a teacher, it can’t be denied that finding a true love match between a student and a book is one of my highest highs. Whether by accident or design, I’ve had quite the class of readers the last few years, and it’s been glorious fun to introduce them to books old and new. I’ve had as many failures as I’ve had successes, but when I win, I really win. Today I thought I’d share with you some of my successes from a particularly popular genre with my students, especially the reluctant reader set: Graphic Novels.


But first, a few words about Graphic Novels: I love them for the way grab they attention of those students that “hate” reading and books. If a flashy combination of words and pictures gets them to let go of the idea of reading as a chore, even just a little bit, then why not use them? Furthermore, the pictures often interest the students in the text on the page. Curiosity makes them want to read, which is awesome when you’re dealing with children who are discouraged by their lack of progress.


Another thing about graphic novels: readers of all ages and abilities love them. This is wonderful for those students who are hyperaware that they’re not reading at the same level as their peers. And if you’ve ever worked with a student who suffers from low self-esteem because of reading struggles, you can imagine what a boost it is for a child to know he’s reading the same book as a peer he perceives to be a “better” reader than himself.


Now for a word of warning. The love for a Graphic Novel can grow to be obsessive. Witness the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney (which can or cannot be considered a Graphic Novel). I no longer keep that series on my bookshelves, and I notice that I need to monitor Graphic Novel re-reading more than I do other books. I don’t mind re-reading, but if I notice that a student only ever reads Lunch Lady, I will intervene. My advice is to not be afraid to remove a series (or book) from the bookshelves if you notice obsessive behavior. You can always put it back for a special event (like book week). They’ll be just as happy to see it again after a break.
Now that I’ve shared why I love Graphic Novels, here are a few that have been particularly popular in my classroom, along with a few I’d like to add to my collection:
I actually discovered the Binky Adventures courtesy of my niece and nephew, who were experiencing their own obsession with them after checking them out from the library. The series is a lot of fun, especially for pet owners. Kids get a kick out of the way Binky refers to the outdoors as “outer space” and his cat carrier as his space ship. The shenanigans he and his friends get up to when their humans are looking the other way involve a spy element that perfectly tickles the funny bone. There isn’t a lot of text on the page here, but the author doesn’t shy away from complex words. I suggest reading with help.
A lunch lady as a secret super hero? The premise alone is enough to make my students roll on the floor with laughter. A little bit James Bond, a little bit sloppy joe, this is a series you’ll need to monitor for obsession levels. I mean it.
Otto’s Orange Day is published by TOON Books, a company that specifically publishes comics and Graphic Novels for early readers. It’s a pretty exciting concept and I look forward to seeing their future releases. This series is particularly good for those struggling readers because the language is more appropriate for a learning audience.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tale’s series are not so much Graphic Novels as Graphic Histories (TM Ruby), but my students love them nonetheless. They’re funny, fascinating and gruesome–basically the kid trifecta. The Holy Trinity of Middle Grade Boys, if you will. Get these for your more advanced readers, though. The text is dense and so are the concepts. Book three, for example, is called Donner Dinner Party.
No post about Graphic Novels would be complete without a Tintin mention. The series is currently experiencing a renaissance due to the 2012 animated film, but honestly, the books are better. More stories, more adventures and more Thompson and Thomson. I always recommend Tintin with a caveat: talk to you children/students about these books. HergĂ© was not the most enlightened individual, nor was he culturally sensitive. It always brings up interesting discussion when I mention that HergĂ© never even visited many of the places the Tintin books took place. Or the suspicious lack of female characters. And then there’s Captain Haddock’s drinking…


Of course, I’m always looking to add to my bookshelves. In my opinion, more books = more readers. Here are a few Graphic Novels that have caught my eye. I know they’d be a big hit with my students, too!
What are your favorite Graphic Novels?

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