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Going Graphic. An Overview of Graphic Novels Towson University ISTC 615.001 Tracy Papinchock Kelly Shepherd Laura Stemler Erin Traub. What is a graphic novel?. The term comic book is used to describe the overall format.

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Going graphic

Going Graphic

An Overview of

Graphic Novels

Towson University

ISTC 615.001

Tracy Papinchock

Kelly Shepherd

Laura Stemler

Erin Traub

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What is a graphic novel?

  • The term comic book is used to describe the overall format.

  • A graphic novel is longer in length than a traditional comic book. While many graphic novels contain complete stories, others are part of an ongoing series.

  • All graphic novels are comic books, but not all comic books are graphic novels.

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How are graphic novels classified?

  • Graphic novels are an art form, not a genre (Carter, 2009).

  • Graphic novels encompass both fiction and nonfiction.

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Types of Graphic Novels







Adaptations or Spin-Offs

Human Interest Stories

Superhero Stories

Source: Weiner (2002)

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Why Graphic Novels?

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…isn’t interpreting pictures in graphic novels easier than reading plain text?

Skeptics Ask …

…are we “dumbing down” the expectations?

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They utilize multiple intelligences:




Source: Lyga, A. & Lyga, B., (2004)

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Linguistic Intelligence:

  • These types of learners enjoy writing and are very good with words.

  • Graphic novels tend to challenge these types of learners by requiring the reader to infer meaning from the word and wordless panels.

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Spatial Intelligence:

  • These types of people with this type of intelligence are visual learners.

  • Graphic novels provide a visual representation of what is occurring in their heads as they read so this format is a natural and comfortable fit for this learner.

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Interpersonal Intelligence:

  • These children are good communicators and understand others' feelings and motives.

  • These types of learners enjoy reading graphic novels "because the visual components tap into their strong sense of people, feelings, and intuitions."

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They help teach visual literacy:

  • Graphic novels by their very nature help the student who struggles with visualizing while reading.

  • They provide a balance of text and graphics (visual cueing) so the student is aided in the interpretation.

  • Give the students a "comfort zone" with reading.

  • Source: Lyga, A. & Lyga, B. (2004)

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Reluctant Readers

  • Characteristics of reluctant readers:

  • Can read

  • Intimidated by text

  • Struggle to decode

  • Graphic novels can help:

  • Provide picture clues

  • Less text = less intimidating

  • Seem easier due to pictures

Source: Lyga, A. & Lyga, B. (2004)

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Visually Dependent Students:

  • Due to a constant barrage of visual stimuli, students have become accustomed to immediate feedback and hard to miss visual clues (Lyga, 2004).

  • These students are unlike the reluctant readers and the child who cannot visualize. These students simply "don't want to be bothered.“

Source: Lyga, A. & Lyga, B. (2004)

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Media Specialists

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Challenge #1

Administrators, teachers, and parents sometimes consider graphic novels to be less worthy of attention than other forms of text.

Graphic novels include advanced vocabulary and sentence structure that can help prepare students for academic work and standardized tests (Mooney, 2002).

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Challenge #2

The visual content of graphic novels may be unacceptable to some parents, teachers, and administrators.

  • Graphic novels are highly visual, but this does not mean that they necessarily contain mature or violent content.

  • Media specialists need to consider the individual merits of each text before deciding whether to include it in the collection (Rudiger & Schliesman, 2007).

  • Images need to be evaluated carefully, as they are potentially more inflammatory than words (Carter, 2009).

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Challenge # 3

Students are just looking at the pictures – they’re not really reading!

  • As literature, comics are "a layering of text, visual and pictorial.” (Carter, 2009).

  • It can be difficult to skim a comic book. The words and illustrations are meant to be read together.

  • Graphic novels require students to use more complex cognitive skills than reading text alone (Schwartz, 2002).

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Challenge #4

It can be hard to

locate age- appropriate materials.

  • Many publications such as School Library Journal and Booklist offer pertinent reviews of graphic novels, grouped by grade or age-appropriateness.

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Challenge #5

It can be difficult to find time to teach graphic novels.

  • Integrate graphic novels into thematic units by making connections to subject areas.

  • Study author’s craft by comparing graphic novels such as Art Spiegelman’sMaus to the writing of Anne Frank, Lois Lowry, or Elie Wiesel.

Source: Carter (2009)

Shelving graphic novels

Shelving Graphic Novels

Where do graphic novels belong

Where do Graphic Novels Belong?

Where to shelve graphic novels can be a tough decision for librarians to make.

By Dewey 741.5?

In Fiction?

By Subject?

Shelve them by dewey 741 5

Shelve them by Dewey # 741.5

  • faster cataloging and shelving

  • students always know where to find them

  • helps increase circulation because they are altogether

  • not organized by content

  • some people may not take them as seriously because they think they are entertainment as opposed to books with literary value.



Source: Dickinson (2007)

Shelve them by subject

Shelve them by Subject


+ users will get used to seeing them integrated into content just like other books


- novels could get lost in the shelves

- teachers may get mad at students for using graphic novels in research

(ex. Shelf Maus with the Holocaust 940.53)

  • Shelve non-fiction with the corresponding subject.

  • Shelve fiction by author.

Source: Dickinson (2007)

Image Source: http://www.titlewave.com/cover?FLR=29092B0&SID=fab9957316a195c5661391a56851ec67&type=cover

Age appropriate

Age Appropriate?

Group them in separate age appropriate sections.

If your library serves multiple age groups, the age appropriateness of graphic novels could be an issue.

Mark them with a sticker that designates the age level.

Source: Mooney (2002)

Image Source:http://media.tv20detroit.com/images/tv-ratings.jpg

Selecting graphic novels

Selecting Graphic Novels

Selection policy

Selection Policy

  • Check your school / county selection development policy on including graphic novels in your collection.

  • Determine why you want to include graphic novels in your collection.

  • Update your selection policy

    before challenges may arise.

Source: Mooney (2002)

Criteria for selecting graphic novels

Criteria for Selecting Graphic Novels

Reputation of author, seller, publisher, reviews

Physical form & Aesthetics

Visuals & Graphics

Appropriate content

Arrangement & Organization

Appropriate content

Appropriate Content

  • Are the story and illustrations appropriate for the intended audience?

  • What is the scope?

  • Are there any treatment issues?

  • Are there any special features available?

  • How does the graphic novel add value to your collection?

  • Does the content pose any safety or health concerns for your students?

Visuals graphics

Visuals & Graphics

  • Are students able to follow the art format?

  • Does the novel have visual impact that showcases the artistic ability of the creator?

  • Does the graphic novel blend text and art?

  • Does the use of color add to the graphic novel or is it unnecessary?

Physical form aesthetics

Physical Form & Aesthetics

  • How is the book designed physically?

  • Does the book have aesthetic quality and is appealing to students?

  • Is the book durable and will hold up to multiple users and high circulation?

Reputations of author seller publisher reviews

Reputations of Author, Seller, Publisher, Reviews

  • What are the reputations of the author, illustrator, and publisher?

  • Are you able to locate a review of the title?

  • Is the title one that will be popular with students?

  • Is the book a part of a series?

  • What is the cost of the book?

Arrangement organization

Arrangement & Organization

  • Does the story have the best qualities of the literature genre (i.e. mystery, nonfiction, biography) it represents?

  • How is the graphic novel arranged? Will students have trouble understanding the organization? (ex. does it read right to left instead of left to right?)

Resources to aid selection

Resources to Aid Selection

  • Professional journals

    • Booklist

    • School Library Journal

    • VOYA

      • Kat Kan’s column - “Graphically Speaking”

  • Local comic book stores

    • What is your community reading?

  • Listserv “Graphic Novels in Libraries” (GNLIB-L)

    • You have to become a member (free)

Source: Mooney (2002)

Resources to aid selection1

Resources to Aid Selection

  • Alternative Comics

    • A comic book publisher

  • Diamond Bookshelf - Reviews

    • Contains reviews of many graphic novels of all age categories

  • Diamond Bookshelf – Core list

    • Contains the “Top 10” Graphic Novels for all age groups. A great place to begin a collection!

Resources to aid selection2

Resources to Aid Selection

  • Maryland Comic Book Initiative

    • Details about Maryland’s plan

  • No Flying, No Tights

    • A website reviewing graphic novels

  • The Harvey Awards

    • Awards given to comic books

Resources to aid selection3

Resources to Aid Selection

  • Squidoo – Graphic Novels in Libraries

    • Links to articles and discussions on graphic novels

  • Bella Online – How to Begin your Graphic Novel Collection

    • Discussion on beginning a collection

  • Graphic Novel Guru

  • Graphic Novels: Resources for teens and librarians

Going graphic

Graphic novels stimulate interest, and therefore interest in reading.

Sources used

Sources Used:

Butcher, K. T., & Manning, M. L. (2004). Bringing Graphic Novels into a School’s Curriculum. The Clearing House, 78(2), 67-71. Retrieved October 17, 2009 from Wilson Web database.

Carter, J. B. (2009). Going Graphic. Educational Leadership, 66(6), 68-72. Retrieved October 17, 2009 from Wilson Web database.

Dickinson, G. (2007). The question: Where should I shelve graphic novels?. Knowledge Quest,35(5), 56-57. Retrieved October 17, 2009 from Wilson Web database.

Sources used1

Sources Used:

Lyga, A. A. W., & Lyga, B. (2004) Graphic Novels in Your Media Center. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Mooney, M. (2002). Graphic novels: How they can work in libraries. Book Report, 21(3), 18-19. Retrieved on October 17, 2009 from Wilson Web database.

Sources used2

Sources Used:

Rudiger, H. M., & Schliesman, M. (2007). Graphic Novels and School Libraries. Knowledge Quest, 36(2), 57-59. Retrieved October 17, 2009 from Wilson Web database.

Schwartz, G. E. (2002). Graphic Novels for Multiple Literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy46(3), 262-265. Retrieved October 17, 2009 from Wilson Web database.

Weiner, S. (2002). Beyond Superheroes: Comics Get Serious. Library Journal, 127(2), 55-58. Retrieved October 17, 2009 from Wilson Web database.

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