I am not a reader of graphic novels but decided that I needed to investigate them. I feel deprived if I don’t learn something new in the summer holidays! As ever, I wondered whether I could use them to help children develop meaning making skills and ‘see’ devices that can be used in writing.
The first thing I did was to read Adventures in Graphica – Using Comics and Novels to teach comprehension by Terry Thompson. The one thing this book did was reassure me that the skills and knowledge I had aquired as reader were equally relevant in graphic novels. What he does very clearly is set out what is special about this form of novel or non-fiction by describing the conventions: layout, panels, speech bubbles, narrative boxes, lettering, directionality, importance of the pictures and the gutters.
With these in mind I decided to do a bit of reading of grahica. I chose BabyMouse – Puppy Love by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm as I was interested in those that were written with girls in mind, and Clan Apis by Jay Hosler. This is a non-fiction text about bees and their life. This is particularly pertinent as my allotment neighbour has just set up his first hive and swarm of bees.
BabyMouse is written in black and white with shades of pink used throughout. The pink denotes when BabyMouse is dreaming about or imagining items of desire (cakes and pets). There is a very all-knowing narrator (omniscient ) who quite often questions BabyMouse to move the story on especially when it might be take too much time to draw what is happening, e.g. Where did they all go, BabyMouse?’. A character study of BabyMouse would be interesting. Self-centred is my opinion but the clues to this are really quite subtle. I am hooked!
Clan Apis is written by an expert in bees. I had no idea that graphic texts also covered non-fiction. From the reading of this I now know an awful lot more about bees. This book is not read as a non-fiction text using a contents or index page to find the information that you want but is read from cover to cover as a fiction book would be. The additional facts about bees are written in a traditional non-fiction form with graphics as diagrams.
This is a much longer book and is divided into chapters. I was more aware as I read this book of the panels and graphics and how they directed your eyes to the next section with a much greater variety than BabyMouse. This is not a value judgement, merely a comment on the differences. As the story of Clan Apis is much more complex than BabyMouse you might expect a wider variety of shapes and positions on the page to be used. I intend to go back and study these in more detail, investigating how the panels show pace in the text.
Have a look at the end story of Clan Apis and what happened to Jay Hosler whilst studying bees.
So what next? I need to read more graphic novels/comic books and I need to start using them in guided reading because it is usually children who show me what I need to know about books. I’ll let you know what they teach me?
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