Books Make Me Happy

On Graphic Novels

Before 2022 I had only read a handful of Graphic Novels. Usually associated with movies coming out, or maybe big trends/conversations happening that I wanted to be a part of. But – I struggled with them as someone with minimal graphic reading experience.

But a few things have changed this year. First? I’m a librarian and in my library, graphic novels (especially middle readers) are some of the most popular items checked out. Second? I’ve got a few challenges I’m participating in that specifically call for graphic novels. Third? As the first two reasons increased the quantities I was reading, I finally started becoming more…fluent? I guess? I mean, it’s a different way to read, you have to learn the graphic indicators about which panels to read next. It’s not always in clean rows Left to Right. You also have to learn how to digest the imagery as you read. If you’re not fluent in graphics, you tend to stay hyper-focused on the words and you’ll miss very important details in the pictures.

So…yeah…all of this leads me to say that in May I – so far – have read or am reading EIGHT graphic novels.

I wanted to write all of that as an introduction in case you’re not a graphic novel reader that maybe you will give it a try!

Let’s talk about MAUS. It crossed my radar when it made the new for being banned because of it’s graphic depiction of the Holocaust and concentration camps.

NOTE: When the graphic novels were first published it was in two parts: MAUS I and MAUS II. Since then it’s published combined as just MAUS. In MY library system, the combined volume has a much longer weight time. This is what the combined volume looks like.

Whereas this is what the individual MAUS I and MAUS II look like:

Because I didn’t want to wait, I opted to read them in their original parts. They are definitely worth the read, not just for the personal stories in moments of history – but also for the emotional journey the author makes as he works through the process of drawing such tragedy, but all while dealing with his very complicated relationship with his Father. It’s as much a historical retelling of his Father’s Holocaust experience as it is a memoir about being a child of a parent who was scarred by intense trauma. He breaks the fourth wall, in a way, as he draws/writes in parts about the difficulties of drawing/writing the story.

And if you’d like to sample something a little more cheerful? Might I recommend the Heartstopper series? If you have seen the Netflix show (which – if you haven’t, why not? it’s the most charming/lovely teen romance I’ve seen in AGES) it is based on the first TWO novels. They are all lovely and I am slowly ordering individual copies so I can own them all after reading them all from the library.

Welp, I think I picked two very different ends of the Graphic Novel spectrum to introduce you, but there are THOUSANDS of amazing graphic novels out there.

Also – pro-tip: If you want to read what your kids likes but you had struggling through books aimed at young people? Graphic novels are a much easier way to find common ground because they only take a small fraction of the time to read. So ask your kid if you would recommend any to you and check them out at the library!

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