On Reading Graphic Novels discussion

Graphic Novels in School

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message 1: by Rachel (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:31AM) (new)

Rachel I am a middle school teacher and would like to use graphic novels with my students. Does anyone have some suggestions on quality graphic novels that would be suitable for 11 - 13 year olds?

message 2: by Angie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:32AM) (new)

Angie Ungaro (deweydecimator) | 1 comments Here are a few good ones that vary in difficulty and content and would be good to teach/discuss:

***American Born Chinese by Gene Yang
To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Sienna Cherson Siegel
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

But there are lots, lots more out there! If you're looking for a graphic novel that has a certain level of literary merrit (i.e. for discussion) then I would recommend visiting the website for the First Second Books imprint (firstsecondbooks.com). Also, the No Flying, No Tights website might be helpful (www.noflyingnotights.com) especially for finding age-appropriate fun stuff they'll like to read. Good luck!

message 3: by Alien (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:32AM) (new)

Alien  Citizen | 46 comments Mod
Hi Rachel and welcome to the group (if you are new)! Those suggestions by Angie are wonderful. I would also recommend you check out any of the titles listed on this website, http://www.ala.org/ala/booklinksbucke.... The graphic novel adaptations of Miyazaki films like Spirited Away generally are a lot of fun for kids and they, of course, enjoy watching the films as well. Sailor Moon is quite popular and for classic literature, the choices from Will Eisner should appeal to both boys and girls.

message 4: by Alien (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:32AM) (new)

message 5: by Annie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:32AM) (new)

Annie | 1 comments I just taught Clan Apis by Jay Hosler as a science/lit combination class. It was super fun and the kids wrote/drew their own factually based graphic novel (well, really comics because they were so short) at the end. It was for 5th/6th graders and it was short, but had so much good information and Hosler really is an excellent artist and author. Older kids would probably think the plot line was beneath them, but hopefully they would also be able to see past that and process the different tools Hosler uses to make his book great.

message 6: by Alien (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:33AM) (new)

Alien  Citizen | 46 comments Mod
Anyone familiar with Illegal Alien (no, I didn't write it), Goodbye, Chunky Rice, or Jar of Fools?

message 7: by Luke (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:34AM) (new)

Luke | 10 comments I'm gonna pimp Barefoot Gen again. It can be pretty grotesque so if thats gonna be an issue then it's no good. How much clean living and pretty faces can one expect after a nuke?

message 8: by Danielle (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:41AM) (new)

Danielle (destobie) | 4 comments I just received my license in English so I'm loving this topic. There are just so many excellent graphic novels that could possibly tie into any number of discussions. In particular I like Lost at Sea from Oni Press. [link:http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/1...]

During student teaching, I used choice snippets from Blankets.

An inventive teacher could even use more fantastical graphic novels such as Courtney Crumrin as a tie into Harry Potter in discussions about fitting in with peers.

I double-checked Lost at Sea and it has profanity that wouldn't be okay with middle school. But there are still great titles like Bone and so much more.
I also loved Maus. It's been quite awhile since I read it so I would have to review it before giving it an affirmative. But it is a truly moving account of Spiegelman's parents in the Holocaust.

Even XXXholic, a Japanese manga title, can be used as a literary tie-in. Volume 3 features a retelling of The Monkey's Paw. It would be great to compare and contrast the two tellings both in the change in format and in storyline.

message 9: by Morgan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Morgan | 1 comments at the library I work at I've seen sometimes they'll redo classical literature in graphic novel form, ranging from Edgar Allan Poe to Franz Kafka to a few others. I don't really know how good the translations are, but it could be an interesting way to expose younger kids to classical literature.

message 10: by Alexander (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:44AM) (new)

Alexander | 5 comments Hello, everyone. I'm new to this group and this is my first comment. Thanks for making this forum happen.

I taught American Born Chinese this year to my Amherst College class, and they enjoyed it as one of their top three (Mother Come Home and Fun Home were the other top titles). I'd agree though that it could be suitable for that age group, as it does chronicle events in their lives.

One thing that came up in class that's in the story some is the pressure some Asian American kids feel to like Anime and Manga as a way of fitting in with white kids who like it, when they themselves are apathetic or ambivalent towards it. It made for two very interesting class discussions.

I recommend it.

message 11: by Alexander (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:44AM) (new)

Alexander | 5 comments Jar of Fools is beautiful. It's a very tight story, and I loved the characters. I was very surprised by it, and by how much I liked it.

message 12: by Patty (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:50AM) (new)

Patty | 1 comments I am a high school library media specialist with a minority boys' book club. We read American Born Chinese as one of our books last year. Everyone loved the book, and it generated great discussion. I think it would be fine for middle school, but check graphic novels closely for classroom use.

message 13: by Bill (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:51AM) (new)

Bill Doughty (plaidbrarian) | 4 comments Hosler's The Sandwalk Adventures (in which, well, Darwin discusses the nature of things with an eyebrow mite who thinks he's a god) would probably be equally good for a science/lit combo, though the science vs. religion debate it tackles may be a bit too contentious for some. But even so, it's well worth checking out.

message 14: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:53AM) (new)

Jason http://comicsintheclassroom.net/

Comics in the Classroom has some great comic recommendations and lesson plans. Alas, they recommended my book for High School classes but I still think it's good for JHS students:


message 15: by J-Lynn Van Pelt (new)

J-Lynn Van Pelt | 5 comments Two really fun series that I am currently obsessed with are Runaways and Earthlight.

Runaways is about a multicultural group of teens who learn their parents are supervillians and go on the run.

Earthlight is a fantastic scifi story about a group of multicultural teens living on the moon. Volume 1's ending is one of the best cliffhangers that I have ever read!

message 16: by Kristi (new)

Kristi | 2 comments I finally found this group and am so grateful. I have influenced my son quite a bit with reading (he's only 9), and I'm afraid my love of graphic novels has caught on a little too well. I say that because it seems there's so little out there for boys his age (he HATES Manga, and boy is that limiting!).

He's read all the Bone books in color, and sat down in the bookstore and read the 1300 page black and white volume, as well. He enjoyed the graphic novel version of Redwall, and he got Amulet yesterday and enjoyed that, too (we're eagerly awaiting number 2!). I saw that Kazu Kibuishi has a couple more I'll want to try out (not least the upcoming Flight Explorer), but does anyone have any other recommendations for a child who is 1) 9 years old, 2) super-aware of not appearing "girlish," and 3) particular about the quality of art (ie. graphic art, not illustrated story; not Manga; see above-named author/illustrators.)?

message 17: by Cullen (new)

Cullen | 3 comments Mouse Guard might be good, especially if he liked Redwall. Also, Scholastic released a few comic adaptations of the Goosebumps stories that are pretty nice.

message 18: by Sadie (new)

Sadie (librarianwombat) | 6 comments I would second Mouse Guard - it's really good! I think someone mentioned Clan Apis earlier on this thread and that would be a good one for a 9 year old boy I think. The Warriors graphic novels are being touted as "manga-style" but since they are cats he may not notice.

Another really cute one is Jellaby. Good for reading together - lots for kids but with stuff adults will find great too!

Marvel has some Marvel Age comics that might be appropriate. I've read a few and don't think they are very well written though...

message 19: by Steven (last edited Feb 24, 2008 09:30PM) (new)

Steven | 1 comments Wow. I'm glad I joined this group! I'm now teaching a class on how to make comic books to junior high students (5th-8th grade). I've taught this class before, albeit for college students.

There are some great suggestions from everyone else. I go for a mix of classic and modern comics in my class:

Little Nemo
Pedro & Me
Lynda Barry's work
Krazy Kat
Calvin & Hobbes
Scrooge McDuck by Don Rosa
Some of James Kochalka's work
Doing Time
Usagi Yojimbo
The Best American Comics anthologies
and so on...

message 20: by Kristi (new)

Kristi | 2 comments The web sites and etc. provided in this thread have been wonderful. What a great find! I'm excited to see that there are more artists opening the doors to "edgy" work done for a younger audience - I don't think "edgy" needs to connote over-sexed illustrations or content, or bloody violence (ie. slasher/splasher). Amulet, for example, had some pretty sophisticated ideas for a young boy who hasn't had much hardship in his life (still with nuclear family, no major tragedies), and has provided a great conversation piece for understanding his friends.

Steven's list (we have a lot of my Calvin and Hobbes at home), and Cullen and Sadie's comments are much appreciated! Thanks! My boy has read the teen Spiderman stuff (he adores Spiderman), but has already grown out of it for the most part. He enjoyed the action-based stories of the Marvel Adventures vs. the plot/character-based story lines of the Marvel books written for older audiences.

message 21: by Stacy (new)

Stacy (stacy_g_k) | 2 comments 1. Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman (Holocaust)
2. In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegel (9/11)
3. 9-11 Emergency Relief (assorted artists)
4. Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa (Bombing of Hiroshima)
5. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi(as mentioned above)
6. Linda Barry's work (as mentioned above)

I am enjoying this post and am interested in the responses given as well as the responses to come.


message 22: by Ari (new)

Ari (acwulff) | 4 comments Can't believe nobody has mentioned

Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini. Now in their 30th year, they are offering everything to date for free on their website. Check back every Friday for additional material.

Also recommend the "Death" series by Neil Gaiman.

message 23: by Ziggy (new)

Ziggy | 1 comments There used to be a smallish selection of graphic novels on offer at my school library..

When the Wind Blows - Raymond Briggs (a disarmingly gentle, warm, humorous graphic novel, about a regular blue collar couple trying to understand, and to prepare for, the ultimate catastrophe.[taken from Amazon.com:])

Fungus the Bogeyman -Raymond Briggs

A large selection of Tintin and Asterix.

An assortment of manga such as Fruits Basket, Inuyasha, Marmalade Boy.. that sort of thing.

Wow. Short list.Strange, I was sure I could remember more about the books in that library.. guess not.

message 24: by Matt (new)

Matt Moment (mattmoment) | 1 comments I've been tutoring at a working class, mostly African-American middle school in Richmond, VA for about 6 months now and have found that the library here is VERY open to the use of graphic novels.

Maybe no one mentioned it because it's so obvious but Bone is a great selection for this age group (or any) and Jeff Smith is someone that's quite vocal about using graphic novels in the school environment.

Also, is you do a little searching you'll find that many classic novels (Call of The Wild, Treasure Island) have been turned into graphic novels.

message 25: by Brandon (new)

Brandon | 5 comments I just ended up reading the Runaways series by Marvel, and I that it was pretty well done and my 12 year old is loving it. He's also been reading Invicible, and seems to be enjoying the League of Extraordinary Gentleman as well. He also read Pride of Baghdad, and while he liked it, he was a bit uncomfortable with the mating scenes. He liked the the rest of the story, though. I, myself, thought it was fantastic...

message 26: by kelly (new)

kelly (kdepin) If your students are interested in manga - look at the edu-manga series available. They use astroboy to frame biographies, etc. Also, the minx series by DC is great for girls - most of the ones I've read are appropriate for the middlers. And you can never go wrong with the Bone series by Jeff Smith.

Booklist also has a top 10 graphic novel list that has some awesome titles as well.

message 27: by Josh (new)

Josh (thecommissionerj) I remember reading Maus I & II in middle school, and they were great. Not sure what you're trying to teach specifically, but I will whole-heartedly agree with the suggestion of Jeff Smith's BONE series. VERY kid-friendly (like a Disney version of Lord of the Rings), it's funny and dark at times, but always entertaining.

If you teach a mythology unit, any superhero origin story (or let 'em read Walt Simonson's run on "Thor") would be a welcome break from Edith Hamilton for a 12 year-old.

message 28: by le bricoleur (last edited May 15, 2008 09:21PM) (new)

le bricoleur Boyle (le_bricoleur) | 8 comments Teaching graphic novels, of substance, to middle school children may be challenging.

The alternative comix world tends to cater to adults with themes of sex and drugs detailed in vulgar, or at least realistic, language.

Regardless, I'd like to suggest the following title, with the qualification that you may want to save it for your thirteen year olds:

Skim by Mariko Tamaki

This is a new book written by a Toronto based author and illustrated by her cousin.

Skim narrates the story of the not-so-skim Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a half-Japanese, bi-curious, goth caught in the high school politics of her her all-girls' private school.

I've suggested this title because it explores difficult, yet salient, aspects of teenage life: sexual identity, teen suicide, social and schoolyard politics, the need for individuality, ambiguous love, friendship, and the dynamics between students and teachers. It may not be a bildungsroman but it's certainly a story of growth and coming-of-age.

Some of the language, and the experimental lesbian love affair between Skim and her teacher, may not make it past your curriculum advisor or the PTA, but I think that it's important to expose students to the real world and discuss with them viable solutions to these problems.

Take a chance.


I'd also like to suggest anything by Adrian Tomine, but perhaps you could start with Sleep Walk and Other Stories, which anthologizes the first four single issues of his alt-comic Optic Nerve.

His concise, yet pregnant, dialogue is only surpassed by his complementary fine, yet expressive, line drawings. It's modern angst at its best.

Included are stories narrated exclusively with illustrations, which would make for a wonderful discussion on non-verbal communication and graphic representation, essential to the comic medium.


message 29: by Sadie (new)

Sadie (librarianwombat) | 6 comments I just finished Skim and really loved it.

message 30: by Jesse (last edited Feb 25, 2009 03:35AM) (new)

Jesse (bif41001) | 3 comments I use to live in the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania, and there were several schools in that area that tought not just "Maus" but also "V for Vendetta" and "Watchmen" and I always envied these kids. The most exciting book I got to read in highschool was the Elric Saga and these guys got to read two powerful and interesting graphic novels from Alan Moore as well as standard print novels like "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams and "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman.

Now I personally turn my nose up and most manga in the USA (I can't say all manga cause its been about 10 years since I lived in Japan so I can't say I'd dislike most of what they got in manga's birth place) because it mostly seems homogenized(sp?). The few manga that I do find intriguing are more classic samurai tales put out by Dark Horse such as "Blade of the Immortal" or "Lone Wolf and Cub". So I am by no means a big proponent of Manga in general.

Having said that, I saw fooy on that. If manga can get kids fired up about reading, and lead them to reading other more and more stuff, then I say let it happen. If a teacher can find a Manga series that is a strong and meaningful narrative, then go with it. And if a PTA and/or Principle is too close minded to see that you can get the same result from good fiction period as you can from the same old classics, then I hope they are happy with the carbon copies they pump out or a lower level of enthusiasm from their students. I think thats what anyone advocating Manga in school would be saying, or at least I hope thats what they are saying (and not, "sure lets read Dragonball Z in school cause its super fun", cause DBZ has about as much literary merrit as my toenail clippings).

Jesse "Baron Ironfury" Stevens

message 31: by Ari (new)

Ari (acwulff) | 4 comments Well, Jesse, then maybe they should take a good long look at ELFQUEST, with it's lessons about loyalty and individuality, and gender roles and racism and prejudice.

message 32: by Danielle (new)

Danielle (destobie) | 4 comments I am one of the teachers who suggested manga and am also a manga reader. Just like American comics, not all are acceptable for all ages. I think some of the tentative feelings we have towards manga are related to many parents getting culture-shocked when they realize that manga is not for all ages just because it comics. But we know already that not all comics are made for kids.

I would not teach an entire manga or series probably to a class. Instead, I would pull chapters or scenes out to talk about narrative, framing, and plotting. And I have. I used the first pages from several chapters of an untranslated manga, 3 Gatsu No Lion, to talk about different ways to begin a story.

Again, I pointed out that XXXholic by Clamp has a chapter that is based on The Monkey's Paw (a classic short story in most 9th/10th grade lit books) as a comparison/contrast to the W.W. Jacobs story.

I haven't used manga as a primary text but as tie-ins to whatever I'm teaching at the moment.

My school library also carries a nicely growing selection of graphic novels like Bone and some manga series.

I have to add that I've also enjoyed Runaways.

Has anyone read Age of Bronze yet? I've heard some good reviews but haven't had a chance to yet.

message 33: by Darcy (new)

Darcy | 11 comments I think tying in graphic fiction to other, more "serious" works is a smart strategy for introducing graphic fiction in a school curriculum. I've found that comparing stories can help students address questions of structure, theme, and reading practices more easily than only reading text-based fiction or non-fiction. I teach college level courses, however, and the restrictions (especially in terms of content) are much looser. This quarter I paired V for Vendetta with Das Leben der Anderen [The Lives of Others:]. The contrast between the graphic novel and the film has raised some great issues about reading cinematically and narrative structure. I've also used comics to teach historical context. A lot of the comics from WWII, for example, will give kids a great sense of the intense anti-Japanese sentiment and racism that permeated American society at that time.

Maybe a helpful way of framing this discussion for administrators and parents is thinking about graphic fiction as a means of teaching visual literacy. Kids today are growing up with a lot of visual stimuli, usually paired with text--the entire internet, for example--and it is really important that they learn about how they process that information so that they are better able to question it.

message 34: by Kristin (new)

Kristin Fletcher-spear (fletcherspear) | 1 comments There are lots of schools using graphic novels in classrooms--and have been for some time. There are some good professional development books to help you with it too: Graphic Novels in Your Media Center by Allyson and Barry Lyga is a good starting point. NCTE also has one or two books available on the topic if I remember correctly.

I just read a great book on the evolution of the eye called Optical Allusions by Jay Hosler. Funny, but filled with information and he ties in further questions for discussion. Great for a science class.

And for the record, I read primarily only manga when it comes to graphic novels. There are some manga that would be good to teach the culture and folklore of Japan. Barefoot Gen would be an excellent addition to WWII readings for example.

I applaud any teacher who tries to think outside the box when it comes to reaching their students. It usually means that the teacher is passionate about what they are doing and that will come out in the classroom! So kudos, teachers!

message 35: by Brandon (new)

Brandon | 5 comments Well, there are numerous incidents of many colleges and high schools using graphic novels to teach subjects. Stanford University is having a class on creating graphic novels next fall, from what I've read. (can't find the article link right as yet) It's not comics, anymore, and it's up to us to advocate for the use of this wonderful medium. Anyways, what's wrong with comics? Having read some of the newly released MArvel and DC stuff, I have to say I am really impressed with how they are handling some of the more important issues facing us today (same sex relationships, xenophobia, abuse, etc). But by advocating for these books, I have many teachers on staff now who recommend these to students who are not strong readers, or are reluctant to start reading. Within a few months, I have these students tackling other literature, but they always come back for the new graphic novels. We are starting a graphics novel club here as an after school activity next year, and I've had a huge spike in interest on this.

As a media specialist, I find that many of the kids who are reluctant to read anything will pick up a graphic novel. Kids want to read something with substance, not drivel. In our collection here, we have V, Watchmen, Age of Bronze (which is prety good, I think), Persepolis, Maus, Sandman, and the like mixed in with Captain America, X-men, and JLA. Kids who gravitate to these books are looking for an avenue to enrich themselves, albeit that's not their initial thought (Hey, a book with pictures, I bet that's an easy read!). Having done this for three years now, I have to say that starting my graphics novel collection was the best thing I've done here.

message 36: by Katie (new)

Katie | 1 comments I know this is an old discussion, but I'd love to start it up again. I'm a high school teacher that is trying to push my department to include more graphic novels. I did an exercise with Watchmen and my kids went wild for it and I adored it as well. I would love more suggestions for high school! Though, I'm adding all of the titles here on my reading list.

Are there books that have come out since 2008 that you think would be great additions? We're especially looking for graphic novels from African American perspectives.

message 37: by Ray (new)

Ray (rayhecht) Nice suggestions. I did a report on Watchmen when I was in high school, but maybe that's not good for kids.

Try some manga by Osamu Tezuka, like the Phoenix series.

message 38: by Ray (new)

Ray (rayhecht) Oh, March by John Lewis of course!

message 39: by Alyssa (new)

Alyssa Colistro | 1 comments Elf Quest might be a fun one to explore gender roles, cultural differences, prejudice...I just started the series a month ago and I'm really enjoying it. It is written by a man and wife and would be interesting for both girls and boys. I'm not a teacher, though, so use your own judgement regarding age range appropriately.

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