Monday, January 2, 2012

Graphic Novels Part 1

For the last three years I have been lucky enough to sit on a CYBILS panel.  I feel honored to be able to add my opinion on what is great children's literature.  It is a daunting task.  I am responsible to read as many books as I can and narrow it down to my top five.  This year I was on the graphic novel committee.  There are two sections.  The first is middle grade graphic novels and the second is young adult graphic novel.  Since I teach third grade I am much more comfortable reading middle grade fiction.  There were wonderful books nominated, but I was surprised that there weren't more choices.  Last year I did middle grade fiction and there were over 125 books.  Even though my comfort level is in middle grade I LOVED the YA graphic novels. 

As I was reading I kept thinking about all the teachers out there that don't let kids read graphic novels.  I am sure they have their "good reasons", but the truth is teachers that don't let students read graphic novels are short changing them.  There were some phenomenal books nominated.  They spanned the range of books.  There were graphic novels based on literature, ones on superheroes, some vampires (some not bad!), ones on robots, and even current events.  In other words there were graphic novels that met the needs of every reader.  Some of my favorites made the short list and some didn't.  Originally I was just going to blog about "boy" graphic novels, but I think that some of the "girl" ones have guy appeal.   

Two books that did make the short list were two of my favorites.  The first one is Sidekicks by Dan Santat and the second is Level Up by Gene Luen Yang.  I can't wait to share many of them with you and my class.  Happy New Year.

The book trailer for Sidekicks by Dan Santat was one of my favorites of the year.  With any trailer the hope is that people (teachers) will preorder the books and share with their class.  Well it worked because I did and I did!   Sidekicks is a wonderful superhero story about an aging superhero (just like me without the cape or gadgets!).   Captain Amazing is tired.  He needs help, so a call is placed to find a new sidekick that could eventually take over. 

This is where it gets fun.  His animals decide they must and will be his sidekicks.  I still laugh thinking about a hamster, dog and chameleon coming to the rescue of anyone.  I mean really who can’t laugh seeing a hamster in a USA, Red, White, and Blue superhero costume.  The story is charming and the graphics make me think of older comics.   It is very popular in my third grade class.


Growing up most of us feel we need to meet our parent’s expectations.  For boys it tends to be living up to what we believe our dad’s hopes are.   Given that I couldn’t throw or catch a ball I knew I didn’t live up to what I thought my dad wanted.  In Level Up by Gene Luen Yang’s new graphic novel the main character Dennis Ouyang didn’t come close to what his parents wanted for him. 

Dennis’ father dies when he is young and he never really gets over the death.  He starts college and soon becomes so engrossed in video games.  This leads to dropping out of school.  Along the way he finds that he can live up to the expectations. 

I really enjoyed Level Up.  The graphic novel is split up into video game levels.  (Get it level up!)  The illustrations are interesting.  At times they are very vivid and others times very muted.  The text in the bubbles is easy to read and forces the reader to really think about what is happening.  This is definitely a YA  book.

6 comments:

Deb Marshall said...

Thanks so much for doing the reading and the narrowing down. Looking forward to reading some of these short lists!

Ms. Yingling said...

Iive got SIdekicks on reserve, but Level Up was kind of... depressing. Hey, maybe you could switch things up and do middle grade fiction next year! Cybils is always fun.

Mary Lee said...

Kyle, I was a round one GN judge the year the CYBILS were launched. I did it to push my thinking and learning. In the end, it changed my teaching, and the reading my kids love the most. Sad but true that GN are such a big leap of faith for many teachers.

These two were favorites of mine this year, too. (IMHO, Level Up is more YA/middle school) Did you read Mal and Chad? There's a new one coming out later this month.

Pam Torres said...

Graphic novels are something that I haven't read too many of, but when I do I tend to be very focused that there are subplots that create a deeper meaning since I have a harder time with the characterization. Not very imaginative, I guess. I never got into cartoons even as a kid. These sound really good and will help me broaden my tastes to encompass the graphic novel. Thanks for the reviews.

Michelle said...

I like some graphic novels. My kids have read a few. My oldest son just checked out Trickster Natvie American Tales A Graphic Collection from his school library. I read the first story last night. I've made a post on my blog about graphic novels. http://beginningreadinghelp.blogspot.com/2010/09/i-won-big-no-no-toon-book-from.html I'll have to check out the ones you've reviewed here.
Thanks for your work with Cybils.

Ali B said...

My son will love Level Up. Graphic novels and video games are not my cup of tea, but my ten year old loves them. Thanks for the recommendation!