{Graphic Novel Week} Why Graphic Novels Are Cool (And Not Just For Children!)

Graphic Novel Week

When I started reading graphic novels in 2011, I was all over the place with the types I was reading. Being a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s work, I knew I had to start reading the Sandman comics to see what they were all about … and I also started reading the graphic novel version of Twilight.

Yeah, two VERY different things.

While the Neil Gaiman comics definitely turned me onto telling a story with pictures and minimal words, the Twilight one turns me off, with its super simple, almost manga-esque quality and boring typography. From there I’d start to read some more middle grade graphic novels, like Smile by Raina Telgemeier and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, and I found myself slowly finding the kinds of graphic novels I liked to read.

What do I like in graphic novels? I like excellent artwork — even something done without colour and without any other mediums other than just drawing can be wonderful — and I like awesome stories. Just like a regular book, I want a graphic novel to suck me in right away and really have me hanging onto the story until the last page.

Thinking about it, the first time I really read a “graphic novel” would be when I was in middle school myself. I was a huge fan of the Archie comics and had a HUGE box full of them (which I, sadly, gave away — who knew they would be so big these days?). That brings up the point about graphic novels vs. comics. I’m one of those people who will lump everything together under the term “graphic novel,” but according to Matt Bowes of This Nerding Life, that’s really not what I should be doing:

“It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine, stemming from the four years I worked at a comics store. To me, the entire medium is called “comics”, while a subset of the works available are “graphic novels”. The term is often used incorrectly to describe bound trade paperbacks of comic stories (collections of The Walking Dead, Fables, etc.). When Will Eisner thought up the term, he wanted it to mean an actual novel designed to be read in that form. I also have a little bit of a beef against the use of “graphic novel” to indicate some sort of higher purpose than “comics”. It’s kind of like someone saying “I only read literary fiction.””

See? For a newbie like me, I have a LOT to learn.

And really, there are a lot of newbies out there, people who want to read graphic novels but don’t know where to start, or people who think that reading a book with pictures (heaven forbid!) is only meant for kids, that it wouldn’t be something a grown-up should read.

Jennifer says, I’m an avid reader of graphic novels, but I haven’t always been. I always assumed they were just about superheroes (I hate Batman) or somehow just for kids, and it wasn’t until I found stories that spoke to me that I realized there’s a graphic novel out there for everyone. Now, I pick up a graphic novel when I need a break from dense books or when the next book in one of my favorite series comes out. Some of my personal favorites are Fables, Locke & Key, Saga, Dragon Age, Unwritten, Marvel 1602, the new 52 Aquaman, the new 52 Wonder Woman, and the graphic novelization of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.”

What is being a grown-up anyway? When I was younger all I wanted to do was read the grown-up books. I’d try to read Stephen King and my mom’s Danielle Steel books. I’d wander through the stacks of adult fiction and assume that since I was a reader, I’d totally get any of these books. And now that I’m an adult, I’m way more picky. That, and I don’t feel like I should stick to one niche when reading. If I want to read adult books, I’ll do it. If I want to read YA, I’ll go for it. Even if I want to read some middle grade books, I don’t start berating myself.

I know, some people might think that reading just for the sake of reading, or just picking up a book for mere enjoyment is wrong. The older we get shouldn’t mean the harder the books — we don’t always have to be challenging ourselves with what we’re reading. Though frankly, I find that reading a graphic novel is challenging. Whether you’re reading a graphic novel or a comic, it takes a little bit of work to really get into the atmosphere of what you’re reading. When you’re reading a novel, the author can use plenty of words to describe what’s going on, what the scenery is, what the smell of the scene is, but with a graphic novel, you don’t have all of that. It’s a matter of adjusting your brain and really deciphering the pictures on the page.

Margie (from Bumbles and Fairy-tales) says, “With graphic novels like One Summer and Through the Woods, I fell in love with the illustrations! The way that they carry the story so fluently just through pictures and minimal colors. The story-telling and/or conversations supported the illustrations enhancing the plot and yet, allowing your imagination to still build on what you’re reading …”

Not only that, but there’s the layout of graphic novels. I will admit that it took me a little while to get used to how to read a graphic novel. Sometimes it’s not all left to right reading … you have to follow the flow of the graphic novel or comic, what the author and illustrator intended. Some might be laid out simply, while others are more artistic. The fun in reading graphic novels is finding those needle in a haystack books — the books that are not only gorgeous to look at, but fun to read as well.

Laura (from Reading In Bed) says, “Skim was the first one I read and liked. The first one I ever read was about Louis Real, so non-fiction, and I found it pretty boring. I loved Skim because it was a good story and the drawings added to it. Gave it a certain mood.”

Graphic novels are cool because they have to convey so much in a shorter amount of time. While a scene could last a few chapters in a book, it could be condensed in a graphic novel. Just think of the power of words and illustration! I think that it’s kind of great that graphic novels exist for all ages and I feel that so long as we’re still exposing ourselves to books with no pictures (I know, I know), that including graphic novels into our reading schedule is perfect for the bookish diet. Just like adding in poetry, or audiobooks, or books in verse. Changing it up helps us change up our thinking and makes us concentrate a little more on a new medium and for me, there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’m still learning as I go, tumbling through the enourmous haystack of graphic novels that are out there. I still find ones that just don’t suit me, or ones that might be too boring for my taste (I’m just slightly warming up to non-fiction graphic novels), but every once in a while I find one that is absolutely amazing. That’s what I love about my journey as a reader.

Why do you love graphic novels? What are some of your favourites!

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{Graphic Novel Week} Graphic Novel Review Round-Up #1 (This One Summer, Ghost World, and more!)

Graphic Novel Week

Instead of throwing multiple review posts at you each day, I figured I’d do a few review round-up posts with mini reviews! This month I’ve been trying to read a lot more graphic novels, so there are a LOT of reviews to get through!

this one summerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

I loved this story of Rose who travels to the summer house every year with her parents. She hangs out with her friend Windy each year, but this year it’s a little different. Rose is on that cusp between teenager and adulthood, but Windy is younger than her so she seems a little young to Rose at points of the story. Rose is also having different feelings, towards boys, towards Windy, towards her parents … it’s really a book that anyone can relate to if they were a teenage girl at some point (which is basically all women). This story is also great because it’s not just about Rose and Windy, but there’s also a storyline going on with Rose’s parents that is completely heartbreaking. I definitely teared up at one point and that is rare for me when reading a graphic novel. The artwork is beautiful and I found myself really starting to appreciate graphic novels with this one. I think part of me always expects full-blown colour illustrations so I tend to shy away from saying anything good about comics that might have beautiful drawings. This one is also Canadian and the authors have released another book, Skim, which I hope to read soon.

ghost worldGhost World by Daniel Clowes

This book is one of those books that has a major cult following. It’s actually a pretty good story and one that I enjoyed a bit. I wouldn’t say that I loved it since I think there’s a part of me that just didn’t get it. Maybe it’s too short? Or maybe it was just too melodramatic for me? I kind of feel the same way when I read stories about young adults who are full of so much angst and I just never find myself connecting with any of them. Is it because I didn’t have a childhood like them that I just can’t relate? I did really enjoy the friendship between the two girls in the story — that’s one thing I could relate to. Other than that, though, maybe it was the humour I didn’t get … I just don’t understand that cynical, teenage humour that’s represented in books. But yeah, still glad I read it. Maybe I’ll check out the movie one day.

the terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distancesThe Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman

I love Matthew Inman’s work, so when I saw that he had a new book out, I didn’t care what the subject matter was, I knew I had to read it! This one was a bit different from the other books I’ve read. In fact, it’s quite the inspirational read! This one is all about running and while it might not necessarily be considered a graphic novel (a graphic humour book?), I still think it fits in this category. It’s still full of some of the great humour you can find in other Matthew Inman and Oatmeal comics, but it also is a bit of a resource on how to start running. And it’s so funny because running is freaking hard. Yeah, it might be the cheapest way to get exercise, but if you want to run long distances, be prepared to hate it a bit. There is a whole lot of honesty in this book, which is perfect for beginners since Inman pretty much says, yeah it sucks, but it’s amazing. I may not be a runner anymore, but I get it. Parts of this book (the lazier parts) were a little tough to get through since I expect lots of illustrations, so they felt a little dense, but it was still a good book.

the truth is a cave in the black mountainsAnd an honorable mention to The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman

This one was so very different and so very Neil Gaiman. By the end of the book, I knew that it wasn’t quite a graphic novel, even though it has pieces of it that resemble a graphic novel. Really, it’s an illustrated short story. It’s incredibly dark and full of lore and legends. It only has a few characters and as they make their way to the cave in the black mountains the story gets darker and darker until the very end. It’s really a story that made me think and want to go back and reread it after finishing (despite the fact that it was late at night when I finished and I can barely stay up past 9pm as it is). I’m so used to seeing Neil’s stories paired with Dean McKean’s artwork, so it was quite the change to see illustrations by someone else. They were almost rough illustrations (not like your Sandman artwork), but they paired so nicely with the story. My only complaint was the typography from some of the illustrated speaking parts — I felt those were almost a little too childlike and rough. BUT super good story and a gorgeous book — one I’m happy to have in my Neil Gaiman collection!

Have you read any of these graphic novels? What did you think? 

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Review: I Could Pee on This (And Other Poems by Cats) by Francesco Marciuliano

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I could pee on thisTitle: I Could Pee on This (And Other Poems by Cats)
Author: Francesco Marciuliano
Genre: Non-fiction, Humour
Source: Library (Hardcover)

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Cat lovers will laugh out loud at the quirkiness of their feline friends with these insightful and curious poems from the singular minds of housecats. In this hilarious book of tongue-in-cheek poetry, the author of the internationally syndicated comic strip Sally Forth helps cats unlock their creative potential and explain their odd behavior to ignorant humans. With titles like “Who Is That on Your Lap?,” “This Is My Chair,” “Kneel Before Me,” “Nudge,” and “Some of My Best Friends Are Dogs,” the poems collected in I Could Pee on This perfectly capture the inner workings of the cat psyche. With photos of the cat authors throughout, this whimsical volume reveals kitties at their wackiest, and most exasperating (but always lovable).

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(This review was originally posted on my blog Winter Distractions on April 9, 2013)

Let me just preface this review by saying that I’m not really a cat person. I like dogs.

BUT, I can still appreciate a good cat book — especially one with great cat pictures. This book, a book full of just over 100 pages of poems by cats, had some very cute cat pictures. The lighting was perfect, the poses were adorable, and they made me want to just reach inside the book to smush their smushy little faces.

But I digress. I am NOT a cat person.

There’s still something to be appreciated with a book like this. The poems were definitely cute, but I do think that it’s a book that should be read in small doses. After a while, the poems all started to feel the same, a lot of them lacking a certain punch line to make me laugh out loud. Meanwhile, others started off so simply and it was the last line that did me in. Unfortunately, I could count on one hand the number of poems that were like this.

I lick your nose
I lick your nose again
I drag my claws down your eyelids
Oh, you’re up? Feed me

Still, if you are a cat lover, this is definitely the book for you. I think it would make a good coffee table-type book — I mean, with a title that has ‘pee’ in it, it’s hard NOT to talk about it. It’s also a really beautifully-made little book. I love the colours, the size, and the fact that it isn’t more than 100 pages.

Maybe it’s just me, but I do look forward to the companion book the author is writing, I Could Chew on This (And Other Poems by Dogs). Being a dog-lover, I could get behind that.

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