Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Graphic novels and non-fiction

Noah is not a passionate reader of books like the other members of our family. He reads lots and lots in the course of a day ... mostly on the computer. And he communicates well in writing, with spelling that has improved astronomically in the past year and a half for no other reason than that he was ready and motivated to notice spelling and incorporate it into his memory banks. He reads books from time to time, but he has never been one of those kids who blasts through novels two at a time or is frequently discovered in bed reading or out on the hammock with a big book.

But the graphic novel format appeals to him a lot. I have my suspicions that it was Garfield the cat who actually taught Noah to read. As a new reader he loved Garfield and Asterix. But since I didn't grow up with the comic strip / graphic novel genre, it took me a while to start finding the good stuff. Manga, my first lead, did not really appeal to him. But recently we've been finding more and more stuff that is right up his alley. And stuff with a little more literary merit and brain food.

Some recent winners:

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Schoolboy humour but ever so engaging. Sequel now out.
Clan Apis by Jay Hosler. Natural science (bees), humour and a good story line.
The Sandwalk Tales: An Adventure in Evolution Told in Five Chapters also by Jay Hosler. More natural science. Very funny.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. A semi-autobiographical novel about a young girl coming of age during and after the Islamic Revolution in Persia/Iran. There's a sequel too.
Anything by Larry Gonick. History encylopedias, guides to chemistry, physics, environmental science, sex, whatever you want.
As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial by Derrick Jensen. Hilarious premise, this is satire of governmental environmental policy at its finest.
Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman. This is a holocaust tale, retold with Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. It's on our wish list so I can't give it a first-hand recommendation, but it looks fabulous.


  1. I presume you have given it a look-see, but Ben suggests that Maus might be a little darker than the average 11 year old would enjoy.

    Has he read Bone, by Jeff Smith? Ben also recommends American Born Chinese by Gene Yang.

  2. Oooh, I was hoping for Ben's thoughts. Yes, I figured Maus was very dark. It'll get a pre-read first, though we've been through a certain amount of holocaust stuff, increasingly dark and emotionally-laden, over time. Forgot all about Bone, which should have gone on my list.

    Thanks for the Gene Yang recommendation ... we'll look that up!

  3. Wow - he never found Calvin and Hobebs by Bill Watterson? I stil read my collection! I love them.

  4. Oh goodness, yes, he's been through Calvin and Hobbes ad nauseaum ... sometime between learning to read (at age 5) and his current foray into stuff of a more literary / issue-oriented bent. C&H is great stuff, and very unschooling-friendly!

  5. Beccy6:25 am

    And presumably Asterix? It is DS's current favourite, which he pores over so long it looks like he is reading, although if you are so inaccurate as to call it that, he will correct you. Maybe this is a boy thing? Apparently boys are more likely to be into non-fiction too. DS certainly loves non-fiction as well as fiction.

  6. It's too bad that English-language comics seem less developed than comics in France. Comics are huge in France, in all genres for all ages.

    But maybe I missed some stuff in English. It's just everywhere in French culture.

  7. Anonymous10:57 am

    I also would think that Maus might be a bit "grim" for an 11 year old. My fourth son was a huge fan of garfield and Calvin and Hobbes:)
    I would recommend the Bone series by Jeff Smith. We have the jumbo anthology but you can get the books separately.

  8. Yes, we've done Bone. I'd love to hear from anyone who's read Persepolis and Maus who could compare the two ... since the former strikes me as fairly dark and Noah loved it.


This blog is moving to archive-only status. Please consider posting comments instead at the active version of the blog at

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.