January is a time for resolutions. In the words of the great Greg Heffley (the star of the extremely popular series for kids: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid), “The problem is, it’s not easy for me to think of ways to improve myself, because I’m already pretty much one of the best people I know. So this year my resolution is to try and help OTHER people improve.” My resolution for this blog is to get you to read something different. Something you normally wouldn’t.
The Library’s graphic novel section is housed in the Young Adult department. Don’t be scared. Just because the sticker on the spine label says “Young Adult” doesn’t mean the book is “adolescent.” I urge you to take a walk through the section (it’s that bookshelf that takes up space between the audio-visual section and the large print section). Something may strike your fancy.
I was pulled into the world of comics by a strong recommendation from a very smart friend. After all, I didn’t read my first comic book until I was 26 years old. Don’t laugh! I was intrigued by her recommendation of Kurt Busiek and his wonderful world of Astro City. Busiek’s stories captivated my attention with well developed vignettes of heroes struggling with the same problems all of us do. How can you balance work and family…especially when you can fly? The artwork, by Alex Ross, was a feast for my eyes and not sensationalistic like I had assumed it would be.
The comic book bug got me, and ever since I’ve been reading Marvel, DC and everything in between! (Don’t tell a die hard comic book lover, though! The rivalry between Marvel and DC is similar to that of the Red Sox vs. the Yankees! Yikes!)
Before I let you on your way, let me try to define a graphic novel for you. Think of a graphic novel like a “TV on DVD” set, and a comic book as one “episode.” The graphic novel has all of the “episodes” in one convenient book.
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
A way to segue yourself into the new medium is to find something you’re already familiar with. If you happened to see the new Iron Man film and liked Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark, you may want to pick up the Ultimate Iron Man . Find out how Tony Stark became the millionaire playboy and one of the most powerful men in the world.
The latest storyline in Marvel comics is called Civil War. Here’s your chance to meet many recognizable heroes: Iron Man (he seems to be everywhere lately), Spider-Man, Captain America, and Fantastic Four. The superhero world divides when super-teenagers accidentally blow up a school. The world wants to know every superhero’s true identity so they could be accountable for damage and death incurred while hiding behind the mask. Some heroes reveal their true identity, and some fight for their right of privacy. This is heavy, relevant stuff! My personal fav is Peter Parker, Spider-Man. Find out which side Parker takes, and the toll is takes on him, Aunt May and Mary Jane.
If you’re a DC Comics kind of person, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns may suit you better. Frank Miller, the author and illustrator, wrote comics-turned-movies of Sin City and 300. Batman returns to fight crime after a ten year hiatus. He battles his biggest enemies, Joker and Two-Face (played by Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight) for the last time. And gets help by the other biggest DC character…Superman!
Or, if you’re in a more thoughtful mood, American Born Chinese will inspire you to think about race and growing up “different.” This comic masterfully weaves three storylines together while infusing Chinese culture and tackling stereotypes. The strong theme of not belonging tugs at your heart throughout this award winning book.
If this is too much of a transition for you, try reading a graphic representation of a novel you already read. There are plenty on our shelves. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower was adapted in comic form. Get to the heart of King’s story in a mere 200 pages, instead of trudging through the 800+ in novel form!
And, if all else fails, try getting to know Greg Heffley and his family in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. This series chronicles the life of Greg, a middle school student who has to deal with his classmates (who just happen to be morons), his siblings (who can do no wrong in his parent’s eyes), and friends who succeed at everything they do. Sound familiar? Enjoy!
Lisa Shaia is the children’s librarian who is humming “Driving with the Top Down” from the Iron Man soundtrack.