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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Why not use graphic novels with younger children?

November 6, 2009

I recently read an article describing how two library clerks would not allow an 11 year old to check out a graphic novel. They lost their jobs over it — it was a violation of library policy plus they clearly exceeded their authority — although they likely did so with the best intentions.

It brings up a much broader question; that is, why is the graphic form so popular with children of all ages?

Maybe because it allows readers to find narrative — of fact and fiction — in a form that uses print and image. (A website from the UK includes picture books as well as novels in building literacy.)

And there are lots of graphic novels created especially for young children. Some are originals, while others are re-dos of traditional novels.

Newbery honor winner Jennifer Holm and her brother, Matthew Holm, have created a series of graphic novels about Baby Mouse (Random), a sassy young rodent with very human characteristics. Readers (and in my experience boys and girls) as young as 6 enjoy following Baby Mouse's exploits.

Younger children, say ages 3-6, can easily relate to another mouse in Little Mouse Gets Ready (Raw Jr./Toon) as he dresses, in this deceptively simple and thoroughly engaging book.

(The creators of Toon Books have demonstrated that this format can fuse perfectly with what we think of as "easy readers" — books that newly independent readers can actually decode by themselves, enlivening an already lively subset of picture books.)

The Adventures of Polo (Roaring Brook), begins a series of adventures had by a small dog. The books appear to be traditional picture books but with characteristics of a graphic novel. A series of framed panels conveys the action and creates characterization — only without words.

And because the form seems to be increasingly popular, even old books like the Boxcar Children — first published in the 1940s as traditional novels — are popping up as graphic novels (Whitman).

Visit the library or bookstore and take a look at the wealth of graphic novels. Like all books, some are better than others; some are very appropriate for children to read independently or shared with an adult or in small groups.


Little Mouse is part of the Toon Book series which is an easy reader level. My daughter loves them.

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase