Graphic Novels for Beginners
Graphic novels have gotten increasingly more popular, but I have to admit I initially had a hard time getting into the format. For someone who was never into comic books as a kid, my eyes get easily overwhelmed with the explosion of activity that happens in graphic novels. What comes as second nature for a seasoned graphic novel fan - taking in the story simultaneously through the illustrations, the expository text, the speech bubbles, and the action bubbles or knowing which panel to look at next - requires a lot more concentration for me than reading a traditional book. It just wasn't for me, I thought. Until a few good librarians convinced me to read the following books, which almost all have a fairly linear, easy to follow visual format, and now I'm a graphic novel convert! If you're also looking to expand your reading horizons, give one of these a try.
Stitches: A Memoir by David Small
This was the first graphic novel I read, and also one of the most depressing books I've ever read. And yet, Small's autobiographical account of his traumatic childhood and coming of age is an incredibly compelling read. The illustrations work seamlessly with the text to make the story more vivid and immediate, pulling the reader deeper into the narrative and the mood of the book. The graphic novel is the perfect medium for this book.
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Aimed at kids in grades 2-5, Bell's memoir about going to a new school as the only deaf kid with the imaginary superhero alter ego of El Deafo is endearing, funny, and relatable to anyone who's ever felt like they don't fit in. I enjoyed it despite not being the target audience, and as a graphic novel newbie, found the panel layout really easy to follow along with.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
Another one that's laid out visually in a very straightforward way. I was thoroughly charmed by this memoir that's a journey through Knisley's important culinary memories complete with delicious sounding recipes. I bookmarked several to try later. Even more tantalizing is Knisley's recounting of her trip to the legendary Alinea, which piqued my imagination and taste buds and left me eager to sample more of her work.
Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 No Normal by G. Willow Wilson
While I've seen and enjoyed plenty of superhero movies, this was my first foray into reading a superhero comic. This reboot of Ms. Marvel features a teen, Kamala Khan, who's going through the usual teen angst with strict parents and navigating the inner turmoil of honoring her heritage while also wanting to be a stereotypical American cool kid. Her life takes a turn for the extra complicated once she mysteriously gains super powers and takes on the form of Ms. Marvel. This is a fun start to the Ms. Marvel series that also deals with thought-provoking themes of identity, race, and culture, which will appeal to teens and adults who love superhero adventures as well as those who enjoy teen coming of age stories.
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Reading Brosh's book, it's easy to see why her comics blog had such an enthusiastic following. In a classic comics strip format, sketchy Paint created illustrations that are purposely less than polished help bring to life scenes that range from silly moments with Brosh's not so smart dog to her serious struggles with depression. No matter the topic, Brosh manages to inject her comics with hilariously quotable lines and "I've felt the exact same way!" emotions that work brilliantly with her drawings. In addition to the comics strip format, Brosh uses regular text between comic strips to further elaborate on her anecdotes, which makes this a perfect first book for someone who's new to comics and graphic novels.