Monday, September 5, 2011

Learning with Graphic Novels

We've always loved graphic novels. Ones that are done well are just... awesome.

Since writing down some of our favourites in the post linked to above, we've discovered even more graphic novels (for good reason -- more and more excellent ones are being published every month).

The common theme to the graphic novels in this post is information. The books listed below all deal with subject matter that we typically present in traditional (and somewhat boring) ways. The authors/illustrators take the content out of the typical and present it in a way that will intrigue and entice the reader. Booyah!

Gareth Hinds has written and illustrated four "classic" graphic novels that we can't wait to get our hands on:

The books get great reviews, including one from Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson) regarding The Odyssey: "Gareth Hinds brings THE ODYSSEY to life in a masterful blend of art and storytelling. Vivid and exciting, this graphic novel is a worthy new interpretation of Homer’s epic."

We've also been collecting some of the Manga Shakespeare books. We bought our first one at the kiosk at Bard on the Beach and my pre-teen son just loved it (we had to go back and see the play)! So we've been buying more. There are 14 books published thus far and they are available at many different bookstores (including

The Manga Guides move into more heavy duty topics such as calculus, biochemistry and relativity. These books are definitely for the teen (or older learner) who would like to dive into some fairly dense topics in a fun and straightforward way. For example, "In The Manga Guide to Calculus, you'll follow along with Noriko as she learns that calculus is more than just a class designed to weed out would-be science majors. You'll see that calculus is a useful way to understand the patterns in physics, economics, and the world around us, with help from real-world examples like probability, supply and demand curves, the economics of pollution, and the density of Shochu (a Japanese liquor)."

Other great books that are info-oriented and "graphic" are Larry Gonick's fabulous offerings (watch the age level ... and your parental comfort level), Jay Hosler's Clan Apis (about bees) and The Sandwalk Adventures (about Charles Darwin), Jim Ottaviani's fantastic books (such as T-Minus: The Race to the Moon and Two-Fisted Science), and Mark Shultz's The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA. Great stuff.

Some parents are concerned that graphic novels aren't as good as "real books" or that somehow they are a lesser species of book (or information source). For folks who may worry about that, perhaps think about your goals for your children's learning. Are you really wanting your children to read heavy texts, perhaps biting off more than they can currently chew and potentially turning them off classics or certain kinds of information for many years? Or do you want them to have to wait to read about these topics until they are ready to tackle them (based on skill development, cognitive development, or interest)? Or do you want to give them the opportunity to discover a new passion or interest, something that they may then follow-up on afterwards because they are fascinated and want to uncover more, regardless of how sturdy the topic?

Offerings like graphic novels, legitimate as they are in their own right, also plant seeds for deeper exploration -- if the child decides to follow through. These are perfect items for sharing ideas and topics with your kids, regardless of your learn-at-home philosophy. At our house, I strew them around. I don't have any agenda by doing that other than opening doors to possibilities, expanding my child's world  (and my own) by bringing in a few more things that my child may enjoy or that will support his current interests. I see that as my primary role as a home educator and I'm grateful for resources like these that help make my job so much easier (and fun).

If you have other favourite graphic novel that are "info-based", kindly share the titles in the comments. I'd love to read your suggestions.