Monday, 23 May 2011

Graphic novels for the boys

I have just come across the notes I made at an excellent and illuminating debate about graphic novels at the London Book Fair last month. Eoin Colfer spoke of his admiration and affection for the graphic novel versions of his books. While he is delighted when readers progress from these to the originals, he hates the idea of graphic novels being seen chiefly or solely as stepping stones into ‘proper’ books. INJ Culbard is also very clear about the value of graphic novels as works of art in their own right, however one specific intention of his adaptations of classic fiction is to lead young people to the originals. One motivation for Rob Davis’s work results from his son’s reading problems. He knows that his comic strips in the Murderous Maths series, Horrible Histories and other publications keep the attention of children with special educational needs like his son, and inspire their interest and learning. Brady Webb’s wife is a history teacher and she tells him how much graphic novels bring history to life, as well as the difference they make to young people’s reading. ‘We’ve come a long way since I was told comics would rot my brain’, he said. In answer to a question from the floor, Colfer told us that the notion that boys want reading that is simple and fast is wrong. It should be fast, but it should be complex. Despite the title of the debate, all the speakers agreed that graphic novels are not just for boys.

This discussion will certainly inform my courses on boys and reading, and other courses on children’s and young people’s reading.