As everyone who is associated with the KidLit world probably already knows, the ALA announced the two biggest awards in KidLit last week:
The Caldecott and The Newbery.
The Newbery Award went to The Crossover,
written by Kwame Alexander and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The Caldecott went to The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, illustrated and written by Dan Santat and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
While huge congratulations are in order for both of those books what I thought was interesting was
This book is a graphic novel and it received a Newbery Honor Award.
When you combine that with Kate DiCamillo's 2014 Newbery--winning book, Flora and Ulysses, which contained bits of graphic novel pieces sprinkled throughout, you have to wonder if the popularity of graphic novels is about to soar!
What is a graphic novel?
According to the website www.GetGraphic.org
"Graphic Novel" is a format, not a genre. Graphic novels can be fiction, non-fiction, history, fantasy, or anything in-between.
Graphic novels are similar to comic books because they use sequential art to tell a story. Unlike comic books, graphic novels are generally stand-alone stories with more complex plots. Collections of short stories that have been previously published as individual comic books are also considered graphic novels.
The key to this is that the story line is more complex in a graphic novel than in a comic, and it takes place all within a single book.
Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.
The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.
This plot is something you might read in any mid-grade novel. In this case, however, since author, Cece Bell, is also an illustrator, she chose to tell her story with pictures. Clearly this works!
But it is also good to note that this book has a very solid plot line and would probably have done very well as a "regular" mid-grade novel with just several illustrations spread throughout.
Or would it? Is it the images that bring more life and poingancy to the story? Does seeing the pictures touch us just that little deeper inside?
Each reader needs to decide that question for themselves.
As for the rest of us writers, the popularity of graphic novels should make us stop and think. Would the words we use in our stories be more powerful with images attached? Is that why picturebooks are so popular? Or does it have to do with the video-obsessed society that we now live in. Whatever the answer, graphic novels are a fun way to expand our writing and perhaps something that may require a much closer look.
Other graphic novels to check out:
43 Old Cemetery Road series by Sarah and Kate Klise (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Dori Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon (Dial BFYR)
Max Axiom Science Series by Graphic Science
Jennifer is the award-winning author of over 20 nonfiction and fiction books for kids. A self-professed science geek, she is always on the hunt to learn something new. How do submarines stay submerged? How do satellites work? Why do bedbugs live in beds? She has learned it all in the many nonfiction books she has authored. Like any good scientist and author, Jennifer is rarely without a notebook and she writes down her observations throughout the day. It is a practice she encourages many young readers and writers. You can visit Jennifer at her website www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com, her special place to explore the world around her.
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