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Graphic Novels vs. Comic Books

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Graphic novels

Bellaire librarian Mary Cohrs talks about the popularity of graphic novels.

Book Buzz is a blog produced in collaboration with neighborhood librarians from Houston Public Library, Harris County Public Library and the Bellaire Library.

Anyone who has children or grandchildren of reading age will know how popular, and prolific, graphic novels are these days. Those of us of a certain age will remember the plethora of titles and characters available in the comic books that were purchased monthly with a small amount from the weekly allowance.

What is the difference between graphic novels and comic books? There are a number of definitions and opinions I found in my research but I am partial to the one provided by writer, artist and blogger David Borden, “Comic books are serialized stories told in words and pictures, and graphic novels are basically a long (novel length) comic book that tells one story from beginning to end.”

But as with many things popular with children, there are parents who think graphic novels are a waste of time – it is not reading they say; they should be reading a real book. I imagine that is what many a parent said about comic books, too.

As a librarian, the popularity of graphic novels is evident at our library with increased circulation and children eagerly asking for specific series or characters. Popular series such as Bone (by Jeff Smith), Babymouse (by Jennifer L. Holm), Dog Man (by Dave Pikley) and Big Nate (by Lincoln Peirce) are guaranteed to bring a smile to both faces when an elusive title is finally placed in their eager hands. Graphic novels are a force to be reckoned with these days in libraries and book stores.

My brother and I had a large box of comic books stored at our grandmother’s house in East Texas to enjoy while the grown-up visited. The box has dwindled over the decades to a very small stack of cherished comics (or those that survived). I remember bicycling to the corner store to buy the latest Archie or Batman and then adding them to the box after several readings at home. Hot summer days, rainy days, cold winter weekends and car trips were all reasons to read comic books. Our parents knew that reading was reading, and eventually my brother and I found our way to the “real books” that we still reach for today.

So which is better? Does it really matter if a child is anxious to sit and read?

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