Friday, February 27, 2009

Graphic Novels Make a Big Push in Children's Literature

Graphic novels have had a cult following in the adult literature world for quite some time. With the adaptation of many graphic novels into movies the medium is growing. Now children's literature is getting a boost from the graphic novel medium, as well. Editors in all the big publishing houses are on the lookout for graphic novels written for middle readers and young adults. Here are a few good examples you can probably find on your bookstore shelves today.

"Rapunzel's Revenge"
By Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Illustrated by Nathan Hale
For ages 7 – 12
You may think you know the story of Rapunzel. Girl trapped in a tower for years by an evil witch. she throws her ridiculously long hair down to a prince who then scales the tower wall to rescue her. You remember, right? Well, that's not exactly how this version goes.

The Hales have placed Rapunzel in a beautiful castle with a lush green garden. She lives there somewhat happily until, as a young teen, she climbs the garden wall and discovers everything she thought she knew was wrong.

With a wild western setting infused with magic the adventures include posses, giant serpents, jackelopes and fairytale references galore. Rapunzel discovers the person she thought was her mother is actually an evil witch and sets out to find and rescue her real mother. she and her amazing hair team up with Jack, as in beanstalk, and set off through the countryside. they right wrongs, change lives and bring a little joy to the world along the way. 

The Hales put an adventurous and magical spin on the classic Rapunzel story. The dialogue and banter is witty and quick. The adventures are perilous without being frightening. And where most graphic novels fall flat "Rapunzel's Revenge" is successful — the characters are well developed and interesting.

Nathan hale does a great job with the illustrations. He stays away from the mange-style illustrations and brings Rapunzel to life in a very American setting and style. Boys and girls will enjoy reading this story several times, even with the fairytale kiss at the end.

"Indiana Jones Adventures, Vol. 1"
By Philip Gelatt
Illustrated by Rick Lacy
For ages 8 – 12
Ready for a new installment of Indiana Jones? This one is pretty good. Set before Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy has his first run-in with the Nazis. while in Northern Europe Indy must battle a blizzard, find an ancient monument and unlock its secrets before the bad guys.

As with all Indiana Jones stories there is a supernatural element, fighting and a little, not-so-racy innuendo. This kid-friendly story has fast action and thrills lightly peppered with interesting historical details. The illustrations and dialogue do a good job of capturing the look and feel of Indiana Jones. Parents may even enjoy it.

Although the last movie received mixed reviews, I'd be surprised if this new line of graphic novels did. It is an enjoyable read that may just hook a new generation of Indy fans.

Other graphic novel series you may enjoy:
"Nancy Drew #14: Sleight of Dan"
By Stefan Petrucha and Sarah Kinney
Illustrated by Sho Murase
for ages 7 – 11
Nancy Drew, girl detective, is on the case when a magician's assistant goes magically missing during a show. I know I only read one book in the series, but I feel safe in saying, if you love Nancy Drew or just a good mystery you'll enjoy this graphic novel series.

"Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone: Walking Distance"
By rod Serling and Mark Kneece
Illustrated by Doug McHargue
For ages 9 – 16
The Twilight Zone is back. I know, It never actually left since you can find reruns on late night cable. Now, however, the show's most enduring episodes have been re-imagined as graphic novels. "Walking Distance" finds ad executive, Martin Sloan, looking for redemption in his old hometown. But in the Twilight Zone what you find is never what you expect. Rod Serling was ahead of his time. He used the science fiction medium to get around the censors and openly discuss social injustice, communism and other fears of the time — many of which remain relevant today. 

"Warriors: The Rise of Scourge"
By Erin Hunter and Dan Jolley
Illustrated by Bettina Kurkosi
For ages 7 – 12
Based on Erin Hunter's popular, "Warriors" novel series, the story follows wild feline clans. Real ones, not the usual teenage humans wearing short skirts and cat ears manga-style. Fans of "Warriors" will enjoy the art and style of the graphic novels but be discouraged by the thin plot lines.

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