As I write this, sitting in the midst of graphic novels, we are on the last chapter in the last book of our readaloud – The Chronicles of Narnia. It feels like the end of an era. We have been reading C.S. Lewis’ classic and have loved it (and have lived in it) for so many weeks, that we doubt anything else will fill that.
I think most homeschoolers would agree that read alouds are great for various things: they give children an imagination, they encourage narration, they give them the templates necessary for building language. Which is why we love our readalouds. But we also share a love for good graphic novels.
Don’t graphic novels undercut all those efforts at learning good language? Don’t they create a generation of people obsessed with short attention spans?
I don’t think so.
From the time my father read the Sunday comics to me from before I could read (or understand them, really) I have come to appreciate pictures as well as words. Cartoons took me into a world much like the worlds of the Shire or Narnia. I still think fondly of Gaul, the village that held its own against the Roman empire. I followed Tintin and his dog Snowy into the Egyptian tombs.
At a time when I thought mostly in pictures, graphic novels and comics ushered me into worlds that spoke my language, gently nudging me in the direction of the adult world with its own narratives linking history, geography, mystery and the joy of finding out. It gave me just enough of a glimpse into other worlds to make a point without overwhelming me.
And that, I believe, will always remain the enduring beauty of graphic novels. This is why I include them in our homeschool and continue to read them myself.
If you haven’t checked out these treasures, this is good time to do so. What we’re experiencing today might well be the golden age of graphic novels.
Here’s a selection of my favorites, both for kids and adults alike. Be sure to preview them yourself before passing them off to your children because some have adult themes. As I have said in the past, I let my children read whatever they pick (within reason) but I do make sure to have a conversation about every book.
And so, without further ado, here is the master list:
The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds – my gateway into Greek mythology. I always wanted to read the original but was daunted. And then I found this book in the teen section of my local library. Ah! So beautiful. I fell in love with Greek drama right here. Be sure to follow this up with Mary Pope Osborne’s Stories from the Odyssey in audio format (which we loved to listen to in the car) or the books in the Odyssey series: The One Eyed Giant, The Land of the Dead, Sirens and Sea Monsters, The Grey-Eyed Goddess, Return to Ithaca and The Final Battle.
Beowulf by Gareth Hinds – While we’re talking about heroes in mythology, I have to include this one. Another one I have not read yet, but I remember enjoying the movie. If you are so inclined, follow this one up with Beowulf by Burton Raffel for older readers – considered the most readable Beowulf.
Gifts From the Gods: Ancient Words of Wisdom from Greek & Roman Mythology by Lise Lunge Larson & Gareth Hinds – This one seems to be the Aesop’s Fables on Greek & Roman mythology. While not technically a graphic novel if put to the test, it still remains a good book to read to children with timeless wisdom and beautiful illustrations.
Romeo and Juliet by Gareth Hinds – I think some of my favorite work by Hinds is his adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays into graphic novel format. Since the plays were staged and not read, this makes a wonderful first introduction to future readers of Shakespeare. After reading this, you can go watch the play or read it.
Macbeth by Gareth Hinds – This was, hands down, my absolute favorite graphic novel in the Shakespearean genre. I think it captures the essence of the original play and I loved it from beginning to end.
The Merchant of Venice by Gareth Hinds – I have a confession. When I saw this was available, I squealed a little. I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to read The Merchant of Venice in its original format. Yes, I said it. I have never finished. The characters always get confusing and with Shakespeare’s penchant for beginning plays with smaller characters, I don’t get beyond the first few scenes. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one!
Frankenstein by Marion Mousse – part of the Classics Illustrated Series. I, needless to say, love all these books. I think they’re a great introduction for young readers into the world of classics and will gladly collect them all!
Much Ado About Nothing by Appignanesi & Vieceli – If your kids/readers are into Manga, they might truly appreciate this adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy. I prefer a little more color, so I didn’t like it as much.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Kate Brown – Another Manga Shakespeare.
Hamlet by Vieceli – I tend to be drawn to the tragedies of Shakespeare more than the comedies, so this Manga version of Hamlet is my preferred book of the three.
Graphic Revolve – This is a series of graphic novels which, I have to admit, are NOT my favorites. They are referred to as “Common Core Editions” and may have been created as an introduction to good literature, but many of them come across as poorly put together with only an emphasis on plot. Nowhere in the ones I have read do I see real creativity or beauty. So, it goes to follow that I don’t recommend these, but I’m adding them in here so you can look through them and see if you find that one diamond among the rocks.
Campfire Graphic Novels – This series also includes many classics – Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe and the like, but also includes some historical books – World War One, World War Two and also biographies – They Changed the World, Leonardo da Vinci and mythology – Zeus and the Rise of the Olympians, Legend: The Labors of Hercules. Campfire graphic novels seem to be created in the style of the true comic books of the past as we would consider them today and would likely appeal to readers who like reading Marvel comics.
Tintin – I’ve already mentioned this before as something I loved to read as a child. They now come as collections but I prefer the big versions because the compact collection is a little hard to read. Then again, it’s easier to curl up in bed with a smaller book.
Templar by Jordan Mechner – I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It had all the hallmarks of a good historical novel – drama, plot, interesting characters and it was in full color! Bonus.
Of course there are tons more and the more you look, the more you will find.