The Library Chronicles – Thank you, thank you, thank you – we have a graphic novel library!

Published On January 29, 2011 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, The Library Chronicles

Last weekend I set you all the question – what would you stock a primary school library with?

The thing is, I was being a little disingenuous. Because work on the school library is well on the way.

I’d first heard the head and the deputy talking about the new library and all the lovely fiction and non-fiction books they were getting a week or so before Christmas. And I just had to chip in and ask whether she’d thought about having some comics in there.

Initially she wasn’t convinced – but that’s because her idea of comics was exactly what a lot of people would think of – comics to most people are Beano, Dandy, Spider-Man, Superman. Which is not bad in itself of course, but the real problem was that she was thinking of those small, flimsy, 22 page floppy things. And you can hardly build a fantastic comic section in a library around something that looks like a back issue section in a comic shop can you?

This problem was solved the very next day. I’d gone home and raided Molly’s shelves for all the big hardcovers I could get my  hands on. Next morning, I showed the head the entire DFC library, Tintin albums, Asterix, Bone, Derek The Sheep, Raymond Briggs and many more. That was enough.

I walked out of the meeting with a few hundred quid to spend on a little selection.

The work started on building a wish list of essential titles. And yes, pretty much everything that was suggested on the comments to that initial piece ended up on the wish list. And yes, the wish list came to a LOT more than the £300-£400 budget I had.

Which is when I decided that if ever there was a legitimate and genuine reason to put out the begging bowl, this was it. My reviewing and writing here at the FPI blog has resulted in a contacts list full of artists, comic people and publishers. And quite a few of those contacts had books that would be suitable. And a lot of those suitable books were on my wish list.

Several hundred emails later and we had a bigger and more generous response than I could ever have dreamt of. The emails were answered quickly and invariably if the recipient couldn’t help, they knew someone who might. By yesterday, this was the result:

Yes, every single graphic novel you see above came completely free, all donated by some wonderful companies and artists.

I couldn’t quite believe it. The head certainly couldn’t. The children kept seeing them littering the ICT suite (I’m right next to the library) and were amazed at them. Because the saddest thing is just how many of them had never read a comic before. That we definitely will be able to change.

Every day we had deliveries and they built up and built up. I added some primary age suitable books I’d been sent for review and in the end we had a LOT of books. All generously donated by the comic business.

Right, back to the comics / graphic novels…. these are the donations we’ve received in absolutely no order….

The DFC Library and more from David Fickling Books / Random House. You all should know how much the Bruton household loves the DFC – now the school can as well. These were perhaps the first things I put on that wish list.

Lots of Tintin and The Rainbow Orchid from Egmont Books. Again, these were right at the top of the wish list.

Olivier from Cinebook sent along a huge box of books, every single one perfect for the library. More than that, he’s very generously promised another batch when the libraries been up and running for a time.

Owly and Johnny Boo from Top Shelf Productions. I was wary of sending many emails to US companies. It’s cheeky enough to ask for donations. But to ask them to be airmailed across as well was a real cheek. Frankly, when I saw the Top Shelf box and how much the postage had been I was embarrassed. And very, very grateful. I can’t wait to see how the younger children get to grips with these, particularly the non-verbal symbol based language of Owly.

SelfMadeHero sent along their Sherlock Holmes and Manga Shakespeare lines.

Robot City Adventures sent to us by Templar Publishing.

Beautiful hard-covers from Abrams Books UK.

Familiar names from Titan Books. The pupils loved seeing these – familiar faces to get them interested.

Graphic Novels from Scholastic UK. Well, the Havoc and Malice books are more prose with comic sections, but still much appreciated with Year 6. The Horrible Histories books look wonderful – non-fiction comics – something the medium really doesn’t do enough of.

And then we had books from individual artists or companies that have only one or two children’s comics: Gary Northfield sent along his riotious Derek The Sheep (as seen in The BeanoMax).Fanfare/Ponent Mon added My MommySweatdrop Studios sent along Telling Tales, Walker Books sent their hardcover Little PrinceMorag Lewis donated her Manga tale Reya.

And last but not least, Kenny Penman of Blank Slate and Forbidden Planet International sent along a huge box of comics full of superheroes and much more. The boys who sorted that out had a marvellous time – us cynical oldies may have scoffed at some of the titles perhaps. But it’s all too easy to forget the sheer joy of being young and discovering a huge stash of comics.

But thanks to Kenny I got to see my own childhood once more. The Year 5 & 6 boys who had the task of sorting the old Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Green Lantern and much more into piles absolutely loved it. They were ecstatic, amazed at each new discovery, stopping and flicking through most of them (it took a lot longer than it should have) and beaming, smiles wide across their excited faces.

But that wasn’t all. One of my contacts who sends me graphic novels to review works at a publisher’s clearing house for a lot of foreign publishers. And they sent this lovely collection of picture books along – which means we now have enough to have a dedicated picture book section alongside our shorter books for developing readers. This is what they sent:

Wow. All completely free, donated by Publishers Group UK. And there are some absolutely beautiful picture books in that lot, the sort of picture books you really can call works of art in their own right. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the children from lower years fall in love with them. And, for that matter, I hope older pupils have a look at them as well – after all, beautiful art and well crafted, shorter stories should be enjoyed by all.

I’ve already thanked everyone who donated books and comics to our school library, but I wanted to use this space on the FPI blog to do so again.

I was absolutely amazed at the response I had from so many people. The staff, pupils and parents who know what has been accomplished are equally amazed at your tremendous generosity.

Once these are on the shelves, together with some of my own donations and the stock I’ve been buying these last few weeks I believe we’ll have the best school graphic novel library in the country.

Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

(Next time – what else was on that wish list…….)

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

7 Responses to The Library Chronicles – Thank you, thank you, thank you – we have a graphic novel library!

  1. Does a heart good, that does.

  2. Wow – that’s completely amazing.

  3. Not…going…to…cry…

  4. Kenny Penman says:

    This is a great project – you’ve the potential to do for kids reading what Jaime Oliver was trying to do for their meals. We’ll see you on a think tank soon Richard.

  5. Jess says:

    Brilliant, wish we’d had a section like this when I was at school, fortunately the local libraries carried a lot of the Tintin and Asterix books as I was obsessed with reading all of them. I guess the current libraries situation means school libraries are even more vital. Comics seem like a great way to entice children to read. I loved all books, and comics were definitely an essential part of that mix (yes, the superhero ones), I remember using the word ‘incandescent’ in a story and the teacher being surprised I I knew it, I eead it in a comic book :)

  6. Matt Badham says:

    Nice one, mate. Well done!

  7. Hurrah! That’s great to see! :D