Comics For Children…. a visual list….
When I’m not here at the FPI Blog, I spend time working in a primary school up here in the East Riding. It started as an ICT Technician, moved to Teaching Assistant/ICT Tech, and now is Librarian/ICT Tech/TA.
The library job started with a complete rejuvenation of our old, tired, boring library that the pupils just didn’t use and with a lot of work we turned it into a bright, exciting, fun place that they’re so grateful to be able to use. And as I’ve previously detailed here on the FPI Blog part of the appeal of getting involved in the library was the chance to get some graphic novels in.
I mercilessly played upon any contacts I had with artists and publishers, blagging loads of donations, and seeing box after box of donations come through impressed my great headteacher so much that she upped the library budget. And since I’ve become something of an expert at finding good quality prose books in charity shops for the fiction shelves, a lot of the expanded budget ends up on graphic novels. The simple idea is buy what you can cheap, or free (book drives, scholastic book fairs, local book shop book fairs, car boots, charity shops etc etc) and use the main part of the budget for the things, such as graphic novels that you know you wont find cheap anywhere.
Initially I was happy just with a few shelves worth of graphic novels, but over time I’ve expanded the section at every possible opportunity, so that now it stretches across 3 bay units and a spinner rack. The library in total has 17 bay units; 9 fiction, 5 non-fiction, 3 graphic novels – pretty good going. I’m convinced we have the finest school graphic novel library in the country. I’d love to be proved wrong, but honestly, I reckon we’re it.
And as I’ve talked about it, more and more librarians and educators and just interested folks have been in touch asking about what I have in the graphic novel library. And every time I write back and tell them, delivering a core list of graphic novels they need to be looking at.
But I thought it might be better to actually share some photos of the graphic novel library with you, and give me something I can point librarians and educators at when they get in touch.
First; here’s the graphic novel end of the school library. (All the pics link to hi-res versions to zoom in on the titles).
Now, lets dive in….
I will warn you though, it’s a big post with a lot of pics of shelves. So we’ll start after the cut….
Display Bay: The latest bit of graphic novel real estate I’ve managed to engineer, this is where we put a rotating display of great works, things children have recommended, things that aren’t new to the library but I want to highlight, and generally great comics.
Included right now are part of the complete DFC set (part donations, part purchases – we’re on set three now – kids love them, and kids loving books does take its toll on them), Hilda from Luke Pearson that’s really popular right now, the complete Bone series (some here, some on the spinner rack) and Larry Marder’s Beanworld.
When I started the library I had three big dreams – complete sets of Tintin, Asterix, and Bone, never believing we’d ever manage to get them, as they’re just not the sort of thing you can pick up cheap. Well, a couple of years in and we not only had sets, we actually had double sets. As for the Beanworld, well, that’s one of my things. I haven’t found time to do it yet, but at some point I want to get a reading club together and Beanworld will be one of the things we look at, I just want to see what their incredibly open minds make of it.
The Spinner Rack: This is a bit of a mish-mash to be honest, but when the kind folks at our local bookshop (Simply Books) offered it to me free I could hardly turn it down. The varying sizes mean it’s a case of putting whatever fits on there, but we have our Asterix, Lucky Luke, Simpsons, Beano, Dandy, Star Wars, more DFC Library, and more on here.
The Simpsons, as you might expect, is ridiculously popular, as are the Star Wars Adventure titles but once they’ve read those we encourage them to branch out, and finding them the next thing to love is always fun. The way I see it, and the way I’ve had to explain it to some annoyed teachers and concerned parents is that the actual entry point to engender a love of reading is immaterial, it’s the fact that they’ve started. If they start with The Simpsons and read nothing but Simpsons graphic novels for a term, so what? Maybe by Year 6 they’ll be the ones reading the widest range, from Tintin to Tolkien and everything in between.
Main Bay #1 – older readers
When you’re dealing with primary age pupils you can forget how incredibly wide the reading ages are. We have 5 year olds up to 11 year olds who are members of the library but the reading age probably goes from 3 to adult. No, seriously, we’ve a couple of pupils who just devour everything, and can easily read any adult book we throw in front of them. Problem then is one of content. It’s easy t find them books they can read, but often as the complexity and reading difficulty goes up, the adult themes come in. We’ve had quite some success with classics and modern classics in this respect, with Terry Pratchett, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne-Jones all firm faves now.
And although we never enforce the age difference (the pupils can always read what they want) we do split the graphic novels into two distinct bays. This first one holds the meatier works, the ones that need a little more vocab, a better reading age.
You’ll notice the superhero comics we have are a mix of the new digest things (on the spinner) and the older Essential type collections. I wanted to get some superhero comics in (and isn’t it fantastic that I could have done it without any of them – imagine saying that a couple of decades back?) but it’s been really surprising to see the circulation figures for them; nowhere near as popular as much of the rest. So much so that I’m concentrating on everything but superheroes now, and have done since we first stocked the library. It’s only anecdotal evidence sure, but present them with a wide range of material and superheroes just aren’t the things they go for. Interesting comment from one child I asked about it; they’d rather go to see superheroes at the cinema than read about them.
As for some of the rest… Cinebook titles are popular, although often they graduate to them after they’ve read Asterix and Tintin and are after a next book, The Beano and Dandy annuals are charity shop finds, always worth picking up cheap.
On the more expensive end, I’m slowly getting the Amulet series in, it’s proving very popular with those pupils who’ve read Bone already, but like everything else in the Scholastic range it’s not officially released in the UK and is something you need to buy online at near full price. Calvin and Hobbes is perennially popular, although for some reason the binding always explodes after about 20 loans.
Oh, another thing whilst I think of it related to loans … I cannot for the life of me find the piece now, but I’m sure I read somewhere that 29 issues is about the maximum for books in a public library. After that the books get too tatty to be loaned anymore. Well, see that copy of Raina Telgemeier’s Smile on the bottom shelf? We have 6 of them now, and this is one of the oldest, and getting near the end of its life…. 51 issues. But Scholastic UK STILL maintain that the UK comic market isn’t strong enough to support them publishing the incredible range of comics (Bone, Amulet, Smile, Drama) – go figure.
And finally…. Main Bay #2 – the younger readers / shorter graphic novels
Well, sort of. I’ve just seen Jill Thompson’s fab Scary Godmother collection and that’s in the wrong place!
On here we have the shorter graphic novels, the sort of thing we know we can hook our younger readers into with ease. The Gum Girls and Glisters are proving really popular right now with a group of very good Year 2 readers, who are all loving Andi Watson’s work. We have a full set of the great Toon Books (donated and review copies sent to me that find their way into the library) – young reader graphic novels that prove a ridiculously good introduction to the very youngest of our readers, perfect for showing them what comics are.
Babymouse and Squish by Jen and Matt Holm are always popular but again were a complete accidental find. I’d heard of them, but couldn’t get them easily, but a couple of online purchases led to more, and a massively generous shipment from the US via the authors meant we have most of the set. Likewise Andy Runton’s brilliant Owly and James Kochalka’s Johnny Boo – I’ve bought some, but the whole thing was started off with a generous shipment from Top Shelf. The generosity of UK publishers and artists has been huge, but whenever I receive a donation package from abroad it’s doubly amazing, and not a little embarrassing, the postage costs are huge!
And I must, must, must get more of Venable and Yue’s Guinea Pig Private Eye – that flies off the shelves. Likewise First Second have a great range of children’s graphic novels that I have down on a big, big wish list!
Finally, not shown, because they sit in a big magazine file creation to store them, we have the school’s Phoenix collection, new copies coming weekly.
And that’s it. All done. Surely that’s enough? Nah, I’ll be adding to the best little graphic novel library in all of the UK every chance I get. Every single all-ages graphic novel that you’ve read a review of at the FPI Blog finds its way onto our shelves for a start.
Right, hopefully that’s been a little informative for any prospective librarians and educators out there. Or maybe, as a comic loving parent, you might want to pop into your son/daughter’s school and ask them about getting some graphic novels into their school library?
However, if anyone out there happens to want to donate comics and graphic novels, please, please get in touch. We’ll gladly accept them!
Finally finally, a big, big thank you to all those comic publishers and artists who’ve donated comics in the past. Really, without their help and support this would not have been possible. Thanks to these fine folk and everyone else involved at whatever level in helping us along.