Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Graphic Novels: Beyond Comic Books

(photo by playfulllibrarian)

Being in the reading & writing business, I couldn't avoid graphic novels. I looked at the popular manga, the superhero, and other types. But actually read one?

Then a review led me to read Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush, by Luis Alberto Urrea. This graphic novel adaptation of one of his magical realism stories is illustrated by Christopher Cardinale. The art depicts the narrator's home town, boyish pranks, and the results of Mr. Mendoza's paintbrush. Mr. Mendoza used his paintbrush to keep the villagers in line, and finally, to step out of town mysteriously himself. The combination of art and story help us see and feel the village, the time, and the culture. (With respect to copyright, I'm not posting art here, but click the links to see samples.)

(photo Michael Morrow)

Here are some things I've learned about graphic novels:
-The average reader is 30! This isn't just kid stuff.
-Most of them are NOT full of violence and sex. They have good, solid storylines.
-Some of them are about superheroes, but most are not.
-The vocabulary is twice the level of the average kids' book.
(Thanks to Jasmine Rockwell, South Dakota State Library, whose blog about YA books is here.)

(photo by Aine D)

Kids do love them, and yes, it is REAL reading. For the most part, I still prefer the traditional book, but graphic novels such as Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush are works of art.

What's your opinion of graphic novels? Have you tried them? Which ones would you recommend?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Bear Necessities: Bears & Books

"Time to cool off!" we imagine Teddy saying, as he catches some spray from the waterfall.

We met Teddy (from the observation deck a safe distance and many barriers away) at the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota. The Center offers excellent exhibits to teach us about bears' characteristics and is home to bears Teddy, Lucky, and others that have been raised in captivity.

We learned that bears eat grapes and nuts, as we got to observe feeding time.

The exhibits told us that bears are generally gentle creatures and had pictures to prove it. Teddy had his mouth around a Center naturalist's face, kind of like a full-head kiss! Below, Teddy sits in the scale. The read-out inside showed his weight at 670 pounds.

From Yogi to teddies to pandas to grizzlies, people have had a fascination with bears. The Three Bears is a favorite folklore tale. Two of Bill Martin's classic bear stories being re-released, Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, are children's favorites. Let's not forget Helen Oxenbury's We're Going on a Bear Hunt! Find the book, a willing child, and go bear hunting with this story!

Not all bear tales are for kids, though. Many South Dakotans know the true story of Hugh Glass, a mountain man who was mauled by a grizzly, left for dead by his compadres, and who then crawled 200 miles to the safety of a fort. A fictionalized account by Frederick Manfred, Lord Grizzly, tells the dramatic tale. Nevada Barr writes mysteries set in national parks. Her Blood Lure involves grizzly bear research in Glacier/Waterton Peace Park in Montana.

What bear stories can you tell me? Have you ever had a personal encounter with one?