I recently published an essay in The Washington Post about my family’s year in graphic novels. Why graphic novels? For me, as a lover of libraries, one of the big limitations that comes with living in a less developed country for a spell is existing without access to the constant flow of books I enjoy at my local library. Anticipating this limitation for my kids, my parents generously offered to send them a couple of graphic novels each month for the year we were gone.
The result: we devoured each of these books–over, and over, and over again–until we had them nearly memorized.
We also came to appreciate graphic novels even more than we already had. Now that we’re back, we’ve been special ordering graphic novels that weren’t part of our year’s care packages. One that I recently loved was Hilda and the Black Hound. Another hit in our house this week has been Roller Girl. I was reading it with my kids last night and I realized one of the wonders of a good graphic novel is that it can make emotions really salient.
I remember when my kids were toddlers and they went through their versions of the terrible twos. I didn’t know how to handle their tantrums until I read a parenting book that suggested mimicking their behavior–stomping around, making sad faces and repeating whatever they were screaming about in a loud voice. This worked! My tantrum mimicking got them listening. They felt heard, and then were able to hear me.
As I watched how Roller Girl captivated my kids last night, I realized it was doing just that: bringing not just words, but grand images and movements and facial expressions to mirror feelings they’ve had. When the main character, Astrid, got angry and transformed into her larger-than-life Roller Girl persona, she reminded of the character Cece in another favorite graphic novel of ours, who becomes the superheroic El Deafo whenever her emotions are running wild.
If you have a minute, read my essay in The Washington Post. It’s full of titles we loved from this year. If you aren’t hooked on graphic novels yet, it may just tip you over the edge.