Friday, January 7, 2011

Books for Christmas and my Intro to Graphic Novels

I always get my kiddos at least one book for Christmas, whether they like it or not (they usually do).  Since I want them to actually read the book, I do my best to find something that they wouldn't necessarily choose, but will be interested in all the same.

Skippyjon Jones in the DoghouseMy 6 year-old daughter has recently been introduced to SkippyJon Jones, so she received SkippyJon Jones in the Doghouse.  This little Siamese cat has a huge imagination and is convinced he is a chihuahua.  These books make for some fun reading for any age, my girls especially like the pet names that Mama Junebug Jones calls her little ones.

The Name of this Book Is Secret (Secret Series)My 10 year-old daughter and my 11 year-old son are at pretty different reading levels.  She has difficulty really focusing when reading silently, and I probably should have considered that a little more when choosing her book.  I picked The Name of This Book is Secret, (which I haven't yet read,) and it seems that the size of the book, at  384 pages--something I neglected to notice when shopping online, shame on me--is slightly intimidating to her.  In addition, she is having a hard time getting into the writing style.  I may have to read it aloud to her, or simply pre-read it so I can help her process it by answering any questions.  It looked like the humor and mystery would be right up her alley...I have yet to see.

J.R.R. Tolkien Boxed Set (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings)My 11 year-old son, on the other hand, just finished reading The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.  Wait, let me repeat, I don't think you realize how impressed I am with this guy: My 11 year old just read The Lord of the Rings!!  How cool is that?  And you know what he said when I asked him what he was going to read next?  He got a little teary and said he just wanted to read it all over again, that it felt like he'd lost a friend.  Is that the sign of a good book, or what?  Makes me ashamed of myself: when I was assigned to read the Fellowship of the Ring in high school I only made it through about 40 pages before I was bored to tears.  Guess what he's started reading now?  Robinson Crusoe.  He says that it was a little boring to begin with, but still he pushes on.  He was talking to me today about the similarities it has to Swiss Family Robinson, so we got to do some research on that end (turns out, SFR was inspired by Crusoe...was actually the author's way of telling his children the stories in Robinson Crusoe while adding some spiritual/moral guidance.)  My little guy amazes me.
Anyhow, while he is a great reader, with a great attention span, vocabulary, and comprehension skills, it is somewhat difficult to get him interested and convince him to read a specific book in the first place.  For him I chose Millions.  He'd read Cosmic, also by Frank Cottrell Boyce, earlier this year and loved it.  That was enough to convince him he'd enjoy this book.  And he did, in one night.  He insists I need to read both books.  I probably should.

My 14 year-old son is a good reader, but his eyes are bigger than his stomach.  He loves to have a book collection, but actually buckling down and reading them all kind of fades into the more important matters of playing guitar and chatting on Facebook.  So instead of getting him a big fat book for his collection, I thought I'd introduce him (and thereby myself as well) to the world of graphic novels (outside of manga, which he occasionally enjoys).  After scouring book blog recommendations and Amazon suggestions, I settled on two titles: Gray Horses and Smile.
Gray Horses
Gray Horses is really about the art.  The story is a quiet one, about a French Exchange student in America.  The illustrations are all two-color, which gives it a more serious, artsy feel, and the story is almost more imagined than told.  I loved how the girl's thoughts (which were in French, because, well, she was French) were translated into English.  It was simple, a slim 112 pages, but inspiring.

SmileSmile, on the other hand, has full color illustrations, is longer (at 224 pages,) but still pretty quick to read.  The illustrations are more cartoon like (almost like Fox Trot comics) but very expressive and well done.  There is much more detail in the story-line, and provided a great contrast to Gray Horses.  While Gray Horses was interesting, and an interesting study in art and graphic novels, Smile was more widely sought and appreciated by my family.  The only one who didn't pick it up and read it straight through was my 6 year-old...and, well, that's understandable.  Everyone enjoyed it, even my husband (shocker!  he must have really been on vacation if he found the time to sit down and read!).  This book actually convinced my 10 year-old daughter that she didn't want braces after all, even if she does think they look neat.

My foray into graphic novels was enjoyable.  I liked seeing the two very different examples of what's out there.  While I don't see how one could exist on graphic novels alone, I can understand the allure.  They provide a quick, engaging escape, and are by no means necessarily less thought out than other fiction.  Have you read any graphic novels lately?


  1. Oh, I also really enjoy the fun and wordplay of the Skippyjon Jones books, too. I always try to recommend them to parents who are looking for something that they won't get sick of reading to their kids, night after night.

  2. I don't know why it took me so long to check it out, they are a lot of fun to read--unlike some other picture books!

  3. Your 11-year-old just read LOTR? Awesome! I tackled it at that age, too, and was absolutely captivated with it. Robinson Crusoe (unabridged) has got to be one of the greatest adventure stories ever penned. I hope he enjoys it as much as I did!

  4. Looks like you've got another bookworm on your hands (your 11 year old), how wonderful!

    I actually love Graphic Novels. I haven't read all that many, but they are a great break from regular prose and still entertain by telling a longer story. I've read The Impostor's Daughter, Fun Home, The Night Bookmobile, and Pride and Prejudice (yes, they made it into a graphic novel... I just had to see how they did it), and I have The Complete Persepolis waiting on the shelf.

  5. Ink Slinger--I know, I'm so impressed. Looks like he's really enjoying Robinson Crusoe. He told me today that he got to bed late last night because he couldn't stop reading.

    Wallace--It is wonderful to see kids really enjoying books. Makes my heart pitter-patter a little bit. Have you reviewed those graphic novels? (I'll have to go search your blog) would you recommend them? I did notice that there are quite a few classics that they've made graphic novels out of...curiosity is definitely aroused...

  6. I loved Smile! It was so cute and reminded me of being a little girl. I hated braces! But I lived. =)


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