What's a J'onzz?1
As well as being brilliant books in their own right, graphic novels are fantastic at turning potentially reluctant readers into avid library users - I have students who struggled to engage with reading when they first came to the school, but are amongst the first to pester me for a chance to look in the new box of books that have just been delivered2. That's not to say it's just the reluctant readers who enjoy them - graphic novels have a hugely broad appeal. There are avid comic readers across all year groups, abilities and genders.
Keeping the collection fresh helps keep enthusiasm high. I recently shared on Twitter a small selection of new graphic novels that I’d ordered for my school library.
@GCA_Library asked me on Twitter how I go about finding and selecting “such fine specimens”. This blog post is my attempt at an answer.
I have made a conscious effort to improve the range of graphic novels in my library over the 4 years I've worked there - I recently had to rehouse the collection as it had outgrown its previous shelving!
I’ve put together a list of 10 (+ 4) resources that I use to keep up with current trends, find classics and fill gaps in my collection. This is by no means a definitive list - I haven’t mentioned GoodReads, for example, or Forbidden Planet's People Like Us blog, or any of the many podcasts and blogs featuring incidental graphic novel content.
I recommend signing up to the newsletters and/or following the blogs on these websites using an RSS reader.
Do you have any favourites that I’ve missed? Let me know! Leave a comment below or find me on the Twitters: @thebooklender.
Here we go then, in alphabetical order:
Comicflix.org (UK based)
The online news site of the publishers of the magazine ComicScene UK. I haven’t subscribed to the magazine yet, but the website has a useful and regularly updated blog featuring news from the world of comics. They also have a podcast which I have only just discovered and am yet to listen to - if you’re interested, search for “Comic Scene The Podcast” in your pod-catcher of choice, or you can listen on their Soundcloud page.
“ComicScene Magazine, the only dedicated monthly magazine to comics and comic culture in the UK and Ireland and available worldwide from GetMyComics. Each month we feature the best in classic, new and indie/small press comics as well as features on comic inspired film and TV, ComicCons and comic strips.”
Diamond BookShelf (US based)
Graphic novel resources for librarians and educators from Diamond Comic Distributors. Make sure you sign up for their newsletter!
“Graphic Novels have a lot to offer as literature, educational tools, entertainment and more! Whether you are a teacher, educator, or reading specialist seeking to incorporate comics and graphic novels into the classroom; or a librarian or media specialist looking for assistance with graphic novel collection development, our website's mission is to provide you with comprehensive information on the latest graphic novels, interviews with creators and professionals like you, along with useful tools such as reviews, lesson plans, bestsellers and more.”
Excelsior Awards (UK based)
The Excelsior Award is the biggest UK book award for graphic novels and manga where teenagers decide the winner. There are currently four awards: White (KS2), Blue (KS3), Red (KS4) and Black (6th Form), and it is run by former school librarian and Bloke of Steel, Paul Register.
“The overall goal of this scheme is to encourage reading for pleasure amongst children and teenagers. However, its secondary target is to raise the profile of graphic novels and manga amongst school librarians and teachers. This storytelling medium has been a largely underused resource within education for many years. The Excelsior Award attempts to highlight some of the amazing books that are published every year, just crying out to be put in our school libraries!”
Grovel (UK based)
Graphic novel book reviews by a man and, occasionally, his 10 year old daughter3. Reviews can be searched by title, writer, artist, series, genre, publisher, publisher or year. There is also a handy "5 Stars" page - featuring "the absolute best in class graphic novels that no serious collector should be without . . . Graphic novels just don’t get any better than this."
"A website jam-packed with thoughtful, insightful and down-right brilliant reviews of graphic novels, for readers who want a bit more."
Image Comics (US based)
Image Comics are currently producing some of the most interesting and popular books in comicdom at the moment, and are owned and run by comics creators. Make sure you sign up for Image's bookseller/librarian newsletter for free digital previews of upcoming or featured titles!
Image publishes comics and graphic novels in nearly every genre, sub-genre, and style imaginable. It offers science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, crime fiction, historical fiction, humor, and more by the finest artists and writers working in the medium today.
Netgalley and Edelweiss+ (international)
If you are happy to read digitally, sign up for a librarian account with Netgalley and Edelweiss+, and browse their lists of ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) - free digital review copies in exchange for reviews. I personally find Netgalley easier to use and browse, but Edelweiss+ seems to have a much wider range of titles.
No Flying, No Tights (US based)
Reviews, articles and resources - some good stuff on comics for educators
“[A] page devoted to graphic novel reviews specifically for those who read them the most — mainly teens — and for those who might be involved in distributing them to teens — namely teachers, librarians, and parents.”
Secret Stacks (US based)
A podcast about graphic novels in libraries. The blog posts that accompany the podcast episodes feature links for all the topics discussed in the episode, including the host's monthly recommended reads.
“Secret Stacks is YOUR comics in libraries podcast! Secret Stacks invites you to join a conversation between Kristin LaLonde and Thomas Maluck, two librarians who will share comics and graphic novel news, readers advisory, guest interviews, and tales from the front lines of conventions and library services.”
SLJ - Good Comics For Kids (US based)
A website from the School Library Journal from the American Library Association, featuring reviews, previews, news, interviews and more.
“A collaborative blog covering good comics for kids... Our goal is to cover kids’ comics (for readers from birth to age 16) with both breadth and depth, through a mix of news, reviews, interviews, and previews, and to be both accessible to casual readers and interesting enough for serious fans.”
Turnaround Publisher Services (UK based)
Pop in to your local bookshop or library (if you have them!) and browse their collections (if they have them!). See if there are any local comic book stores near you and introduce yourself to them - they may have lists of forthcoming titles that you can subscribe to, and they may even be able to help run comic events in your school.
Look in the book (in your hands)
Often in the back of graphic novels, the publishers will promote some of their other titles that would appeal to a similar readership. I have had students asking for books advertised in the back of a book that they’d just read, so it’s always worth checking.
Social media (the internet)
Follow publishers, authors, illustrators, librarians, booksellers - not to mention all of the folks above - on Twitter, Instagram or whatever happens to be your platform of choice. There's always something catching my eye on Instagram these days!
Talk to your students (your library)
They are a useful resource - make the most of them! They are especially good at recommending manga, which is good as it's a bit of a blind spot for me personally.