One of my favorite things about being a librarian is that I get to help people find books. As the library director, that part of my job is a bit limited. But that is where my 7-year-old son comes in. He is learning the joy of reading, so I get to spend a lot of time helping him select books. It is a great thing! I love that he talks to me about what book he is reading and that he has his own favorites. Right now, many of them are children’s graphic novels.
DOG MAN by DAV PILKEY is his ultimate favorite, and he cannot wait to read the latest one, "Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls." He does not even know why that title is funny, but I think Pilkey does that for the parents. He knows that we need something more than potty humor to make us appreciate his clever offerings. Other titles include: "Brawl of the Wild," "Tale of Two Kitties" and "Lord of the Fleas."
You might be asking yourself, “What is a graphic novel?” Good question. According to Merriam-Webster, a graphic novels "is a story that is presented in comic-strip format and published as a book.” Exactly. When I was growing up, I used to read Archie comics. I would have loved to have had an Archie comic that was novel length.
My son loves graphic novels. They are his story of choice, and because there are only seven "Dog Man" books in publication, he is always looking for something similar. Due to the popularity of "Dog Man," I think others might have a similar need, so below is a list of other books that "Dog Man" fans might want to read.
• DIARY OF A WIMPY KID by JEFF KINNEY. This book was impossible to keep on library shelves after its publication in 2007. I remember practically every kid who visited the library during the summer of 2007 was asking for this title. Author Jeff Kinney uses a journal format that includes comic drawings within the text to tell the story of Greg Heffley’s sixth grade school year. Not a graphic novel, but it has a similar feel and lots of humor. My son is making his way through this series now, and the comic drawings within the text make him laugh out loud.
• BAD GUYS by AARON BLABEY. The typical bad guy characters — Mr. Wolf, Mr. Shark, Mr. Snake and Mr. Piranha — are trying to turn over a new leaf. Inspired by Mr. Wolf, who started the Good Guys Club, this unlikely cast of characters endeavor to perform good deeds and change their ill-doing reputations. Rescuing a cat from a tree and freeing dogs from the dog pound are just a sampling of their heroic undertakings. Slapstick humor abounds. I am laughing now just thinking about how funny it can be to see the characters try to do good. What is the saying, “No good deed ...”? If your kids are anything like my son, they will happily devour this short, quick read and beg for the rest of the series.
LUNCH LADY AND THE CYBORG SUBSTITUTE by JARRETT KROSOSCKA. This was the first graphic novel that my son ever read. I brought it home on a whim last year, and he loved it. I think the combination of the cleverly drawn comic panels, the cast of characters, the humorous elements and the length of the story all made for a love match. In this story, the school’s lunch lady and her co-worker Betty, with a little help from three students, use kitchen gadgets to fight crime and serve up justice.
I have so many others to recommend, but since I am running short of space here are a few more, sans descriptions:
• "Zita the Spacegirl" by Ben Hatke
• "13-Story Treehouse: Monkey Mayhem!" by Andy Griffiths
• "The Stonekeeper (Amulet series)" by Kazu Kibuishi
• "Yeti Files" by Kevin Sherry
• "Comic Squad" series by various authors
And one more tidbit — the Joplin Public Library will host a Graphic Novel Club for children in grades three to five starting Friday, Sept. 27. The club will meet weekly for five weeks. Participants will discuss their favorite graphic novels and comics, learn the components of graphic novels and work to make their own graphic novels. Registration is required and can be done by calling 417-623-7953.
If your child is anything like mine, he or she will be eager to add his or her name to the sign up sheet.
Jeana Gockley is the library director for the Joplin Public Library.