WATERTOWN — The past decade has seen a boom in the popularity of graphic novels.
In April, the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors reported there was a handful of reasons for the increase:
n “Children and teen readers love graphic novels because of their easy-to-read mix of text and visual content.”
n “Adults with limited free time, or who are too exhausted when they have free time, are also gravitating to graphic novels and short stories.”
n Graphic novels with LGBT or sexual orientation content are particularly growing in popularity.
“Critics recognize the artistic value of graphic novels with awards, and educators are using them as teaching material. For writers interested in trying this medium, no longer considered poor literature, libraries are a good resource,” the IAPWE reported.
Brittani LaJuett, reference librarian at Flower Memorial Library in Watertown, has seen the boom in graphic novels reflected by patrons who visit sections for the publications at the library.
Graphic novels for kids are located on the back wall in the children’s area. Young adult graphic novels are in the library’s Teen Space and the ones for adults are in the library’s basement on the shelves next to the newspapers.
“Graphic novels are a popular section with a large fan base,” Ms. LaJuett said. “Their popularity has been steadily growing for many years.”
For those three sections, Ms. LaJuett said that manga (created in Japan or inspired by Japanese artists) has been a popular format in the young adult section; the works of Raina Telgemeier and “Dog Man” by Dav Pikley “have reigned supreme” in the children’s section and graphic novels with recent TV/movie adaptations have been popular in the adult section.
“As more studies have been published demonstrating the educational benefits of reading graphic novels, they have been taken more seriously as a, for lack of a better word, ‘legitimate’ reading material,” Ms. LaJuett said.
On Tuesday, in the library’s teen section for graphic novels,“Cats of the Louvre” by Taiyo Matsumoto was on prominent display. Ms. LaJuett picked it up and flipped through its pages for a visitor.
“It tells this adorable story of this cat, and I don’t want to give anything away, but he lives in the Louvre with a bunch of other homeless cats and they all have these stories and look out for each other. This cat may or may not be the soul of a departed person who is lost in the Louvre.”
Moving to the adult section, Ms. LaJuett noted titles that ranged from “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz to “Maus,” a retelling of World War II and the Holocaust by American cartoonist Art Spiegelman. In 1992, “Maus” won a Pulitzer Prize in the category Special Award/Letters.
Ms. LaJuett is a fan of graphic novels, professionally and in her personal life.
“Not only is the subject matter highly varied, the readers are too,” she said. “Avid readers, as well as reluctant readers, can often find themselves hooked on a good graphic novel series and readers with dyslexia can find several different types of cues on any given page to help them understand the story.”
The librarian said that according to Scholastic, graphic novels can help children on the autistic spectrum practice identifying emotions and to make inferences through the images on the page.
“Additionally, the combination of visual and textual cues help prepare readers for the multimedia based messages that will need to be interpreted in their adult lives,” she said.
Ms. LaJuett has often stayed up late at night way past her bed time, laughing and crying along with graphic novels.
“My husband and I can often be found in conversation about a specific story arc in the DC universe or contemplating which storyline a new movie or TV adaptation may follow,” Ms. LaJuett said. “Graphic novels have the wonderfully fantastic ability to convey in images and words all manner of the human condition and for that I am eternally grateful.”