An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Carly Pansulla, Upper School librarian

As the days get darker and rainier, Pigott Memorial Library supports a plethora of reading choices for our Upper School students, faculty, and staff, and encourages everyone to find a spot near a good light source and get lost in a story. The librarians are always happy to make recommendations and help students find titles they’re excited to dive into. 

Some of our favorite formats are comics, graphic novels, and manga. These visually dynamic books can be an especially good fit for busy times of year, like late fall when we are right in the middle of the semester and free time can feel like a distant summer memory. Comics and graphic novels are a vibrant and engaging choice year-round. Because they tend to be faster reads than all-text titles, they can offer students the satisfaction of taking a full narrative journey, or engaging with multiple episodes or issues of an adventure, all within a couple of hours. 

If you’re new to comics, graphic novels, and manga in the library, here are some highlights.

The comics and graphic novels collection in the Upper School library is our highest circulating collection. Students love these formats, and regularly make requests for new titles and series. Our collection covers a broad spectrum of titles and genres, which is part of why it holds appeal for so many students. We’ve got something for everyone, such as:

  •  Traditional superhero series comics like “Ms. Marvel” (featuring teen protagonist Kamala Khan, and written by local author G. Willow Wilson).
  • Japanese manga, including contemporary classics of the format like “Fullmetal Alchemist,” and new series such as “My Brother’s Husband.”
  • Nonfiction works, including John Lewis’s memoir of the Civil Rights movement, “March,” and the 2019 Seattle Reads memoir, “The Best That We Could Do.”
  • Fiction graphic novels from many genres, such as the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s sci-fi classic, “Kindred,” and the original graphic novel “Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me,” by Michael L. Printz Award honoree and Caldecott Award winner Mariko Tamaki.
  • Criticism of the form and its unique place in literature, such as the “Encyclopedia of Black Comics and Understanding Comics.”

Comics and graphic novels support and develop excellent reading habits and skills. The combination of text, illustrations, and the tension between how each component serves to drive (or complicate) the narrative can offer students an opportunity to engage with multiple literacies in a single text. The interplay between illustrations, text, and layout adds complexity and depth to the storytelling.

The layout of image panels in comics and graphic novels offer students a chance to gain facility reading with different eye patterns than straight text, a useful skill with the proliferation of devices and displays for all sorts of information in today’s media landscape. This is especially true with our manga collection, where students can practice reading from right to left, true to the Japanese originals. 

Students consistently report comics, graphic novels, and manga among their favorite and preferred choices for self-directed reading, and the best way to develop and strengthen a habit of lifelong reading is to genuinely enjoy it. Encouraging students to read what they enjoy leads to even more reading; it’s a positive cycle! 

Comics and graphic novels are a celebrated part of today’s literary and media landscapes. Art Spiegelman’s classic memoir, “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale,” won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, and is routinely found on high school and college syllabi, including Lakeside’s history elective, Genocide in the Modern World. The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature has included a graphic novel winner and/or finalist in half of the previous 15 years. 

Comics from the post-apocalyptic survival epic “The Walking Dead” to Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved manga “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” have served for years as the inspiration for critically-acclaimed (and commercially successful) film and television adaptations. If your student enjoys a film or television series based on a graphic novel, reading the original can be an excellent self-directed reading opportunity. 

Whatever you read, we hope you find time to get lost in a story this fall!