How do children’s graphic novels make reading more enjoyable for young readers?

Earlier this month, the long-awaited Maithili and the Minotaur: the forest of forgotten fears It was released. This is the second book in the series and I’ve been waiting for it for a whole year. In preparation, I reread the first book, Maithili and the Minotaur: Web of Woe, and revisited all the secondary characters (there are quite a few) with due diligence. Why was I so excited? Maithili and the Minotaur it may just be the first English-language graphic novel series for children that India has ever seen.

When I read the first book Maithili and the Minotaur: Web of Woe, I was completely and hopelessly hooked on a story about a seemingly ordinary human girl who lives in a world inhabited by freakish monsters and creatures. Maithili is feared by her classmates – monsters, ghouls and zombies – because she is different. The story was gripping, the illustrations, the enchanting and the complex layers of humor and detail in the book kept me coming back to it again and again.

The second book in the series, The forest of forgotten fears, does not disappoint either. This time, the story is richly inspired by local folklore and legends. Author CG Salamander takes the legend of Mathikettan Solai near Kodaikanal and sends Maithili and her friends deep into the forest, giving us
glimpses into their carefully guarded past. Illustrator Rajiv Eipe expertly brings the madness of the
forest on paper using colors and patterns that make the reader feel part of the story.
The characters and story are underlined by a strong sense of humor and visual satire, typical of the work of Salamander and Eipe. This book is as thrilled as some of my favorite secondary characters from
the previous book got more plot space and came into its own.

Why are children’s graphic novels ignored?

As I handed the book to my children to read, I couldn’t help but make a comment in passing
how my parents wouldnt have approved of me reading this graphic novel series, way back when i
he was their age.

It was the early 2000s and there was talk of a book to read in various book club circles
University. As a student of English Literature, you had to join at least three book clubs if you were to be taken seriously, and all of my clubs were buzzing with the arrival of this book. A classmate had marked this book during her summer trip and she had agreed to lend it to anyone who wanted to read it, because she had “changed her life” and she wanted that awakening for her friends too.

The book was Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and it was my first introduction to a graphic novel. Persepolis, an autobiographical graphic novel, is about the author growing up in Austria and Iran during the Islamic revolution. Told through powerful black and white panels, we see how the author’s childhood is intertwined with the country’s history. This groundbreaking book was for us –
Girls Studying English Literature: Our First Taste of New Age Literature.

But not everyone was on board. After years of nodding in disapproval Bows And wonder comics,
parents during the late 1990s and early 2000s did not welcome the transition from reading comics to graphic novels. Amar Chitra Katha it was still tolerated due to its content, but other comics and graphic novels were considered frivolous reading and pastime. So why do Indian parents love to hate graphic novels?

The authors answer the question

CG Salamander, author of the Maithili and the Minotaur the series agrees that there is a bias. “Reading comics or graphic novels is considered by many to be an enjoyable activity as opposed to something a child reads to gain knowledge.”

In addition to encouraging their children to read books to gain knowledge, most parents view buying books as an investment. When kids read comics or graphic novels from start to finish in under an hour, that investment doesn’t seem like money well spent. Parents aren’t even big fans of casual, conversational language and funny story lines.

In contrast, says Salamander, “The truth of the matter is that there’s a lot to learn from the comedy medium because it shows you how to be more observant while consuming content in a different medium. With movies you are bombarded with all these images and you don’t really have time to think about these images and words together. But with comics or graphic novels, you have a chance to really soak it up. If you are a kid then read it and take it at your own pace. The thing that sold me is the participatory element of a graphic novel: you read it, at your own pace, you imagine certain actions between the margins, the gutters.

Over the past year, Indian children’s literature has seen the release of the Maithili and the Minotaur
series and The Indus people. In their own way, they entertain, engage, and enlighten. Both
they were created with years of research and put some charm into it just enough
be conveyed through text and images.

Nikhil Gulati, author and illustrator of The Indus people – a graphic novel that traces the Indus Valley Civilization says: “Many people are visual thinkers and for them comics communicate in a much more natural way than words alone. Saying a brontosaurus is 50 feet tall means nothing, but if I show you a brontosaurus next to a tree and tell you the dinosaur is taller than the tree, you’ll immediately understand get it.”

Salamander admits when he thought about the story of Maithili and the Minotaur, only envisioned it as a graphic novel. It fits neatly into a gap that also existed in Indian children’s literature as the only graphic novel for middle school readers. While it would seem like a natural transition for children to go from picture books to graphic novels, they are not the same.

Rajiv Eipe, illustrator of the Mathili series who has also illustrated award-winning picture books says:
“There is a difference between illustrating for picture books and graphic novels or comics. With a picture book you are looking to pack a lot of storytelling within a single image, whereas in a comic you have the luxury or freedom to tell the story over a series of panels. We think of stories in sequence, and a comic book is the perfect setting to explain that. A series of events happen and then there’s a panel that forces readers to stop and think. This is very important to the way we tell stories.”

But as all other formats and genres will tell you, graphic novels have an enviable superpower. They attract reluctant readers with their glossy and colorful images. They captivate the discerning reader with their conversational tone and compelling story. They impart a feeling of accomplishment as the reader finishes the book from cover to cover in one sitting and they manage to entice the reader over and over again to pick up another book just like them because no one can read just one (graphic novel). Maybe it’s time to give graphic novels the credit they deserve?

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