Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

No, But I Read the Book

from graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:

Last week I met a school librarian who was quick to announce, as soon as we’d been introduced, that I would be pleased to hear she and her colleagues have begun to collect graphic novels in the high school library. “I can’t read them, of course, but I show them to all the kids with reading problems.” Wow, really? I tried to imagine that conversation: “Slim, I hear you don’t enjoy reading so let me show you these books over here. I don’t read them myself, but I think they will appeal to you.” And why would Slim (a) choose to take something so dismissed for a test drive or (b) come back to get reading suggestions from the source that offered this backhanded approach to knowing and advising from the collection?

This week’s reviewed title (below) doesn’t deserve such dismissal either, although if you’re going to dismiss a whole format because you find, that for you, acquainting yourself with a different way of reading is too difficult to pursue, it seems likely you won’t get closer to its exquisite and learning rich possibilities.  First, the author wrote his novel in the traditional format. Then the novel, with his input, was interpreted into a movie. Movies and books, we all know, aren’t interchangeable on a one-for-one point comparison. Even more interesting with this story, however, is that much of the story itself devolves on story-telling, story-making, and then discovering how life itself is a story.

Then the graphic novel appears, again written–scripted–by the original author and not adapting his original, but interpreting a story about stories and story-telling and story discovery into a third medium.  This medium allows this particular story to take fewer pages to tell, given that image as well as text work to show the characters, events, literary motifs and plotline in a condensed manner. Condensed, not abridged: think substance that requires dilution in order to become palatable. In this case, the diluting agent is the reader’s head, that organ with which all good reading is done, whether of text alone or images with words, or–dare I suggest it?–even through the sounds of language (which is how the boy Hassan acquires his reading experiences).

Instead of dismissing a format as inadequate to the librarian’s sophisticated reading needs, while trying to claim that reluctant readers will find some sort of magic bullet support in that format, I hope she will take a dose of her own advice. If she does, I am putting money on her discovering that this version of the story packs the biggest wallop of all, and that the wallop happens inside the reader’s active mind, not the passive eye that is simply awed by color and action.

HOSSEINI, Khaled. The Kite Runner. illus. by Fabio Celoni and Mirka Andolfo. unpaged. Riverhead. 2011. Tr $19. ISBN 978-1594485473. LC number unavailable.  The Kite Runner

Adult/High School– Hosseini’s poignant story is brilliantly retold in this graphic novel. The author has provided the text; enhanced by Celoni and Andolfo’s artwork, the account of the complicated friendship between Hassan and Amir, two boys of very different social classes, carries all of the power and emotion of the original. Amir’s story continues, framed by changes in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion, the subsequent Taliban takeover, and his journeys to Pakistan, the United States, and back to Afghanistan as he struggles to understand what it will take to “be good again.” The artists use a realistic illustration style and different palettes to add dimension to the story. Richer colors for the early days of Amir and Hassan’s childhood friendship, deeper, darker colors during difficult times, and sepia tones for memories all add depth to the telling. This visual version of The Kite Runner provides a way to bring the story to teens who may be reluctant to pick up the text version, serves as a powerful introduction for those who are new to graphic novels, and would work well in combination with the original to analyze differences in storytelling between the two formats.–Carla Riemer, Berkeley High School, CA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. I recommend the book “Stitches” to any kid who has devoured the Child Called It books, and yes, I have read it and loved it! Also loved Maus and some comics. I tried a manga title, but found the right to left, front to back reading process difficult and had trouble following the storyline as a result. Which I happily relate to any of my students who can’t get enough of the manga in my high school library–I feel that it helps me relate more to kids who struggle with text.