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Graphic Novels

Ways of expressing information

January 14, 2014 | Peggy | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

As we enter the time of projects galore, children are often looking for ways to express their ideas and understanding in unique and interesting ways. The review that follows is from the National Reading Campaign review program for children's books. It highlights a book that demonstrates many ways of expressing information in fun and engaging ways. Some of the formats are very accessible, and could easily be created in the projects assigned to your children. Read the review below (reprinted with permission) and let me know what you think!

  Feudal worldIt’s a Feudal, Feudal World: A Different Medieval History Written by Stephen Shapiro Illustrated by Ross Kinnaird Annick Press 48 pp September, 2013 Ages 9 to 12

Take a highly amusing and informative romp through the Middle Ages with Stephen Shapiro and Ross Kinnaird. Covering the period from 500 CE to 1500 CE, this author and illustrator team gives us infographics of all sorts (pie charts, diagrams, timelines and more) along with informative text and entertaining cartoons.

Infographic books are hard to do well but, when successfully executed, are excellent tools for allowing readers to access the information through a variety of routes. Shapiro and Kinnaird make sure we know that the Middle Ages was much more than knights and castles. In accessible, inventive and engaging ways, they cover technology, travel, religion, social structure, childhood, farming, trading, wars and disease. For instance, the Notre Dame de Reims cathedral and the Great Mosque of Cordoba are compared for height and area using things young readers will relate to, like giraffes and footballs fields. European Marco Polo’s trip to China and Chinese monk Rabban Bar Sauma’s expedition to Europe are laid out like contrasting board games. Shapiro and Kinnaird throw in interesting trivia as well, like the elephant sent from Iraq in 802 to the emperor Charlemagne or weird bits of marginalia in medieval manuscripts.

Whether you want to compare the length of school buses and Viking longboats (two buses equals one longboat), find out who was most likely to die from the Black Death, or even make sense of the nine Crusades, Shapiro and Kinnaird will inform and entertain. It’s a Feudal, Feudal World is a great book for expanding young readers’ understanding of this period, while also engaging them in ways that will help them absorb and remember the information. Bravo.

Gillian O’Reilly is the editor of Canadian Children’s Book News and a children’s book author.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Kid Lit Trends for 2013

December 20, 2012 | Scott | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

As librarians, we see first-hand what materials kids are actually reading and getting excited about. Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of anticipation in children’s books with new trends bubbling up to the surface each year. But what does the future hold for children's literature?

Scholastic Book Clubs Editorial Director, David Allender, recently shared 10 trends that he believes will dominate in children’s lit in 2013:


Below is the list of trends along with some suggested books from Toronto Public Library’s collection so your kids can get ahead of the trending curve with their reading choices.

  1. BullyingThe Misfits by James Howe – four middle school misfits band together to stand up against their bullies and decide to run for student council elections 
  2. Science FictionA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle – a young girl and her brother must travel through time and space to find their lost father 
  3. Intriguing NonfictionOff to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World by Susan Hughes - readers will see how kids study in school in India, Russia, China and many other countries
  4. Novels in Cartoons –  Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce - hilarious comic book adventures of sixth-grader Nate and his antics in school
  5. Kid Lit on the ScreenSea of Monsters by Rick Riordan - the 2nd book in the Percy Jackson series hits theatres in August 2013
  6. WarCanada’s Wars by Jonathan Webb - a look at Canada's involvement in wars throughout history
  7. Tough GirlsRapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon, Dean & Nathan Hale - this adventurous take on the classic fairy tale has Rapunzel wielding her long hair as a lasso just in time to save the day
  8. Survival StoriesHatchet by Gary Paulsen - the award-winning survival story about a boy lost in the Canadian wilderness
  9. Spotlight on DiversityDrama by Raina Telgemeier - LGBT themes are explored in this graphic novel about a young girl and her friends working on a school musical
  10. Nature Runs AmokWave by Eric Walters - the story of a young Canadian boy and what happens when he's confronted with the unthinkable - a tsunami

Misfits Wrinkle Offtoclass 

Bignate  Seaofmonsters Canadaswars

Rapunzels Hatchet Drama Wave

Toronto Comic Arts Festival is this weekend!

May 3, 2012 | Scott | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

BoneLooking for something to do with your kids this weekend? Something that will Instantly transform you into parental superstars?

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is happening this weekend (May 5-6) at the Toronto Reference Library and this year hosts some of the biggest names in comics and graphic novels for kids.

* Jeff Smith – creator of BONE

* Jennifer and Matthew Holm – writer and artist team for BABYMOUSE and SQUISH

* Kazu Kibuishi – creator of AMULET

* Andy Runton – creator of OWLY

* Raina Telgemeier – author/illustrator of SMILE

And many more!

OwlySponsored by Owlkids, the two days of the show are packed with programming at Toronto Reference Library’s Novella Room on the 2nd floor. There you’ll find FREE comic book giveaways, tons of workshops and Amuletpresentations led by comic book creators, a kids graphic novel reading lounge and crafts led by THE ART GARAGE.

As well, there will be a number of special programs at St. Paul’s Church, a five minute walk from the library, featuring many of the creators mentioned above along with signing times so kids can have their books personalized by the creators themselves.

For more information, be sure to visit

I read all the Elephant & Piggie books!

September 2, 2011 | Scott | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

BirdheadAnd now I love these guys!

The Elephant & Piggie series was devised by creator Mo Willems. Willems began his career writing and working in animation for Sesame Street that earned him six Emmy awards. He then went on to write for other animated series until he began a successful picture book author career. His creation known by most is Pigeon, a gregarious, outspoken and hilarious bird who demands to drive a bus, to stay up late, to have a puppy and more.

PlayoutsideKnown mainly for his picture books, Elephant & Piggie, a beginning readers series, marked a bit of a departure for Willems, however, they are just as funny and successful (three of the books in this series won Theodor Seuss Geisel Awards). The same off-beat and wacky sense of humor seen in his work on Sesame Street and various animated series is all over Elephant & Piggie.

The series appears simple – two characters, cautious Gerald, the elephant and carefree Piggie, the pig engage in conversation, often leading to a problem. The two must work together solve whatever dilemma is in front of them leading to a hilarious punch-line at the end of the book. The two are a model for friendship—they care about each other and help each other out, whatever the situation.

20101117-We Are In A Book Heavily influenced by graphic novels, Elephant & Piggie features minimal text, only dialogue in word balloons. Willems plays with the word balloons and changes their shape, size and style to give readers clues on how things are being said. Characters zip on and off the page and even acknowledge the reader in one of my personal favourites in the series.

I spoke with a couple teacher friends of mine who all rave about this series and its versatility in the classroom including:

- Helps children with sight or high frequency words
- Demonstrates skills in problem solving, predicting and inferring
- Provides children with text awareness with the series’ use of symbols and rebuses
- Allows readers a better understanding of characters

Full of charm and laughs, this series is great for both reluctant and newly independent readers.

What to read after BONE?

August 25, 2011 | Scott | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Bone One graphic novel series parents might recognize from hearing excited requests and seeing their kids devour volume after volume is Bone by Jeff Smith. Bone is truly one of the best children’s graphic novels available because of its wide appeal across age groups, gender and genres. Imagine a trio of wacky cartoon characters thrust into a Lord of the Rings-style, high fantasy adventure with a little bit of romance thrown in also. With only nine volumes in the series, (along with a few companion books) it doesn’t take long for kids to polish off this great series.

If your child is new to graphic novels, a reluctant reader or just a hungry graphic novel fan, keep up their reading momentum with more graphic novel reads. Here’s a few examples of fantasy-related books you can suggest once they’ve finished reading the entire Bone adventure.

Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi Amulet
Two siblings, brother and sister, discover the true identity of their great-grandfather, which leads them to discovering their own magical abilities and sends them on an otherworldly adventure to save a magical land from an evil Elf King.

Walker The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier
Reluctant hero Walker Bean sets off on a voyage to return a cursed skull to its rightful owners, a pair of merwitches, after his grandfather falls ill from its magical powers. But everyone wants the skull for their own selfish purposes including a strange Doctor and a band of pirates.

Mouse Guard by David Petersen Mouseguard
Enter a world of medieval mice and the Mouse Guard, a brotherhood of warriors sworn to protect their fellow mice by providing safe passage or protecting them from predators. This is a great book for more mature readers with its more realistic depiction of war and battle.

Artemis Artemis Fowl, a graphic adaptation of the novel by Eoin Colfer
The popular Artemis Fowl series is about a criminal mastermind who gets wrapped up in a world of dangerous and deadly fairies. This graphic novel adaptation of the first book is sure to capture the attention of fans of the original series and those being introduced to Artemis for the first time.

Fans of Bone and Jeff Smith should note that he will be appearing at Fan Expo Canada this weekend!

Graphic Novels 101 for Parents

July 23, 2011 | Scott | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Kid-boy-reading-comics-in-torch-light-in-bedSummer reading is a great time for kids to relax and read stories they enjoy. More often than not, I’ve seen kids with their noses buried in their favourite graphic novel or comic book. Now before you start saying that comics aren’t real reading or that they’re often inappropriate for children (or even if you already are a supporter of graphic books), please read on.

First, here are the terms you need to know to effectively understand and engage the reading of graphic books with your child:

Panel – squares or rectangles on a page that contain a moment of the story
Gutter – the space between panels
Word balloons – contains the speech or thoughts of a character
Captions – contain information about what’s happening in the panel or about a character
Sound effects – visual representation of sounds in a panel like POW! or BAM!

The ‘graphic’ in graphic books refers to their visual nature and is not a blanket term for sex and violence.  In 2010, the number of available books in the children’s graphic novel category increased by 67%. And lucky for avid readers of these, there’s now a huge selection to choose from.

This selection includes:

Graphic novels for the very young, like Toon Books, feature only a few words and a few panels per page
Graphic novels for early readers, like Babymouse and Lunch Lady, feature simple stories, strong single characters, fun and humour
Graphic novels for independent readers include a wide range of stories and art styles and feature genres like nonfiction (Edu-Manga: Anne Frank), fantasy (Amulet), mystery (Secret Science Alliance) and humour (Tiny Tyrant)

Many of the traditional biases towards graphic novels being ‘junk’ reading have been dispelled by literacy professionals and educators who have determined great value in engaging with these books.

Graphic novels for children…
-          engage reluctant or at-risk readers
-          sharpen visual literacy skills
-          aid in developing skills of inferring and predicting
-          provide kids with an understanding of story sequence
-          provide scaffolding for children to understand advanced vocabulary and themes
-          connect children to other literature

Toronto Public Library has an amazing selection of graphic novels for children so be sure to visit your local branch and check them out!


July 4, 2011 | Peggy | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Welcome to Toronto Public Library's (TPL) newest blog: Growing a Reader. The team writing this blog will be exploring not only great books, graphic novels and websites for children from birth to tweens, but also tips for parents and caregivers revolving around literacy, developing a love of reading and all points in between.

Each contributor will be signing their blog posts, and you will get an idea of each writer's style as we go along, but first, let me introduce the crew:

Lisa Heggum - Currently the Child and Youth Advocate for TPL, Lisa is also the brains behind the award winning Make Some Noise program that brings together indie rock bands and teens in the library. Look for some innovative and creative blog posts from Lisa that highlight children's issues, activities and events in the library and around the city.

Leslie Koster - Leslie has been in the library world for more years than she cares to mention. She has been the children's collection specialist for both TPL and the former North York Public Library. She has vast experience in developing children's collections and will be contributing her insights and passions for children's literature, authors and illustrators. Leslie will be introducing the newest and best in writing for children through this blog.

Alice Moore - Alice has been a children and teen specialist at both the New York Public Library and TPL. She brings a joy for children's and teen literature and programs to this blog.  Alice works tirelessly to bring innovative ideas and programs together for children and teens, look for posts from her that direct you to these events. As well, Alice is an avid reader and will delight you with her favourite picks for kids.

Scott Robins - A newly minted librarian, Scott has been working at TPL since October. He brings to this role deep roots in both children's publishing and marketing. Scott is a keen advocate for graphic novels for kids and teens and will be posting on the best of this genre. Scott was also instrumental in developing the kid's portion of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Peggy Thomas - Although relatively new to the library role, Peggy has been at various points a teacher and a teacher-librarian. She brings to this forum an educational background as well as experience running family literacy programs. She will be writing mainly about tips for growing life-long readers as well as information about how to read with your children so both of you will enjoy the experience, and live to tell the tale!

We look forward to any and all comments that you have to offer regarding our posts.

Until next time,


Join in the discussion of great reads for children and tweens and tips for how to build the love of reading for your family.