This year, instead of book reports, my third grader is doing genre reports, which is kind of a fun idea. Her teacher provided a list of eight genres, and they have to do at least two per quarter, although they are welcome to work ahead. Thus far my girlie has done a fairy tale (Ella Enchanted), a fantasy (Starry River of the Sky), and historical fiction (Number the Stars), all of which I had plenty of suggestions for; after all, I graduated in English teaching and I worked at a bookstore for 10 years. Three of her five remaining genres will be just as easy for me to suggest books for, and the fourth will at least be doable. (No, I don’t read a ton of sci-fi, but I can always suggest A Wrinkle in Time, right?) The fifth remaining genre is–comic books. (Which I’m assuming involves graphic novels as well as the more magazine-y options.)
These are not my thing.
True, I did read El Deafo, but I wasn’t enthralled with the ending, and other than that? Well, my book club read Binky the Space Cat once. (I remember nothing about it.) Luckily for my daughter, however, I have friends whose reading tastes compliment my own–AND I have a friend who is a middle school librarian in Texas. I messaged her on FB, asking for suggestions, and she gave me a respectable list, to which my carpool friend added a title her kids had enjoyed. I put a slew of them on hold at the library, and voila! (imagine the accent!) the great comic book project has begun.
My plan is to read them all as well, because hey–it’s not much of a time commitment! I opted to start with Sunny Side Up, by Jennifer L. (and Matthew) Holm, because, well, the woman wrote THREE Newbery Honor books. (All of which I’ve read and enjoyed, mind you.) I may not be terribly into graphic novels, but I’ve got faith in her.
(By the way, my thing with graphic novels isn’t so much about snobbery as it is about the fact that I’ve never been terribly into visual art. From the very beginning, reading has been about words, more words, and very little other than the words for me–my poor art teacher mother!)
The verdict? Holm didn’t disappoint. Sunny Side Up is the story of a girl who spends the summer with her grandfather in Florida; the only other kid around is a boy named Buzz, who introduces her to comic books, golf ball recovery, and the golf course’s resident alligator. As the book progresses, however, it’s obvious that Sunny’s parents have sent her to Florida for a reason, one which Sunny herself doesn’t fully understand. How she learns the whole truth–and what she does with it–makes for a good story and a great teaching tool for middle readers.
Bottom line? Well, to be perfectly honest, I’d have preferred the story in traditional form–I really do love words that much, and Jennifer L. knows how to use them. On the other hand, this format is going to be accessible to kids in a way that a traditional novel about the subject might not be, and I can see the power of the visual. It brings something else–something different but valuable–to the table, and I respect that.
It’s just not my thing.