My view of the graphic novel is colored by my long-held opinion regarding comic books: there is a direct correlation between the number of comic books owned and a person’s loser quotient. Suffice it to say, I have known one too many underemployed comic book “collectors.” I’ve owned exactly one comic book in my life – Wonder Woman, bought when I was about eight. She's still my hero, although I am sad to report that I no longer own the comic book and have yet to acquire an invisible plane or even some magic bracelets.
Recently, however, I’ve begun to soften my view. My daughter is a rather resistant reader; she simply refuses to try new things, preferring to stick insistently with a series she likes long past the point that it holds any interest or challenge for her. She spent more than a year on the Rainbow Magic series, and even though she’s a fourth-grader who can read at a seventh-grade level, she recently made a brief return to the series, designed for first-graders. Same deal with Erin Hunter’s Warriors series – she’s read every book in the series several times, and even though she’s completely bored with it, refuses to try anything else. The harder I try to interest her in something else, the more resistant she becomes.*
Enter the graphic novel. When I hand her a graphic novel, she is typically more willing to try - the pictures are simply less intimidating to her than pages full of words.
So, I thought, for the first level of the No Ruts Reading Challenge, maybe it was time for me to reconsider the graphic novel. I chose Serena Valentino’s 1140 Rue Royale from the Nightmares and Fairy Tales series based on a positive review over at More Vikings (four Vikings out of a possible five**).
The story concerns a young girl living with an elderly aunt in a house that is haunted by its terrible past. The girl, Rebecca, becomes possessed by one of the tortured spirits and realizes she must help to bring peace to the house.
The illustrations, by Crab Scrambly, are entirely black-and-white, but beautifully drawn and I had no trouble following along or figuring out where to linger for significant plot points. I loved some of the stylistic elements employed, such as rendering a ghost in light crosshatch lines on top of a solidly drawn main character, and the very surreal and ambiguous rendering of the nuns, which keeps the reader wondering if they are there to help or harm.
Unfortunately, for me, the graphics also had a serious downside: Rendering so many of the scary elements removed much of the fear of the unknown and my ability to scare myself with my own imagination. It just wasn’t as scary as I felt it could have been or I wanted it to be.
In the end, though, I enjoyed the format more than I thought I would – I think my daughter is on to something with the graphic novel. It’s nice to sit down and finish a book in an hour, and relaxing to skim one’s eyes along the illustrations, especially after a long day of reading type on a computer screen. I’ll probably try a few more.
*I am so looking forward to her teen years, as I’m sure you can imagine.
** Do I need some sort of penguin-based book rating system?