Yesterday after work and school I was sitting with Sadie (8) and Nina (5) on the porch. Sadie looked at me with her arms out to the side, big smile, exclamation points all over her voice.
“Mom, I just need books where the author writes about when she was a kid. Those are the books I like to read.”
And with that phrase, a genre love was marked (Goodbye library book passion vacuum we’ve been experiencing since we got sick of the Critter Club and hello focus, desire, exploration, reading!!)
“You like the ones where the author writes and illustrates their childhood, right? Those are called graphic memoirs.”
“Yes. This is so exciting! It means we know what kinds of books to look for when we go to the library or the bookstore”
“My friend has a book by the same Raina. It’s called Sisters. It’s about the same girl and her sister and a time when…”
What makes this an amazing moment? Since El Deafo wrapped it’s warm, weird arms around us we’ve been on a hunt for something else to read. And we do not just love graphic novels blanketly. We scoped TONS of them at the book fair (Hello Kitty ones, Science Fiction ones, Non Fiction ones). In this moment, Sadie had a realization. She made a connection between her love for one book and the next, for what really motivates her to keep reading. She likes digging into these books about adults reflecting back on their childhoods and moments of turmoil and in the case of these two books, two girls’ experiences with bodily trauma (resulting in physical change) and the social implications living after the change (loss of hearing, loss of teeth). Both books illustrate the pain of childhood. Both books illustrate the ways youth and adults love and ostracize and isolate and include and ignore and feel living with visibly different bodies (missing teeth, wearing a hearing aid) and in some cases, when the difference is invisible, but palpable (no hearing aid in, but can’t hear what’s going on around me).
For now, we will read and likely pick up Telgemeier’s Sisters and now I have a great reason to read Persepolis, but in researching this genre, I’ve realized there’s a real dearth of these graphic memoirs for late elementary readers. There’s a lot of coming of age work, but not a lot of just straight memoir of those late childhood years. Even Smile, while engaging, was a bit of a middle school social stretch. Wack stuff happens to kids of all ages. Let’s hope graphic novel artist authors keep writing and this post inspires more. Maybe I can get Nina and Sadie to collaborate on something today?