Graphic novels, manga and video games have infused popular culture so completely that kids today are born making the connection between text, images and the virtual world.
This does not make them “bad” readers, nor should one assume that kids are any less literate or have shorter attention spans. These are the sort of paranoid, knee-jerk assumptions that the older set has, those of us who have vivid memories as a kid of going to the library to pick out summer books for vacation reading. When the Commodore 64 was too coded for anyone but programmers to figure out, the only sanctuaries for those hungry for story were libraries and "ye olde" neighborhood bookstores.
Kids have more options now. This is a good thing. They are adapting very quickly to eBooks as they will to interactive and enhanced eBooks—those with embedded online links and video. As I said, the younger-than-twenty-set were practically born with keyboards in their paws. Authors, rather than fear the new technology, think of the many opportunities it presents for us to create content: enhanced eBooks, interactive eBooks, such as my recently penned A Girl’s Best Friend, from American Girl for the Innerstar University series, which has an online gaming component. Or the 39 Clues series from Scholastic (various authors), where a child goes from book to online game, and back to the book to solve the mystery.
In a similar vein, until recently, including pictures with text was a no-no with any fiction above a chapter book. Not any longer! In addition to the straight-on graphic novel, we now have the pleasure of reading all stripes of art-text hybrids. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick was among these first wave of hybrids. It caused a major stir in 2007 with its innovative drawings that oozed from one page to the next, and peeped out from corners, only to explode into full-blown drawings on the next page. Scott Westerfield’s YA steampunk series Leviathan and Behemoth is another example of this growing trend of art/text hybrids in fiction, in this case for teens.
Why not infuse YA and even adult fiction with brilliant, color-saturated illustrations? Why should the chapter book set have all the fun? I am thrilled, especially as an illustrator, to know that we can look forward to more and more novels, rich with illustration on the level of a Gustave Doré or an N.C. Wyeth.
Have you stumbled upon any new YA that’s filled with gorgeous illustration? A middle-grade fantasia of art and text? Tell us all about it! What do you think about these growing trends?