Saturday, July 6, 2013

Graphic Novels Your Kids Love by Names You Can't Pronounce

This panel was awesome!  Moderated by Jon Scieszka, three awesome graphic novel creators with difficult to pronounce last names regaled us with their creation process.  What made this panel such fun, is that you could tell all four of them were friends and were having a grand old time hanging out together and talking.  On the panel were Jarrett Krosoczka, Raina Telgemeier, and Doug TenNaple.  John Scieszka informed us all that the Twitter hashtag for the panel was #ScieszkaKrosoczkaTelegmeierTenNapletalkcomics.  Go look for it.

Jarrett was up first.  He taught us all how to pronounce his last name.  Growing up Jarrett loved The Mouse and the Motorcycle, James and the Giant Peach and superhero comics.  He was a picture book illustrator and author when he went back to visit his old school and ran into Jeanie, the lunch lady, who still remembered him.  Jarrett began to think about the secret world of lunch ladies.  At first, he thought it was a picture book, but he soon realized it needed to be a graphic novel.  He is now an active advocate fro lunch ladies.  The tenth and final book in the Lunch Lady series will be coming out in January.

Raina Telgemeier also taught us to pronounce her name and told us about writing Smile and DramaSmile, of course is based on her true middle school experiences.  Rania lots her first tooth on a bounce house net.  She was jumping around, bounced into the side net, and when she came away her tooth was gone!  Raina had a hard time with friends in middle school, and aside from the harrowing tale of losing one's front teeth, it's also very much about negotiating friendships.  And it's also a love letter to early 90s fashion. 

Drama is not a true story, but it's based on middle school experiences.  Drama was originally set in high school, but her publisher wanted to make it a middle grade book.  Rain fought it at first, but liked the second draft a lot.  It's not like kids in middle school aren't having crushes or have gay friends or like boys that don't like them back.

Raina talked about the process she goes through when creating a graphic novel.  It's so much more work then you can image!  She works at a desk that is in a closet.  First she creates thumbnail drawings for the entire story.  Then she creates full size drawings and inks the finals.  The finals get scanned into a computer, where she can clean them up, and do the coloring and lettering.  It can take between 1-5 years.

Doug, who is 6'8" and had to practically bend himself in half to reach the mic, is the author of Tommysaurus Rex.  He mostly showed us pictures from the graphic novel and talked about the level of detail that goes into it.

Jon Scieszka asked the writers what they say to people who say comics aren't real reading.  Jarrett said that their job is to reach kids and bring them to where they are.  They want to bring them in to the love of reading graphic novels.  Not just a gateway thing, to "better" reading.  Jarrett still loves comics to this day.  Book formats can coexists.  Raina said that kids are empowered when they've read a book from start to finish.  It doesn't matter to them what kind of book it was.  Raina liked to read both kinds of books while growing up.  And some comics and graphic novels have plenty of big words in them!  Doug rocked the boat a bit by saying he did think that written literature is the high goal and that graphic novels are a slightly lower form.  But it's only a lower medium by choice, not necessity.  Art could start elevating more and more.  Take Maus, for example.  It could have been a straight prose book, but the art gave it something more.

And then.  There was a fabulous moment.  John asked the panel about what they thought of calling them "graphic novels."  Should they be called something else?  And then he turned and asked the audience full of librarians what they called them.  Everyone said graphic novels.  And then, one person called out, "741.5!"  "What?" said Jon?  "741.5" everyone called back in unison, which is, of course, the Dewey number for graphic novels.  "Or," someone else called, "PN 6727!"  "You just got Library of Congressed!" exclaimed Jon, and Jarret started to do a mic drop but thought better of it.  It was a delightful interlude.  Ahh, librarian humor.

During the question portion, I asked Jarrett about his decision to make librarians evil in Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians.  Jarret said it was a cheeky love letter to librarians, who, as everyone knows, are on a quest for world domination.  In the tenth book, all the villains have escaped and the librarians have returned.  They travel around in a bookmobile revenging librarians who have been laid off.  Amazing.

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