Beginning reader comics make great Geisel books. Seriously. Comics can be defined, according to Scholastic’s A Guide to Using Graphic Novels with Children and Teens, as “a combination of words and pictures in a sequence across the page” that usually contain “text, images, word balloons, sound effects, and panels.” Look familiar, Guessing Geisel readers? It should. Past Geisel Medal Winners that fit into this definition for comics include: You Are (Not) Small, The Watermelon Seed, Up, Tall and High!, Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!, Are You Ready to Play Outside?, and There Is a Bird on Your Head.
So why have beginning reader comics (or, in the very least, beginning readers with comics elements) been so heavily honored by past Geisel Committees? Arguably, the qualities of both a Geisel Award-winning book and an effective comic for beginning readers are one and the same! Let’s take a look at Kevin McCloskey’s informative beginning reader comic from TOON Books – The Real Poop on Pigeons! – through a Geisel lens.
The Real Poop on Pigeons! is about…pigeons. Pigeons are not, at least in our school library, a particularly high-interest topic; however, McCloskey’s use of comics norms, coupled with his quirky paintings, create a distinctly engaging read. After introducing readers to a pigeon-hating protagonist and a crew of pigeon-loving kids set on changing his mind via interesting scientific facts, McCloskey shifts his focus towards the often begrudged birds’ historical significance. In particular, Picasso’s relationship with pigeons is addressed across a two-page spread:
|Image from The Real Poop on Pigeons by Kevin McClosey|
One of the best things about beginning reader comics is that once you start looking for them, they are everywhere. Looking back through the small but mighty Guessing Geisel archive reveals multiple examples, including: Ballet Cat: Dance! Dance! Underpants!, every Elephant & Piggie book, Is That Wise, Pig?, and Noodlehead Nightmares. And since there are many more examples of strong beginning reader comics this year, I would not be surprised if the winning tradition continues.