2014 Banned Books Week – The Graphic Novel


This year marks the 32nd year that Banned Books Week has been celebrated. For the first time, the group is focusing on graphic novels and comic books as forms that are often challenged.

On the list of the 10 top challenged books in 2013, there are two graphic novels, Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey and Bone by Jeff Smith. Both graphic novels have made the list in the past. The objections to Captain Underpants are offensive language, being unsuited for the age group and violence. Bone is singled out for political viewpoint, racism and violence.

“Comics are now part of the literary scene, part of the discussion, and it shines a spotlight on these kinds of attacks. “That doesn’t mean the people who want to ban these books are malicious; in fact just the opposite. They have a concern which to them is legitimate. But that isn’t the point. The point is that they are trying to take away someone else’s ability to choose what they want to read, and you can’t do that.”

Jeff Smith 

Do you know what a graphic novel is?

Some might say that a graphic novel is a comic book. It is a story told with pictures much like a comic book but there is usually a beginning, middle and end rather than being a  serialized story.

Writer Neil Gaiman, responding to a claim that he does not write comic books but graphic novels, said the commenter “meant it as a compliment, I suppose.  But all of a sudden I felt like someone who’d been informed that she wasn’t actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening”

Wikipedia on Graphic Novels

Graphic novels have been available since the 1920’s although the term “graphic novel” was not used until 1964.  The term was popularized in 1978 when Will Eisner’s graphic novel A Contract with God used the term on the cover of the paperback form of the book.  It is said that it was used to differentiate Eisner’ s work from the traditional serialized form of comic books.


In 1992, Art Spiegelman’s Maus won the Pulitzer Prize. It was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.   The graphic novel was subsequently used in the classroom to teach about the Holocaust and memoirs. It is felt that the story line combined with the pictures in graphic novels can enhance some educational topics.

Librarians and educators have found that graphic novels can encourage reluctant readers and people that have trouble reading. Scholastic Press has an interesting brochure about reading and the use of graphic novels which can be found at Using Graphic Novels with Children and Teens.

More on Banned Books Week tomorrow!

Thanks for reading!


About Carol Early Cooney

I love to read. I love to share my thoughts on books and hope to hear what you think also. Looking to see what books I read beyond those I write about? Check out my Goodreads!
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