Trying Owly’s Flying Lessons


Flying Lessons (Runton, 2005), the third comic in the Owly series, is a meaningful story for all ages.  It involves the friendship of Owly (who cannot fly) and Wormy (who helps Owly experience the joy of flight).  Another key character is a flying squirrel who is afraid of owls.  A Booklist review notes that the author “hits the mark” in a tale about “confronting and overcoming fears” (Booklist reviews, n.d.).

I tried to enjoy Flying Lessons, but never took flight.  I am a slow reader with most of my experience in text-based literature and picture books (wherein images usually support text), and my reading kept stopping and stalling to the point of losing the story along the way.

The features of this comic that caused my frustrating response involve visual literacy.  I was challenged by the salience of Owly’s round shape which overshadowed the masterfully drawn, expressive eyes.  The gazes of characters bridged many gutters and prevented me from delineating panels and benefiting from pensive ‘breathing space.’  In the conversation- and thought-balloons, the use of images instead of text often brought me to a full stop in order to decipher meaning.  Because my already-slow reading slowed further, the black-and-white pages became monotonous and homogenized.

As a library science student with a background in literacy development, I realize that the features that frustrated me might very well be features that support other readers. Those with more comics experience are likely to fly through this title at a speed which supports comprehension of the story line.  Readers with strong spatial intelligence (as per Howard Gardner and explained in Lyga, 2004, p. 2) are likely to enjoy decoding images in the balloons.  Those who might be distracted by color variances are likely to benefit from the use of black-and-white pages.


Booklist reviews. (n.d.). Retrieved on May 7, 2016 from the online catalog of the Comsewogue Public Library [] at

Lyga, A. A. W. (2004). Graphic novels in your media center: A definitive guide. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Runton, A. (2005). Flying Lessons. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf.

Reacting and/or Romping Through Manga and Manwha


 color of earth    Naruto 1    Ranma One Half vol 1    Ranma One Half vol 2


Manga and manwha comics offer a variety of features that evoke reactions in the reader.  [Such features appear in two preliminary examples here, and a third title is discussed in more detail.]  In Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth (manwha; 2003), for example, the fine lines, careful textures, and contrasts in visual tone evoke feelings of fascination and compassion.  This first comic in a trilogy tells a poignant story about coming of age, young love, and yearning.  Perhaps less subtle artistically, Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto (manga) series presents the story of Uzumaki Naruto, a rascally young ninja with secret power and a spirited goal.  In Volume 1 (1999), there are varied facial expressions, full-body action, and depictions of struggle within adventure.  Such features evoke empathy (Eisner, 2008, p. 47) for Uzumaki’s no-holds-barred approach, and anticipation and excitement about his actions and reactions.

In Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2, Volumes 1 and 2 (manga; 1993), the main character (Ranma) is a spunky young man whose body hosts the spirit of a girl.  He navigates through martial arts and sports training, arrangements for a bride, high school bullies, fights, sports contests . . . and sex-changes dependent on douses of cold water (instant girl, breasts and all!) or hot (a guy again!).

In the Ranma 1/2 volumes, there are features that evoke reader reactions more conspicuously than do the features in The Color of Earth and Naruto, Volume 1.  Ranma’s hairstyle, for example, is always the same – a fluffy ‘do’ with a distinct braid in the back – regardless of the moment’s gender.  This consistency evokes an “Ahh, there you are!” reaction, and the reader can continue without having to backtrack through Ranma’s transformations.  The prominence of characters with black hair also catches the eye; the reader can effortlessly note their presence and involvement in the story.

Other features in Ranma 1/2 include the books’ endpapers and inside covers; circles of sarcastic pandas introduce comedy and elicit chuckles, and expectations of action ‘literally’ result from a  page devoted to the definition of “action.”  Within the books, predictable panel layouts and black-and-white images are easy to examine (McCloud, 1993, p. 192), supporting expectations for a friendly, unruffled read.

Onomatopoeia is the most provoking feature in the first two volumes of Ranma 1/2.  A plethora of action/sound words appear in a variety of lettering (Eisner, 2008, p. 61), from petite examples (“SNFF SNFF”) to moderate (“TUMP TUMP TUMP”) to bulbous (“PADAPADAPADAPADA”) to page-filling (“YAAAAAA! SHRAKKKKK”).  The reader swirls effortlessly into the story and stays there to ‘hear’ the scuffles and feel the fun of wild, fast-paced action.  The literary ‘icing on the cake’ consists of silly sights here and there, such as a silent panda holding up a sign that says, “Uh-Oh!”

Put together these features of Ranma 1/2, Volumes 1 and 2, and these “madcap” manga comics (Ranma 1/2, n.d., page title) render the reader helpless to resist moving quickly through the pages feeling entertained, amused . . . and wide awake!


Eisner, W. (2008). Graphic storytelling and visual narrative: Principles and practices from the legendary cartoonist. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

Kim, D. H. (2003); Na, L. (Translator). The color of earth. New York, NY: First Second.

Kishimoto, M. (1999). Naruto, Volume 1: The tests of the ninja. San Francisco, CA: VIZ.

McCloud, S. (1993). Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York, NY: William Morrow/HarperCollins.

Ranma 1/2: The all-time classic hit series of gender-swapping, species-bending, madcap martial arts mayhem! (n.d.).  Retrieved from the website of VIZ Media at

Takahashi, R. (2002). Ranma 1/2, Volume 1. San Francisco, CA: VIZ.

Takahashi, R.; Jones, G. & Thorn, M. [Adaptors]. (2003). Ranma 1/2, Volume 2, Action Edition. San Francisco, CA: VIZ.

Sequential Art in the Public Library: Sorting, Shelving, and Service


M. C. Escher. (1948). Fish / Duck / Lizard Image (No.  69): Ink, watercolor. Retrieved from the website of the M.C. Escher Foundation and the M.C. Escher Company, B.V. at

Many public libraries are laying out the welcome mat for comics readers and sequential art (i.e., ‘graphic novels’ and ‘comics’).  Firm footing for connecting readers with titles is supported by effective cataloging, careful placement in library collections, and ongoing study.

This exploration highlights two related sources, and this blogger’s recommendations are listed.

Karen Green (November 9, 2010) speaks to a number of challenges in the academic library.  Although the Library of Congress (LoC) Classification Outline can be used to collocate graphic novels or comics by branch of learning (e.g., Theatre) [para. 2-3], this may not always place related items where one might expect to find them (para. 4-8).  For example, some items from one learning area may be on the ‘Literature’ shelves and others from the same area may be on the ‘Fine Arts/Drawing’ shelves.  Some items may not be categorized as ‘graphic novels’ because they were added to the collection before this LoC format heading existed.  Green notes that comics creators may not adhere to conventions that facilitate collecting or cataloging, such as applying for ISBNs and seeking nationally recognized cataloging copy (para. 14).  Given these considerations, Green has a personal record that tracks collections in order to help patrons who might not find what they want in the library catalog (para. 15).

Lessons in library science and public-library practicalities can be gleaned from Green’s comments.  These include the work that must be done to meet challenges in acquiring graphic novels and establishing them as searchable in both the catalog and on the shelf.  At this time, collecting graphic novels in the public library might only be acquired from certain vendors, and collection development might require scholarly review.  As a result, public librarians may not have access to materials in the comic market that are ‘underground’ or self-published.  Public librarians can consider the following ideas.

Quinn Recommendations

  • Pay attention to cataloging of new items to ensure that ‘Graphic novels’ is in the record to facilitate searching.
  • While weeding, identify old records for updating.
  • As per Green, keep note of as many details as possible concerning individual items in collections. This can expand and enhance skills in searching and readers’ advisory.
  • Visit local comics stores and bookstores to learn about items available.
  • During reference interviews, ask patrons about comics they read or like.
  • Seek out professional development opportunities related to graphic novels classification.

Laurel Tarulli (2010) speaks to challenges with the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system, technical services operations, and changing library practices.  The article includes  an intense medley of earnest efforts to serve patrons, maintain cataloging excellence, and ensure high quality collection development.

Because graphic novels and comics might be processed in a technical services department before they reach a reference librarian, they might be catalogued according to “traditional . . . models” or catalogued without information such as illustrator names (Tarulli, 2010, p. 213).  In addition, current and recent cataloging may have placed graphic fiction and comics within the 741.5s and graphic non-fiction within a myriad of non-fiction collections.  Further, patrons may be interested in browsing comics by publisher or being presented with a variety of items collocated by character [not by format] (Tarulli, 2010, p. 219; What is, 2016, para. 2).

Tarulli also points to the importance of a “long-term view” that accommodates readers’ needs concerning series on shelves and in the catalog (p. 216), and processes such as applying “graphic novel sticker[s]” to identify new items before they hit the shelves.  The discussion goes on to include practices that may inadvertently censor materials, networking that can support the excellence of the library services, and possibilities such as opportunities to browse by catalog images instead of items in hand (pp. 218-220).

This blogger’s recommendations that follow are focused on public libraries.  They aim to consider Tarulli’s observations, to acknowledge that “pop culture moves quickly” (Lyga & Lyga, 2004, p. 13), to allow for prompt but careful change, to uphold a “long-term view” for assessing library practices, and to incorporate patrons’ needs.

Quinn Recommendations

  • Place distinct stickers on the spines of graphic novels and comics – both new acquisitions and items already held. This is both a service for patrons and a stopgap process that does not alter cataloging and location until they have been carefully assessed.
  • Have local technical services staff meet with on-the-desk librarians to discuss cataloging and processing.
  • Support awareness of graphic novels and comics with displays.
  • Be aware that not all public librarians learned about graphic novels and comics in library school.
  • Attend or ask for seminars about graphic novels and comics at library systems.
  • Discuss the possibility of working relationships with local comics stores.
  • Create a short survey (on paper and online) that invites patrons to voice their needs concerning graphic novels and comics in the library. The paper surveys could be placed at reference desks and on the shelves where such items are located in the library.
  • Offer graphic-novels/comics discussion programs for children’s age groups (About good, 2016, para. 2) and for adults, where readers and librarians can share their enjoyment (Jacobson, 2010, p. 29) and knowledge about individual titles or this literature in general.


About good comics for kids. (2016). Retrieved from the Good Comics for Kids blog of School Library Journal at

Green, K. (November 9, 2010). ‘Whaddaya got?’: Finding graphic novels in an academic library.  Retrieved from the website of Publishers Weekly at

Jacobson, A. (2010). Party on! at your book discussions: Shouldn’t a book club be for the fun of sharing? American Libraries, 41(8). Retrieved from!%20At%20your%22~~SP~28~~IU~8~~SN~0002-9769~~VO~41&lm=DA~120100000&sw=w

Lyga, A. A. W., & Lyga, B. (2004). Graphic novels in your media center: A definitive guide. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Nyberg, A. K. (2010). How librarians learned to love the graphic novel. In Weinger, R. (Ed.). Graphic novels and comics in libraries and archives: Essays on readers, research, history and cataloging. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Tarulli, Laurel. (2010). Cataloging and problems with Dewey: Creativity, collaboration and compromise. In Weiner, R. G. (Ed.). Graphic novels and comics in libraries and archives: Essays on readers, research, history and cataloging. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

What is appeal?/Some examples/Character. (2016). Retrieved from the website of Novelist at


Saga, Star Wars, and (a little bit of) Soap


Book cover image retrieved from

Look up, librarians! Searching for an adult comic to recommend to fans of Star Wars? Launch them into another realm of fantasy, adventure, and science fiction with Saga, Volume 1, by author Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples (Vaughan, 2013).

The front cover introduces rugged green-winged Alana, devoted Marko with his massive horns, and their newborn fixed at Alana’s breast – with gun and sword close by. These depictions promise readers robust storytelling about alien societies and family bonds. Love-struck Alana and Marko are from warring cosmic factions, and they must protect themselves and their baby from various persecutors, fiends, and dangers.

Might, right, fight, and flight exhilarate Star Wars viewers, with characters such as Darth Vader, Han Solo, and Jabba the Hutt. New readers of Saga should know that its characters also play out such issues. They include the comic’s Baron Robot XVIII, The Will (a crude mercenary with a moral code), and an arachnid lady beast.

Saga’s pages have an emphatic color palette, quickly spinning changes in perspective, and a mind-blowing array of creatures and beings. There are just enough expletives and sex to make this a grown-up read. There are just enough blood spatters and food-for-thought to excite and deepen this splendid story (Why does one abandon nonviolence?). Familiarity grounds the reader with bits of soap opera such as marital jealousy, and with slices-of-life such as baby naming and cellphone disconnects. But there are also ghost children, spells, prophecy, and magic.

The brilliancy of Vaughan & Staples’s Saga was recognized in 2013 with three Eisner Awards (Hughes, July 20, 2013, para. 1), six Harvey Awards (Seifert, September 7, 2013, para. 1), and a Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story (Walking Dead, January 8, 2014, para. 6). Share this comic with your readers, and let them know that the plight of a special child and the survival of cosmic bodies are at stake.


Hughes, J. (July 20, 2013). ‘Building Stories,’ ‘Saga’ dominate 2013 Eisner Awards. Retrieved on February 28, 2016 from the website of the Comics Alliance at

Seifert, M. (September 7, 2013). Saga wins big at 2013 Harvey Awards, plus complete list of winners (para. 1). Retrieved on February 28, 2016 from the website of Bleeding Cool at

Vaughan, B. K. (2013). Saga, Volume 1. Berkeley, CA: Image Comics.

“Walking Dead” #115, “Saga” TPB Top Diamond’s Sales Charts for 2013 (para. 6). (January 8, 2014). Retrieved from the website of Comic Book Resources on February 28, 2016 at

Thoughts on Comics and the Passage of Time

Free Google Advanced Image


Eisner comments that “critical to the success of a visual narrative is the ability to convey time” (2008, p. 28).  For a student of comics, ‘reading responses’ may bring to mind the possibility of several layers of time.

In a single comic, the reader may perceive the passage of time in the gutters or from frame to frame (McCloud, 1994, pp. 70-72).

When bound together, a series of comics/issues/volumes (such as the four stories in Eisners’ A Contract With God [2006]) offers another layer of time, i.e., the perceived ‘flow’ or ‘jump’ from one comic to the next.  The reader manipulates their own experience, choosing to pause between comics/issues/volumes or to continue without a gap in reading time.  Each choice becomes a ‘gutter’ in time, affecting how the reader grasps and interprets the comic(s).


Eisner, W. (2006). Part I: A contract with God.  In The contract with God trilogy (pp. 2-23). New York, NY: W. W. Norton.

Eisner, W. (2008). Comics and sequential art: Principles and practices from the legendary cartoonist. Tamarac, FL: Poorhouse.

McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics. New York, NY: HarperPerennial.

Pfeffer’s Moon and Miranda’s Life

REVIEW of Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Life As We Knew It. Harcourt, 2006. 352 p. $17.99. 978-0-15205-826-5.

[VOYA codes:]  4Q  3P  J  S

Miranda, her family, and the whole town prepared for a thrill when they looked up to watch an asteroid collide with the Moon, but the impact proved to be appalling.  The Moon was so severely damaged that it became a gravitational menace in the sky, causing tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and the decimation of entire islands, cities, seacoasts, and populations.

In her candid, heart-wrenching journal, Miranda’s entries intensify as life bears down and bleakens for her and her family.  They must fight storms, brutal cold, epidemics, and the threat of starvation in Pennsylvania.  In their minds, they must fight the growing stench of death.  For all they know, they might be the last survivors on Earth.

Despite taunting and haunting the reader, Life As We Knew It is also powerfully inspiring.  Readers are drawn into Miranda’s new life, and they learn about strength, determination, and hard-won victories amidst a constant battle for survival.  Despite the suffering – and some whining and yelling at times – there are huge swells of hope, sacrifice, romance, and exuberance along the way.  Readers can see themselves making life-or-death decisions and growing wildly creative and resilient alongside her.  Just as the Moon changes life for Miranda and all on Earth, this story will change the reader.

(Readers will also insist on devouring The Dead and the Gone [2008], which is the next of four titles in a series.)

Recommended for teens of all ages

Captain Underpants is in the Library

REVIEW of Pilkey, Dav. The Adventures of Captain Underpants. Scholastic, 1997. 120 p. $5.99 Paperback. 978-0-590-84628-8.

[VOYA codes:]  3Q  4P  M

Middle-schoolers who want silly, laugh-out-loud reading choices will find what they’re looking for in Dav Pilkey’s first Captain Underpants title, and there are over a dozen more related Captain Underpants stories already published.  They will find it almost impossible to stop reading this story about buddies George and Harold, their sassy pranks, slapstick wit, and the baldy briefs-clad superhero they create by hypnotizing their meanie school principal.

The mischievous, giggly reading fun is supported by short chapters, cartoony illustrations, ‘easy-to-get’ comedy, and a storyline that bounces through quick adventures with bank robbers, bad-guy robots, good-guy cops, and a victorious superhero who just might be getting out of control.  Most readers will dash back to the library to borrow another Captain Underpants title to see what happens next.

There was some disappointment with the newsprint paper used to construct the paperback review copy; the fragility of the pages in the “Flip-O-Rama” sections made it difficult to grab and flip pages as directed for some “cheesy animation” fun.  Also, some readers and adults in their lives might not be comfortable with the talk of “poop” and the like in this title, but the vocabulary used is not unheard of among young students.

This title demonstrates the power of humor and imaginative stories to entertain and to keep readers reading.  It will engage almost any middle-schooler, even those struggling or reluctant to pick up a book.  Class clowns will love it, and shy or reserved students may appreciate the chance to lighten up and have fun with literature.