Blogger Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla

Collecting Graphic Novels: What Belongs in the Children’s Library?

graveyardI was so excited when the graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book arrived in my library this week. I’ve been looking forward to the graphic novelization for months – advance reviews were glowing, and it seemed like the perfect addition to our Kids Graphic Novel section, which serves all reading children in our library (mostly ages 6-12). Then I opened the book.

Gaiman’s Newbery Award-winner famously opens with the eerie, perfectly spine-chilling line, “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.” The graphic novelization of a novel which begins with a family’s murder was always going to be on the dark side. I expected that. I did not expect to turn the second page of a book touted as acceptable for age 8 by 4 of the 5 major review journals and see graphic, bloody images of a family with their throats slit open, red blood pooling around them. These images are hinted at but not described in the novel ( I know, I reread the chapter to be sure!)

Where did you shelve The Lost Boy?
Where did you shelve The Lost Boy?

After quickly conferring with my coworkers, we decided to move the book to the YA Graphic Novel collection. The magic power of the internet helped reassure us in our decision: none less than the venerable NYPL had shelved the book either in YA or Adult graphic novels, depending on the branch. I was bummed to lose what I am sure will be a highly-circulating book to another department, and doubly bummed after reading it – the book was excellent, just not quite a fit for the Children’s Library. I was also glad this happened, as it made me think about how much I rely on reviews when adding to the collection, and how badly reviews had failed me this time around.

Here is my question to you, fellow graphic novel collectors for children: how do you decide if a graphic novel is appropriate for the children’s library, especially when the collection has to appeal to a wider audience than kids in grades 3-6? If a book is dark but not graphic, does it stay (The Lost Boy)? If the characters are battling in a fantastical setting (Battling Boy), does it go in YA or children’s? If there are romantic entanglements (a la Drama), where do you put the book? Where did you put The Graveyard Book?

2 comments

  1. Sarah West

    With Graphics I try and physically look at it at a store or at a publisher display day. This makes things hard but I find it is the safest way. I also make a point of looking at the shipment when it comes in before it goes on the floor. The staff in tech services are really helpful with this too as they will flag books for me to look at. Graphics are so hard because often publishers and reviewers get the age wrong.

  2. Erin

    Ugh! I struggled with this one as well. I had that same feeling of “bloody knife, so visual, where does this go?!” I scan the catalog of a bigger library not too far from mine to see where they put things I’m unsure about. Unfortunately, they have the luxury of more money, so often they’ll put one in YA and one in juvenile. I decided that since the book is juvenile, I put the graphic novel in juvenile. I am in charge of the children’s collection from 0-18, and I house all the middle grade books in with the children’s books. I can always move things around if I choose. If someone complains about this one, I’ll move it to YA.

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