This year during school visits we discussed historical fiction and I figured I’d take this space to highlight a few standout titles in our Graphic Novel collection.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad.
This book works hard to do a great deal all at once in a very small space. Pages are always cramped in a digest sized book, and while this works fine for manga where often one entire page is filled with a single panel, here Hale manages to cram action, information and dialogue into dozen or more panels per page.
Within those size constraints Hale does fairly well. Young comics readers won’t have to guess to untangle the flow of action sequences. and his flash-forward narrators (soon-to-be-hanged spy Nathan Hale and the Greek chorus of participants at his hanging) only occasionally obtrude on the flow of the story. Now and again the nincompoopery of the hangman character fails to hit the funny bone, but otherwise the story serves its purpose: teaching younger grade-level readers about a significant period of history in a breezy easy way.
The book is not trying for resonance or humanity or perspective. It seeks to make history kid-friendly. For graphics non-fiction it works pretty well, even if here at the library it doesn’t create its own audience or compel readers in to eagerly yank it from the shelf. To me well-done period fiction or non-fiction works best when it ignites further interest in the topic or era. I ask myself not whether I learned something but: do I care to know more?
Crogan’s Loyalty by Chris Schweizer
Contrast with Chris Schweizer’s excellent The Crogan Adventures series. These well-researched historical fiction action graphic novels follow the adventures of various ancestors of the Crogan family. Tales of morality and moral ambiguity are told father to son to illustrate ethical lessons and a bit of history.