By Ann Cox, MLS, Collection Development Librarian, and Debbie Davenport, MLS, Collection Development Librarian
Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird is widely considered one of the most important books in the American literary canon. In fact, it was named the top pick for PBS’s The Great American Read in 2018 and held that place during the entirety of the five-month voting process. An indictment of racial injustice in the Deep South, it’s the harrowing account of a black man on trial for the rape of a white girl in 1930s Alabama, as told by the young daughter of the white defense lawyer. In late 2018, a graphic novel adaption of this favorite was brought to life with the help of illustrator Fred Fordham. Positively reviewed, this is an adaption you don’t want to miss!
The Art of War by Sun Tzu has had an unlikely resurgence with modern readers. Though it was written as a military treatise in China in the 5th Century BCE, it has gained popularity among businessmen and others seeking leadership skills. In thirteen essays, it surpasses the expected battle exercises to include economic and psychological maneuvers. The graphic novel adaption, which also came out in late 2018, concentrates on an instructor teaching a pupil the main points of battle and tactics, while interspersing the story with vibrant battle scenes.
George Orwell’s political allegory Animal Farm deftly portrays the rise and failures of the Russian Revolution. When a group of barnyard animals revolts against their cruel human master, they are filled with idealism and noble plans. But as pride, infighting, and distrust take root in the community, the animals create a new kind of tyranny for themselves. Illustrator Odyr presents a stunning display in the full-color graphic adaption of this classic, which will reach many reluctant readers as well as enriching those already familiar with the tale.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is one of the most powerful and enduring chronicles of survival during World War II. When the Frank family went into hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, thirteen-year-old Anne kept a diary for two years, until the family’s eventual discovery. Besides her account of constant dangers and fears, her voice is remarkably relatable as that of a typical teenage girl. This engaging quality has made her diary beloved for decades. Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaption, is a beautiful homage to the original work that brings home an ugly part of our history. With starred reviews, this is a work that must not be missed—and it’s available in Spanish as well!
Homer’s epic poem of the Trojan War, The Iliad, incorporates tales of heroism, dramatic battles, and tragic failure into its thrilling narrative. Overseen by the Greek gods, the ancient players and events of the decade-long siege of Troy are pawns of fate. But through Homer’s striking portrayal, they are brought into sharp focus as real human figures. For those who may have trouble following the poetry of the standard edition, the graphic adaption illustrated by Gareth Hinds will allow the reader to become fully immersed in the battle of Troy.
A utopian society isn’t quite what it seems in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which won the Newbery Award in 1994. When twelve-year-old Jonas is apprenticed as the Receiver of Memory in his idyllic community, he learns that it harbors secrets that belie its peaceful culture of conformity. The graphic novel retains much of the dialogue and weaves the text descriptions into haunting panels that display the colorlessness of the world Jonas resides. Another well-reviewed adaption you won’t want to miss.
These graphic novels are just the tip of the growing adaption movement. While we admit that graphic adaptions aren’t for everyone, they do reach many people who would otherwise pass on the classics.