Comic Books and Graphic Novels for Youth
ILS S672 Spring 2014
“Animated Kirby Machinery!” by Kerry Callen.
Animated Kirby Machinery!” by Kerry Callen.

Course Description

In this seminar we will explore comics and graphic novels for youth, from young children to young adults. We will study:

course objectives

  1. To read widely in the professional literature concerning comics and graphic novels as an art form and in relation to issues of librarianship and literacy.
  2. To become familiar with the a wide range of comics and graphic novels available for children and young adults and develop an understanding of the quality and quantity of materials.


Assignment % (points)
Directing Class Discussion 40% (400)
Lifetime Achievement Presentation 15% (150)
Blogging 20% (200)
Participation 25% (250)

Directing a class discussion (40%, 400 points)

You must must lead a class discussion centered around a particular theme or topic related to comics and graphic novels. Possible themes or topics might include:

The student(s) is responsible for leading the discussion and providing clarity of the topic for the entire class ( 2 hours at minimum). You must provide the following:

  1. Introduction to the topic (15–20 minutes).
  2. Mini-booktalk for at least 3 additional titles in addition to those you have assigned to the class.
  3. Talking points for the class to help lead the discussion.
  4. Outline of class discussion and research conducted for your topic with sources.

You must provide readings for the class at least 14 days in advance. Readings should include 2–4 graphic novels and 2–3 articles on the topic (the articles may be drawn from traditional academic journals, online journals, blogs, and other digital resources). It may be helpful to have a few books as suggestions and then take a poll to see which books have been read the most widely and go with those for your class.

Students will need to discuss their progress and direction for the class at least twice with instructor prior to leading the class. This can be done in person or through email.

The best discussions are those that center around the purpose and merit of the books. You should focus less on your own personal opinion of the book and more on how well the book relates to children or young adults and to issues of librarianship and literacy. In other words, the discussion must move beyond (way beyond) “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it.”

It is assumed that at times the class discussion will veer off in its own direction, and this is acceptable. Some topics you will have planned for discussion may never get addressed. The key to this assignment is the ability of the student to lead a discussion and remain on topic (even if the topic is not on the agenda).

Lifetime Achievement presentation (15%, 150 points)

Each student will choose a figure from or related to the comics or the comic book industry (e.g., comic book author, illustrator, or publisher, or a scholar, educator, or librarian). The student will: present 15 minute presentation on person or organization of choice.

Blogging Books (20%, 200 points)

Beginning February 28th, and each week thereafter, each student is expected to find one additional comic or graphic novel, or article, relating to the topic. You will write a short (200–500 word) illustrated blog post (on our course blog) that provides a very brief overview of the book and and explains why you chose it and how it relates to the week’s topic. Some of you will blog about the same book as other students, which is fine. But once a book/article has been discussed, it should not reappear in subsequent weeks.

You are encouraged to respond to other students’ blog posts using the commenting feature.

Blog entries must be posted by 8pm on Thursday evening, so we all have a chance to look at them before class on Friday.

Students do not need to blog during the week they are leading class discussion.

Z672 Blog:

Class Participation (25%, 250 points)

The seminar is successful only with the full participation of each student. It is expected  that readings will be done prior to each class so that all students can participate in the discussions. Sometimes the readings are a lot, but please try to at least browse through every one before class. This class is dependent upon class discussion, the instructor is there only to lead or steer the conversation, students are expected to talk the majority of the class. Mock Caldecott Committee work counts toward Participation grade.


Grading Late assignments will be accepted late without a penalty on the grade only with the prior consent of the instructor. Assignments submitted late without the prior consent of the instructor will be docked the equivalent of half a letter grade for each day they are late. Missing a class without prior consent of the instructor may drop your final grade by a letter. Incompletes will be given for the course for medical reasons only.


January 17

January 24: Comics as an art form

January 31: Comics History & Superheroes

February 7: Superheroes

February 14: Class canceled due to illness

February 21: Growing up…

February 28: Bandel: Shoujo manga / Klein: Shaun Tan

March 7: No Class

March 14: Brinegar: Wordless comics / Miller: Gail Simone

March 21 Spring Break

March 28: Davis: Adaptations of literary classics / Hamblin: Will Eisner

April 4: Glassley: Graphic Novels for Upper Elementary Girls / Bandel: Osamu Tezuka

April 11: Hamblin: Superman / Brinegar: Toon Books

April 18: Klein: Cross-cultural experiences in graphic novels / Davis: Chris Claremont

April 25: Miller: Child-friendly biographies & autobiographies

May 2: Travel Narratives / Glassley: Stan Lee



I’d like to thank Carol Tilley from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Dana Duffy-Backs, Adjunct Lecturer for the Department of Information and Library Science at IU Bloomington, for kindly sharing with me their syllabi and advice as I designed this course.