A $2,000 grant will boost the number of graphic novels and books on North Dakota in the Jamestown High School Library.
Kathy Burkle, JHS librarian, and Adam Gehlhar, JHS principal, worked together to get the grant, which was awarded through the North Dakota State Library. The school district had to contribute $200, so the library received $2,200.
“Part of the stipulation (for the funds) is that we allocate $600 for books about North Dakota and by North Dakota authors,” Burkle said. The rest of the funds will be used to purchase graphic novels, so there will be about 160 new graphic novels and 32 North Dakota books for the library, she said.
“The North Dakota books will correlate also with our classes and the history and general interests of our state,” Burkle said. “And the graphic novels (being ordered), they’re not all fiction.”
Graphic novels make up a tiny part of the library’s 15,000-plus titles, Burkle said. She estimated 3 to 5 percent and said she is appreciative of receiving the grant to help build the library’s collection.
“The only thing that’s different, really, (with graphic novels compared to other books) is that they’ll have a picture, you can see the emotions on their face so you don’t have to say, ‘She cried’ …. and so they’re basically just looking at the picture and then reading the dialogue,” Burkle said.
Burkle said graphic novels help students who struggle with reading as well as appeal to students who are doing well in school. She noted that the elementary and middle school grades have graphic novels, too, and when those students attend high school they want to know what graphic novels are available there also.
“I have all levels reading them,” she said. “Kids that struggle, they’re reading. And that’s the ones we want to read more. And of course, then your top-level kids, which we want them to read more too so they can go even farther. All levels.”
Burkle noted that graphic novels can help students at the school who are from other countries and don’t immediately know English.
JHS students who read graphic novels are happy that more are being added.
“It’s great,” said Elliot Wiley, a senior. “Because they are expensive.”
Burkle said books take longer to become available as a graphic novel because of the time it takes to draw the panels for the novel.
“They’re fun,” she said. “And they are more scholarly than people realize. We had a book, it’s a graphic novel … it’s called ‘Yummy’ and it is based on a true story that happened in the Chicago area. … So they’re reading that one down in eighth grade as a class.”
“Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty” is a story about a young boy who gets involved with gangs and what happens to him.
Burkle said being able to order more graphic novels because of the grant is good for students and the library.
“I’m thrilled because otherwise we just wouldn’t have the funding and I think the kids are pretty happy too,” she said.
The reasons students like graphic novels vary.
“For me, they provide entertainment but they also provide a story that kind of make us feel, well, a part of it sometimes,” said Michael Shepherd, a senior. “Sometimes they’re going through similar situations as we are and sometimes it just lets our imagination run wild.”
He thinks seeing the artwork makes a difference when reading the novel.
“I believe there’s also less lost in translation,” Shepherd said. “It’s kind of like you’re seeing it through what the author is seeing it through.”
Wiley said different art styles and movement make graphic novels unique. The author may or may not be the artist for the graphic novel.
“It’s just books - we like reading them for the same reason we like consuming any form of storytelling but I think the thing that makes comics special is that illusion of movement and kind of the combination of the visual with the words,” Wiley said.
Joshua Naumann, a senior, likes to read science fiction, fantasy adventure and mystery.
“I enjoy both just standard novels and graphic novels,” he said. “I think they do share a lot in common in terms of storytelling but they each have their own advantages and disadvantages.”
Burkle said she talks to students about what graphic novels they like and takes their suggestions for purchases seriously.
“I’m here for the kids,” she said. “I’m getting material for the kids, for their leisure reading for their classroom research, you know that’s why we’re all here. For them. And if I want them to read I have to get them what they’re interested in. I have kids suggest books to me all the time. All the time.”
Burkle is purchasing a variety of graphic novels with the grant, including some from the Japanese manga series “Bleach” and “Black Butler,” to others that are single-book stories.
Some graphic novels have been award winners, she noted, including “American Born Chinese” and “Maus,” which won the Pulitzer Prize.
Mia Grenz, a sophomore, said she likes graphic novels that she said are from “normal” books, like Percy Jackson books.
“They have a small graphic novel series that follows the books but you get to see, like the art, and like movement,” she said. “I like seeing what I imagine them doing and then actually being able to see that instead of imagining it.”
Riché Johnson, a junior, said she reads a variety of graphic novels according to her mood.
“There’s graphic novels for everything,” she said.
“Sometimes the artwork in these graphic novels, they go really underappreciated,” Shepherd said. “... people put a lot of work into these and I believe each one deserves a read.”