Review: The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature: The World’s Great Kids’ Lit as Comics and Visuals

childrenThe original three-volume anthology The Graphic Canon presented the world’s classic literature–from ancient times to the late twentieth century–as eye-popping comics, illustrations, and other visual forms. In this follow-up volume, young people’s literature through the ages is given new life by the best comics artists and illustrators. Fairy tales, fables, fantastical adventures, young adult novels, swashbuckling yarns, your favorite stories from childhood and your teenage years…they’re all here, in all their original complexity and strangeness, before they were censored or sanitized.

This was so much fun to read!

As with the other volumes of the graphic canon, Russ Kick’s thoughtful commentary on each piece provided me with tons of insight into all the works of children’s literature that are considered classics. What I found interesting was that the blurry line between adult and children’s lit always existed; many of these classics started as adult stories. Children’s novels have always been complex with complicated themes and immoral characters; cautionary and informative tales.

The second thing I found interesting was that censorship has been happening since the days of the Grimm brothers, with tales being edited and toned down to suit younger audiences. Over time, gorier parts get removed and long stories abridged. While I do not believe in sheltering children, there are some things that young children don’t need to know about – but it’s a hard line to draw. I take no issue with giving simpler versions of novels to children – so long as it is not sanitized to the point where the message is lost. Life involves pain and loss and sacrifice and it’s important that children experience this.

Which bring me to my next point – Disney.  Kick’s disdain for Disney is something I completely agree with. Not only did Disney completely sanitize all the fairy tales for children, they also created versions of the characters that remain engraved in the collective consciousness, preventing us from imagining these stories in a different way. Literature is meant to be interpreted in different ways – not not reduced to a single image.

Thankfully, the graphic adaptations that fill this volume each showcase the respective work of literature in a new light – a way that makes sense, but hasn’t been done before. Though I didn’t like every artist’s style, I was able to appreciate their re-imaginings of the classics and each pushed me to look at these classic novels in a whole new way.

In a lot of ways, this volume was a lot more fun then the other ones because, a) it’s kids lit after all, and b) it was wonderful to return to some childhood favourites. I also knew way more of the stories than in the other three volumes which made following along a lot more satisfying.

Recommended to lovers of graphic novels, children’s lit, or those who are interested in getting some interesting commentary and new angles on classics.



2 thoughts on “Review: The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature: The World’s Great Kids’ Lit as Comics and Visuals

  1. Omigosh this sounds so interesting! I definitely have to check this out since I love reading analyses on well-known classics. And I totally agree with you about Disney! I feel like even the older versions were so much more darker than today’s especially when I watch Pinocchio and compare it to today’s more Disney movies like Zootopia. I kind of agree with what he’s saying about Disney but at the same time, Disney itself only interpreted it a certain way and people really liked it which is why it’s so popular so I can’t entirely blame it for warping the people’s views. But I guess it has more of a responsibility to its audience now. There was a certain death in How to Train Your Dragon 2 that really angered parents because they thought the death was too dark. I didn’t even think it was that dark but even if it was a little, I thought it would have made a really good conversation piece between parent and child. Basically, I think it’s really important to not censor this kind of stuff. Sorry this is so long lol.

    1. It’s a lot of fun to read! I get what you’re saying – I was possibly a little too harsh because I personally can’t stand the happily-ever-after world of Disney. I agree with you that’s its more a comment on society who accepted Disney’s ideals – people want shows that are a clean and simple as possible for their children. And while Disney definitely designed their characters to be as ubiquitous as possible at the sake of reality, people could have easily imagined them in other ways (like those in this book) rather that just repeating Disney’s images. I LOVE the How to Train Your Dragon movies, especially because they didn’t shy away from including more mature themes. Plus those flying scenes are just awesome:)

I love hearing from you and will always reply!

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