The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Graphic Novels, 2nd ed. By Francisca Goldsmith. Chicago: ALA, 2017. 215 p. Paper $54 (ISBN 978-0-8389-1509-7).

Taking Ranganathan’s five laws as guiding principles, this new edition of a 2010 work addresses issues of how to effectively discuss and recommend materials in the graphic novel format with readers of all types. It addresses head-on the misconception that graphic works are only for teens and poorly socialized adults and presents a holistic view of the format and the particular challenges that it presents for library workers advising readers.

The first two chapters cover the background of graphic novels’ unique attributes and the various channels that workers can use to reach readers. After that, the main body of the work discusses particular patron populations. These are organized by maturity level and familiarity with the format as follows:

  • Chapter 3: adults and older teens who know graphic novels well
  • Chapter 4: graphic-novel-familiar younger teens
  • Chapter 5: adult readers who haven’t read graphic novels
  • Chapter 6: teen readers just getting into graphic novels
  • Chapter 7: tween readers both familiar and unfamiliar with the genre

Although specific title recommendations are sprinkled throughout the text, the focus of these chapters is on understanding the needs of patrons and how best to address them, rather than presenting simple lists of graphic novels. Chapters 8 and 9 do provide that kind of bibliographic information, with chapter 8 presenting recommended children’s graphic novels organized by ability level and chapter 9 presenting works for adults by genre.

Chapter 10 addresses crossover appeal between graphic novels and other media such as movies, games, audiobooks, and other sequential art. Finally, chapter 11 provides a listing of recommended readers’ advisory tools such as websites, printed bibliographies, etc. An appendix provides “A Short Course for the Advisor New to Graphic Novels,” which Goldsmith recommends in her introduction as a starting place for complete graphic novel neophytes.

Goldsmith’s writing is lucid and engaging. She clearly explicates the unique problems of stereotyping and pigeonholing that plague the graphic novel format. She works within an established framework of appeal factors that will be familiar to those who have worked in readers’ advisory, but also includes additional information about factors unique to graphic works. As these discussions often make reference to particular works as examples, the reader would be advised to have a web browser handy to run image searches for representative pages or panels to refer to.

This new edition contains a significant amount of new content, but a note on specific changes and additions would have been helpful.

This work is highly recommended for public libraries with graphic novel collections of any size. Academic and school libraries should consider purchasing if they see a need based on their collection and patron population.—Karl G. Siewert, Instructional and Reference Librarian, Northeastern State University, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma


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