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Graphic Novels @ Graded: Matthew Holm

by Meryl Zeidenberg, Library Coordinator Graded—The American School of São Paulo


When was the last time you were part of an audience where the speaker finished up right on time, everybody applauded, and then nobody made a single move to leave the room? Last week was my first time. The 50+ kindergarten students and teachers made no requests; they all just sat quietly, apparently hoping for Matthew Holm, the graphic novelist and illustrator, to continue for a few more minutes. So he did, much to everyone’s delight. This reaction represents the rapt attention of multiple student audiences, from K5 through grade 8, and adults at a LS parent coffee, to Mr. Holm’s presentations.


Mr. Holm brought the history of comic books and the evolution of the graphic novel to life for our Lower and Middle Schools while meeting the varied levels of sophistication of all his listeners. As the co-creator of the critically-acclaimed, award-winning graphic novel series for children, Babymouse and Squish, he has helped raise the profile of the graphic novel in children’s literature. The two series now have over two million copies in print.

Mr. Holm addressed the challenges of collaborating on the stories with his sister who lives in another state. He explained his role of the graphic illustrator, and described the process of storyboarding as well as the interplay between textual and visual components of their stories. He was amiable, professional and highly engaging in his delivery.

Graded’s 8th grade curriculum currently includes reading two graphic novels and 7th graders will soon embark on creating their own graphic novels. Many other classes are beginning to incorporate the technique of storyboarding to create videos and writing projects. As a result, Mr. Holm’s offerings to us were extremely timely and in line with up-to-date educational practice.

Visual literacy is an important attribute of our current, image-rich, cultural environment. After listening to Mr. Holm, it became apparent to many that the graphic novel format well deserves its growing reputation for literary merit.


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