September brought the release of two epic books given the graphic-novel treatment: a modern classic, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, adapted by cartoonist Seymour Chwast.
These new publications represent very different approaches in adapting prose for panels. The Kite Runner Graphic Novel, illustrated by Fabio Celoni and Mirka Andolfo, is realistically rendered, taking advantage of a luscious palette of color, light, and shadow to enhance the book’s emotionally compelling and dramatic story. The comic version doesn’t stray much from the original, with the text adapted by Hosseini himself.
In The Canterbury Tales, Chwast takes a much more minimalist approach. Chwast’s drawings are simple and playful, and he adds many of his own jokes, creating a lighthearted read. The title of each story is introduced alongside a silly quip from little characters, sometimes a cartoon of Chaucer himself, saying things like, “Readers must be eighteen or over.” Cartoonish touches and playful anachronisms help bring these stories into this century.
Hope Larson, a cartoonist whose graphic-novel version of A Wrinkle in Time will be published next year by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, says she thinks the graphic-novel adaptation trend will continue.
“Now that teachers and librarians have witnessed the power of comics to lure in reluctant readers, we’ll see more and more adaptations of literary classics and popular fiction,” she says. “Educators and parents are beginning to see comics as more substantial works, or at least useful tools for increasing literacy.