MENTOR TEXT MONDAY With Megan Lacera - A Pow and a Prize
POW! KAPOW! BOOM! Megan Lacera Powers Up Picture Books with Graphic Novels and Comics.
by Megan Lacera
Stroll through any bookstore or library and one thing is clear…we are in a magical era of picture books. Creators are revolutionizing the craft with narrative structures, artistic media, character design, topics, formats, and designs. These innovations are opening new and powerful ways to experience these tempting and immersive literary treasures.
Keep on strolling and you’ll notice something else—graphic novels and comic books are everywhere.
Their popularity is positively explosive. And let’s be honest, kids of every age are completely captivated by them! And yet many graphic novels and/or comics have page counts that are intimidating for the youngest readers. Little ones and emerging readers can feel left out of the fun. Bringing high-interest, dynamic comic elements into picture books can help bridge this gap while building multiples styles of literacy (yes, visual literacy is a learned skill!).
Enter mentor texts. We decided to mix traditional picture book style spreads with comic panels, word bubbles, action sequences, and illustrated texts—and so instead of primarily researching other picture books, we looked to graphic novels and comics to show us the way.
Here are some mentor texts that guided our creative steps:
THE HILDA BOOKS, Luke Pearson
CREATING A LARGE CAST: If you haven’t read any of the HILDA books yet, in the lyrics of Digital Underground, “drop what you’re doin’, cuz I’m about to ruin, the image and the style that ya’ used to.”
There is no mystery as to why Netflix wanted to turn these gems into an animated series. Hilda is beautifully done, with a huge, unique cast and a plucky, adventurous main character who’s easy to fall in love with.
The Wild Ones tells the story of multiple humans….and multiple monsters. We looked to HILDA to see how a big cast could work. Pearson does an amazing job at this.
USING TEXT BOXES AND WORD BALLOONS
Meanwhile, in a galaxy not so far away, text boxes and word balloons are classic comic stylin’.
Check out how Ralph Cosentino uses these elements to tell the story of Batman. PS—Cosentino’s Batman is actually a picture book told primarily in comic format. It’s genius and reading it will turn your dark nights bright.
BATMAN: THE STORY OF THE DARK KNIGHT, Ralph Cosentino
A comic splash page is when a panel takes up an entire page, or maybe even two pages. It’s like a full-page spread in a picture book, though typically comic splash pages depict more action. They’re key to the story’s pacing. A proper reaction when getting to a splash page is WHOA or maybe OOOOOH!
Check out this awesome splash page in Sidekicks by Dan Santat:
Interested in bringing the excitement of comics and graphic novels into your own project? It’s not easy but the outcome is worth it. I’m a big believer in meeting kids where they are, with what they’re interested in. If we want kids reading and devouring stories, developing their own personal relationship with books, we must engage them. There are so many things trying to capture their attention…how can picture books compete? By creating highly-engaging stories with high-quality art and finding new ways to invite them into literacy. Using elements from graphic novels and comics are one way to do this!
Today’s blog post prize is a critique from Megan Lacera for one picture book manuscript or dummy, or an ask me anything zoom session for 30 minutes!
Megan Lacera grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, with a book always in her hands. After graduating from Boston University with a bachelor’s in journalism and a master’s degree in business management, she became a writer, creative director, and creator of characters and worlds for entertainment companies like American Greetings, Goldieblox, and Hasbro. She later formed her own creative company where she creates original content and consults on marketing, social media, and strategic direction for start-ups and large toy and entertainment corporations. She and her husband and creative partner have also created several animated projects. Megan’s picture book debut, Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies!, received a starred review from Kirkus, won multiple awards and was selected for SAG-AFTRA’s Storyline Online platform, where it has over 6 million views. (https://amzn.to/3Je2Pu7)
Her second book, THE WILD ONES (w/Jorge Lacera), is due in 2024. She recently completed a middle grade novel entitled OHIO FOR LIFE!
Megan is represented by John Cusick at Folio Jr.
Connect with Megan and learn more about her at: