February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Getting Through to Kids with Graphic Novels

Kazu Kibuishi

Best-Selling Amulet Series Author, Kazu Kibuishi

Featured in Scholastic’s upcoming Teach Graphix Week, Kazu Kibuishi is the artist/writer behind Amulet, The New York Times bestselling graphic novel fantasy series, published by Scholastic Inc. His debut graphic novel, Daisy Kutter: The Last Train, won a YALSA Best Books for Young Adults Award. Born in Tokyo, Kazu produces his work from Bolt City, a small studio based in Alhambra, California.

How are graphic novels evolving?

The graphic novel was created by Will Eisner in the late 70’s, but comics in a compiled format have been around for a long time. Graphic novels can be used to explain things very well. They can be shorthand for what a lot of literature does. You get a lot of information a lot faster. You can compress thirty or forty pages of information in five pages of comics. Will saw the future of them. We’re at the second or third generation. It’s growing and changing, and it’ll become it’s own thing.

What does the popularity of graphic novels mean for you personally?

I don’t spend too much time looking at market trends. I like to spend time making a book that would have been helpful to me when I was ten. I came here from Tokyo and had to learn a whole new language and I remember thinking I wasn’t very smart or good at school. I found comics, Garfield, Heathcliff, Peanuts, especially from the Scholastic Book Fairs and I know how helpful this was for me. I thought I’d like to do for someone else what Garfield did for me.

How does Bolt City work?

I’ve had one full-time employee on salary for the last eight years, and I work with freelancers who are often people just interested in the process and they come in and do some painting. It’s always good when someone comes in and paints a clock in the background, because I don’t always have time to do that.

Tell me what you learn from your school visits.

I go to about 20 or more schools a year. I see a lot of the same types of readers, the same issues of trying to get kids to read, and most of the time I’m just asking them what they’re into. I’m just examining how the schools are doing. I talk to coaches, principals. Then I go back to my desk and put together a book that I hope will be helpful for them. I do write for the teachers, librarians, and parents as much as the kids. The artist in me would be lower on the list. Just getting to do this is so neat and wonderful, I try to work for the people who are using books.

Do you get any feedback from librarians?

Yes, their feedback is probably the most important. They see books change hands often and I get to hear about so many new readers and kids that wouldn’t pick up a book are picking up graphic novels. I hope they continue to move forward and learn more. When I was young, I had literature classes in high school, I realized this was someone else’s entertainment in their day.


Teach Graphix Week



  1. Of all the new books I ordered this year, the Amulet series has flown off the shelves. As soon as they come back, they go out again, many times in the same day, and there are constant holds placed for these fantastic books. Students also recommend them to each other, and they cannot wait to get the next one. Thank you for such a great series for my middle schoolers!!

  2. I think graphic novels can be really great for kids. Thanks for sharing this post!