One of my favourite books in our heroic journey literature circle is the graphic novel Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson. Originally created as a webcomic, the graphic novel focuses on Nimona, the shape shifting sidekick of the villain Lord Blackheart. The pair do their best to fight and overthrow the government, while being pursued by former friend and hero Sir Goldenloin.
Nimona is an excellent addition to the literature circle primarily because of the complex way the characters are portrayed. Perceptive students will quickly notice that while Blackheart and Nimona call themselves villains and are referred to as evil-doers, they are often more heroic than the so-called heroes. This leads to interesting discussion and analysis of the characters. Why are they called villains? How do they fit the hero archetype? While the other books in the unit more heavily feature characters who are struggling to become more heroic, Nimona has characters who are viewed as the opposite, even as they demonstrate bravery, selflessness, and perseverance. The text offers an insightful contrast.
The graphic novel is also one of the more popular books in the literature circle. More than half of my students have read it and even near the end of our unit a few students are still waiting to get their hands on a copy. It is a shorter read than some of the thicker novels, so students can quickly finish before moving on to their next choice in the literature circle. More importantly, the students really enjoy the fast paced plot, the humour embedded throughout the book, and the mysteries of Nimona's past.
As well, the graphic novel gives many reluctant readers a boost into the unit. Graphic novels are not necessarily easier reads, since parsing visual texts can be challenging. However, students often view them as more accessible. It gives students an entry point into the discussions and analysis of heroic journeys, and can help many of them feel successful at the outset. At the same time, stronger readers can enjoy the complexities of the characters and world building in Nimona, so it offers something for everyone. I would definitely recommend Nimona as a worthy addition to any literature circle relating to bravery, heroes, and overcoming past adversity.