I don't know how I missed these articles from School Library Journal; my Google feed of the "Good Comics for Kids" blog at SLJ seems to be misfiring (as it often does on many feeds ... grr ...), because I don't remember seeing any of these entries before:
"Crunching the Numbers: Library Circulation Statistics"
"Crunching the Numbers: Round Robin Discussion"
What are they? Why, they're hard data on graphic novel (especially kids' graphic novel) circulation in libraries, and an in-depth roundtable discussion of the stats. Blogger Robin Brenner is better known as the brain behind the invaluable site No Flying, No Tights. She is also a librarian at the Brookline (Mass.) Public Library. She checked the circulation records throughout Metrowest Boston's 41-member Minuteman Library Network, compiling several lists of top circulating titles, including this:
Top 20 Circulating Titles for Kids (Ages 0-12)
1. Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
2. Bone series by Jeff Smith
3. Warriors series created by Erin Hunter, written by Dan Jolley
4. Redwall : The Graphic Novel by Brian Jacques, adapted by Stuart Moore
5. Tiny Tyrant by Lewis Trondheim
6. Artemis Fowl : The Graphic Novel adapted by Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin
7. Houdini the Handcuff King by Jason Lutes
8. W.I.T.C.H. series
9. Goosebumps series based on the novels by R.L. Stine
10. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series by Makoto Mizobuchi
11. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Peterson
12. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table retold by M.C. Hall (Stone Arch)
13. King Arthur: Excalibur Unsheathed: An English Legend story by Jeff Limke (Graphic Universe)
14. Marvel Adventures/Age series from Marvel Comics
15. The Baby Sitter's Club series (by Ann M. Martin) a graphic novel by Raina Telgemeir
16. Hardy Boys, Undercover Brothers series by Scott Lobdell
17. Hannah Montana by Various Creators
18. Nancy Drew, Girl Detective series by Stefan Petrucha
19. Point Blank: The Graphic Novel adapted by Antony Johnston
20. Avatar the Last Airbender series by Various Creators
Top 30 Individual Titles for All Age Ranges
1. The Wallflower by Tomoko Hayakawa
2. Babymouse: Camp Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
3. Babymouse: Skater Girl by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
4. Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
5. Bone: Rock Jaw Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith
6. Kitchen Princess by Natsumi Ando
7. The Lost Warrior created by Erin Hunter, written by Dan Jolley (Warriors series)
8. Babymouse : Puppy Love by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
9. Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino
10. Shugo chara! by Peach-Pit
11. Bone : Old Man's Cave by Jeff Smith
12. Redwall : The Graphic Novel by Brian Jacques, adapted by Stuart Moore
13. Tiny Tyrant by Lewis Trondheim
14. Artemis Fowl : The Graphic Novel adapted by Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin
15. Houdini : The Handcuff King by Jason Lutes
16. W.I.T.C.H. Graphic Novel
17. Goosebumps : Terror Trips by Various Creators
18. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon : Ginji's Rescue Team by Makoto Mizobuchi
19. Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days by Fumino Hayashi
20. Death Note. Vol. 9, Contact by Tsugumi Ohba
21. Naruto. Vol. 13, The Chunin Exam, concluded...! by Masashi Kishimoto
22. The Cartoon History of the Modern World by Larry Gonick
23. The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci
24. Pichi Pichi Pitch by Pink Hanamori
25. Mouse Guard : Fall 1152 by David Peterson
26. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table retold by M.C. Hall (Stone Arch)
27. The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross by Arina Tanemura
28. Bleach. vol. 17, Rosa Rubicundior, Lilio Candidior by Tite Kubo
29. Naruto. Vol. 14, Hokage vs. Hokage! by Masashi Kishimoto
30. Ultimate X-Men. Vol. 15, Magical by Robert Kirkman
Graphic novels for younger readers certainly dominate the top 30 volumes, with about half for kids and half for teens. This certainly shows how much the under-18 crowd is hungering for graphic novels of all kinds! The first adult title in terms of circulation by volume, Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine, appeared at 34, and it was the only adult title in the top 50. I'm guessing this is an indication of how much libraries are not yet serving their adult fans as much as they might be.
The Round Robin article includes this discussion of the gap between the worlds of comics publishers, book publishers, retail stores, and libraries:
4. Bone and Babymouse are also incredibly popular, again something I'm not really surprised about.Finally, it has a call to action:
RB: I do think it's interesting that Babymouse is so popular in the library and yet, when I've talked to many a comics folk, they haven't really heard of it. When I served as an Eisner judge, and we were discussing titles for kids, none of the other judges had ever seen it or heard of it. This illustrated to me the gap between what comics folks see for kids and what book industry folks see for kids -- I don't think it's willful blindness, but I do think it means there's a pretty substantial lack of information going both ways.
EV: I had the same experience on the Eisner committee. Only one other judge had heard of Babymouse and the two of us spend quite a bit of time explaining that, when it comes to comics, the Diamond bestseller list isn't the only list to be looking at anymore. It had just never occurred to them to look anywhere else for comics information. Robin's right, though. I also don't think it's willful blindness. It's more of a learning curve thing. There are plenty of librarians who would never think to look on a bestseller list for comics info, let alone consider Diamond as a source.
EK: Bone. *sniff* my hardcovers are falling apart one by one. Even the ones with low circ. And it is interesting that comic fans haven't heard of Babymouse. She is the best!
Snow Wildsmith: It worries me that the "mainstream" comics professionals seem so unaware of titles like Babymouse or that they think that stuff like the Marvel Adventure titles aren't a success. I would think selling multiple copies to multiple library systems would count as a success, especially with the built-in need for replacement copies. That also frustrated me (and I know Eva and I have discussed this) about Tokyopop's seemingly rapid dismissal of their titles for ages 8-12. They've canceled Agent Boo and I think others and the stock on many of the remaining titles is very low. We have Josh Elder coming for our festival of reading in Oct. and he said that he doesn't know if he'll even have copies of Mail Order Ninja to sell. And that was a title that ran in Sunday newspapers. If libraries are buying them and kids are reading them, then why aren't they a success?
SR: Most of the titles on the kids list hit that more recreational read category (self contained superhero stories [not continuity-based] and media-related, whether book or tv/cartoon) and not the literary-type or longer story graphic novels. I think the introduction of graphic novels to these next couple of generations is going to be similar to the development of comics starting in the 1950's. Comics were a form of escapist, purely recreational entertainment that was disposable but fans read TONS of it. So kids these days are coming into their library wanting to read comics…and they're going to seek out and grab the first title they recognize so of course they're going to go for the Spider-Man material or Batman because of The Dark Knight movie or Artemis Fowl because they're fans of the book. Eventually this material is going to run dry and hopefully lead readers to something more sophisticated or meatier. Problem is there's very little of this kind of material being published right now with probably the exception of Bone – and Bone had an inherent audience of fans from the past decade who passed it on to kids to read. There just isn't a critical mass yet for this kind of (I hate to use this word but), more literary work.
EK: It would be interesting to see similar lists in other large systems. Not all can run the report though. But New York Public Library, Boston Public Library, or other large urban and suburban systems.... What goes out by them. It'll show us what they're ordering and also what's popular in those areas. How do comic reading habits differ in different demographics?
So how 'bout it, 'brarians—any way to tell us all more about your circulation numbers?