I was lucky enough to hear Teri Lesense speak yesterday on literature for tweens (I hate that word and so does she, but there’s no better term for the 4th-8th grade age group). She covered all types of literature (lots of graphic novels and books in verse came up, as is the nature of tween lit) and it was truly very useful.
Someone in the audience did bring up the common misconception that manga can only be used for older teens (oh, the temptation to run off my manga for the younger set list!) and Teri did mention that there was plenty of manga meant for the pre-teen market. I hate hearing these kinds of blanket statements at librarian conferences; these are the people who are supposed to be up on the kinds of literature and know the range of titles that are
available for the age group they’re serving (of course this assumes that people at a tween lit session serve tweens; perhaps they just found library security and marketing boring).
Nonetheless, my takeaway from the session was great. Teri uses the acronym TARGET (trust, access, response, guidance, entuhisasm, tween appeal) for tween services and I think manga fits into this wonderfully. Yes, manga has a wide range of content, some of which is different from what we consider “appropriate” for our tweens- but we have to be able to trust them to digest the content and take it in context. Manga is accessable because of it’s graphic nature; it reaches some kids who were already written off as “non readers” that simply need more in the way fo visual stimulation (not to mention that the J and young teen level mange uses very basic language). As far as causing a response emotionally to the story- if you’ve ever been to a con you know that this happens. You’ll never see readers so attached to a character as otaku (I can’t list how many characters I have cried for, even as an adult). Guidance is more on the librarian end, of course, but the manga ratings are a good place to start and I can assure that there is a manga for every age level reader from Doraemon to Paradise Kiss. This is a big part of why I started this blog- to provide guidance to those who are not up on their manga. Anyone who has ever served an otaku teen in the middle of a manga series can tell you about enthusiasm levels- no, they can’t skip a volume, no, they don’t want another series. They want the rest of this one. And when they’re done with that, they want another one just like it. Finally, tween appeal- this generally isn’t a problem with manga unless we’re getting into Manga Shakespeare (which I love but I know the sentiment is not shared with my 10-14 year olds). Manga is usually action based with the exception of shoujo which gets the young romance set. It’s not normally about boring topics, and it always has interesting and eye catching illustrations.
I know none of this is a new revelation, but it’s nice to know that manga fits so well into the scheme of things. I think I need to put a little more emphasis on manga and GN based tween programming in my own branch.