DK Graphic Readers

Last weekend, I took a wander into The Works in Cambridge. I saw a giant cloth-and-gilt bound book of Sherlock Holmes (weirdly, I’ve never read one of these stories in it’s original format) and also ran into the woman who runs Camcon. But more importantly, from the point of view of this blog, I found these!

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There was quite a few, your nearest branch may have some!

They’re called DK Graphic Readers, and are part of an educational series put out by that ubiquitous children’s book publisher, Dorling Kindersley. Though the series is quite large, only four of the books are part of the “Graphic Readers” range, all dealing with periods of ancient history. Several other books in the series feature American comic characters, such as The Flash and The Hulk, but I don’t know if they are in comic format. I doubt it, though. They are probably in the usual DK “diagram style” with a few bits of Marvel stock art stuck around.

The aim of the whole series is to get children to “work up” to reading books on their own, as explained in the introduction for teachers and parents. These comics are part of the highest series, rather than being shoved in at the bottom because they’re “only” comics – a step in the right direction!

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The books themselves are in a similar format to the modern, “British” Classics Illustrated, though are a little smaller. Apart from the inside of the covers they are full colour, which means I’ll have to show you the other two covers in black and white!

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Like so

The strips themselves are in full colour, and are written in a fashion that allows them to explain the culture of the society in which they are set. For instance, the story set in Ancient Egypt revolves around a “house of the dead” where mummies are made. The Chinese story involves a boy who is summoned before the Emperor to demonstrate his musical talents.

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Caught out of bounds, it’s just like The Magnet… except beheading is a bit more drastic than six of the best.

Both of the stories I have involve children / young adults getting into trouble by accident, giving an insight into crime and punishment in these ancient times (and, of course, things that were considered crimes at the time). This also allows for exciting chase scenes!

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 Sexton Blake must have done this at least once

 Yes, you’ve spotted it. The stories, as well-written and illustrated as they are, use that font.

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At the end of the books, there is an extensive illustrated glossary giving explanations of various terms used. Some sections are better than others. Marcus Morris would never have allowed Eagle to patronisingly explain what a port is.

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These books originally sold for £3.99 – dirt cheap for a square bound, full colour comic these days! The Works is selling them for only 99p (formerly £1.99). I trust many copies have already found their way into school libraries, but if any headmasters should be reading this, get down there now and buy an armful! You’re always looking for ways to get kids reading, interested in history, and balance the books, aren’t you?