Sunday, April 17, 2011


A few years ago, my easy reader children’s book Prisoner For Liberty  was published by Millbrook Press.  It is superbly illustrated by Craig Orback's paintings.

It tells the story of James Forten, an African American Revolutionary War hero, whose patriotism and courage during and after the war truly inspired me.

This year my book was reborn as a graphic novel— The Prison–Ship Adventure of James Forten, Revolutionary War Captive (published by Graphic Universe).  Amanda Doering Tourville expertly adapted it. The wonderful sequential art was created by Ted Hammond and Richard Pimentel Carbajal.  Thanks to these talented professionals, I just had to twiddle my thumbs and wait for my copies to arrive in the mail!
My publisher calls this new book a graphic novel—not a comic book.  Different authorities disagree somewhat on these terms.  I lean towards Stephen Weiner's (author of 101 Best Graphic Novels) definition.  Basically, a graphic novel is a story with a beginning, middle and end told in the comic book style.  It's bound like a book and sold in a bookstore, not a newsstand.  A good book to read to get a grasp on the whole medium is Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics.
In Prisoner for Liberty the main story is told in 40 pages; The Prison-Ship Adventures of James Forten tells it in 25.  Let's take a look at the first page of Prisoner for Liberty.
Now take a look at the graphic version.
Both books are quite appealing and as different as apples and oranges.  But are they?  They each present a compelling narrative about James Forten in an engaging, accessible, kid-friendly way.  I feel fortunate that young readers will be able choose how they want to read my story about this admirable man.


  1. Wow, thanks for posting this - it's such an interesting comparison. Not being a comic book person, I am drawn to the text - I like how it unfolds in a linear fashion. But I can see where the graphic novel would appeal visually to those who grew up with the visual "busy-ness" of the computer. Congrats on being able to offer both.

    And its fascinating that it was reformatted without you having to rewrite it!

  2. Thanks, Moira. I would love to have adapted the book myself. It's akin to screenwriting or playwriting—something I know you do proficiently.

  3. Of course I am biased, but honestly both are nice.

  4. Craig, your wonderful art is number one with me!

  5. I have 3 or 4 of my books turned in graphic novels and you're right--the easiest books we ever wrote! It's amazing how well these stories adapt to that format.