I just finished reading two titles, Wagon Train Adventure and The Spy-Catcher Gang, both by John Kelly (2008) in the DK Graphic Readers series. The are classified by DK as Level 4 books for proficient readers.
I was disappointed in them both for several reasons. Graphic novels can be a great way to impart information in an engaging format. (see my earlier post on the 9/11 Commission Report)
A good graphic novel should rely on dialogue and illustrations. These titles are lacking in dialogue, and rely heavily on narration. In one scene of a near calamity on the wagon train trail to California, in two pages of illustrations, the dialogue consists only of "Arghh!" "This is Charles' fault!" and "Leave it, Max!" The illustrations are dreary and uninspired. Additionally, the stories themselves, do not contain crucial information necessary to truly comprehend the story of the pioneer wagon trains or the London Blitz. The most important information was not woven into the stories, rather it appears in a small print appendix or in barely visible (black letters on a blue, one-quarter inch footer) Did You Know? section at the bottom of each page.
Graphic novels certainly are a great tool for teaching or learning history. These DK Readers, however, are not up to the task.