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Adapting The Giver: A Framework for Scholars and Educators When Considering Graphic Novel Adaptation


This essay offers a framework for scholars and educators to use when considering graphic novel adaptations that is exemplified by a close-reading of P. Craig Russell’s 2019 graphic novel adaptation of Lois Lowry’s The Giver. I apply comic book and adaptation theories to argue that Russell’s adaptation refocuses the narrative from the novel’s philosophical societal questions toward a heartfelt emotional core: what can two people who care about each other do to help a community that has been lost? Russell shifts focus from the cerebral to the emotional by leveraging a limited color palette and a color braid throughout the text to deepen the relationship between Jonas and The Giver. The limited color palette allows Russell to comment editorially throughout the narrative. His graphic novel adaptation shifts focus to emphasize reflection, relationships, and emotions.

While students love graphic novels, teachers are often at a loss as to how to utilize them in a classroom. Drawing on picture book and comic book code and adaptation theory, my work provides a framework for teaching graphic narrative in the classroom to support teachers in the inclusion of graphic narrative into the curriculum.

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  1. While in some scholarship, this character’s name is written as “the Giver,” I use “The Giver” because Lowry capitalizes it this way in the novel.

  2. McCloud’s Understanding Comics delivers comic book code and theory with a dynamic interplay between panels, illustrations, and text. The quotations from this book appear in his text in italics and bold, but I have chosen to omit them due to the challenges of capturing graphic narrative in traditional prose.

  3. While it was originally published as a stand-alone novel, The Giver is now the first in a series titled The Giver Quartet. The Giver, published in 1993, is followed by Gathering Blue, published in 2000, Messenger, published in 2003, and Son, published in 2012.


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Correspondence to Rachael Cox.

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Cox, R. Adapting The Giver: A Framework for Scholars and Educators When Considering Graphic Novel Adaptation. Child Lit Educ (2022).

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  • Graphic Novels
  • Picturebook Code
  • Adaptation
  • Ambiguity
  • Braiding