Defining the Picture Book

How to read manga

Manga is a style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels. They are sold readily at bookstores that also sell American comics. Manga is read opposite of the way we read American comics, many first time readers find it confusing. These Japanese comics might be stylized and read differently due to the way japan reads and writes but there is no defined way to read a comic.

What It Is by Lynda Barry is a type of graphic novel laid out more like a notebook than anything else. There are doodles around and in the margins, the text is hand written in comic bubbles or tiny note areas. The book is all over the place in terms of topics and includes lessons in the back to help the user increase their creativity. Barry’s book is very against the norm of what we think of when referencing a comic or regular book. It could be considered its own form of art, but for some reason it falls under the comic book section. Where is the line that divides picture books from comics? At what point does an illustrated book become a comic? If there are two pictures on one page? Four?

What It Is


I think the line that divides the differences between certain genres goes from white and black to grey. When referencing manga, the reader knows it by its distinct style and more often than not the “backwards” reading. When reading an illustrated book, it’s often categorized as a children’s book. If a picture book becomes geared towards an older audience, it could be considered a piece fine art or graphic novel. Barry’s book is a mixed between a picture book and a graphic novel, it remains categorized as more of an older book. Maybe as an audience we need more categories to define works of art such as Barry’s, I don’t believe it falls strictly under the graphic novel category and deserves to be referenced as something else truer to its form.