A graphic novel is a narrative that is illustrated in sequential art form. It is like a comic book but longer. Panels contain illustrations and text which generally appear in bubbles or balloons. You start reading from the top left panel and proceed to the right. When you are done reading the entire panel you proceed to the panel on the next row and continue reading from left to right. Follow this sequence for every page of the book.
Graphic novels are not limited to one genre; they include fiction, non-fiction, sicence fiction and fantasy, murder/mystery, humor, history, biography, documentary, travelogues, memoirs, and journalistic reporting. They come in different shapes and sizes, from miniscule to gigantic. Some are short, some may run to thousands of pages or stretch to multiple volumes. Graphic novels are not limited to just pictures and illustrations; some may contain photos and 3D models.
Graphic novels have now become a respected art form. Many colleges and universitites offer courses in comic books and graphic novels. This guide was created specifically for the American Experience and Literature class at Southern Connecticut State University.
For a more detailed description of what a graphic novel is, read this excellent introduction by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden at http://dw-wp.com/resources/what-is-a-graphic-novel/