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Strange Fruit. Volume 1

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Title: Strange Fruit. Volume 1, Uncelebrated Narratives From Black History
Author: Joel Christian Gill
Illustrator: Joel Christian Gill
Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing
Publication Date: June 3, 2014

Strange Fruit, Volume I is a collection of short stories about uncelebrated African American heroes. They’re stories that readers won’t often find in the typical history books, but each story is certainly worthy. Among the stories are: Henry “Box” Brown, who escaped from slavery by mailing himself to Philadelphia; Theophilus Thompson, first black chess master; and Bass Reeves, deputy US Marshall of the Old West.

This graphic novel is definitely a unique gem. It has something for people of every age, but will make an excellent teaching tool for a younger audience. The author doesn’t shy away from the heavy topics of racism, but he goes about presenting them in ways that make this a safe space for discussion. Racial epithets are represented by images in place of the words and the hostility of Jim Crow laws are brought to life in the form of actual crows instead of an angry mob. There is much to be read into the illustrations that Gill has created. Also be sure to keep an eye out for a Harry Potter reference! The end includes a “Did You Know” section with more facts about each story as well as a bibliography that lists sources for each individual story. The one downside is that this collection is lacking female heroes. Hopefully a Volume II with rectify this. Overall, definitely a must have for libraries and a book for teachers to strongly consider using during Black History Month lessons. While one book can’t fill in the voices that have been mostly overlooked by history, this one is a great start and is sure to inspire readers to believe that they too are capable of great things.

Also consider pairing with this Strange Fruit Lyric Analyzing lesson for grade 6-12, as this Billie Holiday song is discussed in the graphic novel’s Foreword.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood

Thursday, September 4th, 2014


Title: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood
Author: Nathan Hale
Illustrator:  Nathan Hale
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: May 13, 2014

Spy Nathan Hale, the Provost, and the Hangman are back in book four of the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series to give an overview of the events of World War I. Staying true to the past installments, it presents a very heavy topic with the perfect blend of humor and gravity. Each country is represented by a different animal (often times coinciding with the country’s national animal), but at key points in the narrative characters are drawn as human to remind readers that these are events that actually took place. It also illuminates how destructive and world changing emerging technologies were as soldiers entered the war on horseback and left it in tanks. Mapping out and explaining the events of WWI is a massive undertaking and Hale does an excellent job. This story is not meant to be a final stop in learning about WWI, but a beginning to give readers a context for other aspects of the war.

The Amulet Books Graphic Novel Teaching Guide has multiple ideas for how to use this graphic novel across curriculum as well as how reading it can be used to fulfill common core standards. 

Comics and the Common Core

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Amie Wright of the New York Public Library shows just how well comics and common core go hand in hand in this PowerPoint.

Comics and the Common Core: New York Comic Con 2013 from Amie Wright

Graphic Novels in the Classroom: Book Report Alternative

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Looking for an alternative to the standard book report to get students more invested in the stories that they are reading? Try this lesson provided by Lisa Storm Fink, the Project Manager for ReadWriteThink. In this lesson, students use a six-paneled comic strip to create a story map, summarizing a book or short story that they’ve read. The story strips that result provide a great way to evaluate student’s understanding of important events and elements in a novel.

A full lesson plan and the CCS that are fulfilled by the project can be found here.

March: Book Two

Friday, July 18th, 2014

The cover for March Book Two has been revealed by Top Shelf Productions! Slated for an early 2015 release, the sequel to John Lewis’ bestselling graphic novel will be significantly longer than book one, covering events from 1961-1963. The memoir will contain the famous journey of the Freedom Riders and John Lewis’ involvement in helping plan and lead the 1963 March on Washington (both of which are depicted on the cover).

For more information visit the publisher’s website.