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Black History Month

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

February is right around the corner, which brings with it Black History Month. In celebration be sure to check out these graphic novel titles!

March Book One by John Lewis:

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights (including his key roles in the historic 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March), meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. In March, a true American icon teams up with one of America’s most acclaimed graphic novelists. Together, they bring to life one of our nation’s most historic moments, a period both shameful and inspiring, and a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.


March Book Two by John Lewis:

Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, continues his award-winning graphic novel trilogy with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, inspired by a 1950s comic book that helped prepare his own generation to join the struggle. Now, March brings the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world. After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence - but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before. Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the young activists of the movement struggle with internal conflicts as well. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Strange Fruit. Volume 1, Uncelebrated Narratives From Black History by Joel Christian Gill:

Strange Fruit, Volume I is a collection of stories from African American history that exemplifies success in the face of great adversity. This unique graphic anthology offers historical and cultural commentary on nine uncelebrated heroes whose stories are not often found in history books. Among the stories included are: Henry “Box” Brown, who escaped from slavery by mailing himself to Philadelphia; Alexander Crummel and the Noyes Academy, the first integrated school in America, established in the 1830s; Marshall “Major” Taylor, a.k.a. the Black Cyclone, the first black champion in any sport; and Bass Reeves, the most successful lawman in the Old West. Written and illustrated by Joel Christian Gill, the diverse art beautifully captures the spirit of each remarkable individual and opens a window into an important part of American history. 

Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks:

From bestselling author Max Brooks, the riveting story of the highly decorated, barrier-breaking, historic black regiment–the Harlem Hellfighters. In 1919, the 369th infantry regiment marched home triumphantly from World War I. They had spent more time in combat than any other American unit, never losing a foot of ground to the enemy, or a man to capture, and winning countless decorations. Though they returned as heroes, this African American unit faced tremendous discrimination, even from their own government. The Harlem Hellfighters, as the Germans called them, fought courageously on–and off–the battlefield to make Europe, and America, safe for democracy.

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. 

Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling

Friday, June 13th, 2014


Title: Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling
Author: Sabrina Jones and Marc Mauer
Illustrator: Sabrina Jones
Publisher: The New Press
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Orange is the New Black returned for its second season last week Friday. For those who have already binge watched the entire season and are looking for something to fill the extra time while waiting for season three, look no further than this third iteration of Marc Mauer’s Race to Incarcerate. Using the format of sequential art, the information of the full length title is broken down to make it much more accessible to both teens and adults interested in learning more about incarceration in the United States. Race to Incarcerate was also included on YALSA’s list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens in 2014. It includes both factual information and a few personal narratives as it explores the effect race and class have on sentencing terms and rates of imprisonment. The panels lack clear lines which can make it a bit difficult to follow at times. The text and illustrations blur together and move in disjointed ways, requiring the reader to slow down and digest the facts that are being presented. It’s a little surprising that there are no references listed at the end of the book, but there are resources for those interested in donating books to prisons or becoming a pen-pal with a prisoner (minimum age for the pen-pal programs are all 18). With more than 2 million people imprisoned in the United States, producing the highest rate of incarceration in the world, this graphic novel explains how US prison systems have gotten where they are and also offers recommendations on what could be done make positive changes.

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection

Saturday, March 29th, 2014


Title: Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection
Editor:  Matt Dembicki
Publisher:  Fulcrum Publishing
This graphic novel collects 21 trickster tales from numerous Native American storytellers, giving voice to traditional tales from a wide range of nations. In order to maintain the authenticity of the stories, the storytellers chose from a pool of illustrators and worked with them to render their trickster tales. As mentioned in the note from the editor at the end of the collection: “The point wasn’t to westernize the stories for general consumption, but rather provide an opportunity to experience authentic Native American stories, even if it sometimes meant clashing with western vernacular.”
The only complaint to be had about this beautiful and diverse collection of tales is that the origins of the stories are hidden in the back of the book under the list of contributors. All the information you need is there, but it would have been nice to have the origins shared along with the stories. This book would make an excellent edition to a Native American unit.
Examples of common core standards this book can be used to help fulfill: 
  •  CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.2 Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.9 Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.7 Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China

Friday, January 3rd, 2014


Title: Little White Duck: A Childhood in China
Author: Andrés Vera Martíez and Na Liu
Illustrations:  Andrés Vera Martíez
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Da Qin-Big Piano-lives with her parents and younger sister, Xiao Qin-Little Piano-in Wuhan, China. Eight short stories (based on the author’s own life) give short snapshot-like peeks into what childhood was like in China between 1976-1980. The world that Da Qin and Xiao Qin grow up in is very different than that of their parents. Through Da Qin’s eyes, we are shown facets of the evolving China: the one child rule (which allows only one of the sisters to attend school), the affect the death of Chairman Mao had on Da Qin’s family and the country, the policy of the Four pests and how everyone must do their part to eliminate them (and how this very practice helped contribute to the Great Chinese Famine when sparrows were on the list). It also delves into the cultural history of China explaining the common practice of using nicknames instead of a person’s real name as well as the origins and meaning of the Chinese New Year.
Little White Duck flits from story to story without an overarching story-line, as a mind will do when recounting stories. It can be a bit jarring and stories often feel unfinished, but they offer a glimpse into China that is different from most common perceptions. This graphic novel is a perfect example of how the format can improve cultural literacy and help students to better understand other perspectives and cultures through reading. Each short story is full of cultural nuances, in both the text and images, that make this a richly educational read for middle grade students.