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Manga Classics: Les Miserables

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Title: Les Miserables
Adapted by: Crystal Silvermoon
Illustrator: SunNeko Lee
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Publication Date: August 19, 2014

Les Miserables is a story that has been adapted many different times and in various formats. The novel itself is quite the beast of a story, coming in at almost 1,500 pages. It’s a classic and moving story of love and tragedy set in 19th century France, but it can be difficult to wade through. Given the choice between even an abridged copy and other options on a reading list, high school students are more than likely going to pass up digging into this classic. By adapting Les Miserables to manga form, it opens the original story up to even more readers while remaining true to the heart of Victor Hugo’s novel with the complexities of right and wrong, justice, and human nature. While the account of the riots that took place after General Lamarque’s death are fictionalized–just as they are in the source material–there is a definite attempt to capture the feeling and setting of France and the history of the French Revolution.

As with any adaptation, some things have been omitted and order of events tweaked to fit the new format, but that lends itself to examining stories through a different lens. Pair the manga scenes with the matching passages from the book and scenes from movie adaptations for an activity on how information is presented through different medias.

The Manga Classics series includes Pride and Prejudice and the forthcoming titles Great Expectations, Emma, and The Scarlet Letter.

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.

Super Indian Volume 1

Friday, July 4th, 2014

Title: Super Indian Volume 1

Author: Arigon Starr

Illustrator: Arigon Starr

Publisher: Wacky Productions Unlimited

Publication Date: September 5, 2012

Hubert Logan was just a normal Reservation boy until he ate some commodity cheese contaminated with Rezium, a top secret government food enrichment additive. Given powers by the additive, he starts to live a double life as Super Indian, Reservation hero and crime fighter. With the help of his trusty sidekicks Mega Bear and Diogi, he battles the evil forces that would take over the Reservation.

This is a great comic! Educational and humorous. It has the superhero tropes that everyone is used to, but with a Native American spin. While Hubert Logan comes from the fictional Leaning Oak Tribe, the villains are the embodiment of real life social issues: the famous actor of dubious Native heritage, the PBS special’s favorite non-Native flute player, a robot who is commanded to change all the tribal members so they conform to the dominant culture. Even though the comic is full of social commentary, the topics are covered with humor and wit. There are some references that may be confusing, but Starr includes a glossary of terms to help explain some of them at the end of this collection of three stories. There are also great mini-biographies of real life “Super Indians” Maria Tallchief and Jim Thorpe in between the stories.

Even though this comic plays on the already established tropes of the superhero genre, it is different and refreshing as it gives the reader a completely different cultural backing. With talking dogs and over the top dialogue, this book will definitely appeal to a younger audience!

You can also find the webcomic here!

Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice

Friday, June 27th, 2014


Title: Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice

Author: Mike Maihack

Illustrator: Mike Maihack

Publisher: GRAPHIX

Publication Date: April 29, 2014

When a young Cleopatra (yes, that Cleopatra) is transported to the future, she learns of an ancient prophecy that says she will save the galaxy from Xaius Octavian. But it’s not all fun and games saving the universe. She also enrolls in Yasiro Academy. She finds most of the classes boring, but according to her teacher Khensu, they’ll teach her the skills she’ll need to fulfill her destiny.

This is a great book for those looking for something to read now that Zita the Spacegirl has come to an end. It’s definitely a book that will leave the reader wanting more. It could have used a little bit more substance story-wise, but with more books to come and the fun full-color illustrations of book one, it’s a great adventure read!

For those who may be on the fence about checking the title out, you can view a preview of the first 17 pages on the author’s website!