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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Graphic Novels

Graphic Storytelling

 

Fish GirlA good graphic novel should pose a mystery.

As it opens (last possible minute), the reader often has no clue what’s going on.

It’s often an unknown world, even if it looks like our world.

This isn’t that different than the opening of a conventional print book but, for some reason, people often react to graphic novels by telling me, “I can’t read them! I never know what’s going on.”

What is there about adding continual visuals that causes some otherwise avid readers to throw a graphic novel aside with such disfavor?

This question is an intriguing one for me. In our Chapter & Verse Book Club, we read at least one graphic novel each year, usually with an undercurrent of grumbling. I know which of our members won’t like the book, which of them won’t open the book, and which of them will do their best to like the book. Some will even love the book.

Why such a wide range of responses based on the visual aspect of the book? And the dialogue nature of the story?

I recently finished David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli’s Fish Girl. The opening is bewildering. What is going on? I find this satisfying.

When I finished, I turned immediately to re-read it, to figure out where I first figured it out. What were the clues? Were they visual or verbal or a combination of both? I’m not going to tell you, of course. That’s your reading journey. But I was particularly fond of the way in which Fish Girl (dare I say it?) unwinds.

As a long time fantasy reader, I’m familiar with stories in this segment of the genre. (I’m trying not to reveal too much so I’m purposefully not naming that segment.) 

About the  book, David Wiesner writes, “I tried several times to develop a picture book around these components (drawings of characters, scenes, and settings to go with an image of a house filled with water where fish are swimming) but the house full of fish turned out to be a complex image, suggesting stories too long and involved for the picture book format. The logical next step was to see it as a graphic novel.”

Many of the people who don’t care for graphic novels love picture books. Perhaps understanding graphic novels as a picture book for telling longer, more complex stories will help them appreciate this form more?

In Fish Girl, the watercolor-painted frames are clear and visually beautiful. The characters are well-delineated. The dialogue is involving. The mysteries lead the way. Why does this girl, who lives with fish and an octopus inside of a house filled with water, named Ocean Wonders, seem to be a prisoner? Why can’t she leave? Why does Neptune set so many rules? Are stories the true reason that Fish Girl stays in her prison?

Wiesner’s paintings provide focus in an involving way throughout the book. The ocean is brooding, beautiful, and beckoning. Fish Girl is lonely, a loneliness every reader will recognize. The expressions of loneliness, bewilderment, friendship, and longing are beguiling. When I consider how long it would take me to draw and paint just one of these frames and then look at how many frames are employed to tell this story, I could well imagine that David Wiesner has been working on this book for five years. I wonder what the truth of that is? 

It’s a book that many readers, young and old, will enjoy. I believe it would be a good read-aloud if all listeners can see the book and help turn the pages. Fish Girl is highly recommended. And I will keep looking for graphic novels that will convert even their most reluctant readers!

Fish Girl
David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli
Clarion Books, March 7, 2017
(I read an Advanced Reader’s Copy.)
ISBN 978-0-544-81512-4 $25 hardcover
ISBN 978-0-547-48393-1 $18 paperback

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Middle Kingdom: Denver, Colorado

The books that most delight middle school and junior high readers often straddle a “Middle Kingdom” ranging from upper middle grade to YA. Each month, Bookology columnist Lisa Bullard will visit the Middle Kingdom by viewing it through the eyes of a teacher or librarian. Bookology is delighted to celebrate the work of these educators who have built vital book encampments in the transitional territory of early adolescence.

This month we’re visiting Denver Academy in Denver, Colorado, where Lisa talks with librarian Jolene Gutiérrez.

Lisa: What are three to five things our blog readers should know about your community, school, or library/media center?

Jolene GutierrezJolene: I’m the librarian at Denver Academy, a school for diverse learners from elementary through high school.

  • Our school is located on 22 acres and we use the campus as a learning tool, from studying wildlife in our small pond to working out math problems in chalk on our sidewalks.
  • Our campus started as a tuberculosis hospital in the early 1900s, so we have some beautiful historic buildings, including the Chapel where my main library is housed (I also run a small High School Media Center in another building). The Chapel is 90 years old this year and is designated as an historic landmark in the city of Denver. We’re working on a grant application that will help us to preserve and restore certain parts of the building, including the copper cupola and the zinc-camed windows. I’ve done a lot of research over the past few years and have pulled that information together into a website that my students use to create presentations and tours of the Chapel for their parents.

Denver Academy Chapel

  • Our school is comprised of diverse learners, which can mean lots of things. Some of our students are diagnosed with things like dyslexia or ADHD, and some have no diagnoses but do better with smaller class sizes. Either way, many of our students have struggled before coming to Denver Academy, and I think that their struggles and some of the pain they’ve experienced make them some of the most compassionate, respectful kids I’ve ever met. There’s very little bullying on our campus because most of the students know the pain of being bullied or feeling “less than,” and they don’t want others to feel that way.
  • Our students are some of the most creative people I’ve ever met. All of our students are brilliant, and that brilliance includes phenomenal artists, gifted musicians, creative writers, and wonderful actors. Many of our alumni have gone on to make a living as actors, sculptors, and musicians.
  • Some people say our library and other parts of our campus are haunted. A group of our teachers lead a “Haunted Denver” class each year, and the ambiance of our Chapel library coupled with those ghost tales have inspired many student movies and stories.

Denver Academy

Lisa: What recent changes or new elements are affecting the work you do with students?

Jolene: I started working in my library over 20 years ago when we weren’t automated and I was writing out overdue notices by hand. The technological changes in the last 20 years have transformed both the way I manage my library and the skills my students need to have when they graduate from our school. I do my best to keep up with teaching them what they need to know today as well as giving them the critical thinking skills they’ll need in the future (because I have no idea where we’ll be in another 20 years)!

Lisa: What five books (or series) are checked out most often by your middle school students?

Jolene: Dystopian fiction (especially that which has been made into movies like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and The 5th Wave) has been very popular this year, as have books by authors who’ve visited our school recently, including Avi’s Old Wolf and Bobbie Pyron’s books Lucky Strike and The Dogs of Winter. And I know that’s six books, but I became a librarian because I like words better than numbers.

Denver Academy is reading

Lisa: What book(s) do you personally love to place into middle school students’ hands?

Jolene: No specific titles; just the right book for each kid, including books that students love because they make the task of reading a little easier to tackle:

  • Graphic novels are great for kids who have a tough time visualizing as they read because the pictures are pre-supplied. I also suggest graphic novels for the students who always ask for the novelizations of movies or books that movies are based on—these students may have issues with visualizing and picturing things and might want to read about something that they’ve seen visually, like a movie. Movies are CliffsNotes for kids who struggle with visualization, and they often want to read something they’ve already seen because they now have the images that go with the story.
  • Choose Your Own Adventure and similar books are wonderful for reluctant readers because they get to feel like they’re cheating at reading (so are graphic novels and nonfiction books with lots of photos). Now that there are so many CYOA-ish book series out there, students can find both nonfiction and fiction books, and when I show students that they can skip around and not really read the entire book, they get really excited and a lot of them actually end up reading most of the book because they try to get a positive ending to their story.
  • Series books give anxious students the answer to “What do I read next?” and help them to grow as a reader as they work their way through each book in the series.
  • Audio books and/or large print books allow students who struggle with print other options for accessing books. If students have a learning difference, they can work on growing their reading and comprehension skills in a less intimidating manner with these resources.

Lisa: If you had a new staffer starting tomorrow, what piece of advice would you be sure to give them?

Jolene: Some of our students don’t love books or reading, and that’s okay. We’re here to help them at least learn to like libraries and trust librarians. Teaching students to access libraries teaches them a life skill. And once students begin to trust you, they may become more open to exploring books with you. There’s nothing more fulfilling than finding the right book for a reluctant reader. Oftentimes, there is that one magical book that will unlock the world of reading for kids, and that is one of the most rewarding parts of being a librarian. If you can find that perfect book, you can help change a life forever.

Denver Academy

Lisa: What do you want your students to remember about your library in ten years?

Jolene: I want them to remember the magic of this space and the fun we’ve had here! I hope our library teaches students the joy of learning and books. I want our library to provide some warm fuzzy memories for students once they’re grown, and I hope my students’ good memories of their library will cause them to be lifelong library users.

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From the Editor

by Marsha Qualey

ph_catI made my professional entrance into the world of children’s books in the early 1990s when the first of my YA novels was published. One thing that has changed drastically since then is the increased media coverage; YA lit is an especially big show right now. While you still run across some vestigial articles of the “Should Adults Read Children’s Books” nature, gone are the days when a children’s book author would be dismissed out of hand as not being a real writer, especially by writers of literary fiction and poetry.

My response—most often delivered to unappreciative but patient cats but a few times when face to face with those writers—was always, “Well, where do you think your readers come from? Do you think readers don’t exist until they discover your writing?” #snap!

Okay… #sadsnap. 

Shadow HeroAnother thing that has changed is the prevalence of graphic novels in the classroom, libraries, and publishers’ catalogues. For the second time in its short history Bookology’s Bookstorm™ book is a graphic novel: Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew’s The Shadow Hero.

I’ve had the good fortune of working with Gene in a writing program for adults. He is a natural, brilliant teacher. I’ve observed die-hard novelists and poets emerge from one of his Writing a Graphic Novel workshops excited about this new storytelling form.

Of course it’s not really new, just new to us here in the mainstream US book world. Wouldn’t you love to go back in a time machine to a library conference in the 1940s or 50s and tell everyone about comics in the classroom? Can’t you just see the white gloves flying up to smother gasps or cover ears?

Later this month we will have interviews with both Gene and Sonny. Today we’re rolling out the Bookstorm™ and a couple of related features—storm cells, you might call them (and yes, it’s pouring as I write this.) We also have a thoughtful Knock Knock essay by author Lynne Jonell: “Justice in Another World.” Skinny Dip interviews and our regular columns will of course appear throughout this week and weeks to come.

Enjoy—and thank you for stopping by.

 

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Bookstorm: The Shadow Hero

Bookstorm-Shadow-Hero-Diagram-655px

In this Bookstorm™:

Shadow HeroShadow Hero

written by Gene Luen Yang
illustrated by Sonny Liew
First Second, 2014

As we become a culture adapted to screens, visuals, and moving pictures, we grow more accustomed to the storytelling form of the graphic novel. For some, their comfort with this combination of visuals and text telling a story satisfies a craving to “see” the story while they’re reading. For others, the lack of descriptive detail and measured, linear momentum through the story feels like a barrier to understanding. With the variety of graphic novels available and the inventive ways in which they’re assembled, we encourage you to keep trying. Find a story that intrigues you and persevere … we believe you’ll grow accustomed to this form. In time, you’ll add graphic novels to the depth of offerings you eagerly recommend to students, patrons, and friends.

We selected Shadow Hero for our featured book this month because the superhero has been present in comics since the early 1900s and current films and television have reawakened an interest among children that we believe can easily transport them into reading. Yang and Liew have given a back story to a superhero, The Green Turtle, originally created by talented comic book artist (and fine artist) Chu Fook Hing in the 1940s. There’s plenty of action, humor, mystery, and suspense in this new book … all the right ingredients for the best reading.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. For Shadow Hero, you’ll find books for a variety of tastes, interests, and reading abilities. Shadow Hero will be comfortably read by ages 10 through adult. We’ve included picture books, novels, and nonfiction for the plethora of purposes you might have.

Graphic Novels About Superheroes. With the popularity of The Avengers and X-Men, Iron Man and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there are a number of graphic novels about superheroes available for different ages. Some have mature content. Many are accessible for younger readers. Whether or not they’re wearing capes, superheroes are appealing because of the possibilities.

Graphic Novels About Mythology. The Green Turtle is a part of Chinese mythology. We hear a lot about Greek and Roman mythology, but there are compelling myths around the world. Graphic novels make those traditions and stories available to readers who might have trouble with straight text.

Fiction about Superheroes. Longer texts, without illustrations, often hold as much attraction for comic book readers if the stories are engaging. And there are picture books that are just right for the readers who are too young for graphic novels but have the interest.

Comic Books, Nonfiction. Whether it’s learning how two boys came to invent Superman, the superhero from Krypton, or examining infographics and statistics, or listening to a podcast with Gene Luen Yang on public radio about his inspiration, The Green Turtle, there’s a lot of research and learning to be done with superheroes.

Drawing. For those kinetic and visual learners, telling a story through drawing, populating a page with characterization and setting and voice is a way to use comic book art for developing writing skills.

Chinese History. There are many, many books, some of them quite scholarly, about Chinese history. We’ve selected just two, both of which are also visual histories.

Chinese Art. China is such a large country, with a civilization that is thousands of years old, that these books organize the information in order to present the diversity of arts in a way that makes sense.

Chinese Immigration. There are fine books about the immigration of Chinese and Asian Pacific people to America, the Golden Mountain. We’ve selected a few, from picture books to novels to memoir. 

Chinese Food. Readers learn a great deal about different cultures from the food they eat, their traditions for preparing food, and the ways they share it with their community. We’ve found cookbooks for both learning and eating, for adults and for children.

Chinese Geography. It always helps to have a good map to reinforce the visual knowledge of a country. You’ll find suggestions for maps, downloads, photos, and facts about this large country in Asia.

Techniques for using each book:

Downloadables

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Graphic Novels: A source of inspiration and mentor texts

by Maurna Rome

Slacker illustrationFlashback to the first week of school … we were passing the microphone around our large circle of 29 third-graders. It was easy to see that many students were shy and nervous, but one young man was apparently looking for some shock value. He began with “My name is Michael” then nonchalantly added, ”I’m a slacker.” Huh? Most of the class mumbled and murmured about that intro. Many were obviously not familiar with this unique adjective.

I made note of the kid’s attitude and advanced vocabulary, and put him at the top of my list for a one-to-one reading conference. A few days later, I discovered that Michael devours books, has excellent comprehension and is actually a very motivated reader. He became quite animated when telling me all about Greg, the main character from Diary of a Wimpy Kid (who no doubt was Michael’s current role model). In the weeks to come, my classic under-achiever proudly and often proclaimed to his peers how much he enjoyed being lazy. I was determined to help Michael find a new identity by figuring out how to tap into his obvious love of reading.

cover imageThanks to an insightful book called Of Primary Importance by Anne Marie Corgill (Stenhouse, 2008), I am committed to immersing my students in authentic literacy learning. Publishing “real” hard cover books in my 1st grade classroom proved to be a successful strategy. However, now that I was beginning my first year in a 3rd grade classroom, I knew I needed to change things up a bit. Finding the best mentor texts and simply getting kids to want to read voraciously was the first order of business.

I quickly learned that this group of 8- and 9-year-olds could be reeled in by reading graphic novels. Since our classroom inventory of graphic novels mainly consisted of Squish, Bone, and Lunch Lady, I did some research and over the next few months added more titles to our classroom library. Baby Mouse, Zita the Spacegirl, Cardboard, Knights of the Lunch Table, The Lightening Thief, and Sea of Monsters (graphic novel versions) became all the rage. Library checkout of high demand titles has included Amulet, Smile, Sisters, and all of the titles from our classroom collection, since they are limited in number.

cover imageI’ve learned that a powerful approach to motivating kids to read is to be selective when suggesting a new book to students. Sometimes, I share whole-class “book talks” but, more often, I pull a student aside and confide that I thought of him (or her) the minute I turned the first page. I am sincere when I say that I am interested in his opinion, and would really appreciate hearing if he would recommend the book after reading it. Kids care much more about what their peers are saying or thinking, so it makes sense to drum up business for specific book titles in this way.

Giving kids access to what they want to read and finding ample time for independent reading during the school day (usually 30-40 minutes daily) was just the first half of my strategy to convert my smug slacker and inspire the rest of the class as well. The discovery of blank comic books on the Bare Books website ($15 for 25 books, just 60 cents each); was the golden ticket. Offering choice and no judgment (or at least very little) about what kids are reading combined with encouragement to explore their own interests in writing, became the perfect combination.

Kids were eager to create their own version of graphic novels and soon, our classroom library grew to include such interesting titles as The Day Lady Liberty Came to Life and Bacon Man and Pig Guy, both of which became series, each with 5 volumes! The adventures continued with a line-up of Pigeon titles; Don’t Let the Pigeon Ride a Unicorn and Don’t Let the Pigeon Play Five Nights at Freddy’s along with a fun and frolicking set of books entitled Party in the USA!

Here is one of the graphic novels created in the class, Bacon Man and Pig Guy, by Ian Clark.
Click on the four-headed arrow symbol to view in full screen mode.

No flipbook found!

 

Students in my class are encouraged to use literacy choice time to continue reading or writing independently, with a partner or a collaborative group. This type of peer modeling and mentoring has led to an explosion of self-published graphic novels and short stories in 3MR. Kids actually cheer when I announce that we will have time to write in both the morning and afternoon. They are “publishing” their own graphic novel series, asking each other to write reviews of their books and they are waiting patiently for their turn to read a classmate’s latest offering. Best of all, they are signing up in droves to do a “Book Share” on Fridays, a new addition to our “Book Talk, Book Shop, Book Swap” Friday activities (see my previous article on that topic!).  

cover imageFast forward to the end of December. Students were once again introducing themselves, this time to a visitor in our classroom. However, when it was time for my “slacker” to take center stage, he offered this: “Hi, my name is Michael and I’m a cartoonist.” My heart did somersaults! To really seal the deal, this same student recently approached me with a delightful idea. Taking the lead from our “Cardboard L.I.T. Club” – an afterschool book club designed to Link Imagination Text, he proposed a “Cartooning L.I.F.T. Club”, adding “F” for FUN to the acronym! This one-time slacker had actually jotted down all the information needed for the invitational flyer, complete with a catchy explanation about the club’s purpose, a schedule, and contest ideas. Despite the craziness of the last few weeks of the school year, how could I say no? 20 aspiring “Cartooning L.I.F.T. Club” members will be diving into our newest mentor text, Adventures in Cartooning, for three after-school sessions in May.

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Bookstorm: Lowriders in Space

Bookstorm: Lowriders in Space

In this Bookstorm™:

Lowriders in SpaceLowriders in Space

written by Cathy Camper
illustrated by Raul the Third
published by Chronicle Books, 2014

“Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria love working with cars. You name it, they can fix it. But the team’s favorite cars of all are lowriders—cars that hip and hop, dip and drop, go low and slow, bajito y suavecito. The stars align when a contest for the best car around offers a prize of a trunkful of cash—just what the team needs to open their own shop! ¡Ay chihuahua! What will it take to transform a junker into the best car in the universe? Striking, unparalleled art from debut illustrator Raul the Third recalls ballpoint-pen-and-Sharpie desk-drawn doodles, while the story is sketched with Spanish, inked with science facts, and colored with true friendship. With a glossary at the back to provide definitions for Spanish and science terms, this delightful book will educate and entertain in equal measure.”

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book, Lowriders in Space. You’ll find books for a variety of tastes, interests, and reading abilities.

Car Mechanics. An assortment of books offering details and infographics about how cars work and how to build a car, suitable from primary to middle school.

Drawing Cars. A lot of learning takes place when you draw a car. A reader thinks deeply about how the car works, how the parts inter-relate, and you are tempted to look up the details to verify that you’re getting it right.  

Graphic Novels. There’s a rich history of space exploration and science fiction in graphic novels. We include a few stellar (ahem) examples that are sure to intrigue your readers. 

Lowriders. The lowrider culture and the artistic, mechanically-inventive cars are an intrinsic part of life in some parts of the US. You’ll find websites and books that explain more.  

Novels. Science fiction for young readers isn’t plentiful, but there are excellent books in this genre. Our recommendations include a classic and several new books. 

Outer Space. For some readers, the facts about outer space are paramount. Books with an overview, sticker books, up-to-date books about what we currently understand … these will interest those truth-seekers.

Picture Books. Cars and stars are favorite subjects for picture book authors and illustrators. You’ll want to discuss some of these in your classroom and offer suggestions for others as books for independent reading.

Science. Studying the skies is a lifetime of work for many scientists, and their fields of endeavor are broad and touch upon other areas of science. Their discoveries change lives. From books looking at the constellations to those answering science questions, we recommend a few gems to get you thinking.

Women Changing the World. Dolores Huerta, Sonia Sotomayor, Rad American Women A-Z … Lupe Impala is inspirational. She will naturally lead to questions about other women who have set their sites on the stars.

Techniques for using each book:

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Return of Zita the Spacegirl

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Ben Hatke can’t conceive of, write, and draw these stories fast enough for me—and a host of other fans. Just released, this book follows Zita the Spacegirl (2010) and Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (2012). Doing the math, I know I won’t be reading the next installment until 2016. Whahhh. I’ve read so many stories […]

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My New Hero

I am a fan of superhero comics. After reading about talking ducks, precocious teens at Riverdale High, and an equally precocious rich kid, I wanted something with a real story, not a situation. I wasn’t allowed to buy comic books, so I had to rely on the kindness of cousins. Whatever I could scrounge up […]

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A matter of character

I enjoy so many types of books, marveling that a writer or comic artist or architect or journalist or cook or explorer thought long and studied hard and wrote and revised and gave countless hours to the creation of their book. After all, how do you count the hours a book’s author spends dreaming, observing, […]

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