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Native Realities

Native Realities logoA lit­er­ary super­hero him­self and an indige­nous leg­endary com­ic cre­ator, a pro­po­nent of Native Pop Cul­ture, and cre­ator of a new Native pub­lish­ing ven­ture, I am excit­ed to intro­duce to you Dr. Lee Fran­cis IV and his pub­lish­ing house, Native Real­i­ties.

What kind of press is this? Think Comics, books, inter­ac­tive. Native Amer­i­can authors and artists. Think Indige­nous Com­ic Con.

This new pub­lish­ing house is an indige­nous imag­i­na­tion com­pa­ny ded­i­cat­ed to pro­duc­ing high qual­i­ty media that dra­mat­i­cal­ly changes the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of native and indige­nous peo­ple through pop­u­lar cul­ture.

Native Real­i­ties pub­lish­es books and comics fea­tur­ing super­hero tales of indige­nous icons, First Nations free­dom fight­ers, Abo­rig­i­nal astro­nauts, and Native Amer­i­can super­heroes. In addi­tion to edit­ing and con­tribut­ing a sto­ry to the graph­ic anthol­o­gy Tales of the Mighty Code Talk­ers, Dr. Lee Fran­cis is the author of the comics Sixkiller, Native Entre­pre­neurs, and the upcom­ing Moon­shot Vol.3.

Native Realities books

Dr. Lee Francis IV

Dr. Lee Fran­cis IV

Dr. Lee Fran­cis is also the founder of Indige­nous Com­ic Con, now a nation-wide event that was held this sum­mer in Den­ver, Col­orado, and will be in Albu­querque in March 2020.  Indige­nous Com­ic Con high­lights and cel­e­brates the imag­i­na­tive new pop-lit­er­a­ture being cre­at­ed by young Native artists and authors. Lit­er­a­ture pre­sent­ed in comics is acces­si­ble, fun, sur­pris­ing, and chal­lenges past stereo­typ­ing. Native Real­i­ties has brought the indige­nous expe­ri­ence to the world of pop­u­lar cul­ture and to read­ers of all ages.

Dr. Lee Fran­cis IV was born in Vir­ginia as an only child, from a remark­able fam­i­ly, who were and con­tin­ue to be lead­ers and activists in pol­i­tics, cul­ture, and lit­er­ary arts. Lee’s father, Elias Lee Fran­cis III, was the founder of the Word­craft Cir­cle of Native Writ­ers and Sto­ry­tellers. Lee’s grand­moth­er, Ethel Haines, was of Lagu­na Pueblo / Anishi­naabe and Scot­tish descent. His aunt, Paula Gunn Allen, was a schol­ar of both Eng­lish and Amer­i­can Indi­an lit­er­a­ture, a pro­fes­sor at UCLA, and one of the fore­most voic­es in Native Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture. And Leslie Mar­mon Silko is Lee’s Lagu­na cousin. 

Dr. Lee Fran­cis IV car­ries on the spir­it of his fam­i­ly in many ways, espe­cial­ly inno­v­a­tive ways that speak to young read­ers. I was for­tu­nate to meet with Lee at Red Plan­et Books and Comics in Albu­querque and ask him a few ques­tions:

What was the pas­sion that gave you the courage to form a brand new press?

The pas­sion was real­ly about my stu­dents. I want­ed them to have dynam­ic and pos­i­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Native peo­ple in the media they were engag­ing in. I want­ed them to see them­selves in the comics they were read­ing. I want­ed to cul­ti­vate their imag­i­na­tions and I was tired of wait­ing around for some one else to do it. So I start­ed pub­lish­ing.

What is most reward­ing about being a pub­lish­er? 

Being able to explore top­ics and ideas no one else is writ­ing about. Being able to see a fin­ished prod­uct, to hold it in my hands, to see some­one else tak­ing a copy home for their own library. Most reward­ing, indeed!

What are your chal­lenges as a pub­lish­er? 

Always dis­tri­b­u­tion. As Native folks, we are incred­i­bly cre­ative but there are still gate­keep­ers that con­trol access to the mar­ket.  

What are your visions and hopes for the future of your press?  

More books, more pub­li­ca­tions. We’d like to branch into toys and espe­cial­ly more games — table­top and role­play­ing!

 Who do you hope is read­ing and talk­ing about your books? 

Real­ly, every­one! Oprah? Oba­ma? Influ­encers of every sort? LOL. But seri­ous­ly, my hope is always that Native kid­dos and Native fam­i­lies are read­ing and talk­ing about our books and how they have impact­ed them in a pos­i­tive way. (But Oprah would be very cool.)

Tell us about a few of your recent pub­li­ca­tions and why they are unique.  

Deer WomanDeer Woman: An Anthol­o­gy is the only graph­ic anthol­o­gy com­plete­ly cre­at­ed by Native women. Native Entre­pre­neurs is a fun com­ic and entre­pre­neur work­book rolled into one. Ghost Riv­er (Decem­ber 1 release) is an incred­i­ble his­to­ry and teach­ing graph­ic nov­el about the mas­sacre of the Con­esto­ga peo­ple in Penn­syl­va­nia. Very proud of all the things we have worked on over the years.

How does one order books from Native Real­i­ties? 

You can find all our books as well as many more through Red Plan­et Books and Comics.We have lots of great titles and have begun to focus on dis­trib­ut­ing Native-cen­tric, Native-authored con­tent (books and comics) for insti­tu­tions.

For fur­ther read­ing, enjoy Cyn­thia Leitich Smith’s inter­view with Dr. Lee Fran­cis IV

or “The Stan Lee of Indi­an Coun­try: Comics Pub­lish­er Dr. Lee Fran­cis,” pub­lished by Indi­an Coun­try Today.

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Dogman© Unleashed

Encour­age kids to be cre­ative with­out wor­ry­ing about being per­fect.

—Dav Pilkey

 At the start of the fall pro­gram sea­son, I asked our youngest patrons what pro­grams they would like the library to offer. I heard a child yell out, “DOGMAN”! I smiled and I told him that was a great idea. Dog­man© is a graph­ic nov­el series writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Dav Pilkey that tells the sto­ry of George and Harold’s new­ly cre­at­ed hero of jus­tice. Dog­man© is part dog, part man, sniff­ing out crime to save the world.  The series is hilar­i­ous and it helps read­ers learn the impor­tance of empa­thy and hav­ing con­fi­dence. We launched our first Dog­man© pro­gram on Wednes­day, Sep­tem­ber 4, 2019. The fol­low­ing pro­vides the objec­tive and steps you can take to cre­ate your own pro­gram.

Dav Pilkey books

Vis­it Dav Pilkey’s web­site for a full list of book titles and series.

Pro­gram Objec­tive:  Our Dog­man© pro­gram pro­vides chil­dren the oppor­tu­ni­ty to read the sto­ry aloud with oth­er fans and to design and cre­ate their own graph­ic nov­el based on the series. Cur­rent­ly, the pro­gram occurs once a month and lasts between 1 to 1.5 hrs. It is geared for chil­dren in grades 2 to 4, but we wel­come all Dog­man© fans and those who are inter­est­ed.

DogmanSup­plies: Dog­man© books, com­put­ers, mark­ers, pen­cils, pens, LEGO© bricks, and plain paper.

Steps:

  1. Read Aloud: At the start of the pro­gram, have chil­dren read aloud to the group from one of the Dog­man© titles. Let them know that if they strug­gle with a word to ask for assis­tance. 
  1. Brain­storm: Encour­age the chil­dren to use Pilkey’s sto­ries as inspi­ra­tion for their sto­ry. Dur­ing this step, chil­dren will devel­op their char­ac­ters, choose a plot and set­ting. They can expand on one of Pilkey’s sto­ries or cre­ate an entire­ly new sto­ry. They can draw or sketch their ideas. I pro­vide LEGO© bricks as an option if they want to cre­ate 3D mod­els. It is impor­tant to let chil­dren know that per­fec­tion is not the key.  Encour­age them to have fun and explore their imag­i­na­tion.
  1. LEGO© Sto­ryS­tarter: LEGO© Sto­ryS­tarter is part of LEGO© Edu­ca­tion, pro­vid­ing a vari­ety of cre­ative writ­ing tem­plates for chil­dren to cre­ate, doc­u­ment, and share their sto­ries. It is a free down­load. After the brain­storm­ing stage, chil­dren will use the Sto­ryS­tarter pro­gram to for­mat their sto­ry and use LEGOs©, their draw­ings, or a free image web­site such as Pix­a­by for char­ac­ters and scenes.  They can upload every­thing to Sto­ryS­tarter and every­thing can be saved to a desk­top or flash dri­ve. View this video for more infor­ma­tion: LEGO Edu­ca­tion Sto­ryS­tarter Build­ing the Sto­ry.
  1. Print and Share: At the com­ple­tion of this pro­gram, print the sto­ries off and have chil­dren share them with the group. I plan to cre­ate a com­mu­ni­ty open-house where their sto­ries can be on dis­play for the pub­lic to read and enjoy.

Arti­cles Sup­port­ing the Impor­tance of Graph­ic Nov­els:

  1. 5 Great Rea­sons to Read Graph­ic Nov­els from Play­ful Learn­ing
  2. The Research Behind Graph­ic Nov­els and Young Learn­ers by Leslie Mor­ri­son
  3. The Case for Graph­ic Nov­els in Edu­ca­tion by Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion
  4. In Defense of Graph­ic Nov­els by Dr. Kathryn Strong Hansen

Mr. Z’s Graph­ic Nov­el Top Picks:

  1. Dog­man by Dav Pilkey
  2. Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
  3. Per­cy Jack­son series by Rick Rior­dan
  4. Smile by Raina Tel­ge­meier
  5. El Deafo by Cece Bell
  6. Bone by Jeff Smith
  7. Cora­line by Neil Gaiman
  8. Sand War­rior by Alex­is Siegel
  9. Lunch Lady by Jar­rett Krosocz­ka
  10. Roller Girl by Vic­to­ria Jamieson

Books to Gen­er­ate Ideas:

Dav Pilkey books

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Telling a Story the Hard Way

Space Dumplinsby Vic­ki Palmquist

I’ve just fin­ished read­ing the graph­ic nov­el Space Dumplins by Craig Thomp­son, with col­or by Dave Stew­art (Graphix, 2015). I am over­whelmed by the work that went into this book. First off, it’s an engross­ing, turn-the-page sto­ry with an appeal­ing cast of char­ac­ters. As read­ers, we care about what will hap­pen. That’s a good start.

Now, imag­ine that you are sit­ting down with a pen­cil to sketch one of the spreads in this book. Per­haps you’ve picked the pages where Vio­let, our hero­ine, first gets a look at SHELL-TAR, the inte­ri­or of the space sta­tion. You start by draw­ing the intri­ca­cies of the gleam­ing steam­punk time clock and then you draw all of the activ­i­ty going on inside the trans­par­ent trans­port tubes, large enough to accom­mo­date per­son­al space­ships. Next you fill in the many habi­tats, the glob­u­lar trees, the peo­ple at the beach. Then you insert our cast of char­ac­ters into the scene along with the robot­ic Chaper­drone (a babysit­ter). Whew. That’s a lot of draw­ing for two pages.

Of course, you’re pro­vid­ing this as a back­drop for the fast-paced sto­ry of three new friends, quick-wit­ted, learn­ing to work as a team, doing their best to save the peo­ple they love and their cor­ner of the uni­verse. You’ve already writ­ten the sto­ry, the script, and worked through the sur­pris­es that will delight your read­ers, mak­ing it a tight and believ­able hero’s jour­ney set in the Mucky Way.

Vio­let, Zac­cha­eus, and Eliot are unlike­ly heroes except that Vio­let has a wel­com­ing heart, a brave out­look on adven­ture, and an opti­mism as big as out­er space. She can see qual­i­ties in her new friends that they can’t see them­selves. Eliot, the chick­en, is stu­dious, intro­vert­ed, wide­ly read, and some­what psy­chic. Zac­cha­eus, the last of the Lump­kins (well, almost the last, because space whales ate his plan­et) is chaot­ic, impul­sive, and ready for a fight. All three of the friends are good at prob­lem-solv­ing, espe­cial­ly when they work togeth­er. The mil­i­tary can’t defeat the space whales: they can only clean up after them. It’s these three who fig­ure out the true heart of the prob­lem.

Craig Thompson Space Dumplins ballpoint

from Craig Thomp­son’s web­site, copy­right Craig Thomp­son

Once you’ve sketched all of this, applied ball­point pen, then brushed ink, you ask some­one else to col­or every­thing in.  Togeth­er, you’re cre­at­ing a book full of these sto­ry-telling images, rich­ly col­ored, high­ly detailed, and ulti­mate­ly believ­able as a look at life that’s real­ly hap­pen­ing some­where “out there.”

The rest of the main cast of char­ac­ters include Violet’s par­ents, the reformed felon Gar and the fash­ion design­er Cera, Gar’s fish­ing bud­dies Mr. Tin­der and crew, Cera’s boss at the Fash­ion Fac­to­ry, Mas­ter Adam Arnold, and the most inven­tive space vehi­cles I’ve ever seen. Every being (they’re not all human) in this book has a unique look. No cook­ie-cut­ter, repet­i­tive char­ac­ters to save on draw­ing time.

It’s a movie set on paper, except that you’ve had to con­ceive of, write, draw, and col­or every bit of it. There are no cam­eras and crew to bring your vision to life. Exhaust­ed yet?

Even the end­pa­pers are atten­tion-riv­et­ing. The con­stel­la­tions fill the skies of Space Dumplins and they often make an appear­ance, remind­ing us that we share the same space even though the set­ting feels alien and won­drous.

early concept

ear­ly con­cept of space­ship, copy­right Craig Thomp­son

You know those kids who are con­stant­ly doo­dling in class? They’ll love this book. And the kids who stay up long past their bed­times try­ing to fin­ish a chap­ter? They’ll love this book. And the kids who don’t know what to read next but they don’t want it to be bor­ing? Yup, they’re gonna love it. Space Dumplins reads like a TV series, a movie, a video game, and a sol­id, excit­ing sto­ry all between book cov­ers. Bril­liant.

Asides:

Be sure to notice the homage to a num­ber of cul­tur­al icons in this book. H.A. Rey’s The Con­stel­la­tions? Strange Brew? Space­balls? And the real Trike (it exists!).

Be sure to read Craig Thomp­son’s answers to Five Ques­tions on The Book Rat’s blog. You’ll find out how long it took him to cre­ate Space Dumplins.

For a look at what Craig Thomp­son is work­ing on and where he’s appear­ing, vis­it his web­site.

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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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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 “in my life and time,” pre­dict­ed the out­come of tele­vi­sion and movie plots with reg­u­lar­i­ty, that it’s a remark­able plea­sure when I don’t know what’s com­ing next.… more
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