Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Graphic Novels

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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Capers and Cons

When you (or your stu­dents) want a book that keeps you turn­ing the pages for your week­night and week­end read­ing, here are some sug­ges­tions for books with that nim­ble pac­ing and what-are-they-up-to plots. Many of them are just right for mid­dle grade or avid younger-than-that read­ers, with a cou­ple of teen titles added. (And, of course, all are suit­able for read­ing by adults.)

Adam Canfield of the Slash  

Adam Can­field of the Slash
writ­ten by Michael Winer­ip
Can­dlewick Press, 2005

This book is by turns fun­ny and seri­ous, but Adam Can­field is always inter­est­ed in dis­cov­er­ing the truth. Writ­ten by a New York Times colum­nist (on edu­ca­tion) who won a Pulitzer Prize, Winer­ip knows what his read­ers will find inter­est­ing. Adam reluc­tant­ly accepts the posi­tion of co-edi­tor of their school paper. He’s skep­ti­cal when a third-grad­er uncov­ers a pos­si­ble scan­dal. Adam and his co-edi­tor, Jen­nifer, take the sto­ry to the prin­ci­pal, who for­bids them to inves­ti­gate. Adam and Jen­nifer can’t help them­selves and they’re soon uncov­er­ing secrets.  Even though school papers are most­ly dig­i­tal now, this book will moti­vate read­ers to be truth seek­ers.

Con Academy  

Con Acad­e­my
writ­ten by Joe Schreiber
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2015

For teen read­ers: Senior Michael Shea has conned his way into one of the coun­try’s élite prep schools. He’s an old hand at cons, but he’s unpre­pared to meet Andrea, his com­pe­ti­tion. When the two of them set up a com­pe­ti­tion to con the school’s Big Man on Cam­pus out of $50,000, the stakes are high. One twist after anoth­er, a full crew of grifters brought in to effect the con … this book reads cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly and moves along quick­ly.

Eddie Red Undercover: Doom at Grant's Tomb  

Eddie Red Under­cov­er: Doom at Grant’s Tomb
writ­ten by Mar­cia Wells, illus­trat­ed by Mar­cos Calo
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2016

Hav­ing just fin­ished the third book in the series, I’m a fan of the youngest inves­ti­ga­tor work­ing for the NYPD. There’s a back sto­ry for that, of course, but Eddie has an eidet­ic mem­o­ry and a quick­sil­ver mind … he’s good at solv­ing crimes. The police are always reluc­tant to involve Eddie because he’s only 12 years old, but the kid’s good at what he does. In this install­ment, it appears that Eddie is being tar­get­ed for seri­ous con­se­quences by inter­na­tion­al art thieves whom he’s foiled before. The thieves are steal­ing valu­able items from well-known land­marks. Can Eddie psych them out before they catch up with him?

 

Framed!

 

Framed!
writ­ten by James Pon­ti
Aladdin, 2016

Jess Aarons has been prac­tic­ing all sum­mer so he can be the fastest run­ner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, out­paces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchant­ed land called Ter­abithia. One morn­ing, Leslie goes to Ter­abithia with­out Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his fam­i­ly and the strength that Leslie has giv­en him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.

Illyrian Adventure  

Illyr­i­an Adven­tures
writ­ten by Lloyd Alexan­der
Dut­ton Books, 1987

This is the first of six books about 16-year-old Ves­per Hol­ly who, in 1872, in the com­pa­ny of her guardian, Bin­nie, trav­els to Illyr­ia on the Adri­at­ic Sea to prove one of her late father’s the­o­ries. She’s a girl with mod­ern sen­si­bil­i­ties set against Bin­nie’s con­ser­v­a­tive con­cerns. Ves­per gets caught up in fast-paced intrigue with a rebel­lion against the king, all the while man­ag­ing to search for the leg­endary trea­sure. With Mr. Alexan­der’s char­ac­ter­is­tic humor, and a touch of romance, this series is fun to read and def­i­nite­ly qual­i­fies as a turn-the-page adven­ture.

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush  

Jack Lon­don and the Klondike Gold Rush
writ­ten by Peter Lourie, illus­trat­ed by Wen­dell Minor
Hen­ry Holt, 2017

Teens will enjoy this one. When Jack Lon­don turns 21, the Gold Rush of 1897 com­pels trea­sure seek­ers from around the world to trek through life-threat­en­ing con­di­tions to get to the gold fields in the Yukon Ter­ri­to­ry of Cana­da. Jack is swept up in the excite­ment, assem­bling a team of adven­tur­ers and sup­plies to with­stand the cru­el jour­ney. That some­one this young could com­mand respect and cama­raderie speaks loud­ly about his char­ac­ter. This true sto­ry serves as an excel­lent com­pan­ion books for Call of the Wild and White Fang, Jack Lon­don’s Klondike sto­ries. A real page-turn­er.

Magic Misfits  

Mag­ic Mis­fits
writ­ten by Neill Patrick Har­ris, illus by Lis­sy Mar­lin
Lit­tle, Brown Books, 2017

This thor­ough­ly enjoy­able book fol­lows Carter when he runs away from his crooked, thiev­ing uncle to the New Eng­land town of Min­er­al Wells, a sur­pris­ing­ly wel­com­ing place. Con­vinced that mag­ic isn’t real, and yet a tal­ent­ed street magi­cian, Carter is soon befriend­ed by a group of Mag­ic Mis­fits who set out to expose a cir­cus that’s a front for a well-orches­trat­ed, and dan­ger­ous, team of grifters. Adven­tur­ous, fun­ny, heart­warm­ing, this will cap­ture read­ers’ imag­i­na­tions. 

Mighty Jack  

Mighty Jack
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Ben Hatke
First Sec­ond, 2016

Mighty Jack and the Gob­lin King
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Ben Hatke
First Sec­ond, 2017

In the first book, Jack­’s sis­ter Mad­dy per­suades him to trade their Mom’s car for a box of mys­te­ri­ous seeds … and the adven­ture begins. These are not, of course, ordi­nary seeds. They grow strange, oth­er­world­ly crea­tures and the kids, includ­ing next-door-neigh­bor Lil­ly, are chal­lenged to deal with crea­tures run amok.

In the sec­ond book, an ogre snatch­es Mad­dy into anoth­er world with Jack and Lil­ly deter­mined to res­cue her. Along the way, we meet gob­lins (good) and ogres (bad) and Lil­ly ful­fills a prophe­cy. It’s all very excit­ing and well-told with vibrant, engross­ing illus­tra­tions.

Parker Inheritance  

Park­er Inher­i­tance
writ­ten by Var­i­an John­son
Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholas­tic, 2018

In mod­ern-day Lam­bert, Can­dice dis­cov­ers a mys­tery in her grand­moth­er’s let­ters. In the 1950s, her grand­moth­er left Lam­bert in shame, but it’s soon appar­ent to Can­dice and her friend Bran­don that racism was behind those events … and they reflect that things haven’t changed that much. Read­ing this book will bring your cre­ative prob­lem-solv­ing skills into play. There’s intrigue, humor, and a lot to think about in this sto­ry. 

Player King  

Play­er King
writ­ten by Avi
Atheneum, 2017

In 1846, young Lam­bert Sim­nel slaves away in a Lon­don tav­ern, com­plete­ly unaware of the pol­i­tics of the land.  When he’s pur­chased in the mid­dle of the night by a fri­ar, he’s astound­ed when the man reveals, “You, Lam­bert, are actu­al­ly Prince Edward, the true King of Eng­land!” King Hen­ry VII has just claimed the throne of Eng­land, but only after Prince Edward, who has a truer claim, dis­ap­pears. Could Lam­bert be the real prince? How could he not remem­ber this? Based on a blip in his­to­ry, this is a fas­ci­nat­ing look at a con­fi­dence job planned by politi­cians whose lives are at stake.

Riddle in Ruby  

Rid­dle in Ruby
writ­ten by Kent Davis
Green­wil­low Books, 2015

In an alter­nate his­to­ry colo­nial Philadel­phia, Ruby Teach is train­ing to be a thief and a guardian of secrets. It isn’t until she meets young Lord Athen that she begins to under­stand that her entire life has been kept secret from the pow­ers that be. In this world, those pow­ers use alche­my to fuel the Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion. It’s a fast-paced, fun­ny, and com­pelling book, the first of a tril­o­gy, with The Chang­er’s Key and The Great Unrav­el pro­vid­ing the rest of the sto­ry.

Supernatural Sleuthing Service  

Super­nor­mal Sleuthing Ser­vice
writ­ten by Gwen­da Bond and Christo­pher Rowe,
illus­trat­ed by Glenn Thomas
Green­wil­low Books, 2017

Stephen and his dad are mov­ing cross-coun­try so Dad can be the new exec­u­tive chef at the New Har­mo­nia, a New York City hotel for super­nor­mals (read: mon­sters!) It isn’t long before Stephen dis­cov­ers he’s part super­nor­mal him­self! When Stephen is framed for steal­ing a valu­able heir­loom, he teams up with two new friends to prove his inno­cence. It’s a spooky sto­ry, filled with humor and hijinks, and there’s a sec­ond book, The Sphin­x’s Secret. You know the right read­er for these books!

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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