Stepping into the World of Comics

mausI recently read The Complete Maus for my comics and graphic novel course. I attempted to read Maus I several years ago but could not find a purpose. I think I wanted to read it simply because of the acclaim but the sadness of the Holocaust kept me away. Since it was required now, I had no choice. And, I devoured it very quickly! The work is magnificent. What I enjoyed the most is how human Vladek is portrayed – an angry, curmudgeonly old man who must save, save, save.

I did not find the topic of the Holocaust to be too emotionally upsetting in Maus as I have in other works (Night or Number our Stars for example) or history books. Speigelman’s art was not as graphic as one would think when dealing with such a heavy subject – part of this could be because it was in black and white so instead of seeing red blood you saw a black puddle. Another reason could be that humans were not used in most of the graphic novel, mice rather. There were two scenes that stand out that were difficult to me. The first was when the crying children were swung against the wall and the second was when we discovered that Artie’s brother was poisoned. If you notice, though, the full scene of the children being killed (against the wall) was not presented. It almost looks as though it was erased.

 

I have also read Deadpool Vol. 1: Dead Presidents (three stars), The Watchmen (four stars), and many years ago I read Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (five stars). Funhome, assigned in my history of sexuality in the U.S. course, was the first graphic novel I ever read and really stuck with me. When I was still working in the public library, a teenage girl approached me looking for graphic novels based on true stories. Her mother was with her and this was the first book that came to mind.

All three of these titles remind me history (even though Deadpool is tongue-in-cheek/slapstick humor) and how graphic novels can frequently be utilized in the classroom. Librarians, teachers, and, parents, please understand that there are so many benefits to using these in the classroom or letting your children read them.

  • increased vocabulary
  • increased interest in reading
  • strengthened skills (memory, sequence, understanding language, reading comprehension)
  • children with autism have the opportunity to learn about emotion through graphic novels

Teaching with Graphic Novels

Raising Super Readers: The Benefits of Comic Books and Graphic Novels

Literacy & Graphic Novels: Why There’s Nothing Wrong with Teens Reading Graphic Novels

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Module 10: The Sons of Liberty

51EfLeOYnuLLagos, A. & Lagos, J. (2010). The Sons of liberty. New York, NY: Random House Children’s Books.

Summary: Graham and Brody are two runaway slaves from the Sorenson Plantation. seeking the help of Benjamin Lay, the friend of Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin’s son, William, a member of the royal army discovers the boys and tricks them into becoming a science experiment where he tortures them with electricity. He leaves them for dead only to his father to find them transformed with new powers. Benjamin Franklin takes them under his wing, and with the help of Benjamin Lay, embarks on a journey to train the boys to become fighters for what readers can only imagine will become America’s independence (the story ends too soon).

Impressions: My fascination with history is what attracted me to the book and I would hope that a graphic novel such as this, though incredibly far removed from fact might spark some child’s or young adult’s interest in the subject as well. I had a few issues with the graphic novel however, aside from some hand written text that was difficult to read (it was written in a cursive font and would have been easier to read at a large size), there was a difficulty in understanding the plot. I missed a key fact in the story. At the beginning, Ben Franklin’s son (I don’t remember if he was identified at that point) is taking animals to be tested with electricity. Later, I thought his son killed two runaway slaves but it turns out he was torturing them with electricity and other scientific experiments. As I was reading, I thought Franklin had found them dead and brought them back to life with electricity, in a Frankenstein type manner. The Lagos brothers could have been more clear in stating this fact or maybe I need to go back over these two sections.

Review: Colonial America isn’t your usual locale for superheroes, but such is the case here. Graham and Brody are runaway slaves, fleeing a cruel master and his slave hunter. Before they left, they were instructed to find the abolitionist Benjamin Lay, but first they encounter none other than Benjamin Franklin. Unfortunately, his son, William, has been using his father’s discoveries in electricity to play Dr. Frankenstein and subjects the two boys to electrical experiments. After they recover, they find out that they have gained an inexplicable and ill-defined set of superpowers. Under the tutelage of the Yodalike Benjamin Lay, the boys learn about their heritage, their abilities, and the African martial art dambe, of which Lay is a master. While this unique story certainly has possibilities, its flaws far outweigh its successes. Not only does the plot verge on the nonsensical, but it also meanders, changing direction and tone, and characters come and go without resolution. The colorful computer-aided artwork is at times dramatic, but it is also often clumsy and lacking any real emotional import. Other problems include the font chosen for Benjamin Franklin’s writing, which is illegible at times. Poor execution makes this a secondary purchase at best.

Davey, D.P. (2010, July). [Review of the book The Son’s of Liberty, by A. Lagos & J. Lagos]. School Library Journal56(7), p. 106-7.

Library Uses: Since graphic novels are becoming increasingly popular, it might be fun to start a graphic novel club or have a Learn to Write Graphic Novels night at the library. An expert from the community could be invited (or we could teach ourselves or just take a shot at it!) and spend an evening or afternoon drawing panels and writing.