Monday, January 16, 2012

Graphic Novels Part 2

After my last blog post I reflected on my statement that there are many teachers that don’t let students read graphic novels.  As I kept replaying the words in my head I realized that students must be taught how to read a graphic novel.  It isn’t just looking at the pictures or reading the fewer words on the page.  Readers must closely look at the pictures, reread the words and infer what is happening in the “white” space between the pictures.  Teacher must realize that the graphic novel may be shorter or with more pictures, but if kids are reading them we must encourage more of the same behavior. 

In the new Choice Literacy newsletter there is an article that reinforces this.  Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan  write a wonderful article entitled Is "Just Right" Still Just Right?: Helping Children Select Appropriate Books   that addresses this fact.  We as teacher get so caught up in “levels” that we no longer see the reader.  Langrigan and Mulligan eloquently write that “just right” books are what we enjoy. (Sorry I know there is more to it than that, but that is my one sentence summary!)

Last week I had morning duty.  It is a fun 25 minutes outside on the playground where I get to visit with students. During my time outside I asked a student, from another class, what she was reading.  Her response, “I read a level 38!”  I replied, “Oh, but what is the title of the book?”  Again, “I’m a level 38.” When did Level 38 become a book?  Why are we as educators so concerned about reading levels and not joy of reading a book? (OK in reality educators that follow book blogs don’t fit in this category, but still….)
Stepping down from my
 I want to talk about two books from the Cybil’s Graphic Novels I received.  One is very much a guy book the other will be a hard sell, but totally worth it in the end.

I love the story of King Arthur, but in reality it is usually done by watching the story on TV or at the theatre.  Currently there are two versions on TV.  BBC is in its fourth season of Merlin, and Showtime has Camelot.  Guilty pleasure watching.  I was excited when I received Excalibur The Legend of King Arthur by Tony Lee and Sam Hart.  It is a great read.  The background story is told quickly, so that we can get right to the action. The illustrations are interesting and I really got into reading the story.  It is definitely a YA book.

When I was a kid my mom read me the Oz trilogy.  They were hers from when she was a little girl.  I remember looking forward to being read the stories.  Another book I really enjoyed during my judging was Ozma of Oz L. Frank Baum by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young.  This will be a hard sell for boys.  There is a girl with a large bow on the cover, so right off the bat there is a major hurdle to get over.  Trust me it is worth it.  The illustrations are fantastic.  Dorothy is definitely not a sweet little girl in this book.  Her ornery expressions made me laugh throughout the book.  Boys will kike the adventure part and the robot.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Graphic Novels Part 1

For the last three years I have been lucky enough to sit on a CYBILS panel.  I feel honored to be able to add my opinion on what is great children's literature.  It is a daunting task.  I am responsible to read as many books as I can and narrow it down to my top five.  This year I was on the graphic novel committee.  There are two sections.  The first is middle grade graphic novels and the second is young adult graphic novel.  Since I teach third grade I am much more comfortable reading middle grade fiction.  There were wonderful books nominated, but I was surprised that there weren't more choices.  Last year I did middle grade fiction and there were over 125 books.  Even though my comfort level is in middle grade I LOVED the YA graphic novels. 

As I was reading I kept thinking about all the teachers out there that don't let kids read graphic novels.  I am sure they have their "good reasons", but the truth is teachers that don't let students read graphic novels are short changing them.  There were some phenomenal books nominated.  They spanned the range of books.  There were graphic novels based on literature, ones on superheroes, some vampires (some not bad!), ones on robots, and even current events.  In other words there were graphic novels that met the needs of every reader.  Some of my favorites made the short list and some didn't.  Originally I was just going to blog about "boy" graphic novels, but I think that some of the "girl" ones have guy appeal.   

Two books that did make the short list were two of my favorites.  The first one is Sidekicks by Dan Santat and the second is Level Up by Gene Luen Yang.  I can't wait to share many of them with you and my class.  Happy New Year.

The book trailer for Sidekicks by Dan Santat was one of my favorites of the year.  With any trailer the hope is that people (teachers) will preorder the books and share with their class.  Well it worked because I did and I did!   Sidekicks is a wonderful superhero story about an aging superhero (just like me without the cape or gadgets!).   Captain Amazing is tired.  He needs help, so a call is placed to find a new sidekick that could eventually take over. 

This is where it gets fun.  His animals decide they must and will be his sidekicks.  I still laugh thinking about a hamster, dog and chameleon coming to the rescue of anyone.  I mean really who can’t laugh seeing a hamster in a USA, Red, White, and Blue superhero costume.  The story is charming and the graphics make me think of older comics.   It is very popular in my third grade class.

Growing up most of us feel we need to meet our parent’s expectations.  For boys it tends to be living up to what we believe our dad’s hopes are.   Given that I couldn’t throw or catch a ball I knew I didn’t live up to what I thought my dad wanted.  In Level Up by Gene Luen Yang’s new graphic novel the main character Dennis Ouyang didn’t come close to what his parents wanted for him. 

Dennis’ father dies when he is young and he never really gets over the death.  He starts college and soon becomes so engrossed in video games.  This leads to dropping out of school.  Along the way he finds that he can live up to the expectations. 

I really enjoyed Level Up.  The graphic novel is split up into video game levels.  (Get it level up!)  The illustrations are interesting.  At times they are very vivid and others times very muted.  The text in the bubbles is easy to read and forces the reader to really think about what is happening.  This is definitely a YA  book.