The Homeland Directive
By: Robert Venditti and Mike Huddleston
Publisher: IDW Publishing/Top Shelf Productions
Format: Softcover, 6.75 x 10.25, full color, $14.95
I had heard rumors about The Homeland Directive. Splendid commentary on the reality of living during a time when the government can claim to both protect and violate our individual liberties for the country's general good. Apples and oranges perhaps. But still usually paired together, whether in cliché or in reality.
The Homeland Directive is so well written and so expressively illustrated that apples and oranges – liberty and tyranny – do begin to look the same. Perfect for the classroom teacher and librarian who have exceptional and authentic real world readers who are able to think both inside and outside of traditional, normative boxes, The Homeland Directive will surely foster lively conversation, healthy debate, and a plethora of reading and writing opportunities.
The story begins as readers meet Dr. Laura Regan and her research partner, both of whom work at the Center for Disease Control and are well-known around the world for their work on viral and bacteriological studies. On their way to the airport, readers can tell that the two researchers care deeply about each other and about others, especially the American public, for they have dedicated their lives to the study and halt of infectious diseases. No matter how friendly and caring their conversation is on the way to the airport, however, Dr. Regan is not going on just another business trip.
Following her speech that evening Dr. Regan is met by a man who claims to be a detective in the police department. He shows her a picture. It's a picture of her research partner, beaten and dead. But she just saw him! He was fine! Why would anyone want to hurt and murder such a caring man? Overwhelmed by alarm and grief Dr. Regan agrees to help the detective figure out what is going on. And for about a minute the reader feels relieved that she is safe. That is, until, a van squeals to an abrupt stop right in front of them and a hand reaches out of the window with a taser gun. The detective is taken down, and Dr. Regan is chloroformed and put in the back of another vehicle.
The story setup and the reader hooked The Homeland Directive moves forward with a hard-to-put-down pace. Who has killed her research partner? Why are they also after Dr. Regan? Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? Questions asked but answers sparse The Homeland Directive is earns an A+ for both storytelling and illustration.
English Language Arts Elements of Story
Plot: Someone has murdered Dr. Regan's research partner, a world renowned scientist who has dedicated his life to helping others, and now they are after her. Why? Larger than life and involving a government conspiracy that reaches to the highest of levels, readers are in for an action-adventure that will have them thinking and talking about just what does constitute liberty in the United States today.
Setting: Washington DC, Atlanta, GA, New York City, NY, San Francisco, CA, Dallas, TX, Kansas City, KS, Minneapolis, MN, St. Louis, MO, Richmond, VA, Chicago, IL, Cleveland, OH, Philadelphia, PA, Boston, MA
Major Characters: Dr. Laura Regan, Dr. Regan's research partner (Dr. Ari Musa), the President, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Detective Edward Sullivan, Dr. Lasky, BOCA employees, Wychek, FBI Agent Nathan Pollack, Gene Robillard of the U.S. Secret Service, Elliot
Themes: Fact and Fiction, Fear and Safety, Democracy and Capitalism, Medical Breakthroughs, Government and its People, Responsibility, Individual and Community
Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle Level Readers
Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):*
- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE
1. Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
Reading and Writing Lesson Idea for High School Readers:
Make copies of a KWLR (Know-Wonder-Learn-Research) handout for students. Spend some time completing your own KWLR handout, in order to use it for an example with your students.
Ditribute the KWLR handout to students.
Before students read The Homeland Directive ask them what they KNOW about the word "liberty/ies." As they share answers record their ideas on the board. Feel free to use your own example as a springboard for ideas and thoughts.
Next ask students to read The Homeland Directive and keep notes about what they WONDER as they read the story.
When students are finished reading The Homeland Directive ask them what they LEARNED from reading the text.
Finally, ask students what they want to RESEARCH (or learn more about) as a result of reading The Homeland Directive. Allow time for students to research one or two areas of their choice.
Once they are done, ask students to meet in small groups and share what they found in their research. Last, ask students to report their research findings to the rest of the class.
3. Writing Assessment
Following the lesson, ask students to reflect upon their KWLR and synthesize a few main ideas that they either find interesting, or find similarities and differences between. Ask students to write a paragraph explanation about each main idea. The paragraph should include: why they chose that idea, why they find it interesting/similar and/or different than other ideas, and, finally, what they KNEW and WONDERED about that idea verse what they LEARNED and RESEARCHED about that idea.
Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.