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Any Empire

Any EmpireAny Empire
By:
Nate Powell
Publisher: IDW Publishing/Top Shelf Productions
Format: Hardcover, 7 x 10, Black and White, $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-60309-077-3

Some works of art just stay with you. Nate Powell's follow-up to his Eisner award-winning Swallow Me Whole has been on my mind for weeks. Grounded in the harsh realities and choices three young adults face as they come of age in a world that bases its political policies on wars being fought overseas each character struggles to understand how they fit into a violent, global equation.

Looking for answers Lee, Sarah, and Purdy each react differently. It is these conclusions that stay on the reader's mind. For Lee, the answer lies in overcoming his anxieties and fears and living out a peaceful, quiet life where he keeps to himself and just a few others. For Sarah and Purdy, however, the answers are a bit more complex. Full of justifiable vengeance and an overwhelming sense of doing the right thing, Sarah can get pretty adamantly, righteously violent. The most tragic response comes from Purdy. Purdy reminds me of Civil War general William Sherman who stated, "War is hell." From childhood to adulthood, Purdy lives in out his hellish perception; and so does everyone and everything he encounters. 


English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Despite their isolated remoteness from the greater world and all of its political and militaristic problems, Lee, Sarah, and Purdy are coming of age in a small town

Setting: An American small town

Major Characters: Lee, Sarah, Purdy

Themes: Politics, War and Peace, Identity, Democracy and Dictatorship, Friendship, Alliances, Choice, Violence

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, Art Spiegelman's Maus, Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, Joseph Heller's Catch 22, Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage, Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, Belle Yang's Forget Sorrow


Some Teaching Recommendations For High School Readers

Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):
- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE (www.ncte.org)

1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint 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.

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate and appreciate texts.

11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

 

Guided Reading Lesson Idea for High School Readers

 

Before Reading:

Before reading ask students what they know about the following three main ideas or themes (feel free to substitute any of the above mentioned themes as well).  Keep a list of student responses on the board.

War

Peace

Identity

1.

1.

1.

2.

2.

2.

3.

3.

3.

4.

4.

4.

When you and your students are finished brainstorming their initial thoughts on these themes introduce Any Empire. Explain to students that these are three themes they will want to pay attention to as they read this graphic novel.

Next, and in order to prepare students for their during reading activity, organize students into small groups.  

During Reading:
During reading ask students to link their before reading thematic thoughts with the personalities of the main characters in the story.

In short, students should think about how each theme is played out or evident in each of these character's actions and decisions. Students can take notes using the figure below.   

  THEMES  

 

CHARACTERS

War

 

Peace

Identity

 

Lee

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purdy

 

 

 

 

 

After Reading:
After reading ask students to think of themselves as investigators and answer the following questions on notebook paper:
• What knowledge did you gain from each character?
• What aspects of either one or more of the characters would you like to criticize? Why?  
• If you could advise this character(s), what would you want to say to them? And why?  

Finally, ask all students to share their chosen character(s) and their answers and/or advice for those character(s).

 

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.