By: Chris Schweizer
Publisher: Oni Press
Format: Hardcover, 6 x 9, 176 pages, Black and White, $14.99
Chris Schweizer's graphic novel series The Crogan Adventures has already, and deservedly, earned critical acclaim; however, I would argue that the series and Chris himself deserve much, much more attention and praise. Why? Let's take a snapshot-look at Chris' latest graphic novel in The Crogan Adventures series – a creative nonfiction series that follows a single family from one generation to the next, from one major historical event and adventure to the next.
Chris' latest graphic novel in the series, Crogan's Loyalty, is delightfully delicious. Figuratively feeding your eyes with what feels like their favorite delicacy Crogan's Loyalty will educate you, inspire you, and make you wish you were Chris Schweizer. Personally, my eyes greedily fed off of every page. How, I also found myself wondering, can someone write and draw a historical graphic novel that actually educates and inspires . . . simultaneously? Even though Chris (and I would like to think myself) appreciate historical scholarship, many people shy away from it, stereotyping it as boring and just a bunch of dates and facts they need to memorize.
That is absolutely not the case with Schweizer's Crogan's Loyalty. Historically accurate and focused on the colonial atmosphere of the American Revolution, Crogan's Loyalty is so well-written and so well-illustrated it literally gives history a vivacious pulse. A life the reader can dive into and feel for himself. The events, the settings, and the plots all actually happened. Building upon this historical backdrop Schweizer then masterly inserts some fictionalized Crogan family members, and, with that the reader can sit back, relax, and watch and learn. While Will Crogan's loyalty sides with the colonial rebellion against the Crown, Charlie Crogan's loyalty is with the King and his British militia. Clearly there is some family drama to be had.
An accidental meeting in the forest near their hometown sets up the conflict from the very first few pages. Rifles afire, the brothers both think they have happened upon the enemy. But is this the enemy or a family reunion?
Language Arts Elements of Story
Plot: When brothers William and Charles Crogan accidentally meet up in the colonial woods of their childhood they find themselves on opposites sides of the American fight for independence. And the guiding questions in this unique creative nonfiction graphic novel are: "What is loyalty? Where should one’s loyalty lie? With the crown? With the colonies? With one's brother?"
Setting: Modern day frame story, 1778 American colonies
Major Characters: William Crogan, Charles Crogan, Bess, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Dockrey, Ken Darty, Jonah Red Legs, the Maquachake, Chief, Two Tomahawk (or Two Tom), Captain Unterbrusch, Captain Quinn, Frame Story Family (Mom, Dad, Two Brothers, Uncle)
Themes: Loyalty, Relationships, Family, Duty and Honor, American History
Potential Literary Pairings: The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman, Forget Sorrow by Belle Yang, My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier
Teaching Recommendations For Middle & High School English Language Arts
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.
Example Lesson Plan
1. Title-Character-and-Theme Discovery
After you finish reading Crogan's Loyalty there is a lot of potential for discussion about how well Schweizer's story features key terms for teaching some of the most important Language Arts elements of story. Thus, this lesson plan will focus on three of the most dominant and well articulated elements of story found in this graphic novel.
On an 8.5" X 11" piece of paper, make a handout copy of the cover of the book. With the book cover copied / displayed on a handout, ask students to write the word TITLE right next to the title. On the middle of the paper or display ask students to write the word CHARACTERS above the image of Charles and William Crogan. Finally, below the copy or display of the book cover ask students to write the word THEMES.
As a class, brainstorm some possible ideas as to why these terms are so significant to a story. Students should be encouraged to write down their thoughts on their handout.
Next, individually or in small groups, ask students to add some of the following insights onto their handout:
• Explain the significance of the TITLE Crogan's Loyalty to the story
• List Charles and Williams' specific character traits and belief systems
• Finally, ask students to pull out 3 specific themes they find most interesting, taking notes on why they chose each of those themes.
When completed ask students to share their final thoughts about the TITLE, CHARACTERS, and THEMES they explored in more depth either individually or in small groups. Feel free to take notes on the board so that all students can see and value everyone's choices and reasons.
*NCTE/IRA. (1996). Standards for the English Language Arts. Urbana, IL: NCTE.
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.