Skippy Volume 1: The Dailies 1925-1927

Skippy Volume 1Skippy Volume 1: The Complete Dailies 1925-1927
Written and illustrated by: Percy Crosby
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 9.5 x 8.5, 328 pages, Partial Color, $49.99
ISBN: 978-1-61377-284-3

Approaching my third year of writing this column I have never reviewed and offered my readers a lesson plan focused on the creator (rather than his/her comic book or graphic novel story) of a comic book or graphic novel. I am extremely pleased that this "first" focuses on Percy Crosby and his historically significant work on the comic strip Skippy.

If you're wondering who the heck Percy Crosby is you can begin your research by simply taking one glance at Skippy. When you do, you will see foreshadowed glimpses and flashes of Charles Schulz' beloved Peanuts and Bill Watterson's endearing and timeless Calvin and Hobbes. The father of our favorite comic strip stories and creators, Percy Crosby’s life and comic strip are more than worthy of student and scholarly attention. The comic strip university attended by Schulz and Watterson is even more relevant and deserving of attention in the 21st century. Perhaps we don't know his name yet (although we should). We do know this: living in the 21st century means reading a much more visual and movement-oriented literary world influenced by his early twentieth century work. Crosby is the clear founder of the brilliance behind actually showing movement on still frames or panels. His action lines foreshadow Calvin's wagon trips down the side of the hill and Charlie Brown's missed football kick.  

And just like our most beloved comic book creators Crosby has his own unique story to tell. A son of immigrants Crosby and his comic work offer readers specific insights and inquiries into American history in the first half of the 20th century.

Just like we study the lives of noteworthy writers of times past and present (Homer, Austen, Wharton, Dickens, Twain, Achebe, Tan, Morrison and many, many others) we need to study the noteworthy lives and works of creators of comic books and graphic novels, for they have been the building blocks for today’s literary world as well. Before their time, we stand upon their shoulders when we read and write in the 21st century.

Applicable Elements of Story and Pairings

Themes: Individualism and Community, Contemporary Storytelling and Traditional Storytelling, Childhood, Relationships, Movement and Pace, Inferencing

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: Charles Schulz' Peanuts, Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, Jeff Smith's Bone series, Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series, Art Spiegelman's Maus I and II, Elie Weisel's Night, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Jane Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic, Anne Frank's The Diary of Anne Frank

Some Teaching Recommendations For High School Readers

Suggested Alignment to the Common Core Standards:*
*Standard numbers correspond to the literal common core standards numbers, www.commoncorestandards.com
Text Types and Purposes*
2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

Writing Lesson Plan for High School Readers of Skippy:
In the past I have shied away from writing lesson plans that involve a lot of preparation; my reason, I would like for these lesson plans to be as convenient to teachers and librarians as possible. Involving multiple texts and / or teachers is more labor intensive.

However, this writing lesson plan deserves more attention and more thought. In order to make it clear just how worthy these comic book and graphic novel creators are, however, we need 21st century lessons that inform us about the precedents set by comic book and graphic novel creators of the past. Here are two options:

1. Pair this text with either a fictional or nonfictional text about this same time period (first half of the twentieth century), or
2. Pair this text with either a comic book or graphic novel creator whose work clearly builds upon that of Percy Crosby.

Option 1: If educators pursue option number 1 they will want to identify a work of fiction or nonfiction that addresses the first half of American twentieth century social and cultural history. In order to meet the writing standard noted above educators will then want to ask students to make a clear and articulate compare and/or contrast essay about the two texts.  

Option 2: If educators pursue option number 2 they will want to identify a comic book or graphic novel that clearly relies on and references the work of Percy Crosby and Skippy. In order to meet the writing standard noted above educators will then want to ask students to make a clear and articulate compare and/or contrast essay about the two texts. 

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.