Supergirl: My Own Worst Frenemy
Written by: Landry Q. Walker
Illustrated by: Eric Jones
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Format: HC (Library Binding), 7 x 11, 32 pages, Full Color, $15.95
Most comic book writers and artists get a little nervous about birthing a new spin-off series from an established, beloved and legendary superhero tale. These writer and artists know that devoted fans of the original superheroes/super-heroines feel protective of their beloved favorite superheroes and have a wealth of knowledge to support such passions. In other words, the messages seems to be, "if you are going to write a superhero retelling of our famed superhero you must do it right, with research, care, and protective respect for the original superhero story itself. Make us proud, make us fall in love with our superhero and his or her new spin-off series all over again in a clever and authentically genuine reading experience. No pressure, just letting you know," they seem to imply.
One of my favorite spin-off writer and illustrator teams who indeed do this best – and are deserving of much more classroom attention and comic book literary acclaim than they have already received – are writer Landry Q. Walker and Artist Eric Jones. Their work on the new retelling or spin-off of the legendary superhero of all superheroes – Superman – is brave. However, Walker and Jones exceed expectations in their spin-off of the Superman story with their spin-off series focused on Superman's adolescent cousin, Supergirl who, akin to her cousin's desire to remain anonymous, has a secret identity herself: Linda Lee.
Sent to the Stanhope Boarding school by her noble cousin Superman, Linda Lee tries her best to become a hero, especially since her legendary cousin Superman thinks she needs to learn to socialize with not only with her new earthling peers, but also wrestle with her sometimes out-of-control adolescent superhero powers.
In this particular young adult graphic novel Supergirl, known at her new school as "Linda Lee," struggles with more than just her identity. She's a little bit awkward and way-out-of touch with her peers. Secretly, though, she pines to be accepted and make new friends, maybe (in an ever-so-adolescent-and-humble-way!) become their hero. But can she? Can she live up to the legend?
English Language Arts Elements of Story
Plot: Superman's cousin, Supergirl / "Linda Lee," is sent off to Stanhope Boarding school by her noble relative. Hoping she will learn more about earth and its people, and unknown to Superman, Supergirl's life at the boarding school isn’t going as planned. Intent on not letting him down Supergirl's own adolescent insecurities and awkwardness just won't seem to cooperate with her mission to make friends, save the school, and become a hero like her famed-cousin.
Major Characters: Supergirl / Linda Lee, Superman, Belinda Zee, Mr. Kretch, Lena Thurol, Lex Luthor, Principal Pycklemeyer
Themes: Heroes and Villains, Good and Bad, Coming of Age, School Life, Identity, Family, Tradition
Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: Superman comics, Batman and Robin comics, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, Louis Sachar's Holes, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, William Golding's Lord of the Flies, Pam Munoz Ryan's Esperanza Rising, Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn Dixie
Teaching Recommendation Using the Common Core Standards For Elementary Readers and Young Adults in Grades 2 – 5
Craft and Structure*
4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
*The numbers referenced above correspond to the numbers used by the Common Core Standards (www.commoncore.org)
Lesson Idea for Elementary School Readers:
Directions: Using the boxes below ask students to find and note the following key elements on the craft and structure of the story: box 1, words and phrases; box 2, figurative images/words that convey meaning; box 3, analyses of how boxes 1 and 2 shape story meaning and tone in Supergirl.
Box 1: As you read, write down all of the important/significant words and phrases (important quotes even!) from the story.
Box 2: As you read, write down and note all of the important figurative (often implied meanings) images / words you find in Supergirl.
Box 3: Review Boxes 1 and 2 and come to some conclusions about how you think the words, phrases, and figurative words and images shape story meaning and tone in Supergirl.
Dr. Katie Monnin is an Associate Professor of Literacy at the University of North Florida. Besides the joy that comes with reading comic books and graphic novels, Dr. Monnin enjoys a Peter Pan-ish life of researching and writing her own books about teaching comics, graphic novels, and cartoons: Teaching Graphic Novels (2010), Teaching Early Reader Comics and Graphic Novels (2011), Using Content-Area Graphic Texts for Learning (2012), Teaching Reading Comprehension with Graphic Texts (2013), and Get Animated! Teaching 21st Century Early Reader and Young Adult Cartoons in Language Arts (2013); Teaching New Literacies in Elementary Language Arts ( in press, 2014). When she is not writing (or sitting around wondering how she ended up making an awesome career out of studying comics and graphic novels), Dr. Monnin spends her time with her two wiener dogs, Sam and Max.