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Boxers

BoxersBoxers
Written and illustrated by: Gene Luen Yang
Publisher: First Second
Format: Softcover, 6 x 9, 336 pages, Full Color, $18.99
ISBN: 978-1-59643-359-5

I would like to start this review by listing the brilliant graphic novels already created by Gene Luen Yang. We could discuss all of the prestigious literary awards and acclaims he and his graphic novels have already received. As a devoted fan and advocate of his literary-level graphic novels, however, I feel no need to start this review with a list of accolades and an audible, deserved sense of applause.  

The reason: Yang’s newest graphic novel just might be the best of his career, so far!  The first installment of two graphic novels published by First Second, Boxers (2013) follows the story of Little Bao as he goes from a passive and sometimes naïve youngest brother to one of China's – and his legendary family's – greatest leaders and warriors. Set in late nineteenth century China Little Bao witnesses the cultural implications and often violent implications of faith-based foreign invasion; the complementary graphic novel to Boxers is entitled Saints and centers on a young man on the opposite side of the issue, a young man whose perspective is grounded in foreign faith-based discipleship (not invasion).

A brilliant coming of age story that will most certainly sell out on Amazon, be put on a waiting list at your library, and / or constantly remain checked out of your own classroom libraries, Boxers will do what the most valuable literature always does, something Jeff Smith (the notorious and brilliant graphic novel mind behind the The Bone Series said to me in a recent interview: "Break the barrier between the page and the reader." And Boxers does just that.  

In sum, as a reviewer my advice on this one is really simple: order it as soon as you can. Actually, go order it right now, even before you read the complimentary lesson plan I have written below.

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Foreign disciples have come to China in the late 19th century to convert the Chinese to Christianity, but their mission is unclear an somewhat aggressive to the people of China. The missionaries are sometimes too assumptive and dismissive of Chinese culture, and thus their aggressive efforts to convert the Chinese lack cultural sensitivity and respect towards Chinesen spirituality and sacred historical traditions. In fact, there is so much confusion and aggression beeween the two group that people start to die, especially in small villages/towns all over the country. Little Bao's lives in one of these villages, and when he watches the foreign missionaries of Christ beat his beloved, strong, well-respected father so senseless that he will never be able to work or speak again Little Bao begins to take action.

Setting:
China, 1890s+

Major Characters: Little Bao, Little Bao's older brothers, Little Bao's father, Tu Di Gong, the Monkey King, The God of War, Lady in the Moon, Grandma Crooked, Father Bey, the elder generation of men from Little Bao's village, the Ch'ing Imperial Government, foreign soldiers, foreign disciples, Bing Wong-bing, Red Lantern Chu, Master Big Belly, Brother-Disciples of the Big Sword Society, Christian families and their priest, Mei-wen, the God of War and a Brother of the Peach Blossom Tree Oath, Brother of the Peach Blossom Tree Oath, the Repentant Pig Demon, secondary foreigners, the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fist, the Empress, Vibiana, the city people of Peking, Prince Tuan

Themes: Coming of Age, Problem-solving, Family, Tradition, Humanitarianism, War and Peace, Truth, Justice, Cultural Complexities

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: The Odyssey by Homer, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes, Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Night by Elie Wiesel, Maus I and II by Art Spiegelman, Persepolis I and II by Marjane Satrapi

Some Teaching Recommendations Using the Common Core Standards For Young Adult Readers in Grades 6 - 12

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.
5. Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
6. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
* The numbers referenced above correspond to the numbers used by the Common Core Standards (www.commoncore.org)

Lesson Idea for Young Adult Readers in Grades 6 - 12:

Directions: Because Boxers has so many interesting characters that influence the craft and structure (or overall point of view of the story) readers can use the following graphic organizer to unpack and discuss how three of their favorite characters impact not only the plot, but also all of the other characters.

As they read ask students to choose three of their favorite characters. As they choose their characters students can next move onto the specific directions called for by this graphic organizer and its emphasis on craft and structure, as seen below.

 

 

Character Choice # 1

Character's name: ______________________________

 

Character Choice # 2

Character's name: ______________________________

 

Character Choice # 3

Character's name: ______________________________

 

Draw an image of this character, making sure to highlight his/her perceptions and ideas.

 

Feel free to find a page in Boxers that you feel best illustrates the most important features/characteristics

 

List the page and panel location so that the whole class can benefit from your choices and rationalizations: ____________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Character # 1

In the column below list three words, word choices, phrases, and/or actions that best illustrate your character's point of view.

 

 

1.

 

 

 

2.

 

 

 

3.

 

Draw an image of this character, making sure to highlight his/her perceptions and ideas.

 

Feel free to find a page in Boxers that you feel best illustrates the most important features/characteristics

 

List the page and panel location so that the whole class can benefit from your choices and rationalizations: ____________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Character # 2

In the column below list three words, word choices, phrases, and/or actions that best illustrate your character's point of view.

 

 

1.

 

 

 

2.

 

 

 

3.

 

 

 

Draw an image of this character, making sure to highlight his/her perceptions and ideas.

 

Feel free to find a page in Boxers that you feel best illustrates the most important features/characteristics

 

List the page and panel location so that the whole class can benefit from your choices and rationalizations: ____________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Character # 3

In the column below list three words, word choices, phrases, and/or actions that best illustrate your character's point of view.

 

 

1.

 

 

 

2.

 

 

 

3.

 

 

 

 

Try to find any evidence of your character's interactions with the three other characters you choose in the story? Are they friendly? Are they in disagreement? Use the space below to list the page numbers and quotes for support your evidence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try to find any evidence of your character's interactions with the three other characters you choose in the story? Are they friendly? Are they in disagreement? Use the space below to list the page numbers and quotes for support your evidence.

 

Try to find any evidence of your character's interactions with the three other characters you choose in the story? Are they friendly? Are they in disagreement? Use the space below to list the page numbers and quotes for support your evidence.

 

After all of your excellent research and thought about your three characters draw your three characters one more time. This time, however, add off of the details that you discussed and found important as you completed this graphic organizer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With all of those thoughts and all of your hard work to better understand your character and his/her choices try to bottom-line your characters most bottom line point of view in the story.  It may be helpful to start our sentence with "My character's bottom line point of view is:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all of your excellent research and thought about your three characters draw your three characters one more time. This time, however, add off of the details that you discussed and found important as you completed this graphic organizer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With all of those thoughts and all of your hard work to better understand your character and his/her choices try to bottom-line your characters most bottom line point of view in the story.  It may be helpful to start our sentence with "My character's bottom line point of view is:

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all of your excellent research and thought about your three characters draw your three characters one more time. This time, however, add off of the details that you discussed and found important as you completed this graphic organizer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With all of those thoughts and all of your hard work to better understand your character and his/her choices try to bottom-line your characters most bottom line point of view in the story.  It may be helpful to start our sentence with "My character's bottom line point of view is:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.