Space Dumplins

Space DumplinsSpace Dumplins
Written and illustrated by: Craig Thompson
Publisher: Scholastic Graphix
Format: Hardcover/Softcover, 7 x 9, 320 pages, Full Color, $$24.99/$14.99
ISBN: HC: 978-0-54556-541-7/SC: 978-0-54556-543-1


I'd love to invite all of you over to my house. Why? In the case of Craig Thompson the answer is obvious. Well, it is once you come over . . .

More graphic novel utopian-library than home my home is quite unique. Thousands of graphic novels align every single room and one too many bookshelves. In fact, my parents wish I would loose the Peter Panish Comic-Con decor strategy and grow up. I like things just the way they are! So what does this have to do with Craig Thompson? Everything.

Surrounded by all of the amazing autographs from friends and artists I've been fortunate enough to befriend over the years sits one special bookshelf. On its shelves sit my own personal selection of "Dr. Katie's Best-of-the-Best Graphic Novels." Art Spiegelman's work sits next to Marjane Satrapi's, who is followed by Alison Bechdel and Fun Home, Frank Miller's Dark Knight, Jeff Smith's Bone series, and so on and so on. The entire collection of Craig Thompson also sits among the elite, which brings me to this review. Thompson's entire collection sits on this single most influential bookshelf, including his latest graphic novel I just put there and am reviewing now, Space Dumplins. It more than belongs there, for numerous reasons. I mean, seriously, just when I think Thompson has reached the pinnacle of human-awesomeness as a graphic novelist with his last graphic novel he comes out with a new story that is astronomically better and more amazing than his last heroic feat in storytelling and artistry. Believe it or not, and paired up with education-friendly-publisher Scholastic Graphix this time, Thompson has done it again. Space Dumplins is to-date his most amazing work and more than deserving of a slew of awards nods this year.

Here's why:

1. The story is so captivating it's hard to stop reading, code for impossible
2. The characters are so endearing I wanted to jump into the story to meet them (personally, the seizure prone, lonely brainiac with little street smarts, Elliot, is my favorite)
3. The art begs to be read and reread for self-seeking shock and awe among adults and young adults
4. The social consciousness is sure to provoke action and debate
5. The color (compliments of Dave Stewart) begs the question and answer: Who did this, and what else has he done? I must have it!

That said, I don't want to give too much away about this graphic novel, besides its appeal to anyone with a working pulse. Here's the main idea though: Both adult and young adult readers will enjoy the action/adventure and environmentally poignant story of Violet Marlocke and her search for her missing father. Teamed up with a hodgepodge crew of friends Violet must bring the most unlikely personalities together in her search for family unity and understanding. Erin regards to teaching and learning, educators and students will find numerous examples to complement teaching Language Arts and Social Studies, so many examples in fact that most educators will have to prioritize which are the most significant.

In perhaps an unrelated but significant point I cannot seem to leave out of this review: I have never understood the appeal of getting a tattoo, finding art I would want on my body forever seemed baffling. Thompson's art in Space Dumplins has proven me wrong. There are tons of artistic moments in this graphic novel that I would like tattooed on my body for life (I even dogeared the pages!). In conclusion, I cannot overly praise the level of artistry in this graphic novel. Hands down, the most beautiful art I have ever seen, in any graphic novel yet. Right this second I wonder if I must get Thompson’s approval to have the art tattooed on me. While you go get this graphic novel, I think I'll email him . . . .

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot(s): Violet Marlocke loves her family and friends, and it will take both sets of people to come together in order to solve her upcoming trial. Can her family and friends unite? Or, will their differences drive them apart and Violet into danger?

Major Characters: Violet Marlocke, Gar Marlocke, Cera Marlocke, Mister Tinder, Mrs. Nurget, Master Arnold, whales, baby whale, Elliot Marcel Opgenorth, Zacchaeus, Zucchinus, Muffin, Jirgelbytes

Major Settings: Sector 7.3, trailer park, the Roids, Fashion Factory, space station(s), Shell-Tar, Station School, other schools

Major Themes: Family, Identity, Past-Present-Future, Environmental Awareness, Animal Rights, Friendship, Adventury, Loyalty, Tradition and Change

Reading / Literacy Recommendations For Young Adult Readers in Language Arts Grades 4 - 8

All standards dealing with "Key Ideas and Details" relate to teaching the following lesson plan with Craig Thompson's Space Dumplins.

Reading Lesson Idea for Language Arts Readers in Grades 4 - 8

Character evolution is key to fully comprehending Space Dumplins. The following, circular graphic organizer will help young adult readers trace not only the evolution of the plot, but also the evolution of the characters and their relationships in Space Dumplins.

Beginning with Violet, and moving from top to bottom and up again to the top, readers can trace their understanding by noting each characters initial and unique traits (near the notation for "UT") as they are introduced and, then, how that character relates or interacts with other characters (near the notation for "OC"). Inside the circle readers can record the themes that best relate to each character, being sure to write appropriate themes as close to their corresponding character(s).


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.