Katie's Korner: Graphic Novel Reviews for Schools and Libraries

Published by: First Second
Written and Illustrated by: Tillie Walden
Format: Softcover, 5 x 8, 400 pages, $17.99
Ages: 14 and up


In this coming of age memoir graphic novelist Tillie Walden attempts to explain – from her still forming and seeking to understand early 20s perspective – what it means to be uprooted from a familiar, comfortable school and set of friends.  At her new school, Tillie attempts to forge a more authentic identity.  But things don’t always go as she wishes for them to go.  

Tillie defines herself through her sport: Ice Skating. An individualistic sport that requires deep-rooted inner reflection and concentration, however, can also be a more team-oriented sport.  At her new school and with potential new friends Tillie finds that Ice Skating is only one piece of her identity.  Although ice skating once defined her completely, it now seems as though Tillie struggles with a series of coming of age issues: wreck-less driving, bullying, coming out and more.

To learn more about Tillie and her teenage attempts to find her own identity get a copy of Spinning and join Tillie as she tries to make sense of it all.  

Elements of Story 

Plot: Spinning is a coming of age story about a young girl who is unhappy with her family’s decision to move to a new state. Defined by ice skating her entire life, Tillie is forced to start over with new ice skating teams, a new school, new friends, while also experiencing the challenges of bullying and coming out as a lesbian.

Major Characters: Tillie Walden, Molly, Coach Joulwan, Dad, Mom, John, Rae, Ms. Ramberg, Caitlin, Carly, Rosalind, Lindsay, John, Grace, Victoria, Mr. Williams

Major Settings: New Jersey; Texas; high school; skating rink; mall; Dallas, Texas; Colorado

Themes: Coming of Age, Coming Out, Sport, First Love, Bullying, Family, Friendship

Lesson Plan Recommendation Using the 

Common Core Standards (CCS) for Young Adults

Common Core Standard(s) 

Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact. 

Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).

Directions for Lesson Plan

Walden’s memoir is full of experiences that inform her identity. Her experiences are crafted in a way that also make them easily identifiable as themes in the graphic novel.  Thus, the following graphic organizer identifies themes and asks readers to link those themes to Walden’s experiences and emotions in the memoir.  As students read this graphic novel they can trace Walden’s experiences and emotions as they develop as a series of overall literary themes; space is provided for students to include multiple experiences and emotions if needed.  

Within the graphic organizer students should be encouraged to use both words and / or images to express their responses.

Coming of Age





Coming Out










First Love






























Mighty Jack Volume Two: The Goblin King
Published by: First Second
Written and Illustrated by: Ben Hatke
Format: Softcover, 6 x 8, 208 pages, $14.99
Ages: 10 and up
ISBN: 9781626722668


One of the strongest graphic novel heroines with exceptional, special abilities has been kidnapped in this second installment of Ben Hatke’s award-winning Mighty Jack series.  In Mighty Jack and the Goblin King Maddie has been kidnapped and Jack (her brother) and their friend Lilly are on the trail.  In fact, they are so determined to rescue Maddy they are willing to jump through a portal not knowing what lies on the other side.    

When they find goblins, beasts, ogres, and a knight made of rats on the other side Jack and Lilly remain determined to rescue Maddy.  Together, they can do this. Teamwork is key.

But when an early and tough decision has to be made Lilly is the one to do it. Her sacrifice, however, comes with a cost for the team. Lilly and the Goblin King play upon Jack and his quest to rescue Maddy. Combined, Lilly and the Goblin King may be more than Jack can handle.

Elements of Story

Plot: Jack’s sister, Maddy, has been kidnapped and it’s up to Jack and their friend, Lilly, to find her.

Major Characters: Jack, Lilly, Maddy, ogre, Jerry and Tig, Goblins, Goblin King, Giants, the “beast,” Phelix

Major Settings: Garden, Castle pipes, Castle underground (sewer), Goblin King’s dwelling, main room of Castle where the “beast” resides

Themes: Adventure, Family, Friendship, Love, Realms, Transformation, Identity 

Lesson Plan Recommendation Using the

Common Core Standards (CCS) for Young Adults

Common Core Standard(s)

Craft and Structure / CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.7.6
Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.

 Directions for Lesson Plan

Jack and Lilly both experience their own point of view on what it means to be a hero in this story.  For that reason, young adult educators can ask students to read this text with a simple Venn Diagram reading strategy in mind.  Below is a Venn Diagram that calls on students to:

  1. Use the circle on the left to write quotations and/or draw images that only represent Jack’s identity as an evolving hero throughout the story.
  2. Use the circle on the right to write quotations and/or draw images that only represent Lilly’s identity as an evolving hero throughout the story.
  3. In the overlapping area where the circles share space write quotations and/or draw images that represent similar heroic identities that Jack and Lilly share throughout the story.



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 (2014); Teaching New Literacies in Elementary Language Arts (2015). 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 three wiener dogs, Samantha, Max, and Alex Morgan Monnin.