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

Published by: TOON Books
Written and Illustrated by: Ivan Brunetti
Format: 9 x 6, 40 pages, $12.95
Ages: 3 and up


In one of their assignments for teaching children’s literature my preservice teachers must seek out and identify high quality children’s literature and write about how they will teach those selections to today’s young readers. Most of the time, students find a host of titles that absolutely deserve to still make the cut when teaching children’s literature.  But I still worry.  I worry that my students are still overly selecting children’s literature that is dominated by print-text literacies alone. 

As we teach during the greatest communication revolution of all time, a time when to read is equally balanced by being literate with both visual-text literacies and print-text literacies, we must be intentionally purposeful about introducing young readers to high quality children’s literature that embraces teaching a balanced literacy stage with two co-stars, image-text and print-text.

This month I found a unique and exceptional treasure to respond to this contemporary shift in literacy learning for today’s young readers.  Ivan Brunetti’s Wordplay will now serve as my best example of a newly published, contemporary early reader comic that relies on both print-text literacies and visual-text literacies to teach English language learning.  Why?  Brunetti’s Wordplay is a linguistically alive and alluring language game we will all want to play over and over again.  Seriously, just read it. 

Focused on teaching young readers about compound words, Worplay literally plays with words in a way that will never leave you – or your young readers’ – minds.  Smart, witty, and just pure-plain-fun Wordplay is not only the best example I’ve ever found for teaching compound words in my last 20 years of teaching, but also the best example of how influential the relationship between print-text literacies and visual-text literacies can be when done thoughtfully and creatively by a seasoned storyteller. 

Elements of Story 

Plot: Annemarie (a compound word name) is learning compound words, and as she does so will you and your young reader.

Major Characters: Annemarie, Teacher, Classmates, Mom, Dad

Major Settings: Home, School, Vehicle

Themes: Language Learning, Home-School Connection, Family, Imagination and Play, Creativity, Visual-text Literacies and Print-text Literacies

Lesson Plan Recommendation Using the 

Common Core Standards (CCS)

Common Core Standard(s) 

Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts, including using frequently occurring conjunctions to signal simple relationships (e.g., because).

Directions for Lesson Plan


Reading aloud is an excellent way to encourage a love of reading.  For this reason, this lesson plan encourages both educators and families to engage in playful and repeated read aloud activities with young readers.    

To begin, identify all of the compound words in Wordplay: homework, housework, homesick, housefly, mailman, milkmaid, handyman, playground, kickball, basketball, football, softball, eyeball, ballroom, butterfly, watchdog, bookworm, grasshopper, meanwhile, pancake, chickpea, eggplant, strawberry, blueberry, bedroom, bedtime, nightstand, moonlight, sleepwalk, sunflower, rainbow, riverbank, daydream, lunchtime, and goodbye.

Next, write each compound word in large, readable letters on paper; make sure that each compound word can be hung and read from anywhere in the room.  After writing each word, cut them into their two main, individual word pieces. 

Note: The individual words are going to be used to make a game for learning about and understanding compound words, just like Annemarie does in the story.

Once the compound words are cut out and ready to be hung randomly sort them and place them on a table in front of a young reader(s). 

Now you are ready to read aloud with your young reader.  As you come across each new compound word Annemarie learns in the story ask the young reader to identify each of the two individual words that make up the compound word in the story.  Tell young readers to not only show you the compound word, but also say/read it aloud.  When they have finished with each compound word keep reading the story and repeating this activity until the end.  If a young reader struggles to identify the word help them out with clues and hints.  You may have to read the story and identify the compound words many times until a young reader feels comfortable doing this activity on their own.

Finally, put all the compound words back on the table and flip them upside down.  Rearrange the words upside down (making them unreadable) and ask young readers to randomly select two words and play a game. 

For this game, ask young readers to use their two selected words and create a compound word with them.  When they do they should read their compound word aloud and then decide if it is a compound word found in the story, a new compound word, or a silly compound word. 

Display the following three categories somewhere in the room and ask students to hang their new compound words in the appropriate category. 

Story Compound Word New Compound Word Silly Compound Word









When students are done identifying compound words from the story, creating new compound words, or finding silly compound words ask them to think like Annemarie and draw a picture of their favorite compound word(s) on a separate sheet of paper.  Their piece of paper must list their compound word (spelled correctly) and a corresponding image of the student’s creation.

Published by: First Second
Written and Illustrated by: Jessica Abel
Format: Hardcover, 64 pages, $14.99
Ages: 12 and up
ISBN: 9781629916392


Set on Mars 200 years in the future, Trish Npindju seeks to help her family avoid a TLA (Temporary Labor Assignment) by relying on her fire-y reputation in the hoverderby world.  The only problem is that her contract forbids her from playing with the team. But Trish is pretty determined and the coach still has her playing scrimmage games.  What’s going on?

After finding a mysterious martian outside her family’s struggling farmhouse Trish decides to let it stay and heal.  Little does Trish know that this martian can and will use its skin to make her and her friends improvement-powering hoverderby skates.  But that’s not all.  A TLA is a dangerous familial risk and Trish will do anything to avoid her family being in financial jeopardy – including continually hiding her new helpful yet mysterious martian friend Qiqi.    

As of now, though, Trish is an unpaid intern on the Terror Novas hoverderby team.  Unable to play due to her young age and with a secret trick up her sleeve to improve her and her teammates performances readers must think alongside Trish about what she must do, should do, and might do.

Elements of Story

Plot: Trish is too young to play hoverderby and her contract says so too, but that may not stop her after she discovers a curiously helpful martian who needs her help named Qiqi.  Can the two help each other out of difficult circumstances?  Or is there another play at hand?

Major Characters: Trish, Marq, QiQi, Rocky, Devin, Rocky and Devin’s mom, Tío and Tía, Terror Novas Rollerderby Team

Major Settings: Mars 200 years in the future.

Themes: Dystopian Future, Sci-Fi, Social Justice and Economics, Family, Friendship, Sport 

Lesson Plan Recommendation Using the

Common Core Standards (CCS) for Young Adults

Common Core Standard(s)

Analyze the impact of the author's choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed)

 Directions for Lesson Plan

Themes and characters create an integral relationship in Trish Trash.  In order to comprehend the story readers must consistently link the themes with the characters.  The following graphic organizer will help readers while they read; readers can log how the characters and the themes interact throughout the story.  As students fill it out, educators should also feel free to discuss this graphic organizer both during reading and after reading Trish Trash.

Students need to identify 3 themes in the graphic organizer provided below.  As they read, educators can ask students to make notes on the arrow about how the character(s) (and even the setting(s) and / or plot point(s)) align with each theme(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 (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.