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

Stinky Cecil in Mudslide Mayhem!
Published by: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Written by: Paige Braddock
Illustrated by: Paige Braddock
Format: Color, 104pages, $9.99
ISBN: 9781449489373
Ages: 4+

Review 

Paige Braddock has done it again!  Whether writing comics for adults, kids, or all-aged readers Braddock knows how to tell a story that will make a reader think twice.  And this time readers are thinking twice about animal habitats and our greater understanding of both our and their shared environments. 

Stinky Cecil in Mudslide Mayhem! is a story about animals, habitats, friendship and empathic teamwork the whole family can read together.  To start, Cecil realizes that the rain isn’t stopping and his home is a little too close to the rising water.  What’s causing the water to rise?  Cecil and his friends are determined to find out.

Teamed up with other animals from his local pond, Cecil and friends must figure out why the water is rising and they can work together to save all their homes.   

Elements of Story

Plot: Something’s making the water rise in the pond, and Cecil and his friends are determined to find out how to save their habitats.  When they find out what’s causing the flood, can they find a way to live together with their new neighbors?

Major Characters: Nesbit, Cecil, Jeremy, Evelyn, Jeff, Reggie, Shelly, Rayray, Bud, Patricia, Sprout

Major Settings: Pond, Cecil’s house, Nesbit’s tree limb, Jeff’s treehouse, Jeff’s boat, mysterious hole in the ground, tunnel, Beaver Lodge, other side of the pond, narrow stream, tree, tree branch/twig

Themes: Seasons, Weather, Friendship and Community, Habitats and Environmentalism, Teamwork, Empathy

Lesson Plan Recommendation Using the

Common Core Standards (CCS) for Young Adults

Common Core Standard(s)

Key Ideas & Details
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.2
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

Directions for Lesson Plan

For this lesson plan, young readers will select a theme and both visually and textually provide evidence on how it evolves throughout the course of the story. 

In order to do so readers are offered five sets of paired blocks.  Each set represents one reading stopping point from Stinky Cecil in Mudslide Mayhem!  Within the sets, the paired blocks represent the reader’s best visual (block on the left) and textual (block on the right) interpretations at that point. 

Collectively, the sets and the paired blocks will show the evolution of the reader’s understanding of their selected theme as it progresses visually and textually throughout the narrative.

Step 1, Paired Block Set 1:

  • Readers read from pages 5 – 14
  • Readers select a theme from the list above
  • Readers visually and textually interpret their theme at that point in the text
Visual Interpretation (Draw) Textual Interpretation (Words)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2, Paired Block Set 2:

  • Readers read from pages 15 - 33
  • Readers visually and textually interpret their theme at that point in the text
Visual Interpretation (Draw) Textual Interpretation (Words) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3, Paired Block Set 3:

  • Readers read from pages 34 – 53
  • Readers visually and textually interpret their theme at that point in the text
Visual Interpretation (Draw) Textual Interpretation (Words) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4, Paired Block Set 4:
  • Readers read from pages 54 – 76
  • Readers visually and textually interpret their theme at that point in the text
Visual Interpretation (Draw) Textual Interpretation (Words) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5, Paired Block Set 5:
  • Readers read from pages 77 – 96
  • Readers visually and textually interpret their theme at that point in the text
Visual Interpretation (Draw) Textual Interpretation (Words) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point
Published by: Top Shelf
Written by: Kim Dwinell
Illustrated by: Kim Dwinell
Format: Softcover, 236 pages, Color, $19.99
ISBN: 9781603094115
Ages: 9+

Review

“You answered the call.  This is your journey . . . .”

When I asked Kim Dwinell last month about her literary muses for Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point she said she had three: Nancy Drew, Scooby- Doo, and Flipper.  Now that’s a story trio worth reading, I thought.  And Kim Dwinell delivers! 

One of my top picks for best middle grade graphic novel of the year and best debut graphic novelist of 2018, Surfside Girls: The Secret of Danger Point is a coming of age mystery that brings two best friends even closer together. 

When Sam discovers a mysterious and ghost-laden underwater cave near Danger Point, the two best friends’ must decide if they can truly trust each other in the face of one seriously odd mystery occurring in their gorgeous, beachside hometown.  Can Sam trust Jade with the secrets she found in the mysterious new cave?  Will Jade be able to believe her best friend, even if Sam’s pretty sure she saw some friendly ghosts who seem to think it is her destiny to accept their mysterious call-to-action? 

Due to Surfside Girls’ well received debut, Sam’s acceptance of this first mysterious call-to-action is the first journey in what Dwinell tells me is only one of more to come.

Elements of Story

Plot: Summer has started and Sam is seeing ghosts on Danger Point. Just when things can’t seem to get weirder, Sam and Jade discover that Mayor Buckley, who is acting very strangely, seems to be connected to the events on Danger Point. Will the Surfside girls be able to connect the dots and solve the mystery?

Characters: Samantha (Sam) Taylor, Jade, Bob Taylor, Mr. Jian Wu, Peety, Sam’s mom, Robert, Mrs. Edna Scott, Mayor George Buckley, Vincent Nesbalm, Andrea and Raul

Setting: Surfside, Danger Point, the Burger Dude, the beach, the ocean, underwater, the cave, Lifeguard Headquarters, Mrs. Edna Scott’s home, Sam’s home, hospital 

Themes: Friendship, Adventure, Mystery, Romance, Afterlife/ Ghosts

Lesson Plan Recommendation Using the

Common Core Standards (CCS) for High School Readers

Common Core Standard(s)

Key Ideas and Details:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.1
Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Directions for Lesson Plan

A graphic novel mystery lends itself well to teaching 21st century young adults about inference. Often a challenging topic to teach in classrooms, inference is easily linked to the skills students need to have in order to read a mystery story well. 

In a graphic novel, inferences exist in the textual and visual indication(s) that connect pieces of the story together.  The lesson idea and corresponding graphic organizer below will help students keep a running record of their inferences, and reflections on those inferences, throughout the story.

To begin, ask students what it is like to put together a puzzle.  Write students responses on the board, being sure to include ideas like: identifying connective visual clues, identifying connective textual clues, reflecting on the greater idea or end goal, trying out options until finding the right fit, and so on.

Next, ask students to read the graphic novel and put bookmarks on the pages they think may link together in order to solve the mystery; in other words, ask students to identify the clues (a synonym for inference in this lesson plan) in the story. 

After reading the entire graphic novel and knowing the ending of the mystery ask students to go back and reflect on their bookmark placements and select their top 3 choices for strongest inference (clue) moments in the story; students will need to use both words and images to reflect on their inference choices.  



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Dr. Katie Monnin is the Director of Education at Pop Culture Classroom in Denver, Colorado.  She has written dozens of articles, curricula, reviews, lesson plans, and 8 books about teaching graphic novels, animation, video games, social media and other pop culture topics in the classroom.