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

Paper Girls Volume 1
Published by Image Comics
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrated by Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson, Jared K. Fletcher
Format: 144, Color, $9.99
ISBN: 9781632156747


Mac, Tiff, KJ, and Erin are four determined Papergirls. All the boys have left the business; Face it, they seem to think, who’s reading newspapers anymore? 

Even though we may think the newspaper is a communication medium from the past it has a lot of recent history that we should pay attention to. As the sun rises on the morning of Halloween in 1988 four Papergirls uncover a story that will not only alter their own lives, but also alter the lives of everyone else. History too.

With their strong-willed and street savvy leader “Mac” holding a loaded gun, which doesn’t end up being the best idea ever, these four girls are headed for a mysterious headache that will take much more than a strong will and a gun. Mac will have to work with her team, and the team will have to work with Mac. As each other’s’ leaders and each other’s followers, this team of Papergirls is about to unravel some mysterious occurrences that this reader hopes are followed up on in upcoming installments of their story.

Elements of Story

Plot: When four purpose-drive Papergirls uncover one of the most important stories of all time many obstacles both purposefully and accidentally get in their way.

Major Characters: Erin, Christa McAuliffe, Missy, Lucas Kurzenberger, MacKenzie / “Mac,” Tiffany/”Tiff,” “KJ,” Mrs. Drobneck, Stony PD, Wallace Bun, Terry, Gabs, Ronald Regan, Alister, Cardinal, Maxima, demons/dragons/teenagers, Editrix.

Major Settings: Heaven and Hell; Erin and Missy’s home,; Stony Stream, Ohio; abandoned house and basement, school/school area

Themes: Heaven and Hell, Family, Girls and Boys, Teamwork and/or Friends, Young Adults and Adults, Technology

Lesson Plan Recommendation Using the

Common Core Standards (CCS) for Young Adults

Key Ideas and Details


Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.

Directions for Lesson Plan

[Download Lesson Plan PDF here]


Ask students to analyze how the plot and the characters work together to highlight the key ideas and details imperative to the story’s complex character interactions and/or noninteractions. Figure 1 presents a circle with four name boxes, one for each of the Papergirls. Ask students to:

1. Within each girl’s name box, write 2 – 4 descriptive details about her role in the plot.

2. Review each of the Papergirls’ names and descriptive details with a friend; add any significant information where necessary.

3. Finally, use the middle of the circle to write a summary of how all four Papergirls work together to make the plot come together and resolve/not resolve itself at the end of the story.

Nnewts Volume 3: Battle for Amphibopolis
Published by Graphix
Written by Dough TenNapel
Illustrated by Doug TenNapel
Format: 6 x 9, 224 pages, Full Color
ISBN: 9780545676700


Action-packed scenes and pulse-pacing words drive Doug TenNapel’s final installment in the Nnewts series to a memorable end. A glimpse into the delicate balance between good and evil opens the story, putting the reader in an alert position because the supposed hero of the story – Herk – may be turning a bit evil. Or is he?  His body sure looks like it.

After a while his words even get confusing. What’s happening to Herk? Is it magical? Is there a hidden lesson? Herk confronts the best of himself and the worst of himself. Inside, he is a tale of two beings in this last volume of the series. One, a nnewt. The other, a lizzark. At the end of the day, however, who is he? Really?

And that’s all I’m going to give away about the last graphic novel in this series. My recommendation stands in actions, not words. Those actions: As soon as I finish typing this sentence I’m going to go reread my entire Nnewts series collection (1 – 3).  Strike: make that the next sentence.  I needed one more . . . . I’m giddy with anticipation to see if I can find hints of this final installment’s clever ending in the earlier two stories; my gut feeling is that they are there, for I know Doug TenNapel’s work very well and he’s brilliantly intentional.  

Elements of Story

Plot: Herk is back. But this time he’s not necessarily a good guy. What’s going on to the ever-loyal good guy in this third installment of the Nnewts trilogy? Has he been a bad guy all along? Why would he act this way? Will the trilogy end happily? Herk isn’t sure himself until the end.

Major Characters: Nnewt people, Herk, Sissy, Zerk, Blakk Mudd, White Stag, Necky, Pikk, Megasloth, Snake Lord, Orion, Wizzark, Egby, General Mander, Launa, Lizzark, Gullimar, Sayer Nok, Fry, Diggy, Giply, Pigzark

Major Settings: Amphibopolis, the Cloud, Nnewtown,

Themes: Good and Evil, Magic and Realms, Transformation and Transparency, Relationships and Trust, History

Lesson Plan Recommendations Using the Common Core Standards for Middle and High School Readers

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

[Download Lesson Plan PDF here]

DirectionsBecause the thematic struggle between good and evil is so prevalent in this graphic novel it would increase reading comprehension if educators asked readers to think about the relationship between two other elements of story as well: character(s) and setting(s). 

To place value on the reading and writing process that exists between TenNapel’s artwork and textual choices teachers can ask readers to fill out three graphic organizers.  While one graphic organizer focuses on students’ sketch ideas about the importance of setting under the theme of good and evil, a second graphic organizer focuses on the importance of character under the theme of good and evil. Finally, a third graphic organizer asks students to merge those two elements of story into a more plot based storytelling visual.


Figure 1 Guiding Question: What are the most important elements of setting that inform this story?

In the space below, find and redraw at least 5 images from the story to answer the question. Find and rephrase (or quote directly with page number) at least 5 quotes from the story as well.

Figure 2 Guiding Question: Choose a character and ask, “What are the most important elements of this person’s character that inform this story?”

In the space below, find and redraw at least 5 images from the story to answer the question. Find and rephrase (or quote directly with page number) at least 5 quotes from the story as well.

Figure 3 Guiding Question: Combine your answers about setting and character into one coherent and logical graphic novel panel that emphasizes one character and his/her battle with good and evil in a particular setting from the story.

In the space below, be sure to redraw and rephrase (or quote directly) at least 3 elements of story from each Figure 1 (3 setting elements of story) and Figure 2 (3 character elements of 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.