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

Breath of Flowers
Published by: Tokyopop
Written by: Caly
Illustrated by: Caly
ISBN: 9781427861511
Ages: 13+

Review

Azami has a serious, serious crush! However, there may be a societal concern about Azami’s crush.

Years ago, Gwyn signed up to attend Azami’s school, blindly taking advice from a friend. What Gwyn did not realize is that her new high school does not have a girl’s basketball team. So when the team assumes she is a boy she rolls with it. However, an admirer of one of the team members keeps showing up for practice (Azami). Unbeknonst to Gwyn, Azami has a crush on her.

At first, Azami is upset by finding out Gwyn is a girl. Later, however, Azami tells her “It means that my feelings haven’t changed even though now I know you’re a girl.” When they get teased out in pubic by one of Gwyn’s middle school friends, Azami gets frustrated and angry with Alvin and knocks over all their drinks in the cafe in order to prove her point.

When Gwyn passes out during basketball practice she is sent to the school nurse. Azami accompanies her, and to her astonishment notices scars and bandages around Gwyn’s chest. The school nurse tells Gwyn that if she keeps binding her chest and not eating in order to look more like a boy, she will have to call her parents. Gwyn immediately starts to isolate herself from Azami. She hides in the library. She starts spending her time with another friend, Judith. And Judith has some serious plans of her own.

At the end of the day, however, Judith’s help becomes an issue, and Gwyn and Azami must figure out together what they really want for themselves and each other.

Language Arts Elements of Story           

 

Plot: Azami has been attending high school basketball practice becuase she has a crush on a member of the team, Gwyn. When she finds out Gwyn is a girl trying to play basketball on a more and more serious level Azami not only falls more in love with her, but truly embraces Gwyn’s dreams.

Major Characters: Gwyn Torm, Azami Takahashi, Basketball Teammates and Rivals, Roman, Thomas, Alvin, Judith, Zachary, Idina

Major Settings: High School, the Mall, Cafe, Nurse’s Office, Basketball Court, Summer Picnics, Outside Basketball Court, Gwyn’s House, Azami’s House

Themes: Friendship, Gender Identity, Love, Rivalry, Relationships, Goals

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

Key Ideas & Details
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.2
Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

*  The number(s) referenced above corresponds to the number used by the Common Core Standards (www.corestandards.com)

Lesson Idea for Middle and High School Readers

Before reading, review the themes listed above with your students.

Next, and while reading, ask students to choose two themes and identify and analyze their development throughout the story. Students should include how their two themes inform and overlap with each other as well.

If any students want to shre their ideas, please allow some time for sharing.


Teen Titans: Raven
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Kami Garcia
Illustrated by: Gabriel Picolo
ISBN: 9781401286231
Ages: 12+

Review

If you are a Teen Titans fan, you are going to be very, very happy with DC Comic’s newest middle grade title: Teen Titans: Raven.

While on a car ride with her new foster mom, Raven is asked: “I was thinking you might want to skip school tomorrow . . . . I’m signing the paperwork. Remember?” Having had it with the foster system, Raven does not take her foster mom’s offer too seriously, thinking “The adoption papers. She still wants to go through with it?”

During their conversation, and right on the second and third pages, Raven and her foster mom experience a terrible car crash together. While Raven loses her memory of everything during and before the accident, her soon-to-be foster mom dies. As a result of the accident, Raven is moved from Atlanta to New Orleans to be taken care of and live with her foster mom’s sister, Aunt Natalia. Aunt Natalia also has a daughter named Max. Even though Raven is unable to recall her memories Aunt Natalia and Max offer some much-needed respite, safety, and a support system.

As if that is not enough for a teenager to deal with, starting school is even harder. In purple thought balloons Raven starts to realize that she is an “empath,” a superhero who can sense, feel, and understand the emotions of others. Overwhelming at first, Raven learns to use her empathic super skills to better understand her new life, new frieinds, and new school. At her most overwhelming points, however, Raven knows that she has Max and her newly met boyfriend “Tommy Torres” to help her out.

With forces of good and forces of evil at work in the school there is also a demon (Trigon) chasing Raven and saying: “She is my child. My blood. She belongs to me. . . . Stop this Raven. I am your Father, you belong to me.” A one-eyed masked man also shows up at the school and has a clear relationship with Tommy Torres. What could all of this possibly mean for a young, empathic Raven?

Language Arts Elements of Story              

 

Plot: Raven has just been in an accident that killed her soon-to-be foster mom, and she is sent to live with an Aunt and a cousin from her foster mom’s side of the family in New Orleans. Since Raven cannot remember anything before the accident, Aunt Natalia and Max help her safely transition into her new home life and school. Max even attends Raven’s school and is protective of her new cousin. But when Raven expresses her empathic skills, followed by some odd occurences at school. Max and Aunt Natalia are there to help Raven out, no matter what.

Major Characters: Raven’s foster mom, Raven/Rachel Roth, Natalia Navarro, Viviane Navarro, Alana, Ellie, Tommy Torres, Max, Mrs. Larue, Miss Eliza, Deathstroke, Antoine, David Chang, Lili, Andrew & Tyler, Lola, Ti-bon-age, Millie, army of ghosts, Raven’s father Trigon

Major Settings: Atlanta, GA; street accident; foster home; Raven’s room; high school; Tallulah Saint’s House of Voodoo; cemetery; New Orleans, LA; coffee shop on Chartres Street, prom

Themes: Empathy, Identity, Family, Emotions & Memory, Self esteem, Dark & Light, Spirituality


Lesson Plan Recommendations Using the Common Core Standards for Middle Grade Readers 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.3.A
Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

*The number(s) referenced above corresponds to the number used by the Common Core Standards (www.corestandards.com)

Lesson Idea Plan

Note: I have chosen a writing exercise for this lesson plan because writing is sometimes overlooked, and yet it is such an important skill for middle graders to have before attending high school. 

The Writing Prompt Is:

“Write a script with yourself as the narrator of Teen Titans: Raven. You can be any type of narrator you like, but your choice and voice must be grounded in one of the themes listed above.”

Write a sentence or two describing how your narrative voice aligns to the theme of your choice:

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

Writing Format/Organization

1. Write an introduction for youself as the narrator (get creative!).

2. Write an orienting overview of the plot in your narrative voice,

3. Write a few character profile introductions, in your narrative voice, for three of the main characters, including their purpose in the story, strengths, and weaknesses.

4. Finally, and still with your chosen narrative voice, your script needs to address what you see as one of the most significant events in the story, being sure to include the roles and actions of the main characters involved and the resolution that occurs.

If there is extra time, some students can volunteer to read their scripts. 

 

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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.