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

Cow Boy: A Boy and His HorseCow Boy: A Boy and His Horse
By: Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos
Published by: Archaia Entertainment
Format: Hardcover, 6 x 9, 96 pages, Full Color, $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-936393-67-1

From cover to cover this graphic novel has it all. A bold and engaging character. A witty plot. Animated settings. Explosive action. Unpredictable twists and turns. And, most importantly, an unlimited readership. Any reader will enjoy Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse. Great for schools, libraries, families, and book groups of any type this graphic novel is more than a conversation starter. It's a never-ending conversation instigator, for our ten-year old bounty hunter-cowboy is bound and determined not only to perform his job well and at a young age, but also to put his unruly, lawbreaking family members behind bars.  

Family or not, right is right and wrong is wrong. Or so our main character claims. His line of reasoning, though, is sometimes suspicious. Is he seeking out his kin because a good bounty hunter seeks to put all the bad guys behind bars? Or, conversation continued, is he seeking out his bounty hunter pay day? Family or not, Boyd is both a respectable law-abiding citizen and a little man with a financial plan.  

Oh, and P.S. - If you're rotting in jail like some of Boyd's family members or simply have some extra time on your hands until he finds you, this graphic novel has some unexpected nuggets of gold hidden within its pages (short graphic stories just waiting to tell their own tales of ruckus in the Old West).   

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Bounty hunter-cowboy Boyd is a man with a plan, a plan to put all law-breaking citizens (even his own family members) behind bars

Setting: the Old West (Hickory), Saloon, Sheriff's Office, Unpleasant Gulch, the Wireless West, Hogswallow Creek, Marshal's Office, the barn, Linney household, Suenos Rotos, The Nugget, Granpappy’s cabin in the woods

Major Characters: Boyd Linney, Dub Linney, the Man with No Underpants, Big Bill Pantywaist, Porky the Pig, Boyd's Mama (Margo Linney), Saloon Tender, Sheriff, Marshal, the three bullies in the barn, man in the barn, Yellow Rose and Black Billy, Zeke Linney, the Penguin cowboy and his female cowgirl partner, Kelly, Granpappy

Themes: Coming of Age, Family, Pride, Justice, Decision-making, Individualism

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: Jeff Smith's Bone series, William Golding's Lord of the Flies, S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and/or Tom Sawyer, Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series, Louis Sachar's Holes, Royden Lepp and Rebecca Taylor's Rust, Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado's Giants Beware!, Doug TenNapel's Cardboard, Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle and High School Readers

Suggested Alignment to the Common Core Standards:*
*Standard numbers correspond to the literal common core standards numbers, www.commoncorestandards.com

Craft and Structure
4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
5. Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
6. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Lesson Idea for Fifth Grade Readers and Above:

Directions: Ask students to think about the craft and structure of Cowboy: A Boy and His Horse by working through the following figure, which will help them pinpoint details from the text and the images that highlight some of the main character's purposes, motivations, or points of view in the story.

Character's Name

Identifying and Key Word Quotations from this Character

Identifying and Key Images (page # or redraw) of this Characters



Character's Purpose, Motivation, or Point of View


Boyd Linney








Dub Linney







Zeke Linney







Granpappy Linney








Johnny BunkoJohnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need
By: Daniel H. Pink and Rob Ten Pas
Published by: Riverhead Trade
Format: SC, 8 x 6, 160 pages, Black and White, $16.00
ISBN: 978-1-59448-291-5

I've never written a review for a graphic novel that could potentially have an impact on so many people. Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need is indeed the last career guide you or anyone else will ever need.  It’s title, however, is perhaps a bit humble. This graphic novel is more than just a career guide. It's a life guide.  

We've all felt like Johnny Bunko at one time or another. Am I happy? Am I following my dreams? Have I made decisions that make me feel good about myself? Do my choices in school or in my career reflect my inner most passions? Or, as Daniel Pink's character Johnny Bunko begins to realize, do my choices reflect what others think, thought, or advised me to do? Even people with good intentions, people who love and care about me, may think they know what is best for me. They might even help me plan out what seems like a secure, fail-safe path for future success and security.  Despite their good intentions and their love, however, these decisions and these choices - these paths and these plans - ultimately belong to me. They must reflect who I am and what makes me happy and passionate about my life and my career.

Intelligently illustrated by Rob Ten Pas, who clearly puts the final explanation point on the excellence of Daniel H. Pink's spot-on-advice, I recommend this graphic novel to parents, teachers, librarians, family, friends, and anyone else who wishes to not only find personal career success, but also personal life success for either themselves or someone they care about. 

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Johnny Bunko is working at a job that fits perfectly onto his (and his friends and loved one’s) plan for adulthood success. Despite the "plan," however, Johnny is pretty miserable. And he needs a new perspective to rescue himself from what could turn into a lifelong career of personal misery instead of personal success.  

Setting: Boggs Corporation, UKAI Sushi and Noodle restaurant, a field trip to Las Vegas

Major Characters: Johnny Bunko, Diana, Carlos, Johnny's Boss, Yuko, Lakshmi, Dave, Robinson and Richardson field trip example, an Einstein cameo

Themes: Career Planning, Identity, Advice, Goals and Dreams, Friendship, Self-reflection, Timing

Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: Daniel H. Pink's A Whole New Mind and Free Agent Nation and Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton's How Full Is Your Bucket?

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle and High School Level Readers

Suggested Alignment to the Common Core Standards:*
*Standard numbers correspond to the literal common core standards numbers, www.commoncorestandards.com

Key Ideas and Details
1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
3. Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Lesson Idea for Middle and High School Level Readers:

A Lesson Plan to Help Unlock the Super-Success-Secrets in Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need

Directions: After reading, divide students into small groups.  Give each group a large writing surface (perhaps a poster or a sheet of chart paper); groups will need larger paper so that they may display and share their final thoughts with the rest of the class.  

Write the following directions on the board: "Now that we have finished reading Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need your group members have three tasks to complete:

1. Identify the six key ideas for career and life success found in Johnny Bunko
2. Following each key idea make a list of supporting details or examples from Johnny Bunko (be sure to cite the page and panel location of each detail or example)
3. Underneath your supporting details write a sentence to explain its significance or importance. Ask yourselves: * "Why is this idea SO IMPORTANT?" * "How do I know? What in the text indicates the significance of this idea?"

When each group is finished working through the three tasks, ask them to post their work around the room. Finally, give each group an opportunity to share and explain their thoughts. Classmates should be encouraged to ask questions and engage in further conversations.

Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.