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

Spera Volume 2Spera Volume 2
Written by: Josh Tierney
Individual chapters illustrated by: Giannis Milonogiannis, Kyla Vanderklugt, Afu Chan, and Timothy Weaver
Publisher: Archaia Entertainment
Format: Hardcover, 7 x 11, 168 pages, Full Color, $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-93639-376-3

I've always believed that the best recommender of a good book is a student. Unlike us ("so-called adults"), when students open up a book and find it lacking they stop reading. Students don't force themselves to read something because feel obliged to do so. They have yet to enter the time in life when it seems like if you start something - no matter how bad it is - you must finish it. Students are genuine, raw readers looking for quality and not quantity.  

The day before I left to go San Diego, California to be an Eisner judge this year one of my students recommended that I read Spera. This particular student, we can call her "Mary" if you like (Mary, is that ok with you?) planted a seed-like recommendation that was about to become the brightest star of my Eisner judging experience.  

I recognized the title when I saw it in the judge's room in San Diego. "Hmmm... interesting," I thought. "That's either coincidental or a sign. I better read this." From the first page to the last, I felt like I accidentally found a secret, magical gem in an enchanted forest. With thousands of books to read in the judge's room, I couldn't put Spera down. It was the most impressive gem in a room full of precious treasures.  

Focused on the story of two princesses set out to redefine what it means (and should always have meant!) to be a strong and powerful leader, Princesses Pira and Lono will take readers on a unique journey that, in my estimation, will redefine the fairy tale genre for 21st century readers. Neither of them are passively waiting to be kissed by a prince, nor are they hoping for a glass slipper that might fit.  

These princesses are strong, bold, and courageous, and paired up with their two clever sidekicks (Yonder, a man who can morph into a wolf, and an intellectually curious cat named Chobo) they are about to take a new generation of readers on a journey not yet explored.

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Princesses Pira and Lono are the type of princesses the 21st century deserve. Independent and unique, the two princesses are head to the big city where they must confront strange laws, and even stranger men and monsters.  On top of that, they must join the city's prestigious Adventurers Guild. Will they earn access to the Guild?  And even if they are considered will the powerful Rale let them in?

Accompanied by their two companions and teammates Yonder, a fire spirit, and Chobo, a warrior cat, the two girls must prove to be more than just ordinary princesses.  They must be the 21st century princesses contemporary literature has been waiting to discover.

Setting: Kotequog

Major Characters: Princess Pira, Princess Lono, Yonder, Chobo, the members of the Adventurer’s Guild, Rale

Themes: Individualism and Teamwork, Myth and Legend, Contemporary Storytelling and Traditional Storytelling, Acceptance and Rejection, Relationships

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: Jeff Smith's Bone series, S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series, any version of Cinderella, Snow White, and/or Sleeping Beauty, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Aesop's Fables, Jane Austen's Emma and/or Pride and Prejudice, Toni Morrison's Sula, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Kate Chopin's The Awakening

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle School Readers

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

Text Types and Purposes*
2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

After Reading Writing Lesson Idea for Middle School Readers of Spera Volume II:
In order to assess whether or not students comprehend this story a writing lesson plan might be a good idea.  In the format of a timeline, ask students to work individually (for about 20 minutes), focusing on what they see as the ten most important and/or significant events in the story.

Students can use the below timeline to chronologically place each of their selected important events in the correct order.  Students should also provide short rationales for each of their timeline selections (two or three sentences per event).

When students finish their timeline ask them to review their choices and rationales and work through a TPS literacy strategy.

1. First students will review their own choices and Think about each of their selections and rationales.
2. Next, students can find a peer and take turns sharing their timeline selections and rationales (each student will have 10 minutes).
3. Finally, ask for volunteer peer groups to come to the front of the room and share their various timeline selections and rationales.  

Note: When students are done sharing, please encourage the class to ask questions and point out where they (and their timelines) agreed or disagreed with the timelines and rationales just discussed. This will help foster critical discussion and further comprehension of the story.



Ninjago Vol. 5LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu Volume 5: Kingdom of the Snakes
Written by: Greg Farshtey
Illustrated by: Jolyon Yates
Publisher: Papercutz
Format: Hardcover/Softcover, 64 pages, Full Color, $10.99/$6.99
ISBN: 978-1-59707-357-8/

Every generation seems to think (and say) that the current generation has it easier, doesn't appreciate what they have, and has never walked two miles uphill in the snow just to go to school. But the real question is "Why?" "Why does every generation think that the new generation somehow has it so much easier?"

With a career based in studying and reading comics and graphic novels I catch myself thinking about this "Why?" a lot. Today's generation of young readers does indeed have better comics and graphic novels then we ever did.  As I read LEGO Ninjago: Kingdom of the Snakes I found myself feeling a little jealous of today's generations.  I mean, come on, we had LEGOs. But we didn't have graphic novels that turned our LEGOs into personified, butt-kicking, ninjas teamed up on a quest to rid the world of the evil doings of the Kingdom of the Snakes!

A well-told and brightly-color-popping young adult graphic novel LEGO Ninjago: Kingdom of the Snakes jumps off the page as one of the ninjas, Jay, flies through one of the worst storms he has ever experienced. As his plane skids to stop at the edge of a cliff Jay finds himself in familiar territory: Ninjago. But this isn't the Ninjago he knows. Everything is different. There is no Ninjago team led by a Master of Spinjitzu named Sensei Wu. In fact, Cole, Zane, and Kai don't even know each other. Or Jay. Questioning himself and his sense of familiarity Jay has landed in an alternate Ninjago where Sensei Wu has not gathered the team together. In this alternate Ninjago it's more of an individual effort. Each ninja thinks he alone can conquer the Kingdom of the Snakes, and their self-inclined attitudes for glory are more than confusing to Jay.  

Will Jay be able to reunite, or even unite!, the team. Can he convince them that there is indeed no "I" in team?

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Master of Spinjitzu Jay has never seen a storm quite like the one he is flying through right now. So when he lands his plane to a skidding stop right before a cliff he’s pretty thankful. The storm is starting to subside and he’s safely in Ninjago. But is he? This is an alternate Ninjago, and Sensei Wu has not organized a team of ninjas. Too self-consumed to believe Jay’s seemingly misguided and delusional information about a team of Masters of Spinjitzu led by Sensei Wu, his fellow ninjas are pretty certain that they alone can defeat the Kingdom of the Snakes.

Setting: Ninjago, an alternate Ninjago, Constrictai City

Major Characters: Jay, Kai, Cole, Zane, Sensei Wu, Bytar, army/members of the Kingdom of the Snakes, Garmadon, Pythor

Themes: Individualism and Teamwork, Good and Evil, Truth and Justice, Problem-solving, Mystery and Suspense, Motivation and Point of View

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

Some Teaching Recommendations For Elementary and Middle School 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 Elementary and Middle School Readers:
One of the most engaging elements of this series is its characters. Thus, this lesson will focus on character comprehension. Each character plays its own role in the overall plot, and in order to comprehend the complexity and popularity of this series as it moves from one small story to the next students need to understand each its character’s own unique role.

After you read this graphic novelwork through the following enhanced and kinesthetically-based (K)now, (W)onder, (L)earn chart.

At each of your table groups you will find a bag of LEGOs. Use the LEGOs to answer each of the KWL questions. In other words, you can literally build your answers.

Know: After reading this graphic novel what do you know about each character?

Wonder: Thinking about future stories, what do you wonder about these characters? What adventures might happen next?

Learn: If you could write the next graphic novel in this series what would you want other readers to learn?

























































Each group - for each category - will get a chance to explain their answers. 

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.