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

No caption.Booth
by C.C. Colbert and Tanitoc
First Second
ISBN: 9781596431256

As much as I may love being a professor of literacy education, I equally love my secret hobby, which just so happens to be reading about The Civil War.  Thus, when I sent First Second a request to review Booth I wondered whether or not I would be too finicky a critic. 

In all honesty, I was a finicky critic, but the author of Booth, C.C. Colbert, was an even more finicky historian.  With the heart of a historian and a profound respect for those who lived through the past, Colbert’s Booth is not only well researched, but also groundbreaking.  Equally as valuable as the notable James Swanson’s focused and specific writings about Booth, Colbert’s Booth asks readers to think outside of Booth’s most famous moment in time and ask, “What was John Wilkes Booth thinking?  And why?”

Not just a Southern man but a famous, indulgent and emotionally excitable man, Colbert’s Booth is a son, a brother, a friend, a lover, and then the actor and assassin of Abraham Lincoln. Booth is seen as he sees himself, as the literal savior of the South. In fact, Colbert’s portrayal of Booth is so well done that I found myself having a little sympathy for the young, misguided and sometimes delusional actor. 

My recommendation is simple: a must read for all teachers and students!  Excellent! 

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Booth asks readers to consider the man behind one of the most famous acts in American history, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  Who really was John Wilkes Booth?  And why did he feel compelled to assassinate the president?

Setting: The North, the South, Ford’s Theatre, Booth’s family home, Round House Pub, Hale mansion, Mrs. Surratt’s boarding house, Garrett’s farm

Major Characters: John Wilkes Booth, Lucy Hale, Senator Hale, Ella, Edwin Booth, Abraham Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln,

Themes: Identity, Conspiracy, Friendship, Motivation, Point of View, Rivalry, Secrecy, Family, War

Traditional Literature Pairing Suggestions: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle School & High School English Language Arts

Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):*

- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE

1.     Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment.  Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works. 

2.     Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

3.     Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate and appreciate texts.

Recommended Grade Levels: 5th – 9th

Suggested Guided Reading Lesson Plan:

·      Before Reading

Before students begin to read Booth it may be a good idea to work through the K and W of a KWL chart (Ogle, 1986).  On the board, draw a three-column chart.  From left to right, label the columns Know, Wonder, and Learn. 

To begin the lesson, ask students what they “Know” about John Wilkes Booth.  Record their responses in the Know column. 

Moving from the Know column to the Wonder column, ask students what they “Wonder” about John Wilkes Booth.  Again, record those responses on the board. 

·      During Reading

With these first two columns in mind, students can now begin to read Booth.  Similar to a play, each chapter of Booth sets the stage for the upcoming action.  Thus, at the end of each chapter, ask students to review their current KWL chart.  Can they confirm or disconfirm anything they listed in the Know or Wonder columns?  Even more importantly, can they add anything to the Learn column?

At the end of each chapter, repeat this process.

·      After Reading

After reading Booth, teachers can ask, “Now that you have finished reading Booth, make a list of everything you learned about John Wilkes Booth?”

Once students have completed their lists, they can also compare and/or contrast their list with a peer’s list.

Finally, and still in pairs, ask students to write a summary paragraph to the following writing prompt: “According to what you read in Booth, what motivated John Wilkes Booth to assassinate the president?”

*NCTE/IRA. (1996). Standards for the English Language Arts. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

Ogle, D. (1986). KWL: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher 32, 564-570.

No caption.Adventures in Cartooning Activity Book
by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost
ISBN: 9781596435988

On a dull rainy day, the kind of day some of us may associate with Dr. Seuss’ Thing 1 and Thing 2, a young Knight-in-training is bored out of his mind.  But just when his boredom seems to be getting the best of him, a Magical Elf shows up to create some fun with comics.  But these aren’t any kind of comics!  The Magical Elf’s Knight-in-training wants to know how to create cool monsters, awesome action sequences, cool character faces, moving motion lines, and engaging backgrounds. 

Along with the young Knight-in-training, readers of all ages will learn how to turn a boring, rainy day – in fact, any day! – into a creative comic-writing experience.  For teachers and librarians, this means that Adventures in Cartooning: Activity Book is not just another book to recommend to students.  Adventures in Cartooning: Activity Book is a book teachers and librarians will enjoy reading on their own, and, then, after seeing how well it aligns to the IRA/NCTE standards for creative writing, teaching to students.

From the movement of the reader’s eye to the importance of panels, backgrounds, and balloons, Adventures in Cartooning: Activity Book presents teachers, librarians and students a top-notch crash course in the power of comic storytelling. 

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: On a rainy and boring day, a young Knight-in-training complains about having nothing to do.  But when a Magical Elf appears and offers him a chance for adventure and excitement, the Knight-in-training learns how to create his own comic stories. 

Setting: The Knight-in-training’s home, and, with their imaginations soaring, the various places the Magical Elf, Knight, and reader want to go!

Characters: Along with all the characters the reader and young Knight can think of, The Magical Elf, young Knight-in-training, and Edward the horse

Themes: Writing, Creativity, Adventure, Excitement, Taking Chances, and Trying Something New

Pairing Suggestions: Scott McCloud’s Making Comics, Dr. James Bucky Carter’s Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels, When Commas Meet Kryptonite by Dr. Michael Bitz, Teaching Graphic Novels by Dr. Katie Monnin, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle School & High School English Language Arts

Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):*

- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE

5.  Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

11.  Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Suggested Guided Writing Lesson Plan:

·      Planning:

In order to teach this guided writing lesson plan, teachers will need the following materials:

-       scratch paper

-       writing utensils

-       a class set of Adventures in Cartooning: Activity Book is recommended but not necessary

It would be ideal for each student to have a copy.  But whether or not each student has a copy, this guided writing lesson can be taught.

Right before the mini-lesson, students should be divided into small groups.  These groups can be organized randomly or by ability levels.

·      Mini-Lesson Modeling and Writing:

As a class, read pages 2 – 9 of Adventures in Cartooning: Activity Book.  When you reach page 7, show students an example of a monster that you have drawn.  Then, ask students to draw monsters either in their own copies of the book or on their own paper.  When students are done drawing ask for volunteers to share their monster drawings with the rest of the class.

Next, the class can read pages 8 and 9 together.  Once again modeling, show students your own drawing of a Knight jumping over a hole.  Then, either in their own Adventures in Cartooning: Activity Book or on their own paper, ask students to draw their own Knight jumping over a hole. 

·      Conference:

As students draw their own Knights jumping over holes, the teacher should walk around them room and consult with each group, asking to see examples and offering advice. 

·      Share:

When students are done drawing, ask them to share their drawings.

NOTE: All of the activities in Adventures in Cartooning: Activity Book can be taught using this basic guided writing lesson plan. 

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.