Amelia Rules! The Meaning of Life and Other Stuff

Amelia Rules! The Meaning of Life and Other StuffAmelia Rules! The Meaning of Life and Other Stuff
By: Jimmy Gownley
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Softcover, 6 x 9, full color, $10.99
ISBN: 978-1-41698-612-6

Jimmy Gownley is one of my favorite people. He's a great guy, a good friend, and an amazingly talented graphic novelist. He reminds me of Peter Pan. Peter Pan can tell a good story. Peter Pan is so clever, in fact, he can will himself to never grow up. I think Jimmy Gownley has never grown up either. And it's a beautiful thing, especially for anyone who wants to read one of the best graphic novel series out there.

Driven by its namesake character Amelia and her GASP (Gathering of Super Awesome Pals) friends, Amelia Rules!: The Meaning of Life . . . and Other Stuff can comfortably sit alongside any of the best young adult literature teachers and librarians have on their shelves. Charmingly realistic in its portrayal of what it feels like to be a tween Amelia and her friends face real life situations: divorce, family strife, a rival group of friends, school, and the utter bewilderment and counter-excitement that ensues when experiencing your first crush. Well titled, The Meaning of Life and Other Stuff takes readers on a reminiscent journey of self-reflection and self-discovery. The latest graphic novel in the Amelia Rules! series, Amelia Rules! The Meaning of Life . . . and Other Stuff belongs on everyone tween reading list. Parents, teachers, librarians, and students alike will enjoy the trials, tribulations, and successes that Amelia and her GASP friends face.

A brilliant graphic novel storyteller who has been nominated for a number of Eisner awards, Jimmy Gownley is a comic strip genius. His characters are full of life. His plots are engaging. His settings are nostalgic and picturesque. And, last but not least, his themes are reminiscent of each of our own inner Peter Pans.

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Amelia and her friends are growing up, and facing some authentic tween-life challenges

Setting: Somewhere in Pennsylvania

Major Characters: Amelia McBride, Reggie Grabinsky, Rhonda Bleenie, Pajamaman, Tanner, Amelia's Mom Mary, Amelia's Dad, GASP, Park View Terrace Ninjas, Kyle, Joan

Themes: Coming of Age, Friendship, Family, Teamwork, and Individualism and Community

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: Jeff Smith's Bone series, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, 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, Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle Level Readers

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. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

Lesson Idea for Middle Level Readers:

A Carousel Activity

Directions: Divide students into eleven small groups. Assign each group a color-themed character, as listed below. Supplied with a writing utensil and color-coordinated construction paper ask students to spend about 5 – 7 minutes at each carousel station.  

At each station, with their matching color-themed construction paper, students should list the roles and characteristics of each character. After all 11 groups have visited each carousel station engage the class in a whole class discussion about each character. Helpful questions for guiding discussion can be found below. 

1. What do you know about Amelia? What is her relationship with her parents? Her aunt? Her friends? Please find some instances in the book to support your feelings about Amelia.



2. What is Reggie like? What makes him significant to Amelia and her friends? Can you find a page or panel sequence that proves your theory about Reggie?



3. Why is Rhonda significant to the story? What does Amelia think of her? What does Rhonda think of Amelia and GASP? Find some pages, quotes, or panels to support your ideas.



4. In what ways is Pajamaman unique and significant? Find a panel or two to support why you think Pajamaman is unique and significant.



5. What does Amelia think about her Aunt Tanner? How do you know? What do you think about Aunt Tanner? Why? Find some pages or panels to support your feelings.

(Light Blue)


6. What is Amelia's Mom Mary like? What kind of relationship do you think Amelia and her mom have? What in the book supports your thoughts? 

(Forrest Green)


7. What do you learn about Amelia's dad and his feelings? Find a page number to support your response. 

(Light Green)


8. Who are the Park View Terrace Ninjas? What type of relationship to they have with GASP? Find a page or situation to support your impressions.



9. What does G.A.S.P. stand for? List the page number that clarifies that acronym. 



10. Who is Kyle? What role does he serve in the story? Can you find some panels or pages to support your thoughts?



11. How does Joan fit into the overall picture between GASP and the Park View Terrace Ninjas. Find a panel or page to prove your theory.




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.