Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song

The Carter Family: Don't Forget This SongThe Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song
Written by: Frank M. Young
Illustrated by:
David Lasky
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts
Format: Hardcover, 6.5 x 9.5, 192 pages, Partial Color, $24.95
ISBN: 978-0-81098-836-1

This graphic novel does not have an ending, and that's what makes it great. Superior. A must read.   

Ok, it technically has an ending. Figuratively it does not. Inspired by the little known history of one of America's first families of country music - the Carter family - I hesitated to turn to the last page.  

That's when it hit me! "BAM!"

The point of this graphic novel is not only to tell the story of the Carter family and their influence on the American country music scene, but also to inspire the search for more inquiry-based learning about the stories behind the stories. Forget the headliners. Perhaps the real questions are: "Who inspired the headliners? How? Why?"

Between 1927 and 1944 members of the Carter family sold millions of records. B.C. (before the more famous Johnny and June Carter Cash) members of the Carter family experienced triumphs, tribulations, and the greatness that comes with success and its complimentary-opposite failure.  

Historical fiction at its best readers of all ages will enjoy and learn from this bound-to-be popular  and required reading in middle and high schools across the country. Yes, required. It measures up to the classics. Frank M. Young explains: "Who were the Carter family? . . . . Why is there a graphic novel about them? The story of their lives and career is a great American saga. Echoes of Shakespeare, Dickens, and Horatio Alger are here. A touch of Mark Twain and a pinch of Charles Portis can be seen in the sometimes funny, sometimes brutally sad narrative of the Carter family."

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Who? What? Where? When? And why? Are the key five questions to any good story. In this case, readers will find answers to these questions in regards to both the origins of modern American country music and, in particular, Johnny and June Carter Cash.  

Setting: Virginia, Tennessee, various family homes, various concert events

Major Characters: A.P. Carter, Ezra Carter, Maybelle Carter, Sara Carter, June Carter

Themes: Experimentation, Music, Historical Impact, Family, Friendships, Relationships, Collaboration, Influence

Literary Pairing Suggestions: Joseph Remnant's Harvey Pekar's Cleveland, Chris Schweizer's Crogan Series, Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, Mark Zownitzr and Charles Hirschberg's Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?, Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese, John Carter Cash's The House of Cash, Stephen Wade's The Beautiful Music All Around Us, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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

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.

Reading Lesson Plan Idea for Middle and High School Readers:

On the first few pages of The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song readers will find a very helpful resource: a Carter family tree. For this lesson plan, and after reading the graphic novel, students can refer back to this family tree.  

Thinking about key ideas and details along with meaning-making over the course of this historical story, students need to demonstrate their comprehension by filling out a comprehension-based assessment. The graphic organizer below is designed to fulfill that purpose.

DIRECTIONS: Choose 4 of the most significant characters from The Carter Family and a rationale for each choice (write the character's name and rationale in the first column). Next, link each character with one or more of the themes and/or main ideas from this graphic novel (Experimentation, Music, Historical Impact, Family, Friendships, Relationships, Collaboration, Influence); also, add a brief rationale. Finally, explain how each character changes or evolves over the course of the story in terms of that theme.















































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.