The Civil War Diary of Freeman Colby

The Civil War Diary of Freeman ColbyThe Civil War Diary of Freeman Colby
Written and Illustrated by: Marek Bennett
Publisher: Comics Workshop
Format: Softcover, 5 x 7, 352 pages, Black and White, $19.95
ISBN: 978-0-9824153-5-1


What could be more perfect for Language Arts and Social Studies educators than a nonfiction, true story graphic novel adaptation of a Civil War memoir?

In my mind, not too much. But there's even better news about The Civil War Diary of Freeman Colby. So let me ask the question again: What could be even more perfect for Language Arts and Social Studies educators than a nonfiction, true story graphic novel adaptation of a Civil War memoir?

The answer: A Civil War memoir about a TEACHER-TURNED-SOLDIER!

And with that I simply want to strongly endorse cross content area literacy-learning and leave the final words of this review to the author, for he introduces and inspires readers of this graphic novel better than I ever could.

"From his first page, Colby comes across as a true Yankee character with a gripping story to tell. Drawing out that story in comics is my way of trying to understand it. By now, I feel like I've spent a good part of the past few years in Maryland, 1862, right alongside Colby... I hope this book gives you a similar sense of their world."
- Marek Bennett -

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot(s): Freeman Colby is passionate about teaching. Starting in 1861, however, the Union has fallen apart. The south has seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. After a year of war Freeman Colby feels he must make a decision. Teach? Or join the cause? Passionate about his life and his decisions this graphic novel memoir offers a unique glance into the most tumultuous time in American history.

Major Characters: Freeman Colby, Colby's students, Newton, Company K men and Captain, President Lincoln and his cabinet, Margaret Clement, Union soldiers, Confederate soldiers

Major Settings: Civil War time period of the 1860s, rural one-room school house in Maryland, the New England states, the North and the South, soldier camps, battlefields

Major Themes: War and Peace, Decision-making skills, Camaraderie, Teaching and Learning, Leadership, Dedication, Struggle and Success, Right and Wrong, Brother verse Brother

History/Social Studies Standard & Reading Informational Texts Standard Recommendations For Young Adult Readers in 6 - 12

History/Social Studies Standards*

Craft and Structure
Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.

Reading Informational Texts Standards*

Key Ideas and Details
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

*The same standards for 6th thru 12th grade history/social studies and reading informational texts are encompassed within the 12th grade standards.

Lesson Plan for Grades 6 - 12

Directions: In order to successfully develop a lesson plan that focuses on Social Studies standards regarding craft and structure alongside Reading Informational Text literacy-based standards students need to pay close attention to the interaction between Colby's journal format and the story-supporting evidence he provides.

For that reason, a chart with three columns can be used to help students keep track of both content area standards simultaneously.

Note for educators: Because Colby's journal contains numerous entries dividing the text into five main sections will help readers see the text as more approachable and easier to comprehend.



Page Numbers Read

Social Studies:

How does the structure, word choice, and/or images from Colby's journal inform your understanding of the story?

Literacy/Informational Texts: Which piece(s) of evidence (text and/or images) from Colby's journal support your overall understanding of the text and its structure?



















































































Dr. Katie Monnin is an Associate Professor of Literacy at the University of North Florida. Besides the joy that comes with reading comic books and graphic novels, Dr. Monnin enjoys a Peter Pan-ish life of researching and writing her own books about teaching comics, graphic novels, and cartoons: Teaching Graphic Novels (2010), Teaching Early Reader Comics and Graphic Novels (2011), Using Content-Area Graphic Texts for Learning (2012), Teaching Reading Comprehension with Graphic Texts (2013), and Get Animated! Teaching 21st Century Early Reader and Young Adult Cartoons in Language Arts (2014); Teaching New Literacies in Elementary Language Arts (2015). When she is not writing (or sitting around wondering how she ended up making an awesome career out of studying comics and graphic novels), Dr. Monnin spends her time with her three wiener dogs, Samantha, Max, and Alex Morgan Monnin.