Written by:
C.C. Colbert
Illustrated by: Tanitoc
Publisher: First Second
Format: Softcover, 6 x 8.5, 176 pages, Full Color, $19.99
ISBN: 978-1-59643-125-6
Lesson plan by Dr. Katie Monnin

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.


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.