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

No caption.Knights of the Lunch Table: The Battling Bands, by Frank Cammuso
Published by Graphix
ISBN: 978-0-43990-318-9

Calling all teachers, librarians, students, and parents! Have you been looking for a graphic novel that can capture any reader's attention and admiration? If so, I've got a graphic novel recommendation for you.

Thoughtfully written and eye-poppingly-illustrated, Frank Cammuso's third installment of his Knights of the Lunch Table series is an all around "win" for readers of all ages. Just like its two predecessors, this third installment in the series (Knights of the Lunch Table: The Battling Bands) respectfully re-envisions the Arthurian Legend not only for early and middle level readers, but also for their parents, teachers, and librarians.

Not the most talented—or even the most knowledgeable—musicians Artie and a few of his friends enter the school talent show, and a Battle of the Bands ensues. But how can Artie and his friends win the Camelot Middle School Battle of the Bands with absolutely no training and no talent? There is only one way. With rumors of a fabled "Singing Sword" hidden somewhere in the school and able to grant them the powers to be rockstars, Artie and his friends set out on a quest full of lessons about friendship, loyalty, legend, and trust.

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Artie and his friend have no musical talent or training. Yet they have entered the school talent show, where a Battle of the Bands ensues. Their only hope . . . a fabled "Singing Sword" hidden somewhere in the school.

Setting: Artie's home and school

Major Characters: Artie, Wayne, Percy, Artie's mom, Artie's sister (Morgan), Melody, Joe, Mrs. Dagger, Ms. Harper, Mr. Merlyn, the lunch ladies, Gwen, Lance, Miss Flunke, Mr. Fisher, Davy and the Druids

Themes: Friendship, Loyalty, Trust, Legend, Growing Up and/or Coming of Age

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: Any King Arthur legend, Kevin Crossley-Holland's Arthur Trilogy, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, The Odyssey by Homer, The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor, The Giver by Lois Lowry, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series

Teaching Recommendations For Middle School 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.

Suggested Guided Reading Lesson Plan

Before Reading: Divide the room into five stations and place a poster at each station; for visual enrichment it may be helpful to assign a specific color to each station. Assign each station a theme: Friendship, Loyalty, Trust, Legend, Growing Up and/or Coming of Age.

Before students begin reading, ask them to pick a station, and, in their new groups, brainstorm a definition for their theme. Ask students to write those brainstorming ideas on the back of the poster. When they are done, students should share their definitions with the rest of the class.

During Reading: With predetermined stopping points in mind have students read in their groups. At each stopping point ask the student groups to take notes about their theme, and its presence in Cammuso's Knights of the Lunch Table: The Battling Bands. With both written words and visual images students can keep track of their notes on the front of the poster.

After Reading: When students are done reading ask them to rank their poster notes. What events or situations were most important? And why? Again, on their posters, ask students to use both written words and visuals to explain their choices.

Finally, assign students the following activity: "As a group, decide upon the most important situation and/or event and compose a short reenactment of that situation/event. Feel free to draw visuals on the board in order to help set the stage for your reenactment."

One group at a time students can present their reenactments to the class. Following each reenactment engage the class in discussion: "Given their theme, why do you think this group choose to reenact __specific situation and/or event__." The presenting group should also feel encouraged to respond and further explain their decisions.

No caption.The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, adapted by Shane Clester
Published by Round Table Comics
ISBN: 978-1-61066-016-7

I read Machiavelli in high school.  Most of us probably did.  I can't say that I remember it, though.  So either I was a Marty-McFly-slacker-reader in high school - which could very well be true if you trace my academic history back to high school - or I really didn't connect to or feel engaged by Machiavelli's advice for a would-be young Prince. 

Going into reading this graphic novel, I was – to say the least – skeptical.  Boring, I thought.  But when I read Shane Clester's Introduction to his graphic novel adaptation of The Prince I began to feel differently: "Every once in awhile, someone would throw around the phrase 'Machiavellian' when a person would concoct some elaborate scheme to advance his or her station in life.  While I understood the intent, I didn't really know the meaning.  And I thought, how relevant could philosophies from the 1500s be, anyway?  Turns out they're just as relevant today." Feeling similarly, Clester now had my attention.

And with thoughtful illustrations and intuitive insight, Clester does indeed – and brilliantly so – translate Machiavelli's advice for modern readers.  A clear master of the comic book format, Clester's graphic novel breathes new life into a once seemingly out of date or somewhat dry text.  Complete with verbal and visual lessons that explain the nuances between what a young leader should or should not do, or, better yet, appear to do or not do, this graphic novel earns an A+.

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Machiavelli presents his theories and philosophies about what a Prince – or young leader – should or should not do in order to succeed

Setting: Even though it is set and was written in the 15th century, Machiavelli's advice is just as relevant today as it was in the past

Major Characters: Machiavelli, the Prince

Themes: Leadership, Coming of Age, Trust, Loyalty, Past-Present-Future, Political Science

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi, Benjamin Franklin's The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass' The Life of Frederick Douglass, The United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, Mary Wollstonecraft's  Vindications of the Rights of Women, Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery, W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle School & High School 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.

Lesson Ideas for Middle School and High School Readers

Because Clester was so meticulous in his research and thoughtful about adapting Machiavelli’s The Prince into graphic novel format, I strongly recommend that teachers and librarians pair Clester’s graphic novel with either Machiavelli’s original The Prince or one of the other canonical and thematically similar literary texts listed above.

After teachers and/or librarians have decided upon a literary pairing, they are ready to begin the lesson.  To start, teachers and librarians can ask students what they know about being either a prince or a leader.  As the class shares their ideas teachers and librarians can take notes on the board; students can keep similar notes on a handout (see Handout 1 below).

Following this initial discussion and note-taking session, students are now ready to read Clester’s graphic novel adaptation of The Prince (alongside their teacher or librarian's literary pairing choice).  And since we will all have various literary pairing choices, I recommend that teachers and librarians take some planning time to find a few predetermined stopping points from each text (perhaps a beginning, middle, and end stopping point for each text).  With these predetermined stopping points listed on the board (and on Handout 1), teachers and librarians can next ask students to simultaneously read the two texts, and, at each stopping point, pause and fill out each stopping point's appropriate column.

 

 

 

Prereading thoughts on Princes and Young Leaders

 

Beginning thoughts on Princes and Young Leaders

 

Middle thoughts on Princes and Young Leaders

 

End
thoughts on Princes and Young Leaders

 

Clester's
Machiavelli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(literary pairing)

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, once students have read through both texts and recorded all of their notes on Handout 1, ask them to review those notes with a peer. Teachers and librarians can then ask each student pair to prepare a written response (on index cards) to the following two prompts:

"What do you feel is Clester's most significant advice about being a prince or young leader?  Explain."

 

"What do you think is _______________ (literary pairing author)'s most significant advice about being a prince or young leader.  Explain."

 

"On the reverse side of your index card discuss whose advice you think is most relevant or intriguing.  And why."

To finalize the class' thoughts ask each student pair to present their thoughts to the rest of the class. 

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.