SEAL OF APPROVAL: DRAMA by Raina Telgemeier

Seal of Approval: DRAMA by Raina Telgemeier

Written by Grant Goodman, 4/29/2015

Raina’s first graphic novel, SMILE, is one of the most popular books in my classroom library. I have had two copies fall apart from being read so many times. When I saw her speak at the National Book Festival in DC two years ago, she did an amazing job of connecting with the audience and even invited some of the younger ones to help her in creating a comic on the stage. An all-around A+ person!

DRAMA has been out for a little while, but I didn’t get around to reading it until this week. It has all of the successful pieces that made SMILE so enjoyable:

  1. The main character is a girl who is trying to find her place in school. In this case, Callie is a member of the drama production team at her school, helping out with set design.
  2. Her issues are the everyday issues that teens run into. She’s got a crush on a guy who already has a girlfriend. Her little brother is annoying. The drama budget doesn’t allow her to make the stage props she dreams of making. She’s wondering if someone will ask her to go to the school dance.
  3. The art is clean, colorful, and clearly emotive.

At its heart, DRAMA is about a cast of young people learning about who they are. Cassie has her heart set on being a part of the arts. One of the boys she meets has realized that he likes other boys. It’s all about identity.

DRAMA is an all-around winner of a graphic novel. Add it to your shelves immediately.

WHAT’S NEXT: El Deafo by Cece Bell

deafo

I have learned to trust book recommendations from authors I love.

Patrick Rothfuss led me to Catherynne Valente and to Peter S. Beagle.

Now it’s time to trust Rick Riordan.

The pen behind Percy Jackson recommends the graphic novel El Deafo, by Cece Bell:

Cece Bell tells the story of a young girl (rabbit?) growing up with a severe hearing impairment. She does a great job tackling the subject with humor and pathos, letting us see the world through the narrator’s eyes (and hear through her super Phonic Ear). Along the way, we meet pushy friends, clueless peers, helpful teachers, not-so-helpful siblings, and a whole cast of other characters that any kid can relate to.

VIDEO: Raina Telgemeier’s Graphic Novel, SISTERS

Raina Telgemeier is the author and illustrator of several excellent graphic novels that you absolutely have to read.

SMILE was her first and it’s her story of a terrible fall that caused her to lose her front teeth, but also about what it’s like to go through school when you’re also dealing with heavy dental surgery.

DRAMA was her second, all about a high school drama class and the somewhat awkward search for relationships there.

SISTERS is her most recent and it’s about…well, just watch the video below and she’ll tell you all about it.

Why Graphic Novels Are Good For You

Written by Grant Goodman, 2/1/2015

As an English teacher, one of the most frequent requests I hear from parents is, “Can you get my son/daughter to stop reading so many comics and start reading real literature instead?”

Wait.

Can we re-examine that question?

Did you just ask me to tell your child to STOP READING something he or she likes?

That’s a firm “No.”

No, I will not.

There is a generational gap that leads to the misunderstanding of comics and manga and graphic novels. For many of our current parents, comics are those 3 or 4 panel gags that run in the newspaper. Or they’re the classic, simple superhero tales that they grew out of.

The problem is that if you shut kids out of comics/graphic novels/manga, you’re turning them away from one of our best learning tools out there. Comics are the marriage of image and word. They are expressive, they are detailed, and they are pieces of art.

Readers of comics learn to understand perspective, form, shape, and contrast. They can pick up a sense of motion, a skill for reading between the lines (or, in this case, “reading between the panels”). Most importantly, however, I argue that comics are a pure form of imagination boosting, which everyone needs.

I believe that adolescents who struggle with literature can benefit tremendously with comics. Part of what makes a strong reader is the ability to turn words into images. Comics bridge that gap. When you start building a mental library of how characters look when they deliver emotional speech, you can start carrying that over into literature. When you see a sweeping desert landscape that pulls the breath from your lungs, you have a template for when you come across it in a book.

I’m not saying that comics should only be there for struggling readers, though. There are plenty of works out there that rival the complexities of any novel you’ll ever pick up.

I can easily nominate the 27 volumes of Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist as one of the greatest fantasy tales of our time: two brothers use alchemy in an attempt to bring their mother back to life. The experiment fails horrifically, forcing the older brother to sacrifice part of his body in order to keep his younger brother alive. The series follows their quest to find a way to restore their bodies, which forces them to examine their world’s military corruption, oppression of religious minorities, and the politics of a civil war.

If you want to learn how to take another look at comics, you should pick up Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. It will teach you all about the inner workings of comics and how they’re good for us.

The bottom line is this: if you’re reading comics, you’re doing the right thing.

VIDEO: Neil Gaiman’s Advice Will Change Your Life!

The one and only Neil Gaiman offers some amazing advice about writing, comics, art, luck, success, and work. His speech is inspiring in the truest sense of the word.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/42372767″>Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/uartsphilly”>The University of the Arts (Phl)</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

YA & MLK: Civil Rights and Acceptance

YA & MLK: Civil Rights and Acceptance

Written by Grant Goodman, 1/19/2015

Today’s holiday is a moment that is marked by hatred and tragedy, triumph and persistence. The fact that human beings had to fight for their right to be considered equal to other humans is something that never ceases to sicken me. The fact that it still continues to this day is downright depressing.

There is hope, though. The idea of fighting for civil rights finds can be found all over the YA canon. The more we read about this topic, even in fiction, the less likely we are to continue the cycle in real life.

I’ll start with the Harry Potter series. In Harry’s world, there is a hierarchy of blood purity that some still follow. To these wizard, pure humans are, of course, the lowest form, but they still reserve their hatred for wizards who are born to fully-muggle parents. The slur word for them, “mudblood,” is one that cuts deep. While there is no de-facto protest movement in the Harry Potter novels, there is still the matter of these wizards standing up for themselves.

Since Mockingjay Part I is still in theaters, let’s go ahead and examine the Hunger Games trilogy. The citizens of Panem, those who reside in the poorer districts, are all enslaved. They are fenced in, cut off, under curfew, and subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by those in charge. Regardless of skin color, the residents of the lower districts are marginalized, demonized, and broken by the existing social structure of their world.

There are the people of Ishval in Hiromu Arakawa’s manga, Fullmetal Alchemist, whose homeland is taken over by a mighty military. The Smokies in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies are yet another persecuted group. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series has its skaa. And while few people have read it, I have always loved Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Eye of the Heron for its amazing story of a space colony caught up in its own civil rights movement.

The worlds of YA mirror our own in many ways. There are tales of oppression, messages about “the other” and the ways in which they are ostracized, stories of interplanetary love. They all come to the same conclusion: hatred for your fellow man (or alien or cyborg or ghost or robot) is one of the universe’s darkest traits. We will always explore these conflicts, because our own sad history is rife with them. One of the best ways to deal with it—to learn to move forward—is to familiarize yourself with the struggles of others so you can empathize with them. That way, when it’s time to figure out what is right, you’ll know where you need to stand.

Seal of Approval – THE RISE OF AURORA WEST by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin

Seal of Approval – THE RISE OF AURORA WEST by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin

Aurora-West-Paul-Pope-Main

Written by Grant Goodman, 1/7/2015

A few weeks ago I was awestruck by Paul Pope’s BATTLING BOY graphic novel. I was searching for the sequel, which I thought I had found when I came across THE RISE OF AURORA WEST. But something was different about it. Unlike the original comic, this one was the size of a manga. And the art was all black and white. And it turned out to be a prequel.

That said, AURORA is another great graphic novel work seeking out. It builds upon the world that Pope set up in BATTLING BOY and gives far more time for us to learn about the daughter of hero Haggard West.

Needless to say, Aurora is shaping up to be a character with depth. We learn about her family history, an invisible friend, and her insanely busy education and physical training schedule.

The honest criticism: this is not as good as BATTLING BOY. The art seems slap-dash at times and the story has a weird moment in which Aurora turns to one of her classmates out of nowhere and says something along the lines of, “Hey, can I trust you and tell you everything?” Then she brings him along on all of her investigations.

That said, it’s still a fun read. Plus, I really wanted to know way more about the worlds and the people Pope will be working with as he expands his main story and this provided some very cool insights (and plot twists!)