Recently, my ENG 3349: "The Dramatic Modes of the English Language Arts" class spent three weeks considering how to use sequential art in their future middle and high school English classrooms. Readings and discussions culminated with several activities, including making a mini-comic via Comic Life software or similar programs.
Another activity, based on ideas associated with Young Adult literature (See Joan Kaywell's Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Classics
series) and more recently with comic art (See my collection Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels
) asked students to come up with a bridge that would link a comic story thematically with a more traditional text such that the comic piece could help build prior knowledge, pre
-reading strategies, and text-to-text connections between the texts.
Students had read either Big Fat Little Lit
or The Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Stories
, both anthologies, and chose their comic stories from them. They had some great ideas!
Greed emerged as a major theme. Victor felt that the Big Fat Little Lit
story "The Baker's Daughter," adapted by Harry Bliss, would make an excellent bridge to other works that dealt with greedy characters and the effects of avarice. Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," for example. Victor also noticed what became the second most -explored theme in the class: judging by appearances. He thought that because of this theme, the comic story might also be a neat bridge into Henry James' novella Daisy Miller
Victoria found greed to be central to another Big Fat Little Lit
expert, "It Was a Dark and Silly Night" by J. Otto Seilbod
and Vivian Walsh. Because of how desire for money doomed its penguin characters, she though it would be a great match for Chaucer's "Pardoner's Tale."
Beyond Victor/Victoria, Sophia dealt with issues of greed and jealousy in Dan Clowes
' interpretation of Sleeping Beauty from the Little Lit
' version involves a mother who wants power for herself but knows that if a fair lady who married her son but now sleeps for years on end ever awakens and produces children, they will inherent the kingdom instead. So, she plots to make sure things go her way, only to be ruined by her own plotting and lust for control. Sophia noted direct connections to characters from Shakespeare's Othello, especially between the scheming mother and Iago.
On the theme of appearances, Jennifer wrote that "Pretty Ugly," by Ian Falconer and subtle genius David Sedaris
, would be a nice pairing with Sandra Cisneros
" from The House on Mango Street
. In the Cisneros
, a young girl is embarrassed by her clunky old shoes and is afraid people will think poorly of her, but an uncle makes her the center of positive attention by getting her to dance with him, and all the anxieties melt away.
Jennifer says that in the end of both these stories, the characters become comfortable with who they are.
Sara also thought "Pretty Ugly," collected in the Little Lit book, would be a good story for classroom use, especially if used to bridge into Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion
, in which certain humans are considered lesser beings because of the genetic make-up, just as the main character of "Pretty Ugly" is ostracized before making a sudden transformation. Mary Jenny though "Pretty Ugly" would be a good bridge into Batsy Byars
' Summer of the Swans
because both feature characters who feel different, like they don't fit in.
Rounding out ideas associated with Big Fat Little Lit
choices, Erick thought Claude Ponti's
interpretation of "The Enchanted Pumpkin" might be a quick little bridge into Double Identity
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
because both stories might deal with characters who want to be something they aren't, or want to change themselves or others into something that allows them to escape from traits they'd rather not acknowledge.
Andrew was drawn to one of the collection's editors, Art Spiegelman
, and his short comic "The Several Selves of Selby Sheldrake
." The multiple emotional representations of Selby acted as a perfect visualization of the multiple emotional personas
that Holden Caulfield
seems to manifest in Catcher in the Rye
The Smithsonian collection got some love from my students as well. Lynda Barry's "San Francisco" drew the attention of Liana. She thought it would fit well as a way to introduce Anne Brashares
' The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
Both reveal the silliness and emotional roller coaster that is the life of young girls, Liana claims.
Lauren thought that the Fantastic Four reprint featuring the classic villain the Hate Monger would be a neat way to build connections concerning racism and fanaticism in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird
, especially with its allusions to the Klan and other fanatical groups.
Dani enjoyed the R. Crumb
selection "I Remember the Sixties" and thought she could use it to help students learn about alternate or underground scenes like those the Beat poets inhabited and created. She also felt she could extrapolate themes from the story into discussions on the poetry of feminist poets like Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, an idea that surely makes many Crumb critics grin from ear-to-ear as they see the oft-considered misogynist cartoonist's work appropriated for the serious study of feminist ethos. Dani admitted to having to pick and choose from the panels carefully but was excited about the bridge potential.
Esteban enjoyed a classic Spider-Man story where the arachnid kid continually runs into trouble, from one obstacle to the next, and found connections to the constant trials of epic heroes, especially Odysseus from The Odyssey
Nicole enjoyed the Will Eisner short story "Izzy the Cockroach and the Meaning of Life" and felt it a smart bridge into the play Death of a Salesman. Both Willy Lohman
and Jacob from the Eisner deal with feelings
of uselessness and contemplate their place in the world after losing employment, she mentions.