EN/SANE World

Monday, February 28, 2011

Graphic Novelist wins Oscar

Shaun Tan won the award for "Best Animated Short." Cool, eh?

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gina Gagliano on Comics (and Books) for Kids

A nice little rumination from our friend at :01 for you to read here.

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R.I.P Dwayne McDuffie

A pioneer in diversifying the the comics scene has left us due to complications from heart surgery. He will be missed. Read more here.

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After Class: Yesterday's Post on Self-Accountability

Regarding the terrible quiz performance yesterday, this is what I did: I tackled the issue of accountability and performance through an "Action Research" and "Teacher as Researcher/Problem-Solver" approach.

I began by telling the students that the quiz scores were terrible and that we were going to spend some time examining why that was the case and what might be done about it. I mentioned that one problem for some of them seemed to be imprecise language, but that that wasn't the only issue, in my opinion. I informed them that I had created a document designed to help us gather information (data) about the students' study habits. I informed them that we would create that data together (or they would, anyway) through secret identities (codes), and then we would examine the data together and try to come up with conclusions and action plans.

I informed them that this was consistent with ideas of "teacher as researcher" that we have seen emerging from our readings, which talk often about the importance of assessment and documentation as data gathering and information for informing practice.

We had a big question: "Why were the scores so low?" Or, in other words, we had acknowledged a problem or issue that needed research: "Score were low despite multiple variables indicating they shouldn't be."

We then came up with a research plan to gather information on the problem. I created a handout that asked students to sign their name under certain statements if they could honestly say they had met the conditions of the statements. Another sheet had asked for students to anonymously respond to the prompt, " I did so poorly on the assessment because....."

Before this happened, I passed to each student an index card with his or her name on one side and the name of a type of cat on the other. They were instructed not to share their cat name with anyone, and not to assume I had assigned them a specific cat name for any specific reason ("Panther" and "Cougar" can be loaded sexual terms, for example). They would sign their cat name under each statement that was true for them. This way, we could examine the data together and still retain a bit of anonymity.

I then left the room for twenty minutes. In that time, students were to create the data and were on their honor as to what they recorded and where they recorded it. Upon re-entering the room, I literally gathered the data sheets, gave them a very quick once over, and then engaged the class with data analysis.

"So, we've noted a problem, we've come up with a plan to learn more about it; we've coded and gathered data. Now it is time to see what it says and think of its ramifications."

*Statement one read, "I verify that I have read 100% of the assigned materials to date."

No cats were listed under this statement, out of a class of 15 with 13 members present (N =15; n=13).

*Statement two read, "I verify that I have taken notes on all the readings to date."

Twelve cats were listed. I pointed out, though, that this data point was made invalid based on the answers to question 1. If they didn't read all the texts, how could they take notes on what they read? Clearly many of the cats misread this question, which might have been more clearly phrased from the initial researcher (me). Perhaps they had taken notes on the 50% of assigned readings they had completed, for example. We talked about how the combined effects of 1 and 2 cancelled out the claims made by the twelve in statement 2 and that we might consider statement 2 a "wash."

* Statement three read, "I verify that I have taken notes on each day's class session to date, and that these notes include the list of key concepts that Dr. Carter places on the board or otherwise draws our attention to."

Twelve cats were listed under this one. One new cat was listed, and one old cat disappeared.

So, from here we were able to see that while some of the class might be reading some of the material some of the time, none of the class is reading all of the material all of the time. I asked students if they could see a possible correlation (yes, I used the term) between the data gleaned from statements 1 through 3. I reminded them of my comment about imprecise language being part of the issue for some of them. Could there be a correlation with only using the definitions I go over in class -- which are often simplifications based in the readings designed to help make the text of the readings more accessible -- and not knowing the more formal , exact definitions or usages? And how could those be obtained without reading the core materials, many of which review the same concepts and key words over and over again across texts?

I did get into a bit of lecture mode here. I asked questions like, "Do you think your future students deserve to have teachers who don't do their own readings?" and "Do you think your study habits make you worthy of the privilege of working with young people?" and "Would you want to teach a class full of students who weren't doing the reading?"

I also informed them that relying only on class discussion and input from me and their peers during this time was not adequate, that it would not help them pass their certification tests, and it would not help them internalize key concepts for the rest of their work in my class and their pending professional careers. I mentioned that I have no intentions or desires to spoon feed them.

I tried to get them to come to the conclusion that there might be a correlation between reading and annotating read materials and comparing those notes to ones taken during class and their scores. No one was able to offer this on their own, though I was able to coax a couple of comments that helped me get to this point.

*Statement 4 read, "I verify that I review my notes at least once a week."

Six cats were listed, all names that had previously appeared in statement 2 or 3. I asked if they thought there might be other connections we might pull from the data knowing this new information. Again I had to lead them to the possibility that maybe more of them needed to review notes and that notes needed to come from multiple sources.

* Statement 5 read, "I verify that when I feel unsure about a concept, I ask questions about it in class."

Seven cats responded, all pooled from the regular list of previous cats listed. Here I reminded students that I want for them to feel comfortable asking me any question about teaching any time, that this is why we often sit together in a circle and try to have discussions rather than lectures. Why we started out with texts that were designed to get at "things I never thought about" or "things I always wondered about but was afraid to ask about."

By this time it is clear to me that my ideas of class are predicated on the creation of discourse that stems from considerations of texts and the sense that students must bring something to the table, whereas my students' ideas of class seem predicated on the transmission model of learning (ironically, both terms we've discussed and that they were asked about on the assessment) where I am supposed to give them everything they need and they need not help create a dynamic class, well, dynamic. I have resisted the notion that my students are lazy, but they might be. I have tried and continue to try to create a discourse, but for that to happen, they have to bring and share not only their previous experiences in life and education but their experiences with our readings as well. I'm trying to model an new way for them, but they won't buy in.

I'm not sure what needs to change to see the change I want to see in them and want them to make for their future students, but I know there are things I won't do to facilitate a handholding dynamic. For example, one students suggested offering the exact page numbers where to find the important terms. I responded that, to me, that was not being met halfway. I instructed the student and the class to look for terms and ideas that are repeated across texts, to list any word that was foreign to them and seek its definition based on what the text said and to ask for clarification from me and peers when they weren't sure if it was important. I also reminded the student that I had provided a list of salient terms and concepts, if not the exact place to look or them.

The responses to the open-ended question were, refreshingly, tinged with some self-accountability:

* I spent most of my time working on the lesson plan that was due that day

[Indeed, there was an assignment due that day in addition to the assessment, but I reminded students that they were prompted well in advance that we would have an assessment on the given day, on which there was nothing else scheduled on the syllabus beyond the turning in of the mentioned assignment, a 90 minute lesson plan]

* I focused on terms from the list that were not on the assessment

[Indeed, not all of the terms were on the assessment, but I reminded the class that they were responsible for all of them and would be in the future as well]

* I did not spend enough time studying each term.

* I have a hard time balancing all of the reading.

* I was too vague.

* I need to ask more questions.

* I'm not concentrating.

* Remembering terms from two weeks ago takes a toll on me.

So, we examined these statements and I tried to get students to make connections between the data points. All in all, they were, as always, fairly quiet. But, it was hard not to feel an element of browbeating in the analysis, I am sure.

One student responded to this prompt with, "I was not aware we were having a quiz and I was never exposed to this information, so everything is absolutely new to me."

My initial reaction was consternation. "That's simply not true," I said, and began listing the elements of facilitation that I'd integrated into our sessions. But, almost immediately after beginning talking, I realized that my conclusion was foregone. It was based in how I was interpreting what was said. "Wait a second," I said, "If I look at this sentence differently -- not as if the person is saying they'd never seen the terms at all but that this class was their first exposure to them, then there can be truth to this statement." I am very happy to have modeled that thinking in front of them. I then said a few words about how when we're dealing with written statements as data, we have to really think about what is said and what is not said and what is meant. "This is a type of research we might call discourse analysis," I mentioned, and I at least got the response of several nodding heads. I'd like to think that this was because they saw me trying to be a detached researcher, then saw my ire get raised, then saw a return to a researcher's stance all in the course of a few seconds and words. That was some sincere modeling, and I'd like to think they knew it.

The next step was drawing conclusions and making plans. I offered time for students to share their conclusions and to come up with plans of action. None offered anything, so I introduced the contract you read from the previous post as one suggested way of moving forward. Students have until Monday to decide if they'll sign the contract, but all students were given the form so they could access the links to the sites for study skill tips. I also apologized to them on behalf of the university if it is true that the university does not offer a "college success" class for them to take upon enrolling.

Regarding the contract, it is not nearly as punitive as it might seem. Indeed, I told my students that I'm not interested in punitive measures. I'm only one of several teacher ed professors they might ask for references, for example. And, only about 15% of my students ask me for references, anyway, and most of them know before they ask that I am happy to do it based on their performance and maturity already.

I am thinking of writing a letter to local school districts urging them to contact me if a UTEP student seeks a secondary ELA position, but I'd rather such a letter be part of my program's joint efforts to improve the quality of our teacher candidates from their "acceptance" into the program to their "successful employment" and beyond. So, that plan is on hold until I can develop its precepts.

But, I do believe in asking students to meet me halfway; I mention this on the very first day of class, and the contract is a means of more clearly defining what I mean by "halfway."

But, as you can clearly see herein, there's a lot of "I" and "me." I did this; I led them to this. Never, ever in my teaching career have I encountered such resistance to creating a competent community of learners. But, then again, if the requisite prior knowledge hasn't been at least touched upon, how can we create the community of informed persons working toward better understandings?

I refuse to feel guilty for asking college students to read material and be prepared to discuss it in class. If I wanted to teach reluctant middle or high schoolers again, I could easily do that. Shit, I might end up having to do it any way if I can't find an acceptable way to bridge these cultural divides or change our culture of expectations. I am very good at facilitating growth, but students have to help me out by offering up the raw materials, and familiarity with our assigned readings are part of how we create those raw materials.

I'm not sure how many will sign the contract. I'm thinking of asking students to answer some anonymous questions regarding the "Action Research" activity -- Did it help them see anything about themselves or the class? Did it help them make changes in their habits? Were the websites useful? What other plans of actions could we have taken? -- but I'm not sure.

I will say that after we completed this activity, I down at a desk on level with the rest of class, as I often do (I didn't circle us up because I wanted to respect their possible desire to have some distance after the activity), and started "reviewing" the assigned reading for that day, and there were more people asking questions and for clarification than usual. Whether that's a lasting result and/or if the "Teacher as Problem Solver" activity had a lasting impact, only the future will tell.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Not Comics: Student Self-Accountability Statement and Contract and a Reflective Rant

Texas recently lapped Mississippi and New Mexico to drop to dead last in an important education indicator category. My current employer has upwards of 99% admission acceptance rates, and students in my program, and at most public universities across the state (at the undergraduate level, anyway) are only expected to keep a GPA of 2.5 in the major's course work to stay in their teacher education programs.

So, here in Texas, we're literally preparing future English teachers who might never have earned an "A" in an English class or an education course. Currently, it seems all English education majors have to do to be English Education majors at my employer is declare themselves as such, and then keep a C+ average. This seems to be typical across the country as well.

As an English teaching methods professor, I've taken to asking my students why they want to be teachers. It's not because I want to foil their enthusiasm or catch them off guard, which the question does for many, but because I think they ought to be asked it at least once before they graduate.

Hell, they ought to be asked it and provide an adequate, if not inspiring answer, before they're allowed to declare.

We hear a ton about teacher accountability at the university level now, because the leaders of the nation's colleges and universities have allowed the political discourse -- meant to curb government spending on education and ultimately drive it into the private sector -- to permeate the post-secondary realm.

I agree that professors ought to be held accountable. But, based on my experiences as a graduate student and a professor, they need to be held accountable for their professional behavior towards one another and their graduate (especially their doctoral) students more than for whether their students are learning.

I know very few disastrous college-level teachers. I know several disasterous advisors and colleagues and peers who abuse their situations at the expense of student/peer advancement and comfort. (I'm lucky that most of these folks are not at my current university, to my knowledge).

That sounds outrageous, doesn't it? "Teachers need to be held accountable for what their students learn," isn't that the standard line? Isn't that what all those tests are for in k-12 schools?

But here's the difference between k-12 students and post-secondary students: The majority of post-secondary students are LEGAL ADULTS!

This means they have the rights of almost all other citizens of this country and most of the same responsibilities. It also means they must be accountable for their own actions. While I agree that we need a rightly-focused teacher accountability movement at the collegiate level, I think we also need a student accountability movement.

First, an anecdote: In one of my teacher prep courses this semester, I have been "previewing" vocabulary that my students need to learn by using it in class and offering verbal ques that we'll learn more about the terms later. I've provided lists of key words on the board or on handouts to draw my students' attention to salient concepts, and I've covered them explicitly in class via whole class discussion and jigsawing activities during the class period *after* students should have read the chapters where they would encounter the terms. I also encourage students to ask questions about any thing at any time.

Despite this, on a recent quiz -- I call them "assessment opportunities" -- in which I asked students to define, discuss, or otherwise identify ten terms from our discourse, not a single student was able to make a B (3.0) or better. Only one student made a C (2.0). And, I had informed them five days earlier to expect an assessment on the day it was given.

Unfortunately, I've felt these types of tensions for the last few years. The above is an anecdote with a lot of baggage attached to it, OK?

Based on the accountability model we now have, I'm failing them as a teacher, correct? Despite my attempts at best practice and engaging in pre-,during-, and after- activities. I'll bet there will be some who read this to suggest that I should have even given them the exact page numbers for each term or to have provided the information for each concept directly to the student via a handout. Perhaps some will question why I gave a "traditional" quiz, though my intent was to quickly and efficiently see whether students could define, discuss, or interact with given terms in a knowledgeable manner. I want to guide with a pointing finger: "That's where you'll go from here," not handhold: "Let me do your work for you."

It seems to me that students are either not getting the material, not adequately reviewing the material they do "get" in the immediacy, or otherwise not making the effort to be successful.

But, since the expectations are so low: almost guaranteed acceptance into the university; no need to be vetted before claiming the major, a C+ GPA required to graduate the program, why should they even try? If they spend enough $$$ and stick it out long enough with mediocre grades, they'll eventually get that diploma. They may not pass their licensure tests -- which will reflect poorly on the university and me -- and they may not gain employment (which ought to reflect on the university and me), but they'll get the degree.

Why should they try to excel?

Because they'll eventually, if they earn employment, be teaching children who need them to work hard.

I'm a first-generation college student who eventually earned a Ph.D. from a top teacher education program. I overcame poverty, legacies of multiple types of abuse, low expectations from some of my family, broken homes, even cancer to become a college professor because I believe in rigorous teacher preparation and love helping students get to a point where I can take pride in knowing they'll be transformative, loving teachers. I still have relationships with many of my best students, for example, and enjoy seeing their successes.

But if my students are coming from schools that didn't prepare them to do well in college, they have no vetting process and low standards/expectations from the university and its programs, and they aren't willing or able to take responsibility for their own learning, a responsibility that must be based in something deep inside them that drives them to excel not for themselves but for their children and all of our children, what can I do? I can try to share my personal stories until I'm blue in the face. I can scaffold instruction all day. I can conference with them and do my part to ask them tough and important questions and to help them see themselves as professionals.

"But, shouldn't you make sure to learn where your students are at before engaging in instruction?" you might ask. If your students have limited English proficiency or have children or work day jobs shouldn't you take that into account and also try to figure out what their skills are?"

Yes, but within reason, because these students -- college-level students -- are legal adults responsbile for themselves and have made conscious decisions to come to school, and they've chosen their major. I can't and should not be required to make up for 13 years worth of inadequate preparation by the time they get to my junior- and senior-level classes designed specifically to help them become English teachers. If they do not have the requisite skills for success as teachers by that time, my thought is they can become English majors but probably don't need to become English Education majors. The stakes are too high, and we run the risk of our graduates perpetuating the work ethic that was accepted at the university/ies and which matches with a campus culture/s that accepts students into the university/ies and into specific programs without asking much of them in the way of academic success or vision.

I'll be working with my students from the above paragraphs today to learn why their scores might have been so low. I'll assign them code names and then ask them to sign off on these statements:

* I verify that I have read 100% of ther assigned material to date.
* I verify that I have taken nortes on all the readings to date.
* I verify that I have taken notoes on each day's class session to date, and that these notes include the list of key concepts that Dr. Carter places on the board or otherwise draws our attention to.
* I verify that I review my notes a minimum of once a week.
* I verify that when I feel unsure about a concept, I ask questions about it in class.

I'll also ask them to respond anonymously to the following prompt: "I feel like I did so poorly on our first Assessment Opportunity becuase....."

This data should help us to understand some things as a class. It should help me know where to go from here.

But, I'm also going to proactively ask students to sign or not sign the following form, which I call the "Self-Accountability Statement and Contract." Look it over and tell me if you think it is too thorough or out of line:

Self-Accountability Statement and Contract for XXXXXXXXXXX

“You: Meeting Me halfway::Me: Going the Extra Mile for You”

I understand that ultimately:
· I am responsible for my own actions.
· I am responsible for my own learning.
· As a future educator, I am responsible for the learning and well-being of children.

To that end:
· I agree to read 95-100% of all readings for this course.
· I will annotate my texts and take notes on each of the readings.
· I will date my notes and willingly share them with Dr. Carter upon request.
· I have received the below links and will review them to help me take notes effectively:

Ø
http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/notes.html
Ø
http://www.cse.buffalo.edu/~rapaport/howtostudy.html
Ø
http://www.istudy.psu.edu/FirstYearModules/Reading/NoteTakingTips.html
· I will ask questions in class and actively participate, especially when there are areas from the notes and reading on which I need clarification or about which I want more information.
· I will attend class punctually and in accordance with policies set forth in the syllabus.

I understand that while signing this form does not guarantee that Dr. Carter will feel comfortable supporting my career as a future teacher, attending to the items in this form is a good way to meet him half way. This means I may ask him for references for employment, list his contact information on applications, or ask him to write letters to graduate school in the future, for example, but that procurement of those items are not promised.

I understand that not signing the form indicates that I relinquish my right to ask Dr. Carter for references for employment as a teacher, to list his contact information on applications, or to ask him to write on my behalf for graduate school.

I understand that Dr. Carter will keep this document on file to help him remember me and my work in this class.

Signature:

Date:

Seems pretty reasonable to me, but please offer me feedback.

This blog entry has not been to trash my current employer, which is filled with conscientious, well-meaning scholars doing great work in their professional fields and sub-fields. It is to suggest that we might have some work to do in evaluating our local cultures and how we perceive our undergraduate teacher education majors, and much of the work we might need to do on my campus might need to be done across our state with its ailing education statistics and political agendas, and perhaps around the nation as well.

It is also to allow me a chance to reflect on several years of frustration situated in my knowledge of my sincerity towards wanting my students to succeed and my joy at seeing students at other institutions with higher standards become excellent teachers. I care about them and their futures from day one and have been desperately trying to get them to see that while also imparting why I care about their career paths and why I care about them engaging in hard work and why I am disappointed (and inclined to stop caring about them as people if I see they have no interest in really teaching. And, to be frank and fair, I have little love for straight-up lazy students) when I see evidence that they are not making the most of the opportunities enrolling in university affords them, the most important one being the opportunity to become an educator of positive impact.

It is a reflection of my work ethic and the standards to which I held myself as an undergraduate and doctoral student and to which I still try to hold myself today, and a testament to what I overcame and thereby to my dedication to my students and public education and the better futures of young people everywhere.

Perhaps my values just aren't those of higher education anymore, though. Perhaps I should seek other employment. Your thoughts?

This post has also been a means of expressing that while there are elements of a post-secondary accountability movement in which I believe, I think the current "k-12 education" model dominating our discourse is not what we need at the university level and is misguided in making college personnel better professionals.

Concurrent with all ideas expressed, I think we need a student self-accountability movement across this nation.

Preferably, it would come from students themselves who want to learn new information in college, who understand that they might have to work hard to excel, who understand that good grades in high school do not make for geniuses at the collegiate level, who want to be pushed and want us to hold them in high regard for doing excellent work, not just for paying tuition. These would be students who see that rigor and preparation coincide with bettering our nation, and, when it comes to teacher education, raising standards of living and being for everyone, especially those who are not yet legally responsible for their own actions.

These students advocating for a self-accountability wouldn't necessarily want more for themselves, but for their worlds, but they would want and deserve more from us in how we regard them and what they can do.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Words Without Borders

The blog Words Without Borders has been getting a lot of attention among my facebook friends, so I thought I'd be worth sharing with you all here. Apparently it offers graphica translated from other languages. Click here to access the site.

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2011 Xeric Grant Winners Announced!

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

2011 Glyph Award Nominations Released!

See the list of titles here. What are the Glyphs? Well, the PR suggests that:

The Glyph Comics Awards recognize the best in comics made by, for, and about people of color from the preceding calendar year. While it is not exclusive to black creators, it does strive to honor those who have made the greatest contributions to the comics medium in terms of both critical and commercial impact. By doing so, the goal is to encourage more diverse and high quality work across the board and to inspire new creators to add their voices to the field.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

John Shableski Leaves Diamond for Presidency!

For any of us who know John Shableski, the headline to this article would be a dream come true. If anyone can solve the world's problems with pizazz, vigor, and a smile on his face, it's Big J.

As it is, though, it should at least be some very good news for JeffCorwinConnect, which has tabbed Shableski as its first president. Excellent, smart move to get John involved at such a high level.

I'm sure Diamond is sorry to see him go, but, if you're listening, CONGRATS, John!!!

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Did You Miss My *Super-Powered Word Study* Webinar? No Worries! Listen to the Archived Version for Free!


On February 5, 2011, I had the honor of being the first Maupin House author to be part of a free, public webinar. Over an hour and fifteen minutes, I discussed the concepts behind Super-Powered Word Study, a recent book co-authored with Erik A. Evensen that pulls from comics literacy research, morphology study, word sorting, dual coding theory, language exploration and awareness, and more.

So you couldn't make it. Big deal. The entire thing is archived!
To listen to the presentation, click here , then click "View Event Recordings," then click "Graphic novels in the Classroom." Viola!
You'll get to hear my dulcet voice along with the sweetness of Maupin House's Rebecca Lukowski and Making Curriculum Pop's Ryan Goble.

The MP/MCP machine is organizing more webinars, too, so be on the lookout for announcements.

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Did Willed Ignorance cost *Essex County* To Lose Award?

Or was it just regular ignorance? The Beat has the write-up of how the graphic novel was summarily dismissed by the judges of Canada's Top Five competition without much consideration of its actual content.

Note the "qualifications" of the judges.

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PBS's TV Program *Need to Know* Talks Literacy/Reading Strategies


Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Cancer in Comics from A Different Angle

The Beat reports that An Elegy for Amelia Johnson is a graphic novel set to debut soon that will add to the list of comics narratives dealing with illness, specifically cancer. Heidi says this Andrew Rostan-authored book will focus on two friends of a dying cancer patient rather than on the victim herself, but those friends' mission is make sure the deceased's final words get to where she wants them.

Sounds interesting! Click here for the link.

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What's Going on With Manga Right Now...

Tokyo has recently banned certain types of Manga that feature young girls doing sexual things. Or, another way of looking at it is that Japan is making it more difficult for minors to get their hands on this material.

The Beat has several links up with their own links, etc. See here and here and here.

I don't know enough about Manga or Japanese culture to make any informed statements, except to say that I'm not sure this legislation parallels directly the comics censorship efforts in the US from the 1940s and '50s. Yet. In terms of sex and nudity, these types of Manga texts at the center of this exigency are much more overt and graphic than any of those images in panels with supposedly subliminal vaginas that folks griped about back in the day.

"Subliminal Vaginas" -- that'd make a great name for a band, eh?

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Thursday, February 10, 2011


Joseph Bruchac and Will Davis's graphic novel Dawn Land (:01, 2010) is an adaptation from Bruchac's 1993 novel of the same name. The prose must be amazing if the sequential art narrative is any reflection of it.

In Dawn Land, Bruchac pulls from his own Native American heritage and mythos and the mythoi of other indigenous North Americans to craft an epic on par with any other age's classics: The Odyssey, The Iliad, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars (Sky Walker is a character in Bruchac's text and helps us see where Lucas' inspiration for the name may have originated), Bone -- you name it.

After the giant Stone People kill Young Hunter and Weasel Tail's parents, they embark of different paths. The older Weasel Tail, once his brother's protector and marked by one of the giants, becomes their herald and their hunter, leading them to villages where they can murder and eat the inhabitants. Young Hunter, always smaller than his peers, on the other hand, grows to embrace the noble warrior role, the champion of humanity (which includes all elements of nature in the lore of this text).

Weasel Tail, lusty, murderous, and mentally ill, and his brother meet again shortly after a cave painting has shown Young Hunter the climax of his current journey. Weasel Tail, now named Holds of the Stone, redeems himself in the final battle with the giants, sacrificing himself to save his brother, who through new technology (a bow), innovation (which he tips with stone arrow heads), and the support of his ancestors, defeats the last of the imposing man-eaters.

As such, Dawn Land appears to be a tale set in an in-between, a liminal space. Young Hunter is told as such by his mentors. It is easy to read the tale as an allegory about progress and technology and even to see the giants as imposing Europeans set on changing the customs and cultures of the land, but it should be made clear that the giants are as much a part of the landscape as every other natural element in the text. They're not the white marauders from a foreign land; they're ancient beings whose time has passed, like the other ancient ones -- giant bears and sabretoothed cats -- that Young Hunter and his trusty dog companions -- Agwedjiman, Pabetciman, and Danowa -- must vanquish to their place in history.

There are some prose pages after the comics narrative that work to inform readers about Bruchac's culture, his process as a writer, and how they intersect. There are also several resources mentioned where one can learn more about the Wabanaiak people of Ndakinna/New England.

This graphic novel is rich in heritage and mythology, and, simply-put, is a must-read and one of First Second's best graphic novels to date.

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GNR Profiles Andrew Dodd/Campfire

Campfire is a relatively new imprint making a mark with quality adaptations of classics and exciting original works. They've sent me a ton of review material over the least couple of years, and I still have a stack to get to, but, overall, I've been very impressed with the talent they've assembled.

The look of their books is distinctive, and they have some amazing colorists helping form that look. They also have a knack for finding writers who truly know how to handle the original material when it comes to the adaptations.

I'm glad to see Graphic Novel Reporter giving them some love, and they certainly have some from me as well.

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GNR Profiles NCAC Organizer Michael Gianfrancesco

And as a reminder, NECAC (New England Comics Arts in the Classroom Conference) is March 26, 2011. I'll be there and hope to see you there too.

There will be programming from Michael Bitz, Neil Cohn, Nancy Silberkleit, Raina Telgemeir, yours truly, Tracy White, Maureen Bakis, John Shableski, Robbin Brenner, and more!

Admit it: Minus that Carter hack, that's a pretty impressive list of presenters!

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Thorough Look at Comics Censorship and Literacy Anxieties from Victorian Era to late 20th Century


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Feb 12,19, 2011: "Black Comic Book Day"

From the Press Release:


Saturday, February 12, bookstores in Chicago, Atlanta and Detroit will host Black Comic Book Day to celebrate and make more widely available the work of African-American comic book writers and artists. In Chicago, four racks permanently dedicated to African-American comics have been placed at venues around the city, including one in the DuSable Museum. New York holds its Black Comic Book Day on February 19, at the Hue-Man Bookstore and Café in Harlem.


While these inaugural events are being held during Black History month, the display racks are permanent, dedicated additions to the stock offered by the hosting bookstores.


Black Comic Book Day is the brainchild of artists/writers Turtel Onli, father of “The Black Age” comic art movement, and Jerry Craft, creator of the award-winning Mama’s Boyz comic strip, distributed by King Features Syndicate since 1995. The idea developed as the duo brainstormed ideas to promote their work along with that of the many other talented artists and writers in the African-American community.


Onli and Craft believe that these events will have many benefits, such as encouraging reading and providing heroes for young readers to emulate from the African-American community.
“The only reason I, and most of my friends, read regularly was because of comic books,” Craft said. “I still remember the excitement of running to the corner store and seeing the new issue of Spider-Man waiting for me. Reading comics helped build our vocabularies.


The bold is mine, but here's another testimonial to the power of comics in literacy. For more information about events, click here. There are some pretty major names involved!


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All-Star Comics letterer Discusses Best Logos in Comics

Todd Klein talks about his twelve favorite logos here. I'm seeing media literacy lesson, iconography lesson, and design lesson potential all over!

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"Comics Reclaimed for Kids by Kids and Educators" Article from Huffington Post

Kate Kelly recaps the scene and reiterates some of the prevailing myths regarding the comics form while altruistically trying to report on the topic and mentioning some new, some old names on the beat.

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The Captain America to my Bucky Publishes *Howard Chakin: Conversations*

One of the most satisfying aspects of being in academia is seeing your friends and colleagues do well. Brannon Costello, who edited Howard Chaykin: Conversations (UP Mississippi), is one fellow I can call both friend and colleague.

I worked with Brannon in a teaching capacity when we were both students at the University of Tennessee, where he was earning his Ph.D. and I was working on a MA. I was his teaching assistant for a semester, and our love of comics was something we shared often. I soon came to see myself as the Bucky to his Captain America, especially since Steve Rogers was Brannon's favorite character.

I can remember Brannon talking about patriotic comics with and Mark Bernard, a fellow MA-er, and me back in the early aughts and mentioning his admiration for Chaykin, specifically. The three of us were even putting together an edited collection on patriot-themed comics at one time, but it never got off the ground. We did, however, take an historic road trip from Knoxville,TN, to Jacksonville, FL, to present scholarship on Captain America, and it was during those hours that we really got to know each other's deeper ideas on comics, culture, and more.

Looking back, now that all three of us have Ph.D's and are gainfully employed and publishing in our areas of passion, I see that that travel time was very productive. Good thing we stopped for breakfast so early in the morning so we had some brain food! ;)

Still, knowing these seeds exist and seeing folks follow through on them and have success in doing so is highly gratifying. As gratifying as seeing one's students do well, I think.

I don't know what I'm more excited about, though, this collection or the collection on comics and the South on which Dr. Costello is also working.

Looks like we'll just have to check out both!

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Hill & Wang to publish Graphic Novel on Health Care Reform

Another nonfiction graphic novel from the folks who brought us the official graphic novel adaptation of the 9/11 report. ICv2 reports that the book will be based on a print explanation of the bill, namely MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

More Alan Moore Advocacy for Libraries

He's the one with the beard! I love that accent, love that voice, and love that message!

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Lynn University English Instructor Uses Super Heroes in Class

Great post that I saw on Comic Book Literacy's facebook page regarding Elaine Deering's class, "Comic Book Superheroes" at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.

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Jay Hosler's Science Comics Blog: "Drawing Flies"


Just learned about this very cool science comics blog via reading a press release from Making Curriculum Pop, a nicely-coordinated ning that you might want to google.

Anyway, comics and science don't seem to go together as seamlessly as comics and traditional literature, so finding excellent examples of science comics is like discovering a treasure trove of tantalization!

Currently, Drawing Flies author Jay Hosler is finishing up some pages about photosynthesis. But, surfing the blog's archives will give you lots of links to funny things, insights into Hosler's other projects -- like the graphic novel Evolution, which is on my review stack right now -- developed, and other sciencey-type stuff.

Definitely worth a look!

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US Congressman John Lewis to Write Civil Rights Era Graphic Novel

The Beat reports that Georgia democrat and congressman John Lewis plans to write a graphic novel bases on his role in the 1960s civil rights movement. March will be published by Top Shelf. Click here for more information.

Of course, politics and government and civil rights all have longstanding connections to comics, going back to the days of socialist Superman! Seriously, check out the early comics.

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Bucky Shrugged: Rand's *Anthem* Adapted to GN Form


The Charleston Gazette (WV) reports that Ayn Rands' novel Anthem has been adapted into a graphic novel by Charles Santino and Joe Staton. The article is pretty good, actually. I'm not a Rand fan, but my interest was piqued.

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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Nick Bertozzi Talks about _Lewis and Clark_


I have a feeling Nick Bertozzi's fact-based graphic novel on the Lewis and Clark expedition is gonna be big! See him chat about the comic by clicking here.

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Harvey Awards and Eagle Awards Seeking Nominations!

Click here for the Eagles and here for the Harveys. The Eagle Awards have a nomination for best comics-related book, if anyone wanted ot nominate a certain blogger..... ;)

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Friday, February 04, 2011

2010 Best Web Comics Award Winners!

Announced in a web comic, no less!

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