EN/SANE World

Friday, July 29, 2011

Jacques Lacan Hearts...Rogue?

Since we've been talking about "the gaze" and "othering" and the mirror stage in my YA Lit class, which just wrapped up today and which featured several prominent YA graphic novels, I found this explication from Comixology both timely and fun.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Enjoy the Below GN Reviews from Students in my Summer II YA Lit Class!

This Summer, I'm asking students in my "English 3306: Young Adult Literature" class to review a graphic novel in relation to what Kenneth Donelson and Alleen Pace Nilsen have deemed the "best of the best" criteria for evaluating young adult literature. Students were given a template that I might post later, a slide show that offered the criterion points, and the opportunity to revise their first drafts, which were graded and edited by yours truly. The below reviews, then, should represent revised copies. Students are responsible for their own content, and I may or may not share their views and opinions. Students were rewarded one extra credit point for allowing me to publish their reviews. Reviews of the following texts are below:

Don Quixote Part II,In Defense of the Realm, The Wright Brothers, The Good Neighbors: Book One,Stolen Hearts: The Love of Eros & Psyche, The Swiss Family Robinson, Call of the Wild, Amulet Books 1-3, and The Babysitters Club: Kristy's Great Idea.

Ashley Swarthout Reviews Campfire's *Don Quixote, Part II*

Title: Don Quixote: Part II
Author: Miguel de Cervantes
Wordsmith: Lloyd S. Wagner
Illustrator: Vinod Kumar
Colorist: Vinod S. Pillai
Publisher: Kalyani Navyug Media Pvt. Ltd.
Publication Date: August 9, 2011

Don Quixote: Part II begins after Don Quixote has returned home from his many adventures. He spends his days in solitude and remembrance until he is convinced by his friend and squire, Sancho Panza, and the bachelor, Samson Carrasco, to embark on a new adventure. His journey with Sancho Panza begins in high spirits but is crushed when he finds his love, Lady Dulcinea, has been enchanted and turned into a peasant woman who no longer recognizes him.


The journey continues with many high points for the Don Quixote and his squire, most of which occur during a long stay with a duke and duchess. The Duke and Duchess create elaborate pranks for Don Quixote to work through, all without his knowledge. When Don Quixote and Sancho Panza continue on their adventures they are confronted by a knight who challenges Don Quixote by declaring his lady is more beautiful than Lady Dulcinea. Once Don Quixote loses the joust he returns home with instructions from the victor to stay there for a full year. However, after returning home Don Quixote becomes ill and passes away in his bed surrounded by his friends and caretakers.

The humor was entertaining, and the illustrations were captivating. Even if the reader has never heard of the classic novel written by Miguel de Cervantes, this graphic novel gives relevant information on the classic novel and is constructed artistically so as to potentially peek enough interest on the character of Don Quixote for readers to want to read the longer text. However, being that the protagonist is an older knight, and the journey seems to be doomed to fail from the start, young adults reading this text may have difficulty relating to Don Quixote and his mission.

There are a couple of the characteristics present in the best examples of young adult literature in Don Quixote: Part II. The reading of the graphic novel is fast paced. It quickly takes the reader on the journey alongside Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The language is mostly simple but does include an occasional higher level word. For example, the word “vanquished” is used several times throughout the text, and the word “bravado” is used on page 28 to describe Don Quixote’s behavior with a lion he wishes to fight. The graphic novel is fast-paced in that it moves from action to action with little to no lull time between.

In addition to being fast-paced, Don Quixote: Part II‘s character, Don Quixote, is overly optimistic most of the time. There are very few instances where he is not optimistic. In the very beginning of the novel when he decides to leave for more adventures, he is not concerned about his age or about the rumors that he is mad. He says, “Within four days, my dear friend Sancho, we shall be on the road again, doing good and combating evil” (10). There are times when Sancho is not as optimistic as Don Quixote, and Don Quixote is quick to point out his friend’s fear. “It seems to me, Sancho, that you want to be perched on that tree to watch the bull fight without danger” (22).

Don Quixote: Part II is missing many of the characteristics that define the best young adult literature examples. The most obvious missing characteristic is that it is not written from the point of view of a young adult; furthermore, the protagonist is a much older, past-his-glory-days, mad knight, making it difficult for young adult readers to identify with him. While Don Quixote is quick to take credit for his perceived accomplishments, a characteristic of the best of best in young adult literature, his accomplishments are not really his. Every time he believes he has accomplished a grand victory or deed, it is actually out of folly or prank.

For instance, on page 62 Don Quixote believes that he has defeated Malambruno, thus removing the beards from the duennas when, in actuality it was a grand prank produced by the Duke and Duchess. The text does not have various genres and subjects. The text contains only a few basic ideas and they do not change during the course of reading. The graphic novel also fails to include a diversity of ethnicities and cultures in both text and illustrations. Another major missing characteristic is that it does not deal with emotions that are important to young people. There are many emotions included and experienced: Don Quixote’s desire to accomplish more great deeds, he becomes depressed when his “so-called” loved one does not recognize him, he is boastful when he believes he has been victorious, and remorseful when he is defeated.

Though Don Quixote moves through all these relatable emotions, it is all done so out of folly and humor, distancing the feeling of relation between the reader and the character. A reader may relate to the feeling of depression when rejected by a lover, but Don Quixote’s rejection was because the peasant was not his real lover. That mistake made by a mad man makes the feeling of depression no longer relatable.

I would recommend this book as an introductory text to the classic novel originally written in 1605 by Miguel de Cervantes. Though the character of Don Quixote is not relatable, he is entertaining and amusing. Being that the graphic novel adapted by Lloyd S. Wagner was also enjoyable and comical, it would be a great introduction to the waggish qualities of Don Quixote and humorous adventures that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza experience. For teachers this would be a recommendable addition to a classroom library for middle and high school aged readers in both English and History classrooms.

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Travis Beck Reviews Campfire's *In Defense of the Realm*

Title: In Defense of the Realm
Author: Sanjay Deshpande
Artists: Lalit Kumar Sharma, Illustrator; Jagdish Kumar, Inker
Publisher: Kalyani Navyug Media Pvt. Ltd.
Publication Date: Copyright © 2011



The graphic novel In Defense of the Realm by Sanjay Deshpande is a cautionary tale of the dangers of waging war without the use of strategy. It demonstrates how a leader should exercise his or her power when making decisions that can either enhance his subjects’ lives or destroy their lives to the extreme outcome of death.



I would briefly like to talk about the setting of the story, which serves as its foundation. The setting is both physical and chronological. It takes place in what is called the Indus Valley Civilization around 2310 B.C. Once lost to the ravages of time, Dholavira is a 5000-year old city of what we call the Harappan Civilization. It is located on the island of Khadir, India. Lost and shrouded in mystery, the city began to reveal its secrets when it was excavated in the 1990s. Interpretation of life in Dholayira fell to our author, Sanjay Deshpande, an archeologist and heritage consultant who worked on sight from 1992 till 1998. He characterized the Harappian Civilization as having exceptional and intricate architectural advancements for its time. An example of this was a fully functional sewage system.



Though evidence doesn’t suggest that the Harappans were militant in nature, archeological evidence suggests that they were well-prepared for defense against enemies. The Harappans also developed intricate internal and external trade routes, water collection and storage systems and a solid economic infrastructure. Overall, the evidence points to a very prosperous society and civilization. However, Sanjay and his colleagues have not been able to shed much light on their system of government. Where the Harappan rulers authoritarian? How much power and control did they have and to what existent did they exercise it? So far experts don’t have the answers to these questions. “No great monuments, palaces, temples, or graveyards full of gold have been found.” (pg.4).



Most of the Harappan written records have been destroyed by the ravages of time; what little was found is on personal artifacts that have yet to be deciphered. The fictional tale of In Defense of the Realm is loosely grounded in these incomplete facts. However, it is important to be aware of these facts in order to understand the complexity of the world in which the characters live or the reader will be lost.



I found that the story centers around two main characters, Prince Meluha and Princess Kundalini. Both characters are on a journey from adolescence into adulthood. They are characterized as model teenagers (or the perception of what an adult would consider a model teenager). Struggling to cope with events that are happening around them, both characters are innocent, honest, naive, confused, and, above all, scared in the face of uncertain futures. They are on the verge of either ruling their perspective kingdoms or of utter failure. They seem to take very different journeys to their destinies.



Prince Meluha’s journey is more physical in contrast to Princess Kundalini’s’ which is more emotional. The similarity is that they both have to rely heavily on cognitive processes, constantly asking themselves “What is the smart thing to do?” In the beginning, Master Torana, a philosopher and teacher, is telling their story to three students. He is telling it in a third person dramatic narrative which seems to get lost in the middle of the story. The basic plot of the story is the conflict between the peaceful kingdom of Dholavira ruled by Prince Muluhu’s father, Raja Sanjaya and the invading army of the Akkadians ruled by King Sargon.



Sargon’s army invades and puts the city of Dholayira under siege. On a hunting trip at the time, Prince Muluhu is cut off from his kingdom. Prince Muluhu must then embark on a journey in order to rally support from two other kingdoms that are part of a five kingdom realm. The Prince must put aside childish notions in order to become an effectively ambassador and save his family and kingdom. The invasion results in the assassination of Princess Kundalini’s father, Raja Mahavindasa.



The assassination is orchestrated and perpetrated by the main antagonist in the story, a spy named Takshaka. Takshaka is later killed by one of his allies, a fitting end for the conniving character! The assassination plunges the kingdom of Harappa into chaos. Princess Kundalini relying on what her father had taught her rises from the ashes of this catastrophe and takes her place as Queen of Harappa. The Princess later devises a strategy to end the war with minimal casualties. The plan is successful and peace and prosperity is returned to the five kingdoms in the realm. There is a coronation and Prince Maluhu is declared ruler of Dholavira. The two rulers fulfill their arranged promise of marriage and end up ruling Harappan as a whole.



These two characters are free to take credit for their own accomplishments, though the amount of poise and humbleness they display seems unrealistic for their age. There is a diversity of ethnicities and culture displayed in the book.



The best example of this is that there are five kingdoms within the realm, all of which have distinct cultures. Within these kingdoms are cities with their own unique cultures; the fact that they all have to get along in order to coexist and eventually survive gives testament to the success of cultural diversity. The story is an optimistic one in that adolescents have the capacity to demonstrate maturity in the face of adversity. It shows the emotional struggles of coping that a young adult might have such as confusion, uncertainty and worrying about the future. It shows that change is often a good thing through the use of Junex vs. Senex with the young replacing the old in a natural cycle.



In contrast, as far as meeting the best of the best criteria for graphic novels, it seems to fall short. I didn’t get the feeling that the story was written from the point of view of an adolescent. As I stated earlier, it was written from an adult perspective of how we think an adolescent should be, not actually how they are.



This makes the characterization come off as false and unrealistic. I didn’t think that the pace was fast enough and the subject matter in the middle of the novel might bore young readers to the point of losing interest. I don’t think that the story had a variety of genres and subjects, at least not any of great interest to the average reader. What might be of interest to some readers are the historical references within the text but this is only geared toward a select secondary group of readers.



In conclusion, the narrator comes in from time to time, giving the reader historical facts about life in the Indus Civilization. This is an attempt to educate the reader, one of Deshpande’s main objects. However, I don’t think that it was consistent enough to be effective. I just didn’t get the feeling that the story was written from the point of view of an adolescent. With that said I would definitely recommend this to students interested in ancient civilization especially to those who are interested in India’s history.



I think this would be a good book for readers who are transitioning from the concrete thought processes into abstract thought processes. It is also a great tool for introducing moral values and believes, as the characters are always striving to do the right thing and the violence is never glorified.

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George A. Arreola Reviews Campfire's * The Wright Brothers*



Title: Title: The Wright Brothers
Artist: Sankha Banerjee
Publisher: Campfire Graphic
Publication Date: June 28, 2011

From an early age, Orville and Wilbur Wright were encouraged by their parents to learn as much as possible in the classroom as well as to seek knowledge outside the classroom. Their father wanted them not to be content with just the knowledge from school; he figured there was a lot to be learned outside the classroom too. The boys got their mechanical interest from their mother who had made a few appliances that she used at home. The boys also inherited their curiosity from their father, who used to travel throughout the country and brought back gifts from far away places which, encouraged their adventurous spirit. Their father introduced them to a small printing press in which Orville took interest.


However, within a short time, he outgrew the printing press and invested in another press involving his brother Wilbur, who he trusted and knew he could count on. Both brothers went on to venture into other interests that were successful. Their main goal was to build a plane and be able to fly. While there were many brilliant scientists working to build a plane, the Wright brothers, with less than a high school education, were successful because of their determination and ability to cooperate with each other.


The story follows the two main characters of Orville and Wilbur Wright and shares what these two brothers were like growing up. The graphic novel covers the main points of their lives, allowing the reader to see that not everything was perfect; they had their struggles along the way but were able to succeed. They found obstacles and people that did not believe they could accomplish such a task as flying. The Wright Brothers graphic novel provide interesting facts and the graphics making it easy to follow. Young adults could follow along without any problem because the text is easy to read and the graphics help to follow along.


The Wright Brothers graphic novel covers most of the characteristics of a graphic novel. It might not be part of the “best of the best,” but it does have the elements of a good graphic novel. Most of the book is good, but the story of the Wright brothers in this book is more of a summary of the Wright brother’s lives. There is minimal dialog in the book. The author summarized the story in 68 pages. The Wright Brothers book is an interesting one, but the author could have made into one of the best of the best if he would have put more effort into it. Young adults are intrigued with real life stories of people succeeding. Unfortunately the author cuts the readers short.


After reading this graphic novel, there were a few things that I learned about the Wright brothers. The book does meet the criteria as young adult literature book. I felt this graphic novel kept my interest, and it would be a good book for young adults around the ages of 8-12 to read. Prior to reading this book the only thing I knew about the Wright brothers was that they had been the first ones to fly a plane, but there is more to it. What young adults can learn from this book goes beyond inventing a plane. What it teaches is what was mentioned on the first day of class: “A hard worker would outwork a smart person.” This is precisely what the Wright brothers were able to do while there were many distinguished scientist were trying to be the first ones to fly.


While it was no easy task, and they did have many setbacks but that did not prevent them from accomplishing their goal. Every time something failed they were more determined to succeed. This is a good lesson for any young adult who has a dream.


I would recommend this graphic novel to students from grades 4th through 8th. The Wright Brothers is a positive story. It is very encouraging for young adults who aspire to be successful. The Wright brothers might not have finished high school and might not have been the brightest students, but they had the desire, determination, and work ethic to make their goals come true. The road to success was not a smooth one; they encountered many difficulties on their way to accomplishing their goals. If students are able to grasp the concept of hard work than this book is a success.

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Karina Pena Reviews *The Good Neighbors Book One: Kin*



Title: The Good Neighbors: Book One: Kin

Author: Holly Black

Artist/s: Ted Neifeh

Publisher: Graphix

Publication Date: 2008

The Graphic Novel The Good Neighbors Book One: Kin is an introduction to the story of Rue Silver, which brings two different realms together. The realm of faeries is starting to slowly take over the human realm and Rue Silver may be the only one who can stop it. Furthermore, Rue’s father is accused of murdering a college student named Sarasa Narayan.


Luckily, Rue finds out that the real killer is the brother of Sarasa. After Rue’s mother goes missing she begins to get glimpses of the faerie realm. Rue knows she must find her mother, who was sent back to the faerie realm because of a promise her father broke. Rue finds out that she is a faerie and that her grandfather is the faerie king that she probably shouldn’t trust. In this book her journey has just begun.


She has to find a way to deal with her family, her boyfriend, and the two different realms. It is a well written graphic novel that people can read and enjoy. The illustration themselves do a great job on showing the depth of Rue’s emotions in her struggles.

The graphic novel has some characteristics of the best young adult literature but it doesn’t mean it is one of the best. It is written in Rue’s point of view, which makes it more relatable and understanding to young adults. One of her accomplishments in the book is that she finds out that Sarasa’s brother is the one who killed her and not her father. She can take credit for her accomplishments because she almost seems to be on her own. In the end of the book it does leave the reader hanging and makes the reader wonder what is going to happen next. Even so, it does leave the reader with an optimistic ending that Rue will find her mom and defeat whichever of the evil fairies is trying to take over the human realm.


The graphic novel slightly answers the question for Rue, “who am I and what am I going to do about it?” At the end she does find out that she is a faerie, and she knows she has to look for her mom and help the human realm. It has some emotions that are important and relatable to young adults like isolation and sadness.


The graphic novel is missing some character development on Rue and her friends; the novel doesn’t give any insight on her. Her emotions are seen in the illustrations but there is no way to relate to her in this book because of the lack of knowledge of her relationship with her parents or friends. Since it is the first graphic novel of the series and it has less emotional and character development, it may be that after reading the series the reader may be able to relate to Rue.
This book is great for young adults that are interested in mysteries and fantasy. It would keep young adult entertained and wanting to finish the series to see what happens and how it will end for Rue.


The reader will probably try to find a way to relate to Rue and what she is going through. The book does meet the criteria to be considered a young adults literature. Since it is the first graphic novel of the series the readers just get a slight introduction to what the story is about. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to use the book for education purposes. There isn’t much you can teach with this book.

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Myriam Martinez Reviews *Eros and Psyche*




Title: Stolen Hearts: The Love of Eros and Psyche
Author: Ryan Foley
Artists: Sankha Banerjee, Prince Varghese
Publisher: Kalyani Navyug Media Pvt. Ltd.
Publication Date: 2010

This graphic novel depicts the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche as told to a young woman to teach her the lesson of how a conflict between a mother and daughter-in-law unfolds. The novel describes the clash between Eros’s mother and Psyche, which develops as a result of Aphrodite’s jealousy of Psyche’s beauty. Aphrodite sends Eros to set a trap for Psyche; however, love develops between the two. In response, Aphrodite condemns Psyche to forever be miserable, which in turn causes Eros to deprive the world of love. A compromise is made in which Psyche is isolated from the world in a castle, where a man visits her at night. Unknown to her, that man is Eros; however, she is not allowed to see his face as part of the compromise to avoid her knowing who he is.



Psyche is induced to break her promise by her sisters, who encourage her to see his face. As a result, Eros leaves her. Psyche begs for help from Aphrodite, who places four conditions on her assistance. Psyche manages to meet three of the conditions despite their apparent impossibility. She fails on the fourth condition, but Eros realizes her efforts, saves her, and asks the gods to immortalize her. His wish is granted and they are allowed to live happily ever after. Overall, the novel does a good job of introducing the storyline and setting up the reader for what follows, but fails in that a reader without prior knowledge of the Greek myth would have a hard time filling the gaps in the story.



This graphic novel posses various elements of young adult literature. Among the ones present are that the young person is free to take credit for her accomplishments. Psyche is responsible for resolving her mistakes and is given credit for doing so. The novel is also fast-paced. The novel is also basically optimistic in that Psyche learns and matures as the story progresses, and it has a happy result. The novel also deals with emotions that are important to young people such as love, learning from mistakes, and believing in yourself to succeed.



The graphic novel is missing several characteristics of young adult literature. The novel is narrated by an adult and therefore is not written from the point of view of a young adult. The novel does not include a variety of genres and subjects because it is constrained to Greek mythology. Also lacking is a diversity of ethnicities and cultures. Perhaps because of the timeframe of the original story, the story is removed from reality in that other cultures are not present in the story. Also, while it touches on emotions that might be of interest to young adults, it may be difficult for them to relate to gods and other unfamiliar situations.



I believe the text could be of interest to young adults, especially those with an interest in Greek mythology. The colored dialogue boxes are very useful in helping the reader follow the story and identify who is speaking. The novel also gives a face to the characters of Greek mythology, which are normally described in text only. While it does not fit perfectly into the definition of a young adult piece, it has enough of its elements to qualify as one. For those that are not familiar with the original Greek story, it may be a way to introduce them to a new medium. However, for those that dislike Greek mythology, this may not be a book of interest to them.



I would recommend this book to young adults for the reasons mentioned above. The novel has enough of the elements for a good young adult piece to draw their interest and provide for a good read. For those already very familiar with the original Greek story, I would caution them to remember that it is a slightly different version that does not remain completely true to the original. I would recommend it to young adults especially for its lessons of love and of determination.

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Pamela Antwine Reviews *The Swiss Family Robinson*

The Swiss Family Robinson is a great graphic novel. The story is about a family
traveling on a ship from England to Port Jackson, located in New South Wales. Their journey
on the ship becomes disastrous when they encounter a catastrophic storm.

I thought this graphic novel was great and effective for several reasons, including:
the easy flow of the dialogue, the sequence of events was timely, and the illustrations
were very effective. These were demonstrated on (pgs.44, 73).


In the graphic novel the character Fritz is the oldest of four sons, and appears to be a young man of sixteen. Fritz is able to take credit for his accomplishments on
several occasions. Most notable was when he felt his fate lay in the mouth of a shark. Young
Fritz had only been on the island for one day, and unaccustomed to shark attacks. The shark wasswimming towards Fritz when he was transporting the animals from the ship. As terrified as
Fritz was, he was able to shoot and wound the shark on his father’s command (p.29). Another
accomplishment was when Fritz captured and tamed an wild eagle (p.45).



The Swiss Family Robinson graphic novel is fast-paced because the events happen
quickly. In the beginning of the story, the family is on a ship. By the middle of the
story the family is on a deserted island, and at the end of the story, the family has
survived all their trials and tribulations. The fast pace of a graphic novel is important
because it keeps the readers attention. It also keeps the reader wondering and guessing
what will happen next.


The story is optimistic, because through it all, the family survives. They
overcame a lot of obstacles when the ship was caught in the storm by remaining calm and
patient. Their demonstration of optimism came through when the family prayed, “ Our heads
were soothed by the comfort of childlike prayer, and the horrors of our situation seemed less
terrible.” Their faith and family unity helped strengthen their ability to remain optimistic.
Time and change were demonstrated when the boys first arrived at the island:
They were young boys, and vulnerable to their surroundings. They then changed into
men after being on the island for ten years (p.53). They spoke with optimism just after
their father had completed making each of them a pair of boots (p.41). “ Yes, we’ve had a
pretty eventful time since we landed here all those months ago” (p.42).


The family’s fate of leaving the island once seemed hopeless. But now the family
has a choice to leave or remain on the island. Each person chooses to seek their own
happiness and fulfillment. This is witnessed at the end of the graphic novel,
when the boys are deciding what the future holds for them. Fritz, now a man of twenty-six,
has decided to marry Montrose and move to England. Ernest the second oldest, who appeared
to be thirteen in the first part of the story, now probably a young man of twenty-three,
has chosen to remain with his parents on the island, and continue to study science. Jack the
third oldest son, who appeared to be ten in the beginning of the story, also chooses to remain on
the island as a rider, and shooter.


Frank, the youngest son, who appeared to be eight in the beginning of the story, decides to go to school in London (p.81). The young men made their life choices with such maturity and optimism. This was noted as they made a toast to “ New Switzerland,” then Jack who said, “ Long life and happiness to those who make New Switzerland their home!” the second toast came from Fritz“ three cheers for England and Colonel Montrose! Success and happiness to those of us who return to Europe!” (p.80). Although what the future holds is unknown, these young men seem mature enough to handle all that comes their way.


The Swiss Family Robinson graphic novel deals with the emotions that are important to
young people. The novel demonstrates fearful situations and being able to overcome them. Most young adults at some point in their lives experience fear. In the novel there were incidents of the boys experiencing fear on the ship when the storm first came (p.5). They overcame their fear by going to the lower level of the ship where it was quiet, warm, and dry. Jack experienced fear
when he opened the closed captain’s door on the ship, and the attack dogs rushed towards him
and knocked him to the floor. Jack’s response was to hide his fear and remain calm and
everything worked out fine (p.10). Another important feeling young adults experience is
acceptance.

This was demonstrated when Ernest at age 13, was seeking approval from his father and
older brother Fritz. Ernest wanted to go hunting with them, but was not allowed because they felt he was too young. So one day they allowed Ernest to go hunting with them. Although the hunt was unsuccessful in capturing an animal, Ernest could not have been happier. He proved he was quite the hunter with his sharp instincts, and keen eye for spotting the wild animals. From then on Ernest, was always included in the hunt for wild animals. Young adults need to be able to read a graphic novel that deals with similar emotions they can identify with to maintain their interest and to be used as a teaching lesson.


The element missing of the young adult literature is the point of view of the of the young adults for the writing because the graphic novel was written from the point of view of the father. Another element missing is the absence of diversity of ethnicities and cultures because the family lived alone on the island for ten years. This graphic novel does meet the criteria for being considered young adult literature because it offers simplified words throughout the story. The quality of characters and setting are realistic and it reflects on the age of innocence embarking on a unfamiliar journey. The illustrations command your attention as does the story itself.

I would recommend this graphic novel because it demonstrates adventure,
family unity and a coming of age story. The novel makes good use of dialogue. The
sequence of events follows suit. The illustrations are very graphic and detail oriented.
This would be a great book for children ages eight through fourteen.

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Lorenzo Licerio Reviews Campfire's *Call of the Wild*

Title: The Call of the Wild
Author: Jack London
Adapted by: Lloyd S. Wagner
Artist: Sachin Nagar
Publisher: Campfire
Publication Date: 2010

This novel gives the reader a great sense of the harsh life that both men and beast confronted in the great Alaskan wilderness at the turn of the century. It tells the story of a dog that, unwillingly, is taken into a great journey. Through this journey, he discovers the kindness and evil that is within some men and animals. It also helped him find his most basic animal instincts. This would serve him in surviving and discovering his true nature and calling in life.

I thought the story in this novel had a good flow to it. It kept me interested in the characters and plot. I think the liberal use of color in the artwork really kept the story alive. I enjoyed the novel overall and would recommend it.

The main character in this novel is the dog Buck. The story is told by Buck’s character and there are no children in it. I think the story was fast paced. It didn’t dwell too long on any particular subject, and that kept the story flowing. It dealt with the subject of dogs, which I think is always a favorite of young adults. I think the negative treatment of them will surprise and challenge the emotions of some children. The graphics did help in visualizing the story and helped in understanding it.

I don’t think there were many elements of the “best of the best” in this novel. There was no young person in the story for young adults to relate to. That takes out of the list most of the” best of the best” elements in young adult literature. That been said, I still think it has some good qualities.

Although it doesn’t have some of the criteria that identify most young adult literature, I still like some of the other elements within it. The struggle to survive is a theme that does resonate in the life of a teenager (not always to the extent of life and death, but surviving teenage life, with all its complexities.) There was some optimism in the dog surviving, form harsh weather, the fights for sled leader, to the mistreatment from the men. The dog also started to get the feeling that his true call was to roam free in a pack. He would get visions of that and would eventually join and lead a pack of his own. The graphics in this novel I think is another element that would attract the youth into reading it.


I think the colors were used adequately and in the right amount. There were times when the artist would use only white and dark lines, which would give the effect of the cold and snowy terrain of the area. Some times he would use bright colors in the portrayal of the mountains, forests and rivers. I especially liked the dark red color he used in the background of the Buck’s dream of the Indian warrior dancing around the fire.

Even though the novel had no young protagonist as the main character, I would still recommend this novel. I don’t think this would be a novel for anybody below middle school age. Some of the violence depicted against the dogs would be a little too graphic for younger children; especially the way the men treat dogs. I especially think high school students would enjoy the nature of life in those times.

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Audrey Gleason Reviews *Amulet Book 2*



Amulet 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse
Kazu Kibuishi
Drawn by Kazu Kibuishi
Colors and Backgrounds by Kazu Kibuishi, Amy Kim Kibuishi, Anthony Go Wu, and Jason Caffoe
Publisher: Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.
Published: September 2009

A continuation from the first book of Amulet: The Stonekeeper, the second in the series, The Stonekeeper’s Curse, places the reader in the dangerous world of Alledia, ruled by malicious elves, where hope can only be found in a twelve-year-old girl, Emily. The graphic novel offers a nice mix of a well-developed storyline and artfully drawn characters.


The Stonekeeper’s Curse is comprised of the viewpoints of the young heroine Emily the Stonekeeper, as well as that of her younger brother, Navin. While both siblings have guidance along their separate, but intertwined journeys, the two adolescents take matters into their own hands and accomplish a great deal individually with help from newly-introduced friends and old allies from the previous book.


Emily and Navin run into elves, cursed townspeople that turn into animals, and wise, old, talking trees. Each of these characters has their distinctive culture, bring a uniquely fictionalized diversity to the story. When Emily and Navin have to part ways, the reader may see how each manages the difficulties of a particular situation the siblings are thrown into and watch the heroes grow. All the while, Emily and Navin struggle with internal conflict of confidence, acceptance of self, and uncertainty of where they may end up.


The intertwined journeys lead Emily and Navin to answers they are looking for, and answers they never knew the question to. The storyline is complex enough to keep the reader’s attention and moves with a cohesive fluidity, making this a possible consideration of being one of the “best of the best” in young adult literature.


As the second book in the Amulet series, it lacks a bit in the variety of subjects and genres. This could be due to how much guidance is seen given to Emily and Navin. Even the evil Trellis has a type of guide, Luger, in his journey to destroy Emily and gain the power of the amulet for himself. All the guidance that is given to the characters has one wondering if the heroes and villain can take credit for all their work.


Unfortunately, if the reader has yet to read the book’s predecessor, The Stonekeeper, they might find themselves lost for a while. The Stonekeeper’s Curse does not introduce main and assisting characters that were previously in the first book. The audience is expected to already be familiar with their backgrounds, and what roles they exactly play. Though, the graphic novel does hint to what happened in the previous story, the reader is left to put all the puzzle pieces together by themselves; which makes the reading of it that much more frustrating.


Overall The Stonekeeper’s Curse has a good entertainment value that young adult readers can appreciate. Emily’s gripping adventure will engage readers who will not only have their fill of a well-written work that captivates real human emotion, all the while entertaining with detailed pictures that is beautifully done through brilliant colors, and an eye for capturing the essence of each character’s feeling.


Any young adult that likes fantasy and adventure will have an enjoyable time reading The Stonekeeper’s Curse. As a warning though, the reader should read the Amulet series in sequential order, so that the story comes across entirely.

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Patricia Hoban Reviews *Amulet Book 3*

Title: Amulet: Book Three The Cloud Searchers
Author: Kazu Kibuishi
Artist/s: Kazu Kibuishi
Publisher: Scholastic, Graphix
Publication Date: 2010

This graphic novel is the third book in a series of four. It may seem at first like a long read, but once one starts reading one really cannot put it down. The story is a continuation of the adventures of Emily and her friends, however, in this book the Elf King’s son, Trellis, and his companion, Luger, have joined Emily and company on their search for Cielis, the lost city. Many believe that Cielis was destroyed when the Elf nation attacked the Guardian Council, however, others believe that the Guardian Council moved the city in order to protect it. As the reader reads one learns why Trellis has asked for Emily’s help to defeat his father, and to one’s surprise it is because of the stones. The stones play a large role in the story as well. At first one may think that it is only a source of power for the stone keepers, but the story of the stones runs much deeper. As the journey continues, there are many elements who wish to stop the travelers, the Elf King and his “hunter”, Gabilan, who was sent to finish the job of killing the stone keeper Emily, as well as Trellis for “treason” in not completing his task of killing Emily.

The journey takes the travelers into the Golbez Cycle, a terrible storm, in which they encounter not only bad weather but horrible flying creatures called Wyverns. Once through the threat of the Wyverns and past other terrible natural weather elements, the travelers reach the beacon that will help them find the lost city. One last encounter with Gabilan tests the strength of Emily. Then it is off to the lost city of Cielis, where the Guardian Council is choosing their successors before they all die off.

Although the story is not told in the point of view of the protagonist, Emily, it does have the essence of a third person, omniscient voice. The readers are not given just one point of view but the point of view from different characters and even their thought process is clear, even through the illustrations you can gain an idea of what is happening in their mind, almost as if one were taking a walk through their thoughts. This story does fall under certain aspects of the “Best of the Best” because although Emily has not completely harnessed the power of being a stone keeper, when needed she acts to battle an enemy or protect a loved one using the training she has gained and is able to take credit for her accomplishments. Although it does take training to help her control her powers, in the end it is only her that can manipulate those powers with her feelings and thoughts.

Another aspect that the story falls under with is it is very fast-paced. The story has the feeling of moving very quickly to get to the climax, the climax being the finding of the lost city and the battle with Gabilan at the beacon. There is definitely different cultures and ethnicities in this story. Although it is a futuristic tale and deals with magic, one does meet all the different characters who are humans, animals, elves and even robots. Even though they are all different they all come together. This story is definitely filled with optimism. Emily has doubts in herself but knows that it is up to her in the end. Not only is it a journey to find the lost city but it is also a journey for Emily to find herself in a way, to find who she is as a stone keeper. Even as a graphic novel this story does deal with emotions that young adults deal with on a daily basis. Emily is in a constant struggle within of what should she do, who should she be, and definitely what she is going to do about it. She knows she has to do what is right, but she struggles with the fact that she must also protect her family.

I do not feel that this story lacks much as far as being categorized in the “Best of the Best” when it comes to YA literature. The story may have been a little easier to follow if was told from Emily’s point of view so that the readers could gain a better idea of what was going on in her mind and what was happening through her eyes. However, it would have been a completely different story at that point, maybe a different series. There is never really a point within this story per se where Emily begins to answer the question of “What am I going to do about it?” This could be because it is part of a series of books and that change may come within the fourth book. Other than that it does carry all the elements to be considered the “Best of the Best.”

I honestly feel that this story, no the series, meets and fits the criteria for young adult literature. Considering that the story is fast paced, optimistic, contains characters that have the different characteristics of YA literature and so many other aspects, I feel that this would be a good book for young adults to read. There are many instances in life where young adults deal with answering the epic questions, “Who am I and what am I going to do about it?” and this book also addresses at least one of those questions. I’m sure the fourth book addresses the other. Not only does it deal with things that fall into the “best of the best” but it is not a difficult read at all and the illustrations help to guide the reader and draw them in.

I have to agree with one of the reviews of this book from Jeff Smith, “Five-no three pages into Amulet and you’ll be hooked,” (Back cover). Now granted this may have been about the first book, but after reading this book I know I definitely want to get the others and read them.
I would definitely recommend this book too anyone who loves futuristic anime type stories and books.

The story is a tale of adventure, friendship and so much more. Honestly, I would recommend this story to anyone. It is kind of like watching a movie that ends only to carry on into a second one (kind of like the last Harry Potter movie). Once the reader reaches the end one wants to know what happens next. The hook is definitely there and it draws the reader in. It is a book that one can’t put down once they’ve started.

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Fabiola Velasquez Reviews *Babysitters Club: Kristy's Great Idea*

Review of The Babysitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea

Title: Babysitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Artist/s: Raina Telgemeier
Publisher: Graphix
Publication Date: 2006

The Babysitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea is a graphic novel based on a book by the same name published in 1988. It deals with four friends, Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey, who are seventh graders that create a baby-sitters club. They come upon various issues related to growing up while they establish the club. It is an excellent graphic novel for young girls and is filled with topics to which they can relate.


The Babysitters Club possesses a variety of elements of young adult literature. It is told in the point of view of Kristy, who has the idea for the club. Her ambition about the club demonstrates her early maturity and responsibility. The idea of a club of this sort can affect young readers positively by inspiring them to create a similar small business. The value of hard work is an important theme in the novel. Kristy and her friends are great role models for young girls. The Babysitters Club is simple in its plot as well as its drawings. The author makes it easy for readers to follow along and her drawings allow for us to feel what the characters are experiencing. The pictures make the book an enjoyable read.

The graphic novel deals with subjects that young girls can easily relate to. Several of them include Kristy’s divorced parents and her absent father, as well as her mother dating. She cannot get used to her mom’s boyfriend, Watson, but as the novel progresses she gives him a chance and finally accepts him. Her family’s situation is a realistic one. Although her father is not in her life, the book portrays her mother as being very involved. Another common theme that readers can relate to is that of peers growing up at different paces, which is shown in the novel with Claudia. Of the four friends, she is already wearing makeup and seems more concerned about her appearance. Girls like Claudia, who are in a rush to grow up, are so commonly seen in schools.


Further in the book, Claudia shares with her friends that her parents did not give her permission to wear makeup although she is still wearing a pair of skull earrings she is not supposed to. This incident in The Babysitters Club portrays that young girls should be in no rush to grow up. One of the more serious topics of the book is Stacey’s diabetes. It is difficult for children at this age to deal with friends who are sick. Stacey is hesitant to share with her friends about her disease because she is afraid of her friend’s reaction. Fortunately, her friends are supportive and do not tease her like the friends from her old school. The novel is overall optimistic and gives an encouraging message to young readers.

One of the elements of young adult literature that I noticed missing from The Babysitters Club was a diversity of ethnicities. The colorless pictures make the girls races undistinguishable, which made me assume they are of the same ethnicity. I feel that the lack of different cultures is made up for by the different personalities of the characters. They are all unique in their own ways and contribute their abilities to the club.


The novel deals with emotions that are important to young people, especially young girls. It made me think back to my middle school days and the way I felt when I was dealing with similar issues. I find it difficult for the same issues, though, to be relevant to boys. I cannot imagine the novel being read in a classroom and being enjoyed by both genders. The book being an adaptation from another novel makes it complicated for it to include issues that are happening nowadays to young adults.

The Babysitters Club meets the criteria for being considered young adult literature. Its themes are simple but are those that are important to teenagers and its sequels offer the idea of taking the journey of growing up with the four girls with deeper themes. I would definitely recommend The Babysitters Club to young girls and to those who read the original series. I, myself, read the originals and found this adaptation very enjoyable. The Babysitters Club offers young readers the understanding of a few topics in real life while still making it a fun read.

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C.C. Almodovar Reviews *Amulet Book 1*



Review of Amulet: Book One The Stonekeeper
Title: Amulet: Book One The Stonekeeper
Author: Kazu Kibuishi
Artist: Kazu Kibuishi
Publisher:GRAPHIX
Publication Date: 2008


“Szrak, Hweeee, Squawk, Krnch, and Szzt,” are just a few of the exciting words that are in this thrilling and adventurous first installment of Kazu Kibuishi’s book Amulet. Amulet is a graphic novel centered around a young girl named Emily and her little brother Navin. This story is very action packed. In the prologue, Emily’s family is driving to pick up Navin, Emily’s younger brother, when her father swerves to miss a broken down car and drives off the road. The car flips over and nearly falls off of a cliff. Emily and her mother, Karen, are the only ones to get out before the car slides off of the cliff with Emily’s father still inside, killing him when the car crashes at the bottom of the cliff.


The story begins with the family moving in to a new town and moving into an old family house to try to ease their financial needs. The first night in their new house, they hear a strange noise in the basement. Karen goes down to check it out and is abducted by a creature to a different land. Emily and Navin follow right behind her and start their journey to get her back. Emily finds a special amulet which has secret powers. She must learn how to use it and control it in order to help their journey. They make new friends along the way which help them on their journey to rescue their mother. Amulet is an exciting story. The fluid illustrations in addition to the text make it very easy to read. The illustration panels read almost like an action film using different angles to show movement rather than just being static. The quality of this book is superb and the story just draws the reader in and makes them want to continue reading the later volumes to find out what happens to Emily and Navin.


Amulet possesses some characteristics of young adult literature and also contains some of the “Best of the best” ideas. This story is centered on two pre-teens, Emily and Navin. It follows them on their journey into a new land in order to search for their mother. Many readers could identify with the story’s main character, Emily. She is an adventurous girl whom loves her family deeply. She has already lost one parent and will do whatever she can to protect her mother and brother. A “Best of the best” quality represented in the book is that Emily takes responsibility and gets credit for her actions. When she learns about the amulet and its powers, she has to accept them. She is given the responsibility of taking care of the amulet and controlling its power.


Another “Best of the best” quality is that the story is quickly paced, but it is not simple. The story has a good amount of action which makes it a fast-paced story and Amulet deals with a few serious topics. It deals with a death of a parent and also the kidnapping of the other. Emily and Navin are left alone in an unfamiliar land to rescue their mother. The language in the story is also very easy to understand and the dialogue is not very lengthy, which contributes to the fast paced story.


Another “Best” quality is that the story is optimistic. Emily and Navin’s father is dead and their mother has been kidnapped. Instead of crying at home they are taking action and try to rescue her. Whatever Emily is feeling she does not let it get to her. She wants to get her mother back and will do whatever it takes. Emily and Navin come close to rescuing her a few times but their attempts get foiled at the last minute. They, however, do not give up and try to come up with a different way of approaching the rescue. Amulet has a silver lining and even though this is the first book in the series, the readers can see that Emily is beginning to change from a little girl to a young responsible woman. These elements of young adult literature are use to help create an original story that can be both relatable and entertaining to you adult readers.


Amulet contains many elements of young adult literature; however, it does not contain them all. The story does not include different ethnicities and cultures, which is a “Best if the best” quality. Emily and Navin go into a new mysterious land that is somehow in their basement. They do not know where they are or what kind of different creatures they see. The story shares a little information about the new world but is very limited. The story also is focused on the main characters and their journey. This book is used to set up the story and it does not show or mention different ethnicities or cultures of our world. For readers who are not into fantasy, this book may be difficult for them to get into because it is not relatable in that way. Another “Best of the best” characteristic which is limited is the variety of genres and subjects that are relatable. The story deals with death of a parent and with the kidnapping of the other and how Emily is coping with them. These topics are family oriented and show readers that it is important to care for family. This story does not touch on other important topics to young adult readers such as drinking, dealing with the opposite sex, school, and puberty. This may limit the relatable content to its readers and have less of a connection to them.


This graphic novel is very interesting and entertaining, and I would recommend young adult people to read this book. It is very entertaining and is action-packed, which makes the reading flow easily and quickly. Since this is a series book, it will interest the readers to continue with the story and find out what happens to Emily, Navin, and their mother Karen. Like some quest-type stories, this book is optimistic and has a silver lining. You can see that Emily is slowly changing from a little girl to a young adult. She is becoming more responsible and taking credit for her actions. Even though this book does not have other topics that are in young adult books such as dating and puberty, this is still a very entertaining book. The title Amulet does not provide a lot of information to go off of but the prologue gives an abundance of information and illustrates the situation the family is in at the beginning of the story.


I would recommend this book to young adults both in middle school and high school. This book is easy to read without being boring. The story sucks the reader in within the first couple of pages and leaves you wanting more. I believe the easy flow will also help young adults read cover to cover. This is a quest or journey story, and I believe it can appeal to many people.


I believe even adults would enjoy this book and the Amulet series. It may not change the lives of people but it is very entertaining and can be a great escape from the real world.

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Con Fatigue!

I has it!

Monday, July 18, 2011

San Diego Here I Come!

It's been slow around the interwebs lately, as many of my steady news outlets have personnel doing the same as I: Getting ready for San Diego Comic Con! This will be my second-ever SDCC. I went back in 2002(?) as editor-in-chief of the online comics and commentary site Outcast Studios.

This year I'll be going as a panelist, joining Katie Monnin and others in an academic session on comics and writing. I'll be wearing some comics-related clothing, but I will not be in full costume this year. Maybe next year, though!

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Is Sookie Stackhouse Coming to a GN Near You?

Maybe. Maybe not. But, True Blood writer Charlaine Harris says she has a trinity of graphic novels featuring vampirishy characters up her sleep as her next big project. Click here for more info.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

NPR Covers Michigan Kids Drawing Comics

National Public Radio, eh? That's pretty good press.

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Saturday, July 09, 2011

George O'Connor Introduces the Greek Myths in Only 10 Panels

First Second graphic novelist and pretty cool dude Gorge O'Connor loves his mythology and does a great job interpreting its characters and adapting its stories. He's published several Greek God-centric graphic novels, and here he gives an overview that could be used in tons of classrooms.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Monnin Talks to InsideHigherEd.com about Comics and Literacy

Click the link embedded in this post's title to hear my friend and colleague Katie Monnin, a professor at the University of North Florida, speak on comics and education. InsideHigherEd is a website that explores issues of working and teaching in academe and also hosts job positions announcements, so you can bet it gets some good traffic. So, Katie's words should reach a large audience of hopefully receptive ears and may be the first words some visitors will have heard regarding the connections between comics and learning.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

2011 Harvey Noms are Public!



Josh Elder and the Reading With Pictures anthology are up for several awards. Great to see a comics-and-literacy text get some props!

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39 Graphic Novels for Kids!

Folks at School Library Journal remind that tykes like comics just as much as Spiegelman scholars with this list.

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