14 August 2014

GRAPHIC NOVELS in the ELA CLASSROOM, High School Edition

Somehow, without planning it, I have begun a graphic novel shelf in my classroom library. My Anime Club kids pushed me to read some manga, which is cool, but I found myself wanting more solid stories, so graphic novels started jumping out at me whenever I was at the bookstore. They are intense reading experiences! Most of the ones I have grown to love have required second reading just because my "print" mind cannot always decipher the sophisticated layers of story added by the art. And then so many series use different artists for each issue, so I am learning two new authors with each new episode. Kids don't seem to mind, though. They eat them alive. I have decided not to add my favorite manga to the mix though--I have so little space, and they are like cotton candy. I could not have only one volume of Death Note or Scott Pilgrim--it would spark a mutiny.
So how do I choose the right graphic novels? I started with authors whose names I knew--mostly because of movies made of their books, I guess--and so my early choices were the "classics" as far as I could decipher:  Harvey Pekar, Lynda Barry, Art Speigelman, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, etc etc. I am reading As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gilman as she draws it right now online, and some of my favorite purchases this summer have been Boxers and Saints by Gene Yang, both volumes of Snowpiercer and Templar. I have also dabbled in Warren Ellis (Crecy, Gun Machine), and a student gave me Polarity-about an musician/artist whose superpower is his bipolar-ity.  And I would not be an English teacher if I did not have Kill Shakespeare  in my room and Grant Morrison's Supergods. A few of the novels into comic books are OK-but that brings back memories of those Classic Comics that all the boys in my neighborhood read when I was a kid. The paper was flimsy, the ink smeared,  and the best parts of the story were always left out in my 12-year-old female opinion.

When I review this list though, it is heavy, really heavy on literary-type storytelling, which can be a tough sell for most kids. And some of these are incredibly dark, cynical, violent and even misogynistic (that is for another post). I don't want them in my room if I am not going to be able to accompany their reading of them with discussion of difficult themes, images and styles.  I have avoided the superhero stuff, cause the kids already read those. I did get 3 new converts to Gaiman's Sandman this year, and am thinking of adding a few issues of Lock & Keye by Joe Hill.  And shouldn't I have Matt Fraction in there somewhere? And I NEED to read Tank Girl asap.  So here is my list to date. What am I missing? What should I remove?

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth
American Splendor
V for Vendetta
Locke and Key
Sandman (3 vol)
Boxers and Saints

Snowpiercer, vol 1 & 2
The Griff
Kill Shakespeare, vol 1 & 2
The Modern Mariner-Nick Hayes rocks!
Graphic Canon, vol 1 & 2

My Goodreads list, still under construction:

My beginning list of places to go for recs:

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