Category Archives: Parents

Graphic Novels for Middle Graders

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When my son came home from the library with A Wrinkle in Time, The Graphic Novel, my reaction was mixed. I was happy that Madeline L’Engle’s classic wouldt reach more readers now that it had been adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. But I also wondered if it would stop others – including my own children- from enjoying the original format.

Putting my emotional reaction aside, I figured it was time to start asking questions about graphic novels, a genre which has exploded in popularity in what literally feels like a wrinkle of time.

First of all, what’s the difference between a graphic novel and a comic book?

Essentially, graphic novels are book length narratives presented in comic book style. This differentiates them from comic strips without a central plot, like Garfield or Calvin and Hobbes. Graphic novels also tend to be longer and more complex than comic books that tell a story over many issues (usually covering a long period time) like superhero serials.

Read more about comics versus graphic novels at knowledge nuts  and wisegeek.

Are graphic novels good for reluctant readers?

According to the School Library Journal , graphic novels are ideal for attracting reluctant readers and introducing them to literature they might not encounter otherwise. They are also well suited to ESL students and provide scaffolding for struggling readers.

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But Good ok Bad, a blog which reviews graphic novels exclusively, cautions that the genre should not be treated as a gateway for getting kids to read “real books.” Instead parents and educators are encouraged to treat graphic novels as a distinctive art form that have their own things to say and their own way of saying it.

Reading graphic novels may push children into more literary pursuits. Or they may just give kids an appreciation for good comics. Either way, reading graphic novels challenge children (and adults) to grow in empathy, understanding, and knowledge.

Are graphic novels good for all middle grade readers?

Based on my review of the literature, yes! The Junior Library Guild praises the genre for fostering both visual and verbal comprehension skills while exposing readers to interesting dialogue and satire, as well as affirming diversity.

Wow1Get Graphic: The World in Words and Pictures, a resource for teachers provides the following summary. Reading graphic novels:

  • Engages reluctant readers & ESL students
  • Increases reading comprehension and vocabulary
  • Can serve as a bridge between low and high levels of reading
  • Provides an approach to reading that embraces the multimedia nature of today’s culture, as 2/3 of a story is conveyed visually
  • Provides scaffolding for struggling readers
  • Can serve as an intermediary step to more difficult disciplines and concepts
  • Presents complex material in readable text
  • Helps students understand global affairs
  • Helps to develop analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Offers another avenue through which students can experience art

Convinced? Here are some book lists to get you started on your graphic novel adventure.

GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUND UP by the Mixed-Up Files

Let’s Get Graphic… novel! by the Mixed-Up Files

Top Ten Middle Grad Graphic Novel Series by the Nerdy Book Club

Best Graphic Novels for Readers, Reluctant or Otherwise (ages 3-16) by Pragmatic Mom

The Best Graphic Novels for Children divided by age group (K-2, 3-5, 6-8) by @your library

Slide Show of ten more recent middle grade novels from Kirkus Review

The Best Comics for your Classroom by The Graphic Classroom keeps an updated list broken down by age (including adults) and highly recommended vs. recommended, with a special list for reluctant readers

Great Graphic Novels for Kids by Good ok Bad provides a list, divided by age, and also ongoing reviews

Unleashing Readers provides list of nonfiction graphic novels

Gathering Books gives examples of non-fiction graphic novels that specifically deal with war and conflict (suitable for this time of year)

Have another suggestion? Please add it in the comment section below. Happy reading!

ID-100244202 Yolanda Ridge has enjoyed being part of the Mixed-Up Files. She will miss the group but is excited about following the new members and keeping in touch with the talented group of authors that make this blog possible.

 

November New Releases

Starting to feel the chill in the air? Curl up in a chair with a warm blanket and a cup of cocoa… and one of these great new books.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul   by Jeff Kinney

A family road trip is supposed to be a lot of fun . . . unless, of course, you’re the Heffleys. The journey starts off full of promise, then quickly takes several wrong turns. Gas station bathrooms, crazed seagulls, a fender bender, and a runaway pig–not exactly Greg Heffley’s idea of a good time. But even the worst road trip can turn into an adventure–and this is one the Heffleys won’t soon forget.

 

 Rogue Knight  by Brandon Mull

Magic and danger abound in the second book in a series of “fanciful, action-packed adventure” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fablehaven and Beyonders series.

 

 

Keeper Lost Cities: Everblaze   by Shannon Messenger

Sophie uncovers shocking secrets—and faces treacherous new enemies—in this electrifying third book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

 

 

 

Who Was Gandhi?   by Dana Meachen Rau

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 in British-occupied India. Though he studied law in London and spent his early adulthood in South Africa, he remained devoted to his homeland and spent the later part of his life working to make India an independent nation. Calling for non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights around the world. Gandhi is recognized internationally as a symbol of hope, peace, and freedom.

 

Alex Rider: Russian Roulette  by Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider’s life changed forever with the silent pull of a trigger. Every story has a beginning. For teen secret agent Alex Rider, that beginning occurred prior to his first case for MI6, known by the code name Stormbreaker. By the time Stormbreaker forever changed Alex’s life, his uncle had been murdered by the assassin Yassen Gregorovich, leaving Alex orphaned and craving revenge. Yet when Yassen had a clear shot to take out Alex after he foiled the Stormbreaker plot, he let Alex live. Why? This is Yassen’s story. A journey down the darker path of espionage.

 

Absolute Truly  by Heather Voegel Frederick

 

An unsent letter in a first edition copy of Charlotte’s Web leads to a hunt for treasure in this heartwarming middle grade mystery from the author of The Mother-Daughter Book Club.

 

That’s Sneaky!  by Crispin Boyer

 

Do you think spies are stupendous? Ninjas are neat? Mysteries are more than meet the private eye? Then you’ll love That’s Sneaky, the most surprising and suspenseful information that we’re legally permitted to print. Jam-packed into this top secret title is the most classified and downright dangerous information you’ll ever get your amateur detective hands on. Want to escape one of history’s most heinous prisons? Consult chapter 7. Dare to dodge ocean predators by slipping into a sharkproof suit? Check out chapter 1. Prefer to gear up with spy gadgets? Flip to chapter 5. With stealthy Agent ’Stache as your partner, you’ll face elements of surprise and masters of disguise. Embrace the adventure and listen well—you never know when this book may self-destruct!

 

Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist
by Jacqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle, and Michael G. Long
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To many, the Civil Rights Movement brings to mind protests, marches, boycotts, and freedom rides. They often think of people like Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks.  They seldom think of Bayard Rustin.

Raised by his Quaker grandmother to believe in the value of every human being, Bayard made trouble where ever he saw injustice. As a teenager, he was arrested for sitting in the whites only section of a theater. More arrests followed, for protesting against segregation, discrimination, and war.  His belief in nonviolent action as a means for social change gave him a guiding vision for the Civil Rights Movement, which he used to mentor the young Martin Luther King.  When A. Philip Randolph needed the best organizer on the planet, he turned to Bayard Rustin to bring 250,000 people to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Thomas Paine: Crusader for Liberty   by Albert Marrin

Dubbed ‘The Father of the American Revolution’, Paine began his written reign by fervently proposing the idea of American independence from Great Britain, where he lived before emigrating to the United States in his thirties. As one historical event led to another, Paine continued to divulge his ideas to the public, risking his reputation and even his life. Award-winning author Albert Marrin illustrates the hardships and significance of a man’s beliefs and its affects on our nation in a way that all ages can comprehend.

 

  Amazing Feats of Electrical Engineering   by Jennifer Swanson

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Engineers design our modern world. They combine science and technology to create incredible vehicles, structures, and objects. This title examines amazing feats of electrical engineering. Engaging text explores the global positioning system, solar power plants, and self-driving cars. It also examines the engineers who made these projects a reality and traces the history of the discipline.      

Day of the Girl Child

Last year we were very happy to help  Katie Quirk celebrate the publication of her wonderful middle grade novel, “A Girl Called Problem”.  Set in Tanzania, the story centers on a 13 year old girl who longs to help her family and people by becoming a healer. In a starred review, Kirkus said   “Quirk’s debut novel for children gives readers an intimate view of rural Tanzania in the early 1970s through details of daily life, folklore, family dynamics and spiritual beliefs.”

GCP cover high resKatie is back today to celebrate  a day declared by the United Nations as The International Day of the Girl . Here’s Katie:

October 11th marks an exciting day for young people. It’s the third annual United Nations International Day of the Girl, and it’s not just the UN that is celebrating girls. Increasingly, development organizations around the world are learning that if you want tofight injustice or poverty in communities that are struggling, don’t waste your time trying to enact change with local government, or even with adults in general. Instead, empower the girls in those communities. Provide them with access to quality education and healthcare, and before you know it, those same girls will be paying their privilege forward, making life for everyone better.

unThis notion that girls are one of the most powerful forces for change in the world makes for a pretty compelling story, a story which is increasingly popping up in middle-grade literature. A Girl Called Problem is set in late 1960s Tanzania, right after that country achieved its independence from Britain. The main character, Shida, is a spunky, 13-year-old girl. Shida has dreams of attending school and becoming a healer, but she also faces some pretty formidable odds: her father is dead; hermother is so depressed people label her a “witch”; everyone reminds Shida that no girl has ever grown up to be a medicine man; oh, and her name translated from Swahili literally means “Problem.” To make matters worse, when Shida starts going to school, fellow villagers and even one teacher say girls shouldn’t be there. These naysayers go so far as to blame girl students for cursing their village and causing the death of a child. Fortunately Shida isn’t a kid who easily gives up, and when the village is on the brink of collapse, Shida and another girl student prove critical to their community’s survival.

Although A Girl Called Problem is quite simply a coming-of-age mystery about an unyielding kid, it is also a celebration of exactly what the U.N. is honoring on October 111th: the world waking up to the notion that when girls are empowered to learn and lead, everyone benefits.

Other Books and Videos to Celebrate International Day of the Girl

Because many of the challenges faced by girls around the world involve them having their childhoods eclipsed through early marriage and sexual violence, books about girls facing and overcoming injustice tend to be for the young adult audience (Sold by Patricia Cormick, for example). Nevertheless, there remain a number of other great resources for middle-grade readers.

Fiction: 

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis is the story of an eleven-year-old girl in Afghanistan who, under Taliban rule, is forbidden to go to the market, attend school, or even play outside. When her father is hauled off for having a foreign education, Parvana is forced to disguise herself as a boy and to take on the task of breadwinner for the family.

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Also Known As Harper by Ann Haywood Leal is the story of a fifth-grade girl and poetess who is forced to skip school when her alcohol-abusing father walks out, her family moves into a motel, and her now-desperate-for-work mother needs her to stay home to watch her little brother. It’s a good reminder that kids in developed countries face challenges that keep them away from school, too.

 Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter is a picture book based on a true story of a girl in Uganda who longs to go to school, but whose family doesn’t have the money for schools fees. Then her family receives a goat, and with the milk and the bits of income that follow, good health and even Beatrice’s dream of going to school come true.

Non-Fiction

 I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Youth Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick is the inspiring story of the world’s youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. Encouraged to stand up for her belief that all children should have the right to attend school, Malala was shot in the head while riding home on a bus after school but, as we all know, even that shot didn’t stop her.

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Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists by Jeannine Atkins profiles six women, including Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall, who became important scientists, writers and teachers. The book describes how they were sometimes discouraged from pursuing their interests, but how they persevered and went on to play an important role in how we think of the natural world today.

Fatty Legs: A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton isthe tale of a brave young woman who in the 1940s leaves her Inuit village for a residential school to pursue her dream of learning to read. There she is relentlesslyharassed by a nun, but she manages to stand up for herself.

Let’s Celebrate!

So on October 11th, help us celebrate girls everywhere: delve into an inspiring story or video about girls facing insurmountable odds, write a letter, make a donation, grab the hand of a girl you know who could use a little encouragement, and celebrate the power of girls to transform our world.