Category Archives: Teachers

Graphic Novels for Middle Graders

13513205

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.

ID-100186071

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
 Revised bayard cover

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

9781624034282_p0_v1_s260x420

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.      

Tips for November Writing Challenges

It’s almost November—do you know what that means? Many writers are getting ready for fun challenges, like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal is to write at least 50,000 words of a novel in November. When I first learned about NaNoWriMo, I didn’t think I’d be able to participate because I was finishing a revision on a middle grade novel. On November 7th, I completed my revision and thought of a shiny new idea. By the end of November, I ended up with over 60,000 words! As awesome as that was, I’ve learned that it’s better to have more than just an idea. Fleshing out my concept and making sure I have important plot points in mind really helps (even though it’s possible they’ll change as I get to know my characters better). Some people love to outline, but I’ve never been a huge fan of it for my work. My favorite tool is Joyce Sweeney’s Plot Clock. Here’s a post about it, and here’s another post that shows a picture of the Plot Clock.

ywp_logo-NaNoWriMo

Calling all teachers—did you know that there’s a NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program? Check out their Resources for Educators, where you’ll find their free classroom kit, lesson plans, and Virtual Classroom how-to. You can also find out how to connect with fellow educators.

If you want to participate in NaNoWriMo, but don’t know what to write about yet, here’s a post that can help you come up with new ideas.

Here’s a link to a helpful interview with author Dorian Cirrone. She has fantastic advice for brainstorming high concept ideas, how to come up with a great beginning, plus a writing exercise. Check out Dorian’s blog for her series on Ten Ways to Generate Ideas.

A lot of middle grade novels are way less than 50,000 words…so how can you write a middle grade novel and still be a NaNoWriMo winner? Well, I think anyone who makes great progress on a novel is a winner. Reaching the end of a first draft in one month is definitely a reason to dance around the room and treat yourself to some kind of special celebration (maybe delicious chocolate, a fun outing with family members you haven’t spent much time with because you were so busy writing, or possibly a massage to un-hunch your shoulders after all that hard work). After celebrating, I like to dive back in and hit that 50,000 mark. Here are a few ways that I’ve accomplished that:

  1. My first drafts used to have lots of dialogue, but only a small amount of description. To beef up my word count and add important sensory details, I’ve looked for areas that could use fleshing out and added more description to them. I’d often have to cut a lot of it in the first few rounds of revision, but loved how many gems I was able to keep. Find what you often lack in your first drafts (maybe it’s dialogue, you don’t increase tension enough, etc.) and see where you can add it into your draft.
  2. If you think a sequel could work for your story, jump in and start writing it to reach your 50,000 word goal. Just try not to get too invested in it, because any changes you make to the first novel could cause huge changes to any future ones—but it can’t hurt to play around with it. You might find ideas that could enhance your first book!
  3. Beginnings are so hard to get right, that I’ve gone back to write a bunch of different beginnings. Don’t be afraid to start in a completely different place. If you’re not sure which one is best for your novel, polish your favorite beginnings up after NaNoWriMo is over, then share them with your critique group or writing friends and see if there’s a clear winner.
  4. You could also start a new novel! Hopefully, you’ll have some ideas fleshed out and ready to go.

If you get stuck while working on your new project, here’s a link to Tricks to Defeat Writer’s Block.

For those of you who also write picture books, check out Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) where the goal is to come up with at least thirty shiny new ideas during the month of November. Then, you have plenty of ideas to choose from whenever you want to write a new picture book throughout the year.

If you have any tips to share or questions to ask, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. Good luck with whatever goal you’re working toward this November. I hope the words flow!

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.