Last week the students in the children’s literature class I teach turned in their mid-term projects. I love this time of the semester, because it is a great time to see what I have missed or to reread some fabulous things that these students discovered.
A student, we’ll call her Lauren (because that is her name) teaches second grade. She discovered the Owly series by Andy Runton and talked to the class about it with such enthusiasm I went to the library the next day and grabbed all of them. I’ve been re-reading them over the weekend and am once again struck by the richness of the stories.
This almost wordless series provides an emotional authenticity that few books achieve. Runton uses black and white inked drawings that invite the reader in to truly co-construct the meaning. The dialogue is presented using standard talking or idea bubbles but instead of words, the ideas and emotions are communicated with embedded images.
These deceptively simple books are packed, so take the time to read each panel, each page, and don’t be afraid to backtrack!
Another student, Cheryl, found Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert.
I looked at this graphic novel a while ago but never got around to reading it. I’ve got it again on my shelf and I am struck with the use of ASL (I can only assume it is American Sigh Language) as text. Again, the use of visual representations of what would traditionally be handled by words.
And, then because I am just so freaking excited to see the next SAGA installment!!! SAGA by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (illustrator), is not a graphic novel, instead it is a comics series published monthly that I read in the collected form.
Full disclaimer and disclosure — I am NOT recommending the series for kids or school reading – at all. It is full of sex and nudity and aliens being very much not human, and blood and war and really weird aliens doing totally normal stuff like falling in love, and hating each other, and trusting, and having very bad days. It is also full of really weird stuff … like magic and planets that hatch space eating babies that shoot black stuff out of all three eyes out into space. There are rocket ships shaped like skulls, and like trees. There is loyalty and treachery, lust and kindness. The series surprises me each time I read it.
Reading the series reminds me of watching Tele Novellas with my grandmother when I was young and had no idea about the world. That, and the Star Wars bar scenes or the scenes with Jaba the Hut (but with sex and way more blood).