Graphic novels (an umbrella term which–at least informally–encompasses multiple story forms: memoir, biography, historical fiction and nonfiction, etc.) are not a particularly new phenomenon, as books that borrow visual styles and storytelling techniques from comics have been published for several decades. However, the move to integrate them into school classrooms and libraries as legitimate curricular components is one that has occurred fairly recently. As School Library Journal recently reported, though, now that this move has occurred, increasing numbers of educators are recognizing the potential usefulness of graphic novels for “teaching new vocabulary, visual literacy, and reading skills.” Pairing brief, precise dialogue and description with evocative, sequential imagery supports new and struggling readers, reinforces the importance of visualization throughout the reading process, and encourages exploration of creative language usage for more advanced readers.
With this in mind, this week, we’re focusing on highlighting two graphic novel titles included in our Women’s History Month theme sets. These books celebrate the everyday experiences of two ordinary girls living through momentous periods in 20th century world history–post-Cultural Revolution China and World War II-era Europe, respectively. In each book, dramatic, expressive visual imagery accompanies fast-paced, engaging text, allowing students to feel as though they are part of the action surrounding the characters they’re reading about in ways that would not be as readily possible in traditional storytelling formats. Read these books with your students to build strong, imagery-laden connections to the reality of girls’ historical experiences.
First, check out our selection from the K-5 Women’s History Month theme set, Little White Duck: A Childhood in China, by Na Liu and illustrated by Andres Martinez (Graphic Universe) with your students to learn what life was like for a young girl growing up in China during the 1970s, following the death of Mao Zedong. Explore the changes she faces as her country begins to “open up” to the West in ways it never had before.
From our 6-12 Women’s History Month theme set, we’ve selected Lily Renee, Escape Artist, by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Anne Timmons and Mo Oh (Graphic Universe). This biography tracks the determination and bravery of a young Jewish girl as she manages to evade the horror of Nazi concentration camps by escaping, first to England and then to America, before becoming a pioneer for women as artists in the comic book industry.
We hope that these titles will appeal to your graphically-inclined readers and perhaps spark interest in students who have not yet explored the genre. And of course, we hope they, along with the other excellent texts included in our Brain Hive Women’s History Month theme sets, open up conversations about the lives of the young women portrayed in these texts. Happy reading!
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