This year my son played baseball for the first time. Neither my husband nor I ever played organized sports, so it was a new experience for the entire family. The season had its ups and downs – it was clear that most of the other parents had more background knowledge, and some knew each other from t-ball. My son really struggled at first, not only had he never played, he had never even seen a baseball game before. We were lucky and had great coaches, that really worked with all of the kids. Also, in the first round of games, they were allowed to use the tee, but then transitioned away from that. This led to my son striking out several times in a row, but when he finally did hit it, the parents on our team reacted like he had won the entire game. It was really fun to watch my son start to consistently hit the ball, and awesome to watch his entire team really improve and start playing as a team over the course of the season.
There were plenty of moments of high drama during the season, and one team that I dreaded playing, because things always seemed to get heated, but yesterday was our last game – and I realized I will miss it. We only missed one game the entire season, and that was because I read the schedule wrong once, and we missed the second game. There were several games that no one wanted to go to, my son wanted to quit, and we were tired from our lives. Also, like I said, neither my husband nor I are very into sports.
This morning, I realized that after the intensity of the final tournament this weekend, I was actually sad to see the season end. My son is sad too – his team won the tournament, and he is excited to wear his medal around – but I don’t think I would have predicted this outcome when we all started this season.
It made me think that there are a lot of things that I have just dismissed, because I know I don’t like them – and that maybe I am wrong about some of those. Also, it made me think I need to keep trying new approaches with those students that don’t want to read – I need to keep striving to find ways to help them through their struggle. If we always quit when something gets too hard, we might cheat ourselves of an experience we might really enjoy.
This month I grabbed two titles from the junior/senior high graphic novel collection. Essex County Vol.1: Tales from The Farm by Jeff Lemire, a winner of the ALEX Award, published in 2008. The other graphic novel I chose was Astro City: Life in the Big City – which I have yet to read.
I don’t know that I have ever read a more compelling depiction of alienation and grief, as the depiction in this graphic novel. The artwork is fantastic, as the boy, Lester, and his Uncle, have conflicts, the art mirrors the despair they both feel. The use of light and dark in the drawings, as well as the frames that slowly build to tell a compelling story, are a study in how the graphic novel form works best. The use of technique to clearly convey flashback sequences was also highly effective.
I am far from an expert in graphic novels, but I found myself thinking that the artwork in this piece was really teaching me a great deal about what works in graphic novels are done well.
Students who like to read stories of loss and reconciliation will enjoy this beautiful graphic novel, and they may learn something about composition from a clear master.
The second graphic novel for this month is Tower of Treasure by Scott Chantler. It is the first in the Three Thieves series. This particular graphic novel series came to my attention through student inquiry, and several students have checked out the fifth book since it came in our Junior Library Guild book shipment for the junior high.
The graphic novel is a classic origin story, with the three titular characters starting as circus performers. Dessa is a 14-year – old acrobat with a tragic past, and is hunting the man that took her brother, Princess Bride style. Like that movie, this is a team of people with interesting skills, and a great deal of differences to overcome. The other two members of the team areTopper, a juggler and master thief, and the strongman, Fisk. It moved quickly, and contained plenty of dangerous situations and action.
This series should appeal to students that enjoy adventure, quests, and the struggle between power and poverty. It was a quick, engaging read, appropriate for junior high students.
What are your favorite graphic novels? What really resonates with your students?