Happy Children’s Book Week! The 2015 edition of Children’s Book Week launched on Saturday on Free Comic Book Day, and now that kids around the country have gotten a taste of comics, we want to recommend a few more! In this edition of CBLDF’s week-long feature, we have some suggestions for readers in Grades 9-12.
The age groups here are suggested by the publishers of the books, but they can be enjoyed by readers of all ages! Keep in mind that every reader is an individual, so parents are best suited to make decisions about what is appropriate for their own children. Just because a book is labelled with specific ages, that doesn’t mean a younger reader — or even grown up kids! — won’t find something to enjoy.
Let’s take a look…
Nat Turner by Kyle Baker
Nat Turner is the story of slavery and the horrors that led Turner to lead one of the bloodiest revolts of the time. It is told vividly through wordless images and occasional confession excerpts. We learn and experience slavery and Turner’s life story as he retells it in his confession to Thomas R. Gray. We learn about how Africans were hunted, shackled, branded, and transported in rat-infested ships; how they were humiliated, inspected, and sold; how they lived or existed; and the hopelessness and cruelty they experienced. We also learn about Nat Turner: how he was told he was different, bright and inquisitive, and how he heard others saying he would not make a good slave and was destined for greatness. We learn the circumstances of his life, ending with his execution for leading a bloody slave revolt.
Nat Turner received the Glyph award for Best Artist, Best Cover, and for Best Story of the Year, 2006; the Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work, 2006; and the Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album — Previously Published, 2009. This work also received an Eisner Award nomination for Best Limited Series, 2006; and Harvey Award nominations for Best Writer, Best Artist and Best Single Issue or Story, 2009. Library Journal gave it a starred review noting, “Baker’s suspenseful and violent work documents the slave trade’s atrocities as no textbook can, with an emotional power approaching that of Maus.”
King by Ho Che Anderson
This highly acclaimed award-winning biography integrates interviews, narrative, sketches, illustrations, photographs and collages as it pieces together an honest look at the life, times, tragedies, and triumphs of Martin Luther King Jr. While very briefly introducing his father’s influence upon him, King focuses most of its attention on King’s adult path and his role in the civil rights movement. We learn about King through a weaving of first- and third-person narratives, providing personal glimpses and insights into the man (versus the legend). We learn why he was loved, feared, hated, and revered. We learn how he organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott and how he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and their Crusade for Citizenship, Freedom Rides, Lunch Counter Boycotts, Project C, and Birmingham Manifesto. We read about the March on Washington and King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (among others); his role in Chicago and CORE and his growing struggle promoting non-violent protests; and his tragic death in 1968.
For King, Anderson won the Harvey Awards for Best New Talent (1991); Best Graphic Album (1993); and Parents’ Choice Award (1995).
The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos and Nate Powell
The Silence of Our Friends is a semi-autobiographical story told from the perspective of Mark Long, as a boy. It centers around civil rights incidents covered by his father, a television reporter in Houston, Texas, in 1968, following the Texas Southern University student boycott after the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was banned from campus. It ends with Dr. King’s assassination and the mourning of the larger Houston community as they marched in his memory that following Sunday. The Silence of our Friends emphasizes and reinforces Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s powerful words: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa
Barefoot Gen is considered one of the most important anti-war manga ever written. The series focuses on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the aftermath of the Pacific War. Nakazawa relates a strong geopolitical perspective of the war, discussing the power of political machines, “divine rule” versus democracy, and the power individual citizens must exercise to secure their rights and uphold their values. This work provides a window for understanding and comparing Eastern and Western cultures — where they meet, where they clash, and what we can and cannot assume.
Barefoot Gen has been banned in a few Japanese schools in recent years, not because of its depiction of the atomic bombing but because it also unflinchingly portrays war crimes committed by Japanese troops against Chinese civilians. It is a strong anti-war piece that cannot and should not be silenced.
- Using Graphic Novels in Education: Barefoot Gen
- Case Study: Barefoot Gen
- Barefoot Gen Ban Lifted
- Radical Voices Continue to Call for Censorship in Barefoot Gen Debate
- Barefoot Gen Translator Disinvited from Speaking at Japanese School
- Barefoot Gen Reportedly Returned to Izumisano School Libraries
Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie
Aya: Life in Yop City is a novel that is loosely based on Abouet’s life and centers around 19-year old Aya, her friends, and their families in a working class suburb of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in the 1970s. It takes place in Yopougon-Koute, or Yop City for short. Côte d’Ivoire, a country on the west coast of Africa, was colonized by France and considered a French colony until August 7, 1960, when the country achieved its independence. While there is a wonderful preface introducing the politics and history of the Ivory Coast in the 1970s and an “Ivorian Bonus” in the back of the book that features a glossary, recipes, and instructions to wrap fabric for skirts, a hat, and baby carrier, the book is more about the story’s particular characters and the personal / social challenges they face. It is also an exploration of class and gender politics of 1970s Abidjan.
Aya was the winner of the Best First Album award at the Angouleme International Comics Festival, the Children’s Africana Book Award, and the Glyph Award. It was also nominated for the Quill Award, YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels, and the Eisner Award. It has also been included on best of lists from The Washington Post, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is the story of Marjane Satrapi’s childhood and coming of age within a loving, educated family that lived in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution and Iran-Iraq War. It is drawn in simple, stark, black and white ink with style, poignancy, and elegant detail as well as occasional flourishes (usually in the dream sequences) traditionally found in Eastern art. Satrapi depicts her childhood growing up in volatile Tehran between the ages of 6 and 14 (1970-1984). It is a personal story, one we can all relate to as she talks about school, friends, and dreams, and yet her story is starkly different from ours as she grew up in Iran during war, religious upheaval, and revolution.
In recent years, Persepolis has rather unexpectedly become one of the most frequently challenged comics in U.S. schools. In 2013 Chicago Public Schools officials attempted to remove it from all classrooms; after a local and nationwide outcry they permitted its use in 11th and 12th grades, but teachers of younger students are still required to have extra training before they can teach the book. In 2014 Persepolis landed on the American Library Association’s Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books due to further challenges in Illinois, Oregon, and Texas.
- Using Graphic Novels in Education: Persepolis
- Case Study: Persepolis
- Grad Student Uncovers Truth About Persepolis Ban in Chicago Public Schools
- VICTORY: Illinois Challenge to Persepolis Fails by Unanimous Decision
- Persepolis Challenged in Oregon School District
- What Do We Know About the Frequently Challenged Comics of 2014?
This list represents just a few of the amazing comics waiting to be discovered by high school readers. Visit your local library or view the latest edition of Raising a Reader! How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read! for additional resources.
Children’s Book Week (May 4 – 10, 2015), the annual celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading, was established in 1919 and is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year commemorative events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes, and now comic book stores! On May 2, Free Comic Book Day led off the celebration of Children’s Book Week at more than 2,000 comic book specialty stores, which will be giving away millions of free kids comics! To learn more about Children’s Book Week, and how you can join the fun, please visit www.bookweekonline.com. Check out official events from coast to coast at www.bookweekonline.com/official. For a list of comic book shops participating in Children’s Book Week events, visit CBLDF’s website here. To learn more about Free Comic Book Day, please visit www.freecomicbookday.com.
Book descriptions courtesy of CBLDF contributor Meryl Jaffe. All images (c) their respective creators.