A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mouly & Spiegelman Announce Toon Books

Just months ago I was using Art Spiegelman as an example of an artist who should produce his art without having to feel like he had to offer pedagogical potential. Finding teaching opportunities in the work of artists was the job of educators, I claimed. Now Spiegelman, and more specifically his wife Francoise Mouly, are getting into the kids comics game like never before, and they're using pedagogy research to help them build upon their already respectable repuations for producing high-quality comics for youth.

They've been producing the excellent Little Lit series for younger readers for years now, but their newest project, Toon Books, extends those efforts.

With the goal of "Bringing new readers to the pleasures of comics," Toon Books is seriously considering pedagogy as part of its marketing. From the website:

"TOON Books are the first high-quality comics designed for children ages four and up. Each book in the collection is just right for reading to the youngest but, perhaps most remarkable: this is the first collection ever designed to offer newly-emerging readers comics they can read themselves. Each TOON book has been vetted by educators to ensure that the language and the narratives will nurture young minds. Our books feature original stories and characters created by veteran children’s book authors, renowned cartoonists and new talents, all applying their extraordinary skills to fascinate young children with clearly told tales that will welcome them to the magic of reading...."

"Comics have always had a unique ability to draw young readers into a story through the drawings. Visual narrative helps kids crack the code that allows literacy to flourish, teaching them how to read from left to right, from top to bottom. Speech balloons facilitate a child’s understanding of written dialogue as a transcription of spoken language. Many of the issues that emerging readers have traditionally struggled with are instantly clarified by comics’ simple and inviting format. As a matter of fact, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Nancy Grasmick, is planning to use the TOON Books in K-3 classrooms as part of the Maryland Comic Book Initiative.

As one of our advisors, Barbara Tversky, professor of Psychology at Stanford University, explains: 'Comics use a broad range of sophisticated devices for communication. They are similar to face-to-face interactions, in which meaning is derived not solely from words, but also from gestures, intonation, facial expressions and props. Comics are more than just illustrated books, but rather make use of a multi-modal language that blends words, pictures, facial expressions, panel-to-panel progression, color, sound effects and more to engage readers in a compelling narrative.'”

Those quotes show a pretty strong commitment to making sure potential buyers know their purchases are beneficial to the children in their lives. The Toon Books blog, a fun and interesting resource, continues this sort of pedagogy-pinching by referencing intriguing studies on comprehension and visual development.

Whether done singularly for marketing purposes or with an altruistic aim of proving sequential art's pedagogical potential, I find it exciting that such high-quality creative minds are making a serious effort to produce excellent comics for kids. And make no mistake -- they are focusing on the young ones. Not teens, not tweens: kids. They even end the introductory piece from which I quoted above by saying "Comics -- they're not just for grown-ups anymore," a wink and a nod to all of us who are sick of articles wanting to extol the virtue of sequential art by saying things like "comics have grown up" and "they're not just for kids anymore."

More power to Mouly and Spiegelman. I hope Toon Books is a great success. Am I worried about artists using educators to help sell their products? Maybe just a little, but having seen the quality work that Mouly and Spiegelman have put together in the Little Lit series, I can't help but be excited.
And, heck, if experts in education help sell books that help kids develop both a love of reading and their appreciation/awareness for visual conventions of communication, isn't that the type of synergy we should celebrate? So often folks ignore what education research says about things. If a savvy publisher has decided to build ethos while also letting folks know that certain companies are paying attention to what education researchers have to say in their independent research, I know I'll take note of it -- with a critical eye, of course -- but I'll still note the effort and the names and studies mentioned.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

21st Century Literacy Skills & the Contemporary College Student

If this doesn't get you thinking about the need for educators to realize the changing nature of literacy, living, and thinking, I don't know what will.

I love the opening McLuhan quote about 19th century pedagogy. I've seen it with my own eyes: administrators, veteran teachers and newbies alike resorting to what they feel are "tried and true" methods of toe-the-line literacy instruction. I remember learning that my former school district received a $1,000,000 technology grant. I was happy that the school was getting smart boards, etc., but I couldn't help thinking, "What good is 21st century technology if it encounters 19th century pedagogy?"

And pay attention to the "I'm one of the lucky ones" sign, too. This deals with college kids -- those fortunate enough to make it past secondary ed. And here's hoping some test-makers in high positions read that scantron note!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Difference Between Graphic Novels and Comic Books

The Simpsons does it again. Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman, and Dan Clowes join Bart, Lisa, and Comic Book Guy in illuminating the differences and intersections among mainstream comics, super-hero comics, the indies, and those considered graphic novels.

*embedded via Youtube embed function; all rights reserved by the proper authorities/owners; buy The Simpsons DVDs and The Simpsons Movie;watch the show; visit the Quick -E- Mart. Invest in Youtube.*

Comics and Social Issues Site

The sequential art format has long been used to examine social issues and to promote social standards in health and living. Sometimes this happens in the context of on-going series; sometimes "special issues on special issues" are published. Adam C sent me this great link to a site that has a collection of such special issues.

All are meant to be serious efforts at combating social ills or educating the public. Taken out of context, they can seem tongue-in-cheek and certainly more than a little lame. But, with a little respect for making an effort and an eye on history, we see that comics and graphic novels have a distinguished history of grappling with hot-button topics.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Graphics Classics & The Inscrutable Mark Twain!

Just got this press release from the company that markets its graphic novel adaptations of canonical literature as "Classics You'll Want to Read!"


Eureka Productions is pleased to announce the publication of the revised second edition of the long-out-of-print GRAPHIC CLASSICS: MARK TWAIN, the eighth volume in the GRAPHIC CLASSICS series of comics adaptations of great literature. This edition contains 38 pages of new material, including a never-done-before comics presentation of “Tom Sawyer Abroad,” Mark Twain’s little-known sequel to “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” with adaptation by Tom Pomplun and George Sellas. Returning from the first edition are “The Mysterious Stranger” by Rick Geary, “A Dog’s Tale” by Lance Tooks, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog” by Kevin Atkinson, and “The Carnival of Crime in Connecticut” by Antonella Caputo and Nick Miller. Also “Is He Living or Is He Dead?” “A Curious Pleasure Excursion,” and eight women artists interpret Mark Twain’s “Advice to Little Girls.” With a dramatic cover painting by George Sellas.

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: MARK TWAIN is available for schools and libraries from Diamond Distributors, Baker & Taylor, Ingram and other distributors, in bookstores, or direct from the publisher at http://www.graphicclassics.com./

“Many of the stories contain some of Twain’s most cynical, acidic works of satire. Even the adaptation of the little-read “Tom Sawyer Abroad,” written from Huck Finn’s simple-but-secretly-sophisticated point of view, contains a number of digs at religion, science, and imperialism. George Sellascartoony style is a nice match for what is also a rip-roaring adventure story... there’s a propulsive quality in both prose and art that leaves the reader breathless as they flip from page to page.”— Rob Clough, SEQUART.

GRAPHIC CLASSICS: MARK TWAIN(Second Edition) Edited by Tom Pomplun. Published December 2007, Eureka Productions. Distributed by Diamond Book Distributors(ISBN 978-0-9787919-2-6)144 pgs, 7 x 10", paperback, b&w, 4c cover, $11.95

The Graphic Classics series:GRAPHIC CLASSICS: EDGAR ALLAN POE (978-0-9746648-7-3)GRAPHIC CLASSICS: ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE (978-0-9746648-5-9)GRAPHIC CLASSICS: H.G. WELLS (978-0-9746648-3-5)GRAPHIC CLASSICS: H.P. LOVECRAFT (978-0-9746648-9-7)GRAPHIC CLASSICS: JACK LONDON (978-0-9746648-8-0)GRAPHIC CLASSICS: AMBROSE BIERCE (978-0-9712464-6-1)GRAPHIC CLASSICS: BRAM STOKER (978-0-9787919-1-9)GRAPHIC CLASSICS: MARK TWAIN (978-0-9787919-2-6)GRAPHIC CLASSICS: ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON (978-0-9746648-0-4)HORROR CLASSICS: Graphic Classics Volume Ten (978-0-9746648-1-1)GRAPHIC CLASSICS: O. HENRY (978-0-9746648-2-8)ADVENTURE CLASSICS: Graphic Classics Volume Twelve (978-0-9746648-4-2)GRAPHIC CLASSICS: RAFAEL SABATINI (978-0-9746648-6-6)GOTHIC CLASSICS: Graphic Classics Volume Fourteen (978-0-9787919-0-2)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Transforming English Education with Graphic Novels

I'm pleased to announce that my article, "Transforming English with Graphic Novels: Moving toward Our “Optimus Prime,” has been published in this month's English Journal (97.2). Here's how NCTE describes the article:

James Bucky Carter argues for the transformative potential of graphic novels in the English classroom. He advises teachers to be actively aware of the newer and lesser-known graphic novels and suggests approaches for examining the complex social issues the novels address.

EJ has a circulation of around 25,000 and an acceptance rate, if I remember correctly, of around 10%. So, I'm very happy to be included in this issue on "Transforming English Education."

Friday, November 02, 2007

Norman Rockwell Museum Rocking the Graphic Novel!

Oh, to live in Stockbridge, MA! The museum is actively promoting its LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel exhibition to educators! "Hey, why not an invite for your ol' pal Bucky, Normie?"

Click the title of this post to read about the direct marketing being done for the 11/09/07 and 01/12/08 activities.
Looks like more and more folks are noticing how graphic novels and education can work together!