A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review of _Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty_

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty (September 2010, Lee & Low Books) details the short life of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, an eleven year old gangbanger in Chicago’s Southside in 1994. Told through Roger, a fictional peer of Yummy’s acting as author G. Neri’s narrator, and excellently illustrated in expressionistic, streaky-when-necessary inks by Randy DuBurke, this graphic novel enrages and saddens.

Yummy, with felony after felony on his juvenile record (which, in 1994, meant he could not be tried as an adult), is seeking to impress his Black Disciple Nation gang bosses when he pulls a hit on a rival. He misses, however, killing a 14 year old girl in the process. His life as a reputed “tough shorty” on the rise comes to an end when fellow Black Disciples Derrick and Crag, 16 and 14 respectively, arrange his execution to get the heat off the gang’s collective back. As Neri explains it, Yummy becomes the poster child for all that is wrong with urban youth when the media, most notably, TIME, cover his story. Yummy the vile, the coldblooded killer, though, was also Yummy the abused, the neglected, the teddy bear-coddling, 60 pound child of drug addicts and prostitutes.

Yummy the victim; Yummy the victimizer: meet an 11 year old stone-cold killer and recoil when thinking about how he was one of hundreds of youngsters still doing the dirty work for America’s gangs. Wonder what it would take to offer these “shorties” a better alternative and gag yourself on the acidy realization that whatever that is, it might not ever be offered or accepted.

The novel leaves one with a burning rage to retroactively make things right in Roger’s world and a gnawing frustration that Yummy’s life and neighborhood might have been too far gone for even the smallest bit of help to have mattered. But, if that is the case, doesn’t it mean giving up hope for children who’ve already lived without it for their entire lives? The ethical tensions in this text do not easily resolve.

Yummy is a worthwhile read for all adolescents, with adult facilitation highly recommended. It may be especially poignant for those young people who have to make excruciating decisions at young ages regarding their safety and status in neighborhoods when it comes to gang life or the much less known and less comfortable something else.

It is not a fun read. But, perhaps it should be a required read. Expect to be angered and disturbed. Yummy grabs at your chest with barbed-wired fingernails and won’t let you go easily. The more you thrash, the more it has got you.

More info on Yummy: http://gregneri.com/yummy.html

Friday, June 25, 2010

Teaser: Coming Soon: Comics from Carter and Evensen

What happens when you pair a Ph.D. in English Education from the University of Virginia with an MFA in Design from Ohio State University? In the case of Xeric Award-winning Erik A. Evensen and me, you get something associated with this image: From left to right: The Vegeterian, Green Tonya, The Communicator, Trans-Phat, and Popular Polly.

And here's another teaser image for you to help you put two and two together:

To Much _Krazy Kat_ to Pass Up

Thursday, June 24, 2010

2 Censorship Stories

Looks like the legal case against Tin Tin in the Congo may be losing some steam. Also, looks like the Malaysian government is using "social order" laws to keep some comics out of its citizenry's hands.

While these instances are not specific to the U.S., they do suggest a certain need for projects that might be pro-active, even preemptive, in their goals to promote textual choice and inclusion and stave off censors.

If only there was a project like that in the works.... maybe one slated for a fall 2010 release date.... ;)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Spiegelman and Dance Troup Team Up for Homage to 20th Century Cartoons

Just click the link embedded in this post's title. It's way cooler than it sounds.

Telgemeier's YA GN _Smile_ Honored by Boston Globe-Horn Book

Guess I better add this to the awards section for my rationale for this book. "Rationale, you say?" More to come. ;)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dangerous Marketing: Recent Commentary on Graphic Novels and Literacy

A few weeks ago Graphic Novel Reporter's Peter Gutierrez reviewed Terry Thompson's very fine book Adventures in Graphica: Using Comics and Graphic Novels to Teach Comprehension, 2-6. In the review, he states:

"In many ways, Thompson represents the ideal author for a book on teaching reading with comics and graphic novels in today's schools. He's not just a classroom teacher, but a literacy coach.... this is no expert hailing from academia, but an educator who works in the so-called trenches.... For him, using comics and graphic novels in not just a nice new approach."

I also just received word that classroom teacher Maureen Bakis is publishing a book on teaching comics and graphic novels: Real Students, Real Literature: Teaching Graphic Novels to Not so Young Adults.

This is how she describes her book in her own spot at Graphic Novel Reporter: "It's the guidebook I wish I had when I entered the world of graphic novels." Her e-mail about her manuscript says, "My book is different from other resources because it is authored by a high school teacher for teachers. It's light on theory and heavy on practicality!"

I don't know whether Graphic Novel Reporter has something against educators who work at the university, or whether there's a deeper connection between these two stories and their common source (guess we'll have to wait to see who the publisher is for Bakis' upcoming book, then follow the money), but it seems foolish to me to market a new book on teaching graphic novels as "for us, by us" as if:

1. Those of us who have previously published on the subject of comics and literacy and continue to do so have never taught a day of middle or high school in our lives and are simply "making stuff up as we go." Certainly my chapters in my best-selling edited collection Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels detail my experiences teaching graphic novels in both my former high school and middle school classrooms. And, as I continue to write, I pull from my secondary teaching days as well as my expanded notions of curriculum and student need.

Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, two other leaders in this field, not only work at San Diego State University, but they have been -- and to my knowledge, still are -- on the faculty of Hoover High School and pull from those practical experiences when they talk about using graphic novels. Michael Bitz's two books detail experiences he and other had when working with high school students at the very real Martin Luther King, Jr. High School in NYC.

Stephen Cary's book on comics and literacy comes from hands-on, practical work with secondary students as well, though Cary works only as a professor at the University of San Francisco.

It's also my assumption that Katie Monnin is a former secondary teacher as well and used her experiences with best practices to help her craft her book.

2. Those of us listed above, and other comics-and-literacy workers, aren't reading the marketing material and thinking about how misinformed it is.

Honestly, while I'll be happy to buy and use Mrs. Bakis' book once it is available, that we're hearing phrases like "the guidebook I wish I'd had" and getting the "it's different because I'm a teacher, not an academic" spiel wrings cheap in my ears. I hope she's got a good publisher that knows better than to go with that line as the selling point.

Those of us in the comics-and-literacy field are a pretty amiable bunch, and it's been my practice and my general opinion that we also like advocating for each others work and are a little protective of one another.

I'd hate to see that change because an author or a website or publisher's marketing team came out of the gate getting things wrong and sending the impression that the rest of us who have published previously on this topic have nothing good to offer simply because we educate teachers and therefore it is assumed we don't know what it is like to be in the k-12 classroom.

That could set an unfortuante precident, make enemies when none need to be made, and force the book to seem uniformed before anyone has a chance to read it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bad-Ass ABC's

If this is what it takes to get Johnny to read, Johnny might be too far gone, lol!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Live Action Blue Beetle Under Development!

Uber-cool article about everyone's favorite super-powered El Paso High School student, Jaime Reyes, aka the Blue Beetle, getting the small screen treatment!!!

Will the show be set in El Paso???

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 13, 2010: Annie's Last Comic Strip

Little Orphan Annie's last day in newspapers was Sunday. The strip had been running since 1924. Expect to see her again soon, though, in other media, according to NPR.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Go Look!: Greenwood _Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels_

Just published, the Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels (Greenwood) is a pricey but very worthy addition to comics scholars' and librarians' shelves. It features 330 entries from many of the world's leading comics scholars. I wrote entries for Blue Beetle, Chris Claremont, who for a long time was my favorite comics writer (he still ranks near the top) and Classics Illustrated and, having received my copies a week or so ago, am very happy with the quality of the final two-volumed product and will use it as a point of reference in my own work and with my students.

American Library Association Beefs Up GN-Related Programming for 2010 Conference

When is it a Good Thing to Get the Finger?

When it's the Bill Finger Award!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Go Read: _When Commas Meet Kryptonite_

Michael Bitz's new book When Commas Meet Kryptonite: Classrooms Lessons from the Comic Book Project is now available! It's a write-up of qualitative research regarding students' composition processes when engaged in the writing and drawing of comics art. Forwards by Jim Davis of Garfield and yours truly help to contextualize this work as a very important text regarding comics and literacy study. I can't recommend it enough, and if English Language Arts teachers need just one book to convince them that comics and literacy skills can combine to help students become engaged, confident, metacognitive composers, this is it!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Vote for Me for ALAN Board of Directors!

Today I learned that I am one of six candidates selected by the ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents)Elections Committee to run for ALAN Board of Directors this summer/early fall.

This is an honor, and, if elected, I'll make sure to help keep ALAN the innovative, forward-thinking, and inclusive organization it has always been and needs to be. I've been nominated to positions in NCTE, etc. before, but I truly want this one and will work my tail off to do a great job. If you're a member of ALAN, I hope you'll vote me in. If you're not a member and would like to vote me in, click here for membership information.

I've been an ALAN state representative for both Mississippi and Texas, have published in TAR and am a guest editor for an upcoming issue. As well, my work with graphic novels and literacy is award-winning, and future projects deal with proactively countering censorship through rationales for graphic novels at the secondary level and with teaching vocabulary through comics. I've also been a constant proponent of technology and newer mediums in the YA Literature class, as you can see with this blog or over at my former blog,http://www.yausm.blogspot.com/, and many of my students' virtual book talks are available on Youtube, etc.

I hope that I may count on your support once the election is underway!

Friday, June 04, 2010

_Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics_ 1st Issue Now Available!

Click this post's title to read articles from a host of comics scholars. This is the debut issue we're talking about, so you'll be reading history. The journal is a Routledge publication, and it is allowing free access to the articles through 2010.

I will probably submit something to this journal eventually, but I need to hear back from TAR about some things first. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics joins International Journal of Comic Art, ImageText, Studies in Comics, and, of course, the in-development SANE journal as important outlets for scholars' work on comics.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Article on Comics and Education from Memeticians

Nice write-up on comics and literacy featuring my friend and colleague Michael Bitz. It actually names some of the contemporary "opposition" to comics and literacy work, namely Diane Ravitch, who may change her mind on the subject one day, as, refreshingly, that's been her m.o. as of late.

The author states, "What I don't need is research to tell me that using comic books in the classroom works or doesn't work (being that most research about education is disconnected from the classroom anyway). I am living, walking proof that it works."

That's good for folks like him and me, but not everyone is as amenable to letting us be sufficient evidence.

I'm sympathetic to being "anti-research" in that some educators and teacher educators define it very, very narrowly, privileging the perspectives and ideas of the few, but I also accept the idea of "research on the go" or "teaching-based research" or "action research" or "research lite" or whatever you want to call it when teachers talk about what they do in their classroom or what they think might work based on multiple knowledge bases they've acquired. I'd like to think at the heart of pure research is creativity and curiosity, the kind that makes rules rather than follows them, the same kind of curiosity and creativity that ought to be at the center of education, which might be why comics work so well in pedagogical settings.

Anyway, the story is a nice little read. Check it out by clicking the title to this post.

Kid Creates Comic To Fund Alzheimers Research

I found this great story by combing through Spurge's site. This kid raised almost $9000! Ah, the things that happen when the power of comics meets the power of children.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

2010 "Kids Read Comics" Convention Set for Michigan

More MoCCA Workshop News

If you're in the NYC area, why not check out some of these cool sessions from the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art?:


The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art - MoCCA - is proud to announce three new offerings-including its first classes for kids- from its Education Department. Organized and headed by Senior Vice-President of Education, DANNY FINGEROTH, the sensational new classes will be:

For kids:

For adults:

For more info, visit http://www.moccany.org

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

1968 Spoof of _Seduction of the Innocent_

Very cool hidden gem recently unearthed and making its rounds.

_Tin Tin in the Congo_ controversy Update

Thanks to Spurge for keeping us in the loop!