The graphic novel as learning tool

Meryl Jaffe is the rock star in the graphic novel as an educational tool genre. She’s been to New York Comic Con, promoting the gospel.

Worth A Thousand WordsAs you may know, I used to work at a comic book store called FantaCo on Central Avenue in Albany for 8.5 years, May 1980 to November 1988. It was the second-longest job I ever had.

During this period, Marvel put out something they called a graphic novel. It was a squarebound comic book of the X-Men, 81/2″ by 11″, with much nicer paper, and a price of $4.95, when regular comics were still under $1.

How the graphic novel has changed. I came across Meryl Jaffe through her participation in the ABC Wednesday meme. She has a blog Departing the Text, which is still interesting, although she has’t updated it in a few years. She wrote Using Content Area Graphic Texts for Learning: A Guide for Middle-Level Educators (2012), which is more readable that the title might suggest.

Meryl is the rock star in the graphic novel as an educational tool genre. She’s been to New York Comic Con, promoting the gospel. Yet she makes a confession in the preface of her new book, with Talia Hurwich, Worth a Thousand Words: Using Graphic Novels to Teach Visual and Verbal Literacy (2019).

“Until fairly recently, I didn’t think graphic novels were appropriate for my classroom or for my kids’ reading at home.” But her children, “as comfortable reading Neil Gaiman as Alexandre Dumas,” gave her I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Nimura, and Meryl did a 180. BTW, Talia Hurwich is Meryl’s daughter.

Chapter 1 addresses the fears of using the graphic novel in the educational setting. Chapter 2 is the necessarily “scholarfied” stuff to sell the concept to the principal or school board. It uses the word “multimodal.” Several times.

After that, Worth A Thousand Words is a great read, very practical and hands-on. The book has sections on how to interpret the elements of graphic novels – narrative and thought balloons, e.g.

The authors show how to teach reading, but also how to do create instruction in writing, with students encouraged to create their own illustrative narratives. And it’s not just for prose, but social studies, science, even math. I realize that my creative daughter might be able to use the tools laid out therein.


A commercial: I will be reviewing March, Books One, Two, & Three, graphic novels by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell for the Friends of the Albany Public Library on April 16 at noon at 161 Washington Avenue. Not incidentally, the March books are cited in Worth A Thousand Words.

May Rambling #2: New Zealand music

I rant about the JEOPARDY! Million-Dollar Tournament.

America.duck
Descendants of Solomon Northup, who recounted his story in a memoir, 12 Years A Slave.

The Real Origins of the Religious Right. “They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation.”

Dustbury points to an article about how the ineptitude of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and its predecessors, go back nearly a century.

The Worst Argument Ever Made Against Gay Marriage.

Amy Biancolli’s book: To plunge is to live. Also, her parents in love.

Judy Sanders, former local news reporter and photographer, is dying of ovarian cancer. Confronting the long goodbye from Paul Grondahl, and a piece by her former colleague, Ken Screven.

Diane Cameron’s blog Love in the Time of Cancer has been going on since 2008, but I just discovered it.

Getting kicked out of the prom.

New York Erratic asked: “Have you ever dated anyone who turned out to be gay?” Continue reading “May Rambling #2: New Zealand music”

BOOK REVIEW: Using Content-Area Graphic Texts for Learning

Regarding the graphic novel: I remember when the title was first being bandied about in the 1980s, I hated them, because they seemed like large, squarebound comic books.

I’m someone who used to sell graphic novels in a comic book store, not a teacher. My wife IS a teacher, though, and was excited to see that I had received a review copy of Using Content-Area Graphic Texts for Learning.

Even Meryl Jaffe, co-author of this book, with Katie Monnin, mentioned in her blog that the title of this book is a bit of a mouthful. Basically, this should be called “Teaching with Graphic Novels.” Regardless of the name, this volume makes a convincing argument for using graphic novels in teaching math, language arts, social students, and science. More importantly, very early on, it makes the case, in the strongest terms, that the graphic novel is a legitimate teaching tool that broadens the educational palette for an increasingly diverse population.

Not that Meryl was always a believer. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Using Content-Area Graphic Texts for Learning”

Book review: JOURNALISM by Joe Sacco

Many black Africans travel across the Mediterranean Sea, attempting to get to Europe, but end up in the tiny island nation of Malta.


Cartoonist/war correspondent Joe Sacco’s new book, JOURNALISM (Metropolitan Books; on sale June 22, 2012) is doing an interesting thing, addressing wars and other conflicts in recent human experience in a graphic form, while attempting to operate in the discipline suggested by the book title. Moreover, he generally succeeds in his mission, though it must be said that the writer himself may be his harshest critic.

Most, but not all, of the work had been published before, in a variety of venues. “The War Crimes Trials,” for instance, was commissioned by Details “during the short stint when Art Spiegelman [creator of the historic graphic novel Maus] was the magazine’s comic editor. Sacco’s access Continue reading “Book review: JOURNALISM by Joe Sacco”