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Friday, May 10, 2013

Four Graphic Novels that deal with special education

Special Education

Pekar, H. and D. Haspiel (2005). The Quitter. DC, New York.
Excellent autobiography.  It is honest, and authentic and depicts both racial tension and violence but not unreasonably.  Pekar struggles with what seems to be depression or low self image or defeatism or something.  This one is good for high school -- but definitely preview it first.  

Harvey Pekar

Powell, Nate (2008)  Swallow Me Whole.  Marietta, GA: Top Shelf.  Novel about a high school aged brother and sister who both struggle with schizophrenia.  Can't say it was my favorite. 

Tobe, K. (2001). With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child. New York, Hachette Book Group.
Excellent manga about raising an autistic child.  This one especially highlights the differences between raising an autistic child in Japan as opposed to the US.  Good stuff. (I think there are at least 5 volumes of this story.)


Lambert, Joseph.  (2012) Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller.  White River Junction VT: The Center for Cartoon Studies.
     Four reasons why you should pick up this graphic novel:
1.  It tells the whole story.  The classic movie, The Miracle Worker tells the story of the saintly patient Annie Sullivan and how she helped the spoiled and wild, deaf and blind Helen Keller to learn to communicate with and understand the world.  It doesn't however, tell the rest of the story -- about the neglect and poverty of Annie's early life, about the fame that followed Annie's work with Helen, about how that fame made life difficult for both of them and about the bizarre and unresolved accusations of plagiarism.  It is a fascinating story.

2:  The story of a deaf and blind girl is remarkably well suited to the graphic novel format.  Lambert uses drawings to allow the reader to imagine the world from Helen's perspective.  The love of her mother appears as disembodied arms in a field of blackness.  When Helen begins to learn sign language, more and more of the picture starts to fill in with words standing for objects.  It is remarkable.
3.  The story is told in such a way that it provokes powerful emotions.  We feel Annie's frustration, but also her achievements, and we can understand  more fully why Helen is such a brat.  The text and images not only bring us inside the characters' heads through the different point of views conveyed through the text, but the images allows us to get inside the characters' hearts at times too.
     Although this book does not have quite the same emotional climax of the movie (the water pumping scene), we feel the joy of discovering language even more powerfully here, over several panels and pages. Check it out.  It is a good book.

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