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Monday, September 23, 2013

Graphic novel about Roberto Clemente

Santiago, Wilfred (2011) 21, The story of Roberto Clemente.  Seattle:  Fantagraphics.

So I don't know much about sports, but I do follow baseball a bit (if being a fan of the Chicago Cubs counts).  For some reason, baseball seems to prompt more graphic novels than any other sport.  21, The story of Roberto Clemente is the latest entry into the field. I don't know much about Clemente either, so I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this biographical account.  But here is what I can tell you.  This is a fascinating and multifaceted story of Clemente's journey from a relatively poor beginning in Puerto Rico to becoming a legendary baseball player.  I can tell you there are themes of struggling against a language barrier and the barrier of prejudice.  I can tell you that Clemente's spirit comes across in these pages as aggressively optimistic and unstoppable (though there are certainly moments of discouragement here.  I think this might be a very good book for high school students who love baseball, Puerto Rico, and interesting stories.

I can also tell you that it is not always an easy read -- particularly for those not familiar with graphic novel conventions.  Look at the image below.  See the panel with eyeballs at the ends of fingertips.  This is Santiago's way of expressing the extreme skill and sensitivity with which Clemente handles the ball.   New graphic novels readers trying to read this (and other scenes in the book) might find themselves seriously confused.  This is not the graphic novel to start out a student on. 

But if you are a Phys Ed teacher looking to connect with a student who loves graphic novels, or if you are an art teacher looking for an innovative graphic novel that your students might like, or if you are an English teacher looking for a way to connect with some students who would benefit from hearing a Puerto Rican voice or seeing a Puerto Rican character, then this would be an excellent choice. 

And, to be fair, I am not really a sports fan, I am not from the islands, and I am not an art student, but I really enjoyed this book.

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