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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Good Graphic Novels for Fourth Graders

One of my former students emailed and asked for a list of good graphic novels for fourth grades.  So I modified my master list and this is what I came up with.  There are a range of texts here.  None of them are perfect for every fourth grade reader, but all of them are perfect for some fourth grade reader.  The list is not in alphabetical order; it is not proofread all that well, some of the entries have long annotations attached and others don't; and so it isn't perfect.  But I'll cut and paste it haer anyway.  If it is useful to other fourth grade teachers, excellent.  If not, well, don't say I didn't warn you.


List of GNs appropriate for fourth grade
 

Siegel, S. C. and M. Siegel (2006). To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel. New York, Aladdin.  This is a story that upper elementary girls might like.  The main character gets a chance to study with a famous dancer and choreographer.

Yolen, Jane.  (2010)  Foiled.  New York:  First Second.

Heuvel, Eric (2007)  A Family Secret.  New York:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.    Fictionalized story of the resistance in Holland during WWII.  Kinda didactic. 

Heuvel, Eric; vanderRol, Ruud; Schippers, Lies (2007)  The Search.  New York:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Fictionalized story of the resistance in Holland during WWII.  Kinda didactic. 

Lutes, J. and N. Bertozzi (2007). Houdini: The Handcuff King. New York, Hyperion.     Excellent -- it is a single day of Houdini's life, but manages to get across as much as a biography.  Very well done.

Sturm, J. and R. Tommaso (2007). Stachel Paige:  Striking Out Jim Crow. New York, Hyperion..  Excellent!  Good for fourth grade on up.  This is a real story, but it does sensitively use the N word once -- great themes. 
 

 
Taylor, Sarah Stewart; Towle, Ben (2010) Amelia Earhart:  This Broad ocean.  New York:  Hyperion.  Sort of a fiction piece about a girl reporter who lives on an island in Newfoundland which is the starting point for Earhart’s attempt to fly across the Atlantic.  A lot of biographical data here, and extensive end-notes for at least some sourcing.

Hosler, J. (2000). Clan Apis. Columbus, OH, Active Synapse.

Ottoviani, J. (1998). Dignifying Science: Stories about Women Scientists. Ann Arbor, MI, G.T. Labs.    
Excellent -- biography and explanation of significance of contribution -- a variety of artists.  Covers Hedy Lamarr, Lise Mietner, Rosalind Franklin, Barbara McClintlock, Birute Galdikas

Colfer, Eoin, Donkin, Andrew; Rigano, Giovanni; & Lamanna, Paolo. (2009) Artemis Fowl:  The Arctic Incident: The Graphic Novel.  London: Penguin     Though it lacks the cryptography elements of the text version, it still has Artemis’s use of logic.  Fun read.

Ottaviani, Jim; Cannon, Zander; Cannon:  Kevin.  (2009) T-Minus:  The Race to the Moon  New York:  Aladdin.

Hale, S., D. Hale, et al. (2008). Rapunzel's Revenge. New York, Bloomsbury.Excellent book with intertextual references to classic literature.  Themes of self-reliance, independence, friendship, justice, and exploitation.  Excellent for fifth or sixth grade.
 

 

Hale, S; D, Hale, et al.  (2010) Calamity Jack New York:  Bloomsbury  Even better than Repunzel’s revenge.  Does a great job of establishing a whole world. 

Larson, Hope  (2012) Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel.  New York:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.        When I heard that there was going to be a graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time, I was scared.  That book, like the Narnia series, Lord of the Rings, Xanth, and the Ender series are all books that are very important to me and I don't want to see them hurt.
     When I heard the adaptation would be done by Hope Larson I calmed down a little bit, but I was still afraid.  I like Larson's work, but her style is a little bit too cartoony for my liking.  And then, about a month ago (I am not quite sure exactly -- this has been a busy summer) a copy arrived.  I was still scared when I opened the first page, but then I fell in, and I absolutely loved it. 
     Here is why:  Hope Larson totally gets this book.  The adaptation is true to the spirit of the original story.  All the stuff that matters so deeply to me is here:  Charles Wallace's wonderful oddness; the mystery of the old ladies; the delightfully automatic growth of Meg and Calvin's relationship; the movement of the story and the argument against sameness and conformity that was so important to me as a child; and finally, the importance of faith and the distinctions between working for light and working for darkness with the listing of religious figures lining up behind the light.   
      And the truth is that I got a little choked up (in a profoundly manly way) around pages 350 to 360 when Meg's father says goodbye to her, before she faces It.
      Oh, that's right.  Some of you don't know what the story is about.  Okay, brief synopsis: Meg's father was working on a top secret government project when he disappeared.  Meg and her brother Charles Wallace and their new friend Calvin are recruited by some rather odd old ladies to travel across the dimensions to rescue their father from a horrendous evil that enslaves entire societies.  Along the way they meet people who help them, but in the end it is the tree of them that must challenge the mind that is behind it all.
      The graphic novel retains every element of the plot, but does more than that too.  When I recently reread Wrinkle in Time in the original text-only version, I was struck by how sparse the description was.  It is hard for even a highly imaginative young reader to picture the characters, the settings, and especially the other worlds in this novel.  Hope Larson helps me to see it -- and though her picture don't always match up with mine -- they don't jar with mine either.  Like I said, Larsen gets this book.
       So if you loved Wrinkle in Time as a child, and are trying to figure out how to get a  fourth grader or older kid hooked on L'Engle's work, check out this adaptation.  It is a thick one at 392 pages -- but it reads fast.  Good stuff!  

 
Lat.  (1980)  Town Boy.  New York:  First Second.  Memoir of a child growing up in Malaysia.  Excellent. 

 O’Connor, George (2010)  Athena:  Grey-eved Goddess.  New York:  First Second.  Excellent book.  The Fates narrate.  Focus is Athena, but that includes the story of her birth and the stories of Medusa, Perseus, and Arachne.

O’Connor, George (2012) Hades: God of the Dead.  New York:  First Second.  Excellent.  As usual, this is not really a book about Hades, but it is the story of Demeter and Persephone.   The art work is excellent and absolutely enhances the story.  Begins with a beautiful second person sequence of what it is like to die if you are Greek. 

O’Connor, George  (2011)  Hera: The Goddess in her Glory  New York:  First Second.  Excellent look at the labors of Heracles from Hera’s perspective.

O’Connor, George (2013) Poseidon: Earth Shaker  Nw York:  First Second.  First Person narraton by Poseidon.  Includes parts of the Odyssey and the story of Theseus.

 

O’Connor, George  (2011)  Zues: King of the Gods  New York:  First Second.  Excellent look at the creation of the earth from Zues’s perspective.

Telgemeier, Raina (2010)  Smile.  New York:  Scholastic.   Raina is due to get braces when she falls and knocks out to of her teeth.  This GN, though, is less about her orthodontic adventures and more about how she matures from middle school into high school and eventually ditches her friends (who seem to ridicule her a lot) for a new set of friends she can feel more comfortable around.

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.

Avi, Floca,B. (1993) City of Light, City of Dark, Scholastic     Good story – some thematic development (cross generational friendship, optimism vs pessimism.  Mostly just fun, though.

Doyle, A. C. and M. Powell (2009). The Hound of the Baskervilles. Mankato, Stone Arch.     Introductory page identifies Dr. Henry Watson, not John (as he is later correctly called in the book).  Other than that, an excellent adaptation.

 Kibuishi, Kazu  (2008) Amulet:  The Stonekeeper  New York:  Graphix.      Good adventure story.  Nice drawing.  Persistent theme seems to be the difficulty of determining who to trust.

 

Kibuishi, Kazu (2009) Amulet Book 2: The Stonekeeper's Curse. New York: Graphix.  
 This book is the second in a series, and as such it may be a little tough to pick up in the middle.  So the short version of book one is that Emily has inherited this magic stone, and she and her brother Navin have been transported, along with their sick mother, to a fantasy land where theirr companions, including a couple of robots and a pink rabbit are helping them in hopes that Emily, as stone keeper, will save their world.  Also, they live in a giant walking house. 
     I know that sounds silly, but actually, it is honking cool.
     Anyway, in volume two, they have to escape a pack of evil elves, aid some powerful but benevolent trees, rescue their mom, defeat the elf king, and master the magic stone without letting it take over. 
     I know that sounds silly too.
     But here is the thing, a graphic novel is a combination of words and pictures, and these pictures are awesome.  Third graders through seventh grade3rs are going to love this book.  It is fun and funny and sometimes gripping. 
     This is not the sort of graphic novel with themes in it that will stretch your consciousness or change your life.  But it isn't lightweight either.  It treats the reader as if he or she is intelligent and perceptive.  Good stuff.
 

Renier, A. (2005). Spiral Bound (Top Secret Summer). Marietta, GA, Top Shelf.     Anthropomorphic children discover that the monster in the pond is mechanical -- restore an exile to the community, and cavort through an underground newspaper/art complex.  Their art teacher is a whale in a kind of motorized fishbowl.  Ideal for middle school.

Robinson, J., P. Smith, et al. (2003). Leave it to Chance:  Monster Madness and Other Stories. Orange, California, Image Comics.     Chance rocks!  Strong female protagonist.  No bad words.  Some scary monsters, but little graphic violence.  Some mention of witchcraft -- but no how to.

 Robinson, J., P. Smith, et al. (2002). Leave it to Chance: Trick or Treat and Other Stories. Orange, California, Image.

Smith, J. (2006). Bone (series).  New York, Scholastic.     Excellent for about 4th through 7th.



 

Taylor, Sarah Stewart; Towle, Ben (2010) Amelia Earhart:  This Broad ocean.  New York:  Hyperion.  Sort of a fiction piece about a girl reporter who lives on an island in Newfoundland which is the starting point for Earhart’s attempt to fly across the Atlantic.  A lot of biographical data here, and extensive end-notes for at least some sourcing.

 Yolen, Jane.  (2013)  Curses Foiled Again   New York:  First Second.       It completes the story begun in Foiled.  Aliera Carstairs is a high school student who works hard, likes to read, and is passionate about fencing (sword fighting, not chain link and picket fences).  She has been taking lesson for years and is very good with a foil.  In the first book her mom was at a garage sale and bought her a fencing foil with a red jewel at the end of the hilt.  It turned out that the foil was enchanted and allowed her to see the faerie world all around her.  This led to some odd and otherworldly experiences and the discovery that her lab partner was a troll.   Now in the second book, we are drawn into the real conflict -- a save-the-world-from-utter-destruction kind of thing with plenty of close calls, plot twists, narrow escapes, and surprising revelations. Good stuff.  Mike Cavallaro's illustrations are exciting and engaging.  The use of color to indicate the separation between the mundane wold and the faerie one is well handled.  The facial expressions are particularly well-rendered.

 Hatke, Ben (2010)  Zita the SpaceGirl  New York:  First Second.  Absolutely excellent.  Great story.  Themes of friendship and loyalty and courage and responsibility, etc. 

Hatke, Ben (2012)  The Legends of Zita the Spacegirl.  New York:  First Second.  Strong follow-up to the first Zita book.  Plays around with themes of identity and fame a bit.  Doesn’t quite have the freshness of the first book, and ZIta doesn’t quite have the vulnerability, but it is still a very good book. 

Herge’.  (1956)  The Adventures of Tintin: The Black Island. Boston:  Little, Brown     Very much suitable for middle elementary – 3rd on up.  Good story.  Not much thematically, though.

Holm, J. L. and M. Holm (2005). Babymouse:  (series). New York, Random House.      Excellent for third grade to fifth grade or so.

 

 

           

 

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