Aug 20

Review: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

Posted: under Ages 09-18, English, Josdal, Matt, Kumar, Naresh, Literature, Mann, Roland, Remedial Reading, Shearer, Brian, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain, Mark.
August 20th, 2009

tomsawyer huckfinn

Comic Title: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Comic Author: Adapted from the novels by Mark Twain. Tom Sawyer adapted by Matt Josdal and illustrated by Brian Shearer; Huck Finn adapted by Roland Mann and illustrated by Naresh Kumar.

Format: Graphic Novel

Reviewed by: Jessica

Both Mark Twain’s classic paean to American boyhood and his most celebrated portrait of the antebellum South get the graphic novel treatment.

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Jun 21

Link: Factoring with Mr. Yang and Mosley the Alien

Posted: under Ages 09-18, Mathematics, Useful Links, Yang, Gene.
June 21st, 2009

Throughout middle school – and, yes, high school (yep, I was on the “lower” math track) – factoring was pretty much the bane of my existence. Well, mathematics in general were the bane of my existence, but within the vast and noxious swampy field of mathematics, I always found factoring to be particularly troublesome. I really wish that I’d had something like this around back then to help me:

Factoring with Mr. Yang and Mosley the Alien, a series of five comic lessons by Gene Yang.

Some of you might recognize Gene Yang as one of the culprits behind Eternal Smile and the culprit behind American Born Chinese, which was the first graphic novel to ever be considered as a finalist for the National Book Awards. So yes, the man knows how to make comics. He also knows how to teach math, apparently, as I had no problem following along with his online comic lessons, and I actually ended up learning a lot in the process.

I highly recommend this link to anybody who’s struggling with factoring – or who knows anybody else who’s struggling with factoring. Yang’s comics are easy to understand, fun to read, and a great resource for teachers and students.

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Jun 11

Review: Mushishi, volume 1

Posted: under Ages 16+, History, Japan, Mushishi, Myth/Folklore, Urushibara, Yuki.
June 11th, 2009


Comic Title: Mushishi (vol. 1 of 10)

Author: Text and artwork by Yuki Urushibara

Format: Manga paperback

Reviewed by: Elena

Winner of the prestigious Kodansha Manga Award, Mushishi is the story of Ginko, a wandering “mushi” expert (called a mushi-shi in Japanese). Mushi are ephemeral creatures that are far older – but, in some sense, far simpler – than what we conceive of as biological life. Although simple in nature, mushi are capable of causing all sorts of interference in the human world. Sometimes mushi are benign, sometimes neutral, and sometimes they can be downright malicious. As Ginko wanders throughout Japan’s mountain villages and forests, he encounters many people afflicted with all sorts of imaginative mushi infections. Using his clever wit and his own unique, borderline-paranormal abilities, Ginko tries to help as many of these people as he can. But sometimes even Ginko can be rendered helpless in the face of a truly horrifying mushi.

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Apr 18

Review: The Manga Guide to Statistics

Posted: under Ages 15-18, Mathematics, Takahashi, Shin, The Manga Guide to Statistics.
April 18th, 2009


Comic Title: The Manga Guide to Statistics

Author: Text and artwork by Shin Takahashi

Format: Trade paperback

Reviewed by: Elena

Math is hard – especially for dumb girls! Thankfully, lovable but socially awkward nerd Mamoru is hired to teach cute-but-moronic young Rui all about statistics… So that Rui can, in turn, impress her father’s extremely handsome (and much, much older) co-worker, who does marketing research for a living. Ouch. If you can get past the migraine-inducing gender stereotypes saturating this educational manga, you will actually learn a lot of very useful math lessons, and relatively painlessly at that. But. That’s a pretty big “if”.

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Mar 29

Review: All-Star Superman

Posted: under Ages 09-18, All-Star Superman, English, Grant, Jamie, Morrison, Grant, Quietly, Frank.
March 29th, 2009


Comic Title: All-Star Superman

Author: Written by Grant Morrison, artwork by Frank Quietly and Jamie Grant.

Format: Comic book mini-series (twelve issues). Also available in paperback or hardcover collected editions.

Reviewed by: Elena

Brief Summary (2 to 5 sentences):

Clark Kent/Superman, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, and zany scientist Leo Quintum do pretty much the exact same things that they’ve always done – but fabulously. A modern Superman story that somehow manages to perfectly capture the limitless wonder – and complete insanity – of the Golden Age Superman stories, All-Star Superman is both a quintessential distillation and a fresh repackaging of everything that makes Superman awesome.

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Feb 19

Review: The Tall Tales of Vishnu Sharma

Posted: under Ages 15-18, Basu, Samit, English, India, Literature, Myth/Folklore, Padlekar, Ashish, Tall Tales of Vishnu Sharma.
February 19th, 2009


Title: The Tall Tales of Vishnu Sharma

Author: Written by Samit Basu, artwork by Ashish Padlekar.

Format: Comic book mini-series (five issues).

Reviewed by: Elena

Vishnu Sharma is a somewhat apathetic teenager living a normal life. Until one day a trio of magical talking animals follow him home, and inform him that it is his destiny to Save the World. And then Harry Potter shows up and tries to kill him. No, seriously.

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Feb 13

Link: Learning from Comics!

Posted: under All Ages, Parker, Jeff, Useful Links.
February 13th, 2009

Jeff Parker, guestblogging over at Robot 6, has just posted a wonderful column about the educational value of comics, appropriately titled “I ♥ Learning from Comics“:

“I remember as a kid an old ’50s reprint where Superboy generated a massive amount of static electricity by fashioning a gargantuan glass rod and rubbing a similarly huge silk cloth against it. Many of those stories read as if the writers kept a stack of Popular Science close at hand, and it’s noteworthy that I can’t remember the plot but still remember how Superboy made the electricity he needed. Any young Superman reader would also have a vague understanding of the process that turns carbon into diamond- any time Clark Kent was running low on cash he’d scope around for some charcoal briquets at a cookout and squeeze/heat vision himself up some stones to impress the ladies. The science would usually be fast and loose, but a key connection was still made, and I would have some bit of insight into the physical world.”

Parker also discusses Terry and the Pirates, Prince Valiant, and Xenozoic Tales, as well as overtly “educational” comics like those that teach how DNA works, or what exactly the Federal Reserve does. GT Labs also gets a well-deserved shout-out.

In the comments, readers are already discussing what they’ve learned from reading comics. I have to personally admit that, like a couple of others, I was actually inspired to do my own research into Norse mythology after having read about Thor in ye olde Marvel comics.

Anyway: Thank you, Jeff, for reminding us all how comics can potentially educate us, even when we least expect it.

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Jan 17

Review: The Good Neighbors #1: Kin

Posted: under Ages 15-18, Black, Holly, English, Good Neighbors, Literature, Naifeh, Ted.
January 17th, 2009


Comic Title: The Good Neighbors #1: Kin

Comic Author: Holly Black (writing), Ted Neifeh (art)

Format:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by: Jessica

When Rue’s mother disappears, her father is arrested as her suspected murderer.  But Rue’s not sure her mother’s dead, and when she starts seeing faeries everywhere – fairies who talk to her like she’s one of them – she’s even less sure.

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Dec 19

Project: Word-Bubble Blanks

Posted: under All Ages, English, Foreign Language, Penny Arcade.
December 19th, 2008

This is a fun and super-easy project that I’ve done with EFL learners.  My students were Japanese kids between the ages of twelve and fifteen, although I’m sure that this basic idea could be modified to work for any age group studying any language.

You’ve probably heard of this one before, too.  It’s easy: Just pick a comic strip, blank out the word bubbles, hand the “blanked” strip to your students, and let them fill in the word bubbles with their own funny, creative dialogue.

Also, this wasn’t my idea.  I can’t even remember where I first came across this idea, as it’s been posted to many forums and “teacher resources” websites before.  But I do remember that somehow, somewhen, I actually picked up on the idea of using Penny Arcade strips from Karen Healey.  And Penny Arcade strips really do work beautifully, since they tend to feature lush, highly expressive cartoony artwork, which in turn inspires some pretty creative results from students.

Here are two strips that worked well for me.

Original Strip

Original Strip

I’ve admittedly never tried this exercise with other strips before, but I imagine that Peanuts strips, or certain strips from Calvin and Hobbes, would work equally as well.

Now this would be the part where I post some of the best results from what my students have done with their strips.  Unfortunately, I can’t get any of my Japanese students to give me permission to post their strips on this here blog, because they’re shy.  I’m working on it, though.  They were the ones who taught me how to perfect the art of puppy-dog eyes in the first place.

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Dec 10

Suggest a Comic for Review!

Posted: under Useful Blog Info.
December 10th, 2008

Are you a teacher, student, or tutor who would like to see a certain comic reviewed here, but don’t have the time to write a thorough review yourself?  That’s okay!  Just leave a comment on this post to suggest more comics for us to review.  Please include the comic title, the names of the authors/artists, and any other information that you think would be helpful to us.

Suggest away!

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