Friday, September 28, 2007


The Crypt-Keeper is back in comics after a 50-year hiatus. Publisher Papercutz has brought back the terror tales for youth in the new TALES FROM THE CRYPT comic, which will be published every three months. Seeing that Halloween is drawing nigh, a horror comic is most appropriate. Look for the review coming soon.

Otis Frampton sent his second ODDLY NORMAL book to the classroom. I highly recommended book one. The rest of the titles are your typical super hero fair, one from DC and one from Marvel.

  1. Oddly Normal
  2. Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius: Monster Mash
  3. Tales from the Crypt 1: Ghouls Gone Wild
  4. Teen Titans Go! 47

Thursday, September 27, 2007


AUTHOR: Chris Grine
GENRE: Humor

FORMAT: Trade paperback
PAGES: 152 pages
COLOR: Black and white
ISBN-10: 1-59307-574-X
ISBN-13: 978-1-59307-574-3

Chickenhare, oh he of chicken body and rooster legs, find himself and his bearded turtle companion in the possession of a ruthless trader, then sold to Klaus the crazy taxidermist to … you guessed it … be stuffed. Whatever shall they do? What any good protagonist would; they join forces with other area creatures to beat the stuffing out of the taxidermist.

Animals, adventure, a ghost and a nutty taxidermist: What else could one ask for in a comic? Chris Grine puts together the strangest characters and wraps them in a semi-dark story, producing a wonderfully unhinged comic for children. I love it. This title does not pander to the oversensitive and simply provides a solid yarn, dark though it may be, and children will respond to the fact that we give them interesting pieces of literature to read. For those who might be overly cautious or concerned, there is a happy ending and the good guys win.

The art matches the story well, and while I would have preferred color, the black and white images serve the story well.

My Rating: Ages 8 and older
Publisher’s Rating: All Ages
All Ages Reads: Not Rated
Comics in the Classroom: Not Rated

“Sucks” (pg 151) and “pissed” (pg 138) show up. Worse words than those show up in many pieces of traditional children’s literature and children’s movies, so I don’t see it as a problem. There is a slight amount of harmless violence, but not anything to speak of. One of the bad guys gets pushed from a window; he gets hurt but doesn’t die. A knife ends up in the body of the goat, but the goat is a ghost so it doesn’t matter, and there is no blood. I do not see anything that would raise anyone’s ire.

Great story and great art can only lead to good things when it comes to using CHICKENHARE in the classroom. Certainly not for everyone, this book will find an audience with some readers and it will speak to them. For those who want to teach writing to their students, there is an opportunity to talk about what drives a character, what motivates him or her or it. In this case, we discover why Klaus is obsessed with collecting strange animals and ends up stuffing themand placing them on his mantle. Even the very evil need friends and some people will go to great lengths to find and retain friends, even it means destroying the friendship. That may seem a bit heavy for kids, but even the very young understand what it means to need a friend.

If you like CHICKENHARE, Dark Horse recommends other titles: BONE, MIGHTY SKULLBOY, USAGI YOJIMBO, LITTLE LULU (currently in the classroom), and SOCK MONKEY. I am especially interested in USAGI YOJIMBO. It has won an Eisner award and is well regarded.

CHICKENHARE makes me laugh and want more. The whole time I am reading it, I imagine a knot of boys in the back of the room reading it and having the time of their lives. Remember: reading should be fun.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


AUTHOR: Phil Yeh
PUBLISHER: Nantier Beall Minoustchine
GENRE: Nonfiction

FORMAT: Hardback
PAGES: 32 pages
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-10: 1-56163-509-X
ISBN-13: 978-1-56163-509-2

Geography, like many subjects, can be boring, fraught with the nasty notion that simply memorizing states and capitals constitutes learning. Phil Yeh, while presenting basic information about each state, also gives the reader a look into other aspects of the state, such as human interaction with the place, as well as history about the music, art, or technology that has shaped each state. There is even a little story to go along with the information to help the reader move along. It is a good thing.

We can forget, sometimes, that nonfiction has a special allure for some children. My wife is one of those who does not enjoy reading fiction. When I got DINOSAURS ACROSS AMERICA in the classroom, she commented that, as a child, this book would have been one of her favorites in the comic category. She was one of those children who enjoyed geography, including the memorization of states and capitals. Children like her need comics like this.

The pages are split in half with two states appearing on each page. The illustrations are colorful and include not only an outline of the state and major cities, but also includes art that is distinctive to the state.

My Rating: All Ages
All Ages Reads: No Rating
Comics in the Classroom: No Rating

DINOSAURS ACROSS AMERICA is the perfect place for children to begin to study geography, which is more than just memorizing the states and their capitals. The study of geography also includes the place, human interaction, movement and regions. Phil Yeh does a good job with presenting aspects of these major geographic themes throughout his book. For instance we learn that W.C. Handy, the father of The Blues, lived in Memphis, Tenn. We also discover that Nebraska was referred to as a desert until humans started irrigating. Students could discover how that irrigation transformed Nebraska into the state it is.

Highly Recommended
Students need excellent nonfiction resources when studying all kinds of subjects, and DINOSAURS ACROSS AMERICA meets that need perfectly. Geared for elementary students, it is the go-to book when students begin to look at a place within the United States. It belongs on the classroom and school library shelf.

Friday, September 21, 2007


AUTHOR: Justine & Ron Fontes
PUBLISHER: Graphic Universe
GENRE: Choose-Your-Own Adventure

FORMAT: Library bound (hardback)
PAGES: 112 pages
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-10: 0-8225-6201-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-8225-6201-6

When I was a child I hated to read. I was not good at it and I was frustrated that other people seemed to be able to do it with such interest and ease. It seemed to me that books were made just to make me miserable. However, I enjoyed the choose-your-own-adventure books of the 1980’s although I did not have much access to them.

This genre of book was special because I was the protagonist, the hero, of the story. These books addressed me, the reader, as the character, and at some point in the story I was asked to choose between two paths. If I chose option A, then I turned to a certain page and continued to read. If I chose option B, then I turned to another page in the book and read. The stories and the outcomes were different for each option. That much has not changed in the last 20 years. You still must choose wisely or you will be sent to Davy Jones’ Locker.

Graphic Universe, an imprint of Lerner Books, has re-tooled the choose-your-own-adventure genre with a comic-prose hybrid. The student is still the protagonist, but the pages are split between prose and comic format, making the genre even more appealing to children.

It just so happened that in one of my education classes at the university our topic was pirates as a possible thematic unit. We students were to come up with ideas on how to use pirates to teach. Luckily, I had a pirate book sitting on the shelf at home. I sat down with CAPTURED BY PIRATES that night and tested it out with my 7-year-old second grader. I read the story aloud to her, explaining some things as we went along. When it came to choosing our path, she considered her options, sometimes fretting and asking my opinion (which I withheld) before deciding on her fate. We died a few times along the way, ending up as chum for the fish in one instance, and we had a fantastic time doing it.

My daughter was reluctant at first, thinking this was a “boy book” but the ability to choose our path quickly enamored her and the social programming melted away. She loved it and has begged to read another one. I also have ESCAPE FROM PYRAMID X on the classroom shelf.

Like my kiddo I, too, was hooked. This book does something that many other books struggle to achieve: Kids will enjoy reading this just for the sake of reading. CAPUTRED BY PIRATES is not written to make adults happy. Oh no, my friends. This book is written with one purpose and that is to exist as a piece of literature that children will want to read just because it is fun. I remembered my elementary days of reading these choose-your-own-adventure books and at the thought that these books were written for me, just for me. CAPTURED BY PIRATES rings that bell well and it would be a mistake not to have it in the classroom.

The art is representative of much of the Graphic Universe series of books. The illustrators utilize a realist approach with details in the foreground and background. The construction of the book is the highest quality and will last for a long time in a classroom or school library.

Above: The left page is page 36 of the story,
written in comic form. The right page is
a page of narrative. Notice at the end of
page 37, the reader is directed to
page 49 to continue the story.

Above: Another page of narrative.
The right page is the decision
part of the story. There are two
choices. The reader chooses his or her path
then turns to the corresponding page
to continue the story.

My Rating: 9 and older
Publisher’s Rating: Ages 9-13
Publisher’s Reading Level: Grade 4
Publisher’s Interest Level: Grades 4-7
All Ages Reads: No Rating
Comics in the Classroom: No Rating

It should be expected to experience some pirate-like violence and themes such as kidnapping and pillaging. Kids know pirates, so it is not an issue in my opinion.

This series is specifically designed to appeal to a broad range of students with differing abilities. The reading level is lower, yet the interest level is very high. This is a perfect book for the reluctant and struggling reader.

This could also be used as a classroom read aloud (using a digital overhead project (usually referred to as an ELMO). When it comes time to make a decision in the book and choose a path, students could be asked to summarize the comic and prose passages of the preceding story and then to create a graphic organizer in order to make a decision about which option to choose. This could also be done in cooperative groups, with each group making a class presentation about which option they recommend.

An alternative could be that the book is read aloud to the classroom. You could even choose some students to read the dialogue. Once you reach the decision page, then you could ask the students to use their prediction skills and write an ending to the story, which could be shared with the class.

At the time of publication, the ATOS and Lexile were not available. The book was too new. However, given time, these will be available. Check the Graphic Universe site (an imprint of Lerner) for more information. A paperback version is also available.

There are four books in the Twisted Journeys series including: ESCAPE FROM PYRAMID X, TERROR IN GHOST MANSION and THE TREASURE OF MOUNT FATE. I will review the others as they come into the classroom.

Highly Recommended
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is, in my opinion, very important to have high interest, low reading level books in the classroom for students to read and this book meets that goal. Not only is CAPTURED BY PIRATES fun and engaging, but it opens the door to teaching higher order thinking skills.


Two typical superhero titles and one piece of traditional literature-turned-comic made their way into the classroom this week. These are all three titles that I have been collecting for some time. At some point I will read several issues and then post one comprehensive review. To the list:

  1. Marvel Adventures: Avengers 16
  2. Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century
  3. Treasure Island 4 of 6

In other news, I am enrolled in two methods classes at the university. These are subject-based classes that future elementary teachers take in order to be able to teach all the subjects effectively. That’s the idea, anyway. This is where we practice writing lesson plans. I have posted one inquiry-based (eMINTS) lesson plan that uses comics so far. More will come in the coming months and years. For those of you who are experienced, let me know how the lesson plans work.

If you use comics in your classroom, elementary or secondary, and would like to have your lesson plan posted here, then shoot it my way. Be sure to put your name on it so you can get credit for your hard work. If you have a website or blog, I'll include a link and your email if you choose to have such information listed. I will accept direct-instruction and inquiry-based lesson plans, I just ask that you write them in such a way that someone else can follow your instructions.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


If you love comics and want to promote literacy, then Diamond Comic Distributors has a deal for you. In conjunction with Archie Comics, Gemstone Publishing, and Marvel, Diamond is putting together a Halloween comic deal. Click here for the press release.

Rather than Butterfingers, Tootsie Rolls, and popcorn balls you can give the gift of literacy in the form of mini-comics. That’s right. You can be the coolest house on the block, and the healthiest for that matter, by giving out comics on Halloween night rather than the traditional sugary fare. These will be smaller comics designed to fit in most trick-or-treat buckets and bags and each will be 16 pages.

There will be three different comics, one from each of the three publishers. They will be available in packs of 25 and are supposed to ship on September 27. No word yet on how much the bundles will cost and if the bundles will include all three titles or just one title per bundle.

Uncle Scrooge: The Hound of the Whiskervilles
From Gemstone Publishing
By Carl Barks

Marvel Adventures: Iron Man
From Marvel Comics
(cover not yet available)
B Fred Van Lente and Michael Golden

Little Archie Halloween
From Archie Comics
(cover not yet available)
By Dexter Taylor and Bob Bolling

Here is the problem: Comics have to be ordered ahead of time. So if you have not ordered your copies yet, then you need to book it to your local store and order them within the next couple of days. I've already placed my order.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I recently had to write an inquiry-based economics lesson plan for fifth grade. I choose opportunity cost and scarcity as my subjects and applied them to the Missouri Grade Level Expectations (GLE) although they could easily be adapted for your state’s requirements. Of course, I used a comic (Amelia Rules!) in the lesson plan as well.

In this lesson, the students are accessing prior knowledge of the subjects from the book, Kira-Kira, which had already been read aloud to the class. I believe in reading aloud to elementary students every day for at least 20 minutes. You could use Kira-Kira or not.

If you have not taught or been exposed to an inquiry-based lesson plan (as opposed to the Madeline Hunter format) then this may look strange to you. As I see it, things are moving in this direction and the university expects most lessons to be in this format. So that is what I use. Besides, I think the inquiry-based lessons are far superior in most circumstances. Again, I think a teacher could take the ideas and activities and put them in a direct-instruction format if that is what you or your school prefer.

The lesson plan and accompanying information is stored below in jpeg format. Feel free to use them. If you use this in the classroom, PLEASE, let me know how it works. I would love the feedback. You can do so by leaving comments or emailing me privately ( If you have questions about the lesson, be sure to ask. I’ll do my best to give you further explanations before you use it. You will find that this lesson plan is linked in my Amelia Rules! review.

Subject: Economics (Scarcity and Opportunity Cost)
Grade: 5th
Comic Literature: Amelia Rules! The Whole World’s Crazy by J. Gownley (Ch. 4)

Sunday, September 16, 2007


AUTHOR: Todd Dezago
ILLUSTRATOR: Mike Wieringo
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
GENRE: Action/Adventure and Fantasy

FORMAT: Oversized hardcover edition
ISSUES: Prelude, Issues 1-10, and The ScatterJack Story
PAGES: 288 pages
COLOR: Full color
ISBN 13: 978-1-58240-789-0

Young Jarek and his man-tiger friend, Koj, are thrust into a mystery to save the world of Tellos from the malevolent Malesur. A seemingly happy duo, the two realize that they are part of a larger prophecy and must team up with Serra, Hawke and Rikk in order to set things right.

No doubt about it, TELLOS COLOSSAL is a fun, fantasy-filled ride. Complete with mystery and intrigue, the story moves along well with a nice mixture of dialogue and action that will keep most fantasy fans fulfilled. Sometimes the transition between the multiple storylines was awkward, but all in all, it was a good story.

Mike Wieringo, who passed away recently, was a well known illustrator – his prowess with the pen is legendary. His drawings in TELLOS are wonderful for several reasons. From panel placement down to the details, Wieringo’s work is telling and true, but it never interferes with the story. The colors are bright and attractive.

The production of this particular edition is very high. The book is oversized, hard bound and the cover is embossed. There are also plenty of sketches and reprints of the original and variant covers.

My Rating: Teen
Publisher’s Rating: All Ages
All Ages Reads: No Rating
Comics in the Classroom: No Rating

While the publisher rates TELLOS as an all ages book, I disagree. There are some more adult elements, which makes this more appropriate for someone a bit older.

Some persons of certain religious beliefs always get upset with magic. Since magic is present I mention it but I am not concerned. There are curse words (damn) and semi-curses (wuss). There is also a dragon who talks like a surfer and smokes a hand-rolled cig pinched between his finger and thumb, which could be easily interpreted as a drug reference. Then there is the leather-clad dominatrix. In the words of writer Todd Dezago himself, printed in the afterword, she is a “gorgeous, yet oh-so-deadly, S&M domme Dyn Jessa! Mrrow!” Mrrow indeed. She is well endowed and nearly naked.

Not Recommended
Curse words in literature can be defended, even in children’s literature, if they have a reason to be there. We can make the case for magic as well, even though some parents object. A dominatrix, however, is another matter altogether. I can see families freaking out over their children reading TELLOS for no other reason but the sexy leather lady. The schools in my community would not support such things in an elementary classroom. A high school class, maybe, but I still have my doubts.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I love it when things fall into place. I have a geography lesson plan due in a few weeks. In a wonderful stroke of luck a geography-based comic came into the classroom this week. I’m hoping that DINOSAURS ACROSS AMERICA is appropriate for the classroom and that I can use it in my lesson plan. If so, I’ll be sure to post the lesson plan for you.

I have to apologize. I accidentally forgot to add a book to the “In The Classroom This Week” post a few weeks ago. It accidentally got mixed into the wrong pile. The new book is GRAPHIC CLASSICS: BRAM STOKER and is published by Eureka Productions.
  1. Dinosaurs in America
  2. Graphic Classics: Bram Stoker
  3. Man in the Iron Mask 3 of 6
  4. Simpsons Comics: Beach Blanket Bongo
  5. Spider-Man Fairy Tales 4 of 4
  6. The Batman Strikes 38
I noticed that my copy of THE BATMAN STRIKES is misprinted with the issue number being listed as #37, rather than #38.

Friday, September 7, 2007


AUTHOR: Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani
PUBLISHER: Blindwolf Studios

FORMAT: Trade Paperback
ISSUES: The Giant Sized Collection (Volumes 1/2 and 3/4)
160 pages each
COLOR: Black and White
ISBN (Volume 1/2): 0-9749941-0-3
ISBN (Volume 3/4): 0-9749941-1-1

Born into a family of humans, Patrick is an innocent young werewolf who is trying to find his way in an unfamiliar world. Patrick works hard to figure the rules of society, after all, being a werewolf has put him at a disadvantage over his peers. His speech is “delayed” and his social functioning is somewhat limited. The stories are told in small, comic strip-like vignettes.

Part Family Circus and part Munsters, Patrick is the lone wolf of his family. An inquisitive and energetic little tyke, Patrick is not unlike other children. However, he is not altogether the same. Ultimately, it is this quality, his differences, that make him so appealing to me.

When I first picked up PATRICK THE WOLF BOY, I was marginally amused, but I kept reading and I am glad that I did. Something about Patrick kept me turning pages and it has taken me a while to figure out what that is. Patrick represents what it means to be a child. He thinks and speaks and acts, all of which comes out of his natural curiosity and need to understand his surroundings.

Whether intended or not, there is another aspect to Patrick that I cannot help but admire. In every classroom throughout the nation there are children who, for one reason or another, do not exactly fit in. These children may find it hard to interact with other children or may have difficulty communicating their thoughts and feelings orally. These same children may not know how to act around other children and they may act inappropriately. Obviously many children with disabilities fit into this category, but so do many other children who do not have disabilities. While reading, I was constantly amazed at how the adults and children reacted to and treated Patrick. They understood his behaviors – his feral nature – and made adaptations. All he says is “RARRGH” and yet veryone around him makes do. This is as much a comic as it is a manual on how adults (school officials) and children should treat others, especially those who do not have disabilities.

The art of PATRICK THE WOLF BOY is quite fitting for the character. The illustrations are presented in a clear manner with simple lines and no shading, but that should not be a deterrent for readers who generally prefer more detail. There really isn’t any other way to illustrate the book … well except to add color. Undoubtedly, color would make this title more appealing as would a higher quality paper.

My Rating: All Ages
Publisher’s Rating: All Ages
All Ages Reads: All Ages
Comics in the Classroom: Ages 8 and older

There are some substitute swears in the books, such as “crap”, “fricken” and “heck”. All Ages Reads reports that there was a “#@*@!!” and a “sunsa-bishus” although I do not remember reading either one of those. I went back through the books to find them and could not. We also read different versions.

Taken as a way to talk about people with disabilities, without actually doing so, this book fits within the guidelines of multiculturism and could be a real asset in the classroom. I am having a hard time judging how children will respond to PATRICK, but I was smitten with him. I will say that the short format is perfect for students with short attention spans or those with very little time to read.

I do think that PATRICK THE WOLF BOY could be used to help tell a short, linear story to children, especially if one wants to teach children how to make their own comic. The stories and art lend themselves to teaching comics to kids.

I love PATRICK THE WOLF BOY and I recommend these volumes for the classroom.


The latest installment of my daughter’s favorite – LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS – came in this week. That makes for a happy little girl and a happy dad. LT&B is exceptionally written. Volume 1 has been reviewed and highly recommended by yours truly. As for THE CRYPTICS, I have no idea. Never seen it before, but I love the idea of Halloween characters as children. Here’s the list:

  1. Lions, Tigers and Bears Vol 2, Number 4
  2. The Cryptics