Monday, May 24, 2010


Two brothers, Alexander and Joseph Lagos, have written an historical fiction graphic novel set during the American Revolution. The Graphic Classroom is one stop on the brothers’ blog tour, and THE SONS OF LIBERTY is already in our hot little hands. A review will be forthcoming. We sat at our keyboard, and they at theirs, and embarked on a quick Q&A:

To get things started, we provide a synopsis of the story, thanks to the publisher.
THE SONS OF LIBERTY is the story of two young slaves in the wake of the historic war for American independence. But freedom was not won for all. As the story unfolds, readers will explore the darker corners of our nation’s earliest days as history is brought to life this full-color, two-fisted, edge-of-your-seat style.

Graham is the newest slave at Sorenson's Plantation. He dreams of having the freedom to return to Africa. But he's more of a fighter than a dreamer. When a younger slave, Brody, is threatened by Sorenson's wicked son, Graham takes a stand. Soon the two youngsters are on the run, relying on each other to survive the vicious dogs of a notorious slave hunter. But when they're taken in by the son of Benjamin Franklin, they'll wish they'd taken their chances with the dogs. Subjects of a horrific electricity experiment, the boys are left for dead—but awaken super-charged with power. Benjamin Franklin begs them to keep their abilities to themselves in order to remain safe. But Quaker abolitionist Ben Lay has another idea. One that involves the African martial art known as dambe . . . and masks. Graham's motto is seemingly simple. "Sometimes you've gotta fight." But what fight can two runaway slaves hope to win?

Laden with action packed scenes, historic heroes and equal parts fantasy and realism, THE SONS OF LIBERTY charters new territory in both graphic and historical novels. Readers both young and old will not be able to put this engrossing story down until the heroes get the freedom that is owed to them.

Exclusive interior art provided by the publisher. 

What makes THE SONS OF LIBERTY interesting?
Thank you for inviting us into The Graphic Classroom.

We set out to create a great adventure story with rich characters and a journey unlike anything else on the bookshelves — a graphic novel for readers of all ages that would get them thinking about the time period in ways they had not imagined before reading THE SONS OF LIBERTY. Since the story is told from the perspective of two runaway slaves during the American Revolution, topics that are marginalized in social studies texts get brought to the forefront.

Did you think of schools, teachers, or students before you began writing?
We were not thinking about how schools would use the book in the beginning, but the deeper we got into researching the period, the more we felt a responsibility to shed light on what we did not ourselves learn in school. Beneath the layer of the superhero adventure, action and fun there is a deep story about relationships – foundations, progressions and divisions.

What research did they do to make sure the language/costumes/settings are authentic?”
While writing the story, we immersed ourselves in the learning process and got our hands on everything we could about Colonial America, the American Revolution, and slavery. We visited historical sites, went on walking tours, attended reenactments, and spoke to historians. We bought books on costumes, landscape, architecture and tools of the period. We researched language dialect to give conversations a more authentic feel. We watched films, documentaries and educational programs. We referenced maps and art from the period. Some of the artwork in our book is based off of these resources along with photographs taken during trips to Colonial Williamsburg and Philadelphia.

I want to know how the creators envision teachers using this comic.
There were several driving questions we asked ourselves while creating THE SONS OF LIBERTY that teachers may present to students in the classroom:

  • Imagine what it would be like taking Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in their teenage years, and placing them in the time of America’s fight for independence. What would their stories be like? What choices would they make? How would they face slavery, war and the birth of a nation?
  • What was life like for slaves during the creation of our country?
  • Which founding fathers wanted slavery abolished and who supported slavery?
  • What role did African Americans play in the creation of our country?
  • How can we compare and contrast the colonies’ rebellion against Britain to that of the slaves? When is rebellion justified?

The major themes explored in THE SONS OF LIBERTY are heroism, racism, prejudice, slavery, abolition, and the birth of our nation — all topics that are relevant to middle and high school curriculums and standards in classrooms everywhere, but often times presented in ways that do not connect to young people’s sensibilities. SOL is a graphic novel that is fun to read (unlike most history books) and offers much to learn.

The best teachers know how to engage and motivate students by taking what kids are already interested in and connecting that to the curriculum’s required learning objectives. THE SONS OF LIBERTY is a great way to get students excited about the lives of people who lived during the American Revolution. Students will understand history better through the eyes of Graham and Brody (teenagers like them). The graphic novel can be used as a link or a partner with classroom textbooks. By exploring real historical events in a fun and engaging way, students become curious and are more likely to ask questions and search for additional information to find the answers.

We imagine teachers of every subject area using THE SONS OF LIBERTY in their classrooms. A science teacher might peak students interest in understanding how electricity is conducted through the body by presenting the superhero abilities of the main characters. An English teacher may use the book to open up student dialogue about racism and then give kids an opportunity to write about it, as well as many other struggles the main characters face — some similar and others very different from the reader’s experience. A social studies teacher who is presenting a unit on the American Revolution can use scenes in the book to introduce specific topics. Students can use the artwork in the book to develop descriptive writing skills in English class. Teachers can collaborate so that students can use what they learn in history class to separate out fact from fiction while reading the graphic novel in English class.

How much of the book is historical fact and how much is fiction?
Ultimately, THE SONS OF LIBERTY is more than a history lesson; it is about our relationships and responsibilities to each other and to our society. So much of history gets broken down into places and events, but in the end, actions and attitudes toward each other define our culture. What we do today will become history, but how we treat each other will be the defining attitude carried on for generations to come.

The SONS OF LIBERTY Educator's Guide includes an American time line to place events in context, vocabulary words to be defined and discussed before reading, student prediction activities based on the cover and title, internet resources, and questions for group discussions. Click here for a downloadable PDF of the teacher’s resource.

THE SONS OF LIBERTY is a work of historical fiction. Some characters, events and settings in the book are drawn from history while others are imagined in the interest of creating an exciting story. We want the reader to separate out fact from fiction. Visit the official website for an interactive quiz game and other additional content that will help guide the reader in finding these answers.

THE SONS OF LIBERTY graphic novel is a Junior Library Guild selection and has been nominated by the American Library Association for the YALSA award for best graphic novel.

Other information
Published by Random House
Publishers Recommended Age: Ages 10 and older
Available tomorrow (May 25, 2010)
The next stop on the blog tour will be A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy.

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