Saturday, October 2, 2010


By Chris Wilson

Literary pairings, couplings, braidings –– these are the pedagogical foundations from which BUILDING LITERARY CONNECTIONS WITH GRAPHIC NOVELS is constructed, and the textbook works –– quite well, I should say –– for the high school English classroom.

In truth, the textbook is billed for both middle school and high school classrooms. In fact, a couple of the chapters are designed with middle school classrooms in mind, but the bulk of the chapters are detailed instructions on how to braid traditional canonical novels with comics and create a literature-rich environment where students are highly engaged and participate in the assimilation, synthesizing and schema-incorporating of literature.

Edited by Dr. James Bucky Carter, who was a PhD candidate at the time of publication and is now a professor at UTEP –– as well as a mover-shaker in the comics-education movement –– this textbook gives the English educator 10 chapters of comics infusion into the literature classroom. It does so without compromising the tradition or importance of classic canonical works.

Dr. Carter introduces the textbook with an encapsulation of the research and reasoning for using comics in the classroom, including a good deal of personal experience and observation. The next chapter’s authors offer an innovative and progressive approach to the language arts classroom, which, if accepted, requires a restructuring from the traditional whole class novel approach. It is interesting but not required in order to use comics.

The remaining chapters advocate for braided units whereby traditional texts are taught in tandem with a graphic novel in order to explore a specific theme or topic of particular interest. My personal favorites involved the following braidings:

  • Beowulf (poem) with Beowulf (Gareth Hind’s comic adaptation)
  • Dante’s Inferno with X-Men: Nightcrawler’s Inferno
  • Oliver Twist with Fagin the Jew

Dr. Carter also wrote a chapter on using Ultimate Spider-Man to help students develop their own creations with authentic voice.

BUILDING LITERARCY CONNECTIONS is a high school teacher’s bible of comics infusion. The ideas, strategies and opportunities give educators a place from which to build a multimodal classroom whereby authentic literature is devoured, understood and enjoyed not just by literature-loving teens, but also by a diverse population of students who might otherwise have passed up the chance to ever connect with the power and lifelong implications of story. For those teachers who are not sure how to begin or what to teach, this book arms them with plenty of knowledge. For those who have already begun, this textbook helps them continue the journey with confidence.

Editor: Dr. James Bucky Carter
Authors: Various
Publisher: National Council of Teachers of English
Genre: Textbook

Format: Paperback
Pages: 164
ISBN-13: 978-0-8141-0392-0

Awards: Inaugural winner, Excellence in Graphica in Education

Highly Recommended
High school teachers should flock to this book and utilize the ideas and strategies to make their literature classroom come alive with student engagement and relevance.

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