Monday, February 6, 2012

Nonfiction Graphic Novels Monday

I’ve two biographies and one autobiography to recommend this week – all in graphic novel format.
First is Around the world : three remarkable journeys by Matt Phelan (910.41 PhA 2011).  This should appeal to anyone who enjoys travel, adventure, history, geography and good stories.  The three stories take place in the late 1800s, after Jules Vern published Around the World in Eighty Days and recount adventures by three very different people – a miner turn cyclist, Thomas Steven; a female journalist, Nellie Bly; and a retired sea captain, Joshua Slocum.  Each travelled in their own unique mode and for various reasons.  There’s a lot to keep the reader entertained  as each intrepid traveller makes their way (can you imagine cycling around the world on a bicycle with the super large front wheel?)  overcoming various challenges -local customs, bad weather, time constraints, delays in transportation, loneliness, etc.  We know they get to where they’re going, but the book really is about the journey.  Matt Phelan’s illustrations are wonderful and the expressions of his characters are very telling.  I suggest this for grades 4-9.
Next is a completely different autobiography,though Lost Trail: nine days alone in the wilderness by Donn Fendler (613.69 FeL 2011) has its share of excitement and adventure, too.   This is the story of 12-year-old Donn who becomes separated from his hiking party during a sudden rain/hail storm on Mont Katahdin in 1939. He wanders for days with very little food, following a stream and hoping that he will come upon someone to help him.  Hundreds of volunteers comb the mountain looking for him and eventually presume him dead.  Finally, Donn does stumble upon a seasonal hunting camp with people able to rescue him and reunite him with his family.   This is one wild story of a boy's pure determination to survive all manner of trials (little food, fear, bears, exposure to the elements) to be with his family.  Illustrations are excellent and add to the overall narrative quality of the story.  Again, kids in grades 4 to 9 will enjoy this read.

The last book I’m recommending is not an adventure story but a graphic novel that makes a small fragment of Canadian history very manageable for students.  Hyena in Petticoats: the story of suffragette Nellie McClung: a graphic novel by Willow Dawson (305.40971 DaH 2011) is pretty basic in its retelling of Nellie McClung’s life.  Nellie is a strong –minded and -willed girl who wanted what she wanted – to become educated, to write and to make lives better for women living in Canada in the early  1900s.  The facts are all here, which makes it easy to follow along chronologically with Nellie’s  social and political activities (this is the height of the prohibition era and restricting alcohol was a priority for her, as was getting women the right to vote and, later, having women recognized as  legal ‘persons’).  Her determination and forbearance are remarkable.  The dialogue is a little clunky as it often supplies information about this time period that the reader needs to know to follow along, making it a bit wooden.  I liked the stylized illustrations even though the people are stiff looking (works with the dialogue).  Nellie McClung was an amazing women and I enjoyed reading about her. This is a good history book and I recommend it for middle grades, too.

Today is Nonfiction Monday hosted at Capstone Connect. Check out reviews of nonfiction children's literature from around the blogosphere.


GatheringBooks said...

Oh Tammy, I love this post! I am now beginning to think that we should have a graphic novel theme over at GatheringBooks. I am bookmarking your post, because I will definitely look for these books in our library. Thank you for sharing not one, not two, but three glorious books today! :)

Tammy Flanders said...

Thanks Myra. I'd be very interested to know if you can track down the last one as it's Canadian. I'll keep my eyes peeled for your graphic novel theme at your blog.
Thanks again.

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