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Riveting Graphic Novels: September 2016 Middle School Titles

August 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2016-2017 | Middle School

roller girlRoller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. Dial, 2015

Astrid Vasquez and her best friend Nicole can barely tolerate her mother’s regular Evenings of Cultural Enrichment until she surprises them with a roller derby match. For Astrid, it’s a life-changing experience: she’s hooked on roller derby, and is especially struck by the star player of the Rose City Rollers, Rainbow Brite. When she learns that there is going to be a roller derby summer camp for girls 12-17, she immediately signs up and assumes Nicole will, too. But Nicole has other plans for the summer. She wants to attend dance camp with Astrid’s long-time nemesis and Astrid feels betrayed. As Astrid go through hard weeks of training, leading up to a junior bout during the half-time of a pro roller derby game, she makes a new friend but still feels the sting of losing Nicole. Roller derby gives her an outlet for her anger as she discovers she has a fierce competitive streak. And when Astrid unintentionally hurts her new friend it’s an opportunity for self-reflection, but there’s plenty of roller derby action here, too, as novice skater Astrid gains skills and confidence but, realistically, never gets to be really good. Along the way, she gets some tips about finding her own inner strength through an on-going secret correspondence with her hero, Rainbow Brite, through notes she leaves and receives the Rose City Rollers locker room. This witty, original, and action-packed graphic novel was written and illustrated by a skater for the Rose City Rollers who is known by the name Winnie the Pow. As a result of her inside expertise, readers will get a good sense of the game and how it’s played, as well as unique aspects of derby culture.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Astrid and Nicole’s friendship changes throughout the book. Why is the change of a friendship not necessarily a bad thing?
  2. Why is being perseverant an important trait? How does Astrid demonstrate perseverance?
  3. What would you want to do for an “Evening of Cultural Enlightenment” activity? How would this compare to what your parents would suggest?

march book 2March: Book Two by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell. Top Shelf, 2015

The second volume of this graphic novel memoir trilogy follows U.S. Congressman John Lewis’s activism and leadership in the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s. Beaten, jailed, but steadfast and further politicized and energized during the Freedom Rides, he emerged into a leadership role in the Student Nonviolent Coordinator Committee (SNCC) as protests heated up in Birmingham early in 1963. It was in his SNCC role that he was involved in planning the March on Washington that year and to speak at the event, only to be asked to make last-minute changes to lines in his speech questioned as too divisive and critical. The direct, powerful conversational narrative is paired with dramatic black-and-white panel art and occasional full-page illustrations, and includes Lewis’s account of other key figures and their role in the sweeping social change taking place. Like March: Book One , President Obama’s 2008 inauguration provides a framing device in a volume that ends, tragically and poignantly, with the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham that killed four girls in September, 1963. The original draft of Lewis’s March on Washington speech is included in the end matter.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why was President Obama’s inauguration an important element of this story?
  2. How are civil rights struggles still relevant in our society today?
  3. What issues are important enough for you to risk everything?
  4. How did the illustrations add to the story? Why do you think the illustrator choose not to use color in his illustrations?

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