Monday, April 14, 2014

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Nothing-coverIn line with ABCWednesday's "N" Week, I want to share with you are "nifty" graphic novel "Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong" by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second 2013).
Honoring Women’s History Month, we highlight a wonderful young adult book that is written by women about bending stereotypes, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second Books, 2013).

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a graphic novel for older kids (for mature middle school or high school and older) adapted and drawn by Faith Erin Hicks from the young adult novel Voted Most Likely by Prudence Shen. It’s full of unlikely friendships and nicely nuanced characters who bend and shatter stereotypes and expectations.

The central characters are Charlie Nolen, captain of Hollow Ridge High School basketball team and his (best) friend Nate Harding, president of the robotics club.

Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
In a twist of fate, the robotics club and the cheerleaders are vying for student council funding. Charlie, a science Geek decides that the best way to guarantee getting those funds is for him to run for student council president.

The “Gestapo” cheerleaders decide to have Nate (Charlie's best friend and the ex-boyfriend of on of the "Gestapo" captains) run against him with the hopes that they can manipulate Nate into funding their new outfits and not the robotics club. And while each group is convinced that their strategies are flawless, things don’t work out the way anyone had planned.

The book is all about friendships, cooperation, heartbreak, and the myopic pursuit of goals versus creative thinking. Along the way, there are break-ups, disappointments, and lots of fun.
Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
Aside from the interesting story weaving high school basketball, cheerleading, and robot rumbles, it’s the nuanced characters that really make Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong fun and different. And these characters are developed both in the text and in the way they’re drawn, dressed, and artfully designed. Each and every one of them is full of contradictions that empower them to bend and break their stereotypic roles along with the reader’s expectations.

The popular jock gives into his unhappiness; the nerd flips between being sympathetic and manipulative while being blindly driven. The cheerleaders are kick-ass Machiavellian but not at all shallow. They, like the nerd, are focused in their efforts to reach their goals. And then there’s the cute Joanna, who is one ruthless robot driver, welder, and science geek who helps Charlie find his way again.

Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)

The book opens with Nate giving Charlie a lift home from school. Charlie has just received a text from Holly (Cheerleader Co-Captain), breaking up with him. Nate, meanwhile, is blindly focusing on how upset he is at finding out that Holly and “her evil fembot co-captain Nola” want to take funding from the robotics competition to fund new cheerleader uniforms. Principal Getty has just decided to let the student council decide who gets the available funds: the cheerleaders or the robotics club.

As Nate meets with his robot team to tell them the news, it's then he decides the answer is for him to run  for student council president. While his fellow teammates try to convince him that the election is merely a popularity contest he can’t possibly win, Nate is absolutely determined and convinced that nothing can possibly go wrong.

When Charlie decides to run for student council president and the Cheerleaders nominate Nate, some serious negative politics and ploys ensue.  They're so negative in fact, that Principal Getty informs BOTH teams that they went too far and as a result have been dropped from any possible school funding.

Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
At this point, Joanna (a very cute fellow robot geed), just wants to knock the crap out of Nate. But, “the twins” (two other robot teammates whose names we only learn at the end of the book), have a more productive idea: They suggest that they might get funding by competing and winning a “Robot Rumble” that takes place on Thanksgiving. First and second places will win them a ton of money that will more than meet their funding needs for the robotics club.

There are two minor problems with this idea. First, the Robot Rumble involves robots tearing each other apart. IF they don’t win — and even if they do win — their robot may be seriously damaged, if not totally disabled. Second, they don’t have enough funds to reinforce “The Beast” (their robot) from possible rumble damage or to even enter the rumble itself.

Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
Meanwhile, while dealing with his mom’s leaving, his parents subsequent divorce, and his mom’s recent announcement of her engagement to another man, Charlie comes up with a solution for his friends: have the cheerleaders invest in The Beast. If The Beast were to win, there’d be more than enough prize money to fund both the robotic teams’ entry and trip to the Robot Competition AND fund the cheerleaders’ new uniforms. IF, of course, The Beast were to win the rumble.
The rest of the story is up to you to read and enjoy.

In short, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is about friendship, dirty politics, rumbling robots, basketball, cheerleading, and family. In addition to wonderfully nuanced characters and the wacky bending of expectations and stereotypes, the story relays:
Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
  • That there is more to the simple stereotypes of Jocks, Geeks, Nerds, Cheerleaders (to name a few);
  • The power of friendship, especially when things get tough;
  • How dirty, even in high school, politics can become;
  • The power of persistence and cooperation with others to achieve your goals;
  • That navigating social hierarchies takes skill and insight;
  • Popularity does not insure happiness; and
  • Anyone can be bullied and anyone can be a bully.

Cultural Diversity, Civic Responsibilities, and Social Issues
  • Define stereotypes your students come across in their lives. Discuss the pros and cons of using stereotypes and why they persist.
  • Have the class describe/define social labels such as “Nerds,” “Jocks,” and Geeks,” and analyze how the characters in this book comply with and defy these definitions and expectations. Talk about how these expectations might be used and misused in your school.
  • Discuss and define typical male and female roles and expectations. Analyze how the book’s characters meet and defy these expectations, and why.
  • Follow and discuss how both sides effectively and ineffectively campaigned for student council president, making sure to include their use of posters, slogans, and strategies. Discuss how their approaches were similar and different to those of local political campaigns in your area.
Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)

Language, Literature, and Language Usage
  • Search for, and discuss the book’s use of alliteration, simile and metaphor. Discuss how these literary tools help the authors relay details and nuances in the story’s characters and plot.
  • Discuss the derogatory words the kids use to describe others (i.e. “Gestapo cheerleaders,” “hoochie-forms,” and “evil fembot co-captain,” to name a few).
  • Discuss why your students think the twins were not given names until the end of the book. How did this affect the story and the way we perceive them?
  • Chart and analyze the slogans used by Nate and by the cheerleaders. Discuss how they help and/or hurt their political positions.
  • Discuss the various team and robot names at the Robot Rumble. Have students discuss team and robot names they would use and why.
Critical Thinking and Inferences
The authors make many inferences in this book both with language use and through imagery. You may want to discuss the following uses of inference:
  • This book is all about navigating socially in high school. Have students come up with their own “handbooks” or unofficial social rules of high school (or middle school depending on the age/grade of your students).
  • Charlie’s solution for both teams’ financial issues is for the cheerleaders to invest in The Beast in the hope that The Beast places first and the prize money they receive will more than pay for the respective teams’ needs. Discuss and evaluate the risks versus the benefits of this strategy. Would you do it?
  • There are a number of political/historical references made by Nate regarding the cheerleaders. Find and discuss them. (For example: On page 28, Nate tells Charlie, “You’re such a mess. They’re cheerleaders, not the KGB.”)
  • After going too far and destroying the football field, Holly tells Principal Getty, “What we did was in extremely poor judgment and taste, but we were obeying the spirit of the electoral process.” Discuss the inferences and implications of this statement and how they were or were not “obeying the spirit of the electoral process.”
Modes of Storytelling and Visual Literacy
In graphic novels, images are used to relay messages with and without accompanying text, adding additional dimension to the story. Compare, contrast, and discuss with students how images can be used to relay complex messages. For example:
Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
  • Discuss how posters are designed and then used during the campaign. Analyze the images as well as the choice of words and slogans.
  • On page 50, Nate says to Charlie, “Breathe. I hardly think the Pom-Pom Gestapo can do anything to you. Discuss the author’s choice of words and the imagery they relay. Then search the book and see how the illustrations further relay this image.
  • To get to the Robot Rumble, Charlie, Nate, Ben, Joanna, the twins, Holly, and Nora drive from Hollow Ridge to Atlanta. On pages 196-197, we are told that the kids “argued vociferously (for 15 minutes) about the best way to get onto the highway.” Using various maps (NOT on the computer), plot how you might drive. Discuss where you might stop and why.
  • Discuss the effective design of the Robot Rumble poster. Make sure to include the use of font, the use of the space and the choice of images used. How effective were these choices?
Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
Suggested Prose and Graphic Novel Pairings
For greater discussion on literary style and/or content here are some prose novels and poetry you may want to read with The Silence of Our Friends
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins — a story about Katniss Everdeen, a strong young woman who defies stereotypes.
  • Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks — for high school readers, a story about missing mothers, distant brothers, high school, and new friends.
  • The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks — about a superhero girl who loves kittens and battles monsters and the mundane.
  • I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls Series) by Ally Carter — about Carrie Morgan, a sophomore at an elite spy-training school who has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary guy who thinks she’s ordinary as well.
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton — a story about the social divisions among kids and the mechanisms that drive their rivalry.
  • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier — a story about a kid who defies social convention in his school and the subsequent fallout from his actions.
  • American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang — a graphic novel that explores stereotypes and adolescent worries over perception and acceptance.
  • The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie — about a bright motivated young Native American who must decide between a long commute to a better all-white school off the reservation (and face ridicule from white kids he must befriend and from his local friends he leaves behind) or to remain with his friends at the reservation’s  limited high school and head nowhere fast.
For more details on this book and its characters, as well as further book club and classroom uggestions (and how they meet Common Core State Standards) please see Using Graphic Novels in Education: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong.

In the meantime, thanks for your visit and please leave your reactions in the comments below.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mind Over Matter

As I am swamped with work (which is a good thing), and in conjunction with ABCWednesday this week's post is a simple message for all: Mind over Matter.

According to Wikipedia "mind over matter" first appeared in 1863 in The Gological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man by Sir Charles Lyell, and refers to the increasing status and evolutionary growth of the minds of man and animals throughout our history. Since then, it has also been used in reference to psychokinesis and paranormal phenomena or for motivational and/or healing purposes. For example, defines it as:
mind over matter
Fig. [an instance where there are] intellectual powers overriding threats, difficulties, or problems. You need to concentrate harder. Pay no attention to your surroundings. This is a case of mind over matter.
mind over matter
the power of the mind to control and influence the body and the physical world generally I'm sure you can talk yourself into believing that you're well. It's a case of mind over matter.
mind over matter
thought is stronger than physical things Curing cancer may not be a question of mind over matter, but your attitude is important.
Clearly, this idiom can mean different things to different people.  I leave you with this:

Thank you, as always for your visit.  Please leave your own thoughts on mind over matter in the comments. I hope to see you next week.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pretty in Ink: Looking at Women's Contributions to Comics

Pauline Loth's Miss America 1945
“Today, although as a whole, the industry is still male-dominated, more women are drawing comics than ever before, and there are more venues for them to see their work in print. In the 1950s, when the comic industry hit an all-time low, there was no place for women to go. Today, because of graphic novels, there’s no place for aspiring women cartoonists to go but forward.” – Trina Robbins, Pretty in Ink (2013)
 While I realize we just finished Women's History month, that's no reason to stop looking at women's contributions. Below is a review/ summary of Trina Robbin's Pretty in Ink.

Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896-2013 by Trina Robbins discusses the lives, times, struggles, and contributions of women in the world of cartoons and comics.   [For high school and older.]
Pretty in Ink by cartoonist and comic historian, Trina Robbins, explores 117 years of women’s contributions of female cartoon creators and artists. Not only does Robbins discuss the lives of these women, but she puts them and their contributions in the context of their times. Pretty in Ink is a history of women cartoonists and of the cartoon/comic industry as a whole. Robbins has researched and relayed the stories behind the comics and cartoons, along with some samples of their gems.
Pretty in Ink relates the role of women in the history of comics in eight chapters:
Trina Robbins Pretty in Ink 2013
  • The Queens of Cute
  • The Pursuit of Flappiness
  • Depression Babies and Babes
  • Blonde Bombers and Girl Commandos
  • Back to the Kitchen
  • Chicks and Womyn
  • See You in the Funny Pages
  • Postscript: 21st Century Foxes
Below is a brief summary (with little time or room to mention all the awesome women who've paved the way for others while giving women a cultural voice):

Chapter 1: “The Queens of Cute” is devoted to the first women creators or artists of comics. For the most part, women from 1895-1920’s created comics with cute cherubic kids who got into trouble (i.e. Kewpies, and The Turrble Tales of Kaptin Kiddo) or they were creating/writing about suffrage and love (i.e., Flora Flirt). To help make ends meet, many of these women were also drawing for corporate advertising for companies such as Campbell (i.e. the Campbell Soup Kids, Jello, and Ivory Soap).
Rose O'Neill's Kewpies

Nell Brinkley's February 13,1927 The Fortunes of Flossie Sunday page
 Chapter 2: “The Pursuit of Flappiness" takes us from the 1920’s Flappers to The Great Depression. These were the days and times of pretty girls and flappers. Nell Brinkley set the style and stage during the 1920’s with her “Brinkley Girls” whose fashionable clothes and flamboyant hair inspired controversy and fan mail. [Robbins notes that Florenz Ziegfeld made his fortune glorifying Brinkley Girls in his Ziegfeld Follies.] Robbins, continues, however, noting that while Brinkely created the penultimate female, her daily panels provided sharp commentary of women’s roles and rights of her time, “squeezing” in important comments on suffrage, working women, and women in sports. In this chapter, however, Brinkley is just the starting point. Robbins then discusses the other women contributors of this era and their valuable contributions to comics.

Chapter 3: “Depression Babies and Babes" takes us from roaring parties to depression.  Robbins notes that while the average heroine of the 1920’s had been a pretty girl, often a “co-ed” with nothing on her mind but boys, the 1930’s plunged America into a The Great Depression and brought us “The Depression strip”  (i.e. Apple Mary by Martha Orr).

Robbins notes,
“This type of strip featured unglamorous protagonists dealing with real problems: poor but happy American households; upbeat unflappable orphans; plucky working girls (i.e. Brenda Starr by Dale Messick) out to earn a living rather than merely having a good time.” (p. 51).
Image from

Chapter 4: “Blonde Bombers and Girl Commandos" reflects America in 1940’s – a country teetering on the brink of war. Robbins notes that movies, pulp fiction and the new medium of comic books all echoed the action-oriented themes of war.  While earlier comics had been about cute animals and kids and pretty girls out to have fun in a carefree world, women were now more involved men’s world – both in the story content and in their production. Dale Messick’s Brenda Starr, for example, paved the way with a Rita Hayworth-like reporter who parachuted from planes, joined girl gangs, escaped from kidnappers, almost froze to death in snow-covered slopes, and got marooned on desert islands.  Other comics followed with female spies, female commandos and undercover agents soon followed.
Brenda Starr: Reporter by Dale Messick - image from
Robbins notes, however, that while other comics had women as foils for the hero to rescue, only the Fiction House comics had women in charge.  Fiction House, started in 1936 by Jerry Iger and Will Eisner was also the company that hired more women cartoonists than any of the others. It was also one of the only publishers who had women writing the stories.
As America entered the war, women assumed men's places at work as the men went off to fight. Robbins notes that while few women drew the costumed heroes that had been popular since Superman in 1938, most exceeded at and drew female figures. Typical wartime heroine titles were “Yankee Girl” (drawn by Ann Brewster), or “Blonde Bomber” and “Girl Commandos” (drawn by Jill Eglin and later Barbara Hall). Furthermore, women were able to work under their own names.  The only times pseudonyms were used was when drawing and/or creating action strips.  Those were male domains.

Chapter 5: “Back to the Kitchen" relates what happened to women and the industry after the war. The returning men assumed the production of the superhero /action comics while the women developed children’s action comics, teen comics, and love comics. Robbins notes that teen and romance comics continued to employ women throughout the 1950’s, but slowly the number of women in the field dropped, with many of the female artists moving into illustrating children’s books. Robbins pegs the recession in the comics market during the 1950’s to Dr. Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent  which (falsely) claimed that comics were responsible for juvenile delinquency. DC and Marvel, the two major comic book publishers to survive the comic book depression began gearing themselves toward superheroes and the young male market. Female-oriented comic books were being slowly phased out.
by Trina Robbins
Chapter 6: “Chicks and Womyn" relates what the female comic book artists and creators did to survive – they like most of the comic book industry went underground, developing the Comix market. Robbins notes that the early comix were psychedelic, focusing on design rather than story. The women’s underground comics of the (later) 1970’s dealt with political and social issues from the female perspective.
By the 1970’s the only way for women to produce comic books was on their own, and so many women, including Robbins created their own anthologies.  The late 1970’s saw the beginning of a boom in self publishing and small press black-and-white comics. It also saw the rising of comic book specialty stores.
Chapter 7: “See You in the Funny Pages" during the 1980’s and 1990’s attempts at producing comics for women and girls were scattered and mostly all failed because the comic book stores either didn’t carry them or the ordered too few and failed to reorder when their few copies sold out.  These comic book stores became bastions for the young male market the major comic book publishers were courting. In 1993, Robbins notes that “Friends of Lulu” – a group of the comic industry’s women began to create and distribute their own media in “zines” (magazines) with mixed success. Women creating comic strips, however, met with more success as many were self-syndicated.
Chapter 8: 21st Century Foxes" relays the successes and disappointments of the 21st Century (so far).  In terms of the disappointments, Robbins notes that women creators/artists/inkers are still significantly underrepresented in the major publishing houses. She notes, for example that in 2011, as DC opened their new line of comics, The New 52, only 1% of the new line creators were women, and 12% of their canceled strips were done by women. On the positive side, with Will Eisner’s A Contract with God and Art Spiegelman’s 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Maus, the graphic novel became a more accepted art and literary form. Now there was much more than simply superhero stories out there.  There were graphic stories and graphic memoires. And, women were creating their own graphic novels and memoires for adults, teens and kids. Finally, webcomics, which are mostly creator owned have also give women a stronger voice in the industry.  It is on this upbeat note that Robbins ends her history with the hope of even greater access to women’s stories and women’s work in the future.

Amanda Conner and Laura Martin's cover for the collected Girl Comics, by Marvel

I have only recently entered the world of comics and graphic novels (aside from the awesome Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts) and found Robbin's history fascinating and illuminating. I hope those of you visiting, will leave your own memories and accounts of women in comics in the comments below. In the meantime, I have listed a few lesson suggestions for teachers, and as always, thank you for your visit.

Lesson Suggestions for Pretty in Ink:
  • Use this book as a reference to a particular period of American history from 1896 to the present. Look at the comics Robbins selects and analyze/discuss how the reflect the period in which they were written.
  • Selecting various periods of American history (1896-present) compare/analyze/discuss women’s roles in comics versus other industries at that particular time. 
  • Select comics done by men versus comics done by women of a particular tie period.  How do the differ in content, in style, in language?
  • Use this book to discuss the course of American publishing.  How has it changed?  Where is it going today?
  • Reading through Pretty in Ink one gets a very definite perspective on history.  Discuss this perspective and how it influences one’s understanding of the eras involved. Are there other perspectives?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Keeping Your Brain Healthy: Cool Kids' Infographics On Nutrition and the Brain

There has been growing controversy about how to "train your brain" questioning the effectiveness of some of the brain-games in books, apps and brain-gyms.  While they have been found to be fun and stimulating, their effectiveness peaks after a point.  Learning new languages, physical exercise and proper nutrition and gaining ground on the games.  So below, I share an infographic on "Are You Keeping Your Brain Healthy? Brain Boosters and Brain Busters" sponsored by Gourmandia ( and found at ...

...How can you not love this with references to Pinky and The Brain!!!??!!

As always, thanks for your visit and please share how you're boosting your brain with us in the comments below.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Shakespeare through Infographics


Inspired by an outstanding production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Nights Dream this past weekend (University of Ch
icago's Dean's Men Production), I thought I'd take post an interesting collection of facts, quotes and infographics related to Shakespeare and his works.

For me, the brilliance of Shakespeare's work is its timelessness, and his outstanding play with language. All gifts, thrills and treats, the infographics below cannot begin to relate or express. As a result, while fun, I find the infographic limiting.  That said, they can be used to motivate, detail, and summarize aspects of The Bard's genius with language and character.

So, while I provide you with the inforgraphics below to help students and readers learn, appreciate, understand, and simply have fun with Shakespeare  - it his insults, jabs, sonnets, and prose that should be savored and enjoyed. The infographics below introduce his work - be they his "history" plays, his tragedies, comedies, famous quotes, suggested reading, life history, or interesting statistics. They are fun but should be taken and enjoyed ALONG WITH THE  reading and exploration of the texts and plays themselves.

More specifically, the infographics below relay:
  • Aspects of his "History" plays;
  • His tragedies - as told by their deaths;
  • Interesting Shakespeare "statistics";
  • His more famous quotes and where they're from; 
  • helping you "Choose" which Shakespeare play you want to read; and
  • An "anatomy" of Shakespeare's insults
For more on Shakespeare (to supplement the infographics)  please see:

So please enjoy the infographics below, but don't stop here.

INFOGRAPHIC #1: The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare's History Plays - Shakespeare's Game of the Hollow Crown designed by Ricardo Galvez and Produced/Researched by Tom McNamara. Please visit Shakespeare Uncovered ( more Shakespeare infographics. Note these come from PBS's Anatomy of a Scene: Shakespeare like your High School English teacher never taught you.

Hamlet and Macbeth are about a lot of things. Power and revenge. Madness and the otherworldly. But, when you get right down to it, these are plays about death and dying and murder: so that you know evil when it crosses your path.

See Shakespeare’s dark world illustrated and how each character came to their bloody end. (Click on the image to enlarge or open in new window.)
Using Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV, Part One and Henry IV, Part Two as your map, follow the history of rebellion in turn of the 15th century England and the successive stories of three kings: Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V.

Richard II (Click on the image to enlarge or open in new window.)

Henry IV, Part 1 (Click on the image to enlarge or open in new window.)

Henry IV, Part 2 (Click on the image to enlarge or open in new window.)

Look at Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It. They take place in a wood and a forest respectively. Interestingly, “wood” meant “mad” back in Shakespeare’s day. So, it makes sense that while these are settings of enchantment and escape, they are also sites of confusioneven madness: where fairy queens fall in love with ass-headed (literally) common folk; or where you don’t even know if you’re sleeping or awake.

Enter Shakespeare’s Enchanted Forest and see all the comedy (or madness) that ensues. (Click on the image to enlarge or open in new window.)

INFOGRAPHIC #2: Shakespeare's Tragedies by Cam Magee and Caitlin Griffin - summarizing Shakespeare's tragedies in a nutshell. Cam Magee and Caitlin S. Griffin created a infographic that crosses Shakespeare with the people from bathroom signs. It shows every death from the tragedies, plus one of the most famous stage directions ever, from The Winter's Tale: "Exit, pursued by a bear."

An infographic that keeps track of all of Shakespeare's deaths for you

INFOGRAPHIC # 3 William Shakespeare in Statistics The source for this infographic was which I  found at View the full image at NoSweatShakespeare’s
Note that some of the personal 'items' below related to Shakespeare's personal life are believed true, but a good amount of his life was and still is not fully known to us.
View the full image at NoSweatShakespeare’s Shakespeare facts & statistics infographic

INFOGRAPHIC #4: Eight Phrases We Owe to William Shakespeare found at by 2011

INFOGRAPHIC #5:What Shakespeare Play Should I read by and posted by Jessica on 4/23/2013 at

INFOGRAPHIC #6: A Grand Taxonomy of Shakespearean Insults created by Charley Chartwell at

That's about it for this week.  Thank you for your visit. Please leave your own teaching ideas and/or your memories of the thrills and chills of reading/learning Shakespeare in the comments below.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Here's to "Frozen" - How it Touches Us and Makes Us Happy!

Have fun with my a Toast to Disney's Frozen, as we see  how it touched us all...

First, here's Jimmy Fallon, Idina Menzel and Roots singing "Let it Go" with classroom 'instruments'(here's the NBC's link

Then, YOU MUST (if nothing else) watch the fabulous Maddie and Zoe singing "Let it Go" This is my absolute favorite - I love their faces, their expressions, their passion, their energy...all of it. (Here's the link

And then, of course, there's Olaf's wonderful ruminating about "Summer" (Here's the link

That's it for this week.  And while I know there are many more awesome Frozen  links and take-offs to share, I leave that to you - please share them in the comments.

Thank you all for your visit.
Thank you Disney for making this.
Please share your own Frozen gems, stories, or reactions in the comments below.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

King: A Special Edition Graphic Novel by Ho Che Anderson

--> King was originally published in three volumes (1993-2002, Fantagraphics Books), went out of print in 2006, and was republished in a Special Edition, 2010. While very briefly introducing his father’s influence upon him, King focuses most of its attention on MLK’s adult path and his role in the civil rights movement. We learn about King through a weaving of first- and third-person narratives, providing personal glimpses and insights into the man (versus the legend). We learn why he was loved, feared, hated, and revered. We learn how he organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott; how he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and their Crusade for Citizenship, Freedom Rides, Lunch Counter Boycotts, Project C, and Birmingham Manifesto; we read about the March on Washington and his “I Have a Dream” speech (among others); his role in Chicago and CORE and his growing struggle promoting non-violent protests; and his tragic death in 1968. Aside from King’s own personal life, we also learn of his relationship with his colleagues, communities, and with politicians such as the Kennedys and Lyndon B. Johnson. We learn not only about what he did, but how he navigated through politics and social change.

King opens with Martin as a boy in 1935, knocking on his father’s office door as his father’s preparing for his weekly sermon. Young Martin is urged to get to his place I the pew with his sisters. While we experience little else of King’s childhood this inference to his father’s influence is well done and well placed. The remainder of the book deals with King’s growing concern, participation and leadership in the American Civil Rights Movement.
King by Ho Che Anderson, Fantagraphic Books
We learn of the movement’s inner workings, its challenges and tactics, and King’s persuasive push for nonviolent protest.  What makes this so special is Anderson’s creative use of the graphic novel format, telling this story through a collage of narratives, dialogue, photos and images that effortlessly meld multiple perspectives. As a result the book feels like an honest depiction of the man while relaying the struggles and conflicts faced by all those involved. What’s so unique about Anderson’s storytelling is that King is not so much the main character, as he is a primary player in the particular place and time in history. It is as much about the Civil Rights Movement as it is about King.
Anderson brilliantly and creatively plays with this graphic novel format and collage, creating a textured story and feel, similar to that of a documentary film. Interestingly, in the beginning of the book, the images are done in black and white with a splash of red reflecting more violent moments in history. Towards the end of the book, the feel of the art changes as does Anderson’s use of color. While a reflection on my part, it feels like the color is introduced at the same point in history as color television became more available and accessible, and the art style also seems to reflect the growing popularity of the cubist movement at that time as well. Just as Anderson provides multiple voices in his narratives of King, he provides us with multiple visual aesthetics as well, creating a textured, personal “feel” throughout his story.
King by Ho Che Anderson, Fantagraphic Books
  I'll be posting more about this later and instead, want to leave you, at the close of Black History Month, with some of King's oratory gems:
 King, mobilizing the Montgomery bus strike:
 “American citizens…determined to acquire our citizenship to the fullness of its meaning…our protest is a revolt with the system, not against it. We are out to reform…determined to get the situation corrected…we are here this evening to say to those who have mistreated us that we are tired of being segregated and humiliated by the brutal feet of oppression… Now, unity is the great need of the hour...If we protest courageously and yet with dignity and Christian love, when the history books are written, somebody will have to say ‘There lived a race of people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights and for what they believed.’”
King, questioning Black leadership on They Myron Files television show, early 1960's:
--> “…We always believed the White Church would stand with us through our struggles. Instead they’ve stood against us…Murray, once the Church shaped society. Today it measures rather than molds popular opinion.”  King, on the need for non-violent protest:
--> “Obviously we want to gain the city-wide desegregation of all public facilities. But to bring that about we have to attack the business community rather than the city or federal governments. Basic activist philosophy, you don’t win against a political power structure where you don’t have votes, and so far we don't have much of a voting presence despite what the same Toms may watt to believe with JFK… Anyway… you can win against an economic power structure when you have the economic power to make the difference between a merchant’s profit and loss.”   King, shortly after the Rosa Parks incident, addressing an audience at the Holt Street Baptist Chirch, rural Montgomery:
-->    “…our protest is a revolt with the system, not against it…We are here this evening to say to those who have mistreated us that we are tired of being segregated and humiliated by the brutal feet of oppression. We have sometimes give our white brothers the feeling that we liked the ways we were being treated. But we come here tonight to be saved from a patience that makes us content with anything less than freedom – or justice…Now unity is the great need of the hour. If we are untied we can get many of the things that we not only desire but are due… In our protest there will be no violence, no white person will be taken from his home and lynched Our method will be persuasion, not coercion. Law and order and love must be our regulating ideals! ..If we protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian love, wen the history books are written somebody will have to say ‘There lived a race of people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights and for what they believed.’”
Excerpts from King's "I Have a Dream Speech" March on Washington, August 28, 1963:
"Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination... One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check...Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check. A check which has come back marked, 'insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt... So we have come to cash this check - a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom ad the security of justice...
...There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you  e satisfied? WE can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horror of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one... 
...I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the movement I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream. I have a dream that one day the nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed "We hold these truths to be self-evident - that ALL men are created equal."...I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day...When we let freedom ring. Wehn we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, Black men and White men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual - Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty - we are free at last!"
King by Ho Che Anderson, Fantagraphic Books
 For teachers and parents who want some additional resources on King, please see:
·      The King Center – with digital archives of his work and speeches (including hand-written notes he added to telegrams and speeches); an overview of Dr. King’s life and King’s philosophy (including his six steps and principles of nonviolence and nonviolent social change;
·      PBS’ American Experience: Civil Rights Movement Non-Violent Protests -  contains related videos, photographs, interviews, press coverage and primary sources, milestones, reflections, notes for teachers, and more.
· - contains links and details of the Brown v. Board of Education Decision
·      Watch, read and listen to Martin Luther King’s speeches at
·      Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have a Dream speech – text and audio
· - multimedia resources from the Library of Congress that support the teaching about civil rights
·      Historical places of the civil rights movement – We Shall Overcome: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary with an introduction, itinerary maps, list of sites and links to learn more.
· - civil rights history resource.
· - Teaching ideas for teaching the civil rights movement in American literature (all grade levels)
· - poems of the Freedom Movement
·      Freedom Rides – detailed information and additional links through
·      Notes and brochures of the SCLC’s Crusade for Citizenship found now at The King Center.
·      For a more interactive link on The Freedom Rides, a production of “American Experience and PBS offers links retracing the route of the ride; first-person accounts of the rides through biographies, photos and film clips; a timeline of the events; and a discussion of the issues.
·      Lunch counter sit-ins and other Civil Rights Movement campaigns and events found at
·      PBS explores Project C and the Birmingham Campaign with photos and film clips; provides President Kennedy’s response to the violence in Birmingham; a segment on “Birmingham and the Children’s March; and more – including a “Quiz: The Year 1963”
·      The History Channel’s interactive link on The March on Washington – with video clips of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the March from Selma to Montgomery; background on the March on Washington; and information on how King’s sppech became an impromptu addition; 
·      Background on the Emmett Till murder and PBS’ American Experience: The Murder of Emmett Till with further readings; a timeline; teacher’s guide; and more.
·      Separate is not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education – resource material provided by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History – with links to other important milestones in the civil rights movement.
· - guide for students on how to conduct oral history interviews with samples of American slave narratives and other primary resource sets
· - History channel list of links and resources
· and - provides extensive lists for further reading on the civil rights movement for students of varying ages and reading levels.

As always, thanks for your visit.  Please leave your impressions and opinions in the comments below.