Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Comics in the Classroom

Me, teaching comics, in a classroom. A classroom at the brilliant Teddington School, to be specific. I look a bit confused, don't I? Don't worry, I totally knew what I was talking about. Probably.

 I did a Q&A interview with Dr Matt Finch recently which ended up turning into a guest post over on his excellent blog Books and Adventures, where he's been recently running a series of great posts on Comics and Education. (I particularly enjoyed a couple of recent posts on engaging female students with comics.) I talk a bit about some what I see as the fantastic and diverse benefits of using comics in schools; both as a powerful way of getting kids reading but also as a spur to creativity, and visual literacy, and all kinds of fun things. (And it's not just me, by any means: other posts today on the potential of using comics in schools from such luminaries as Michael Rosen and comics artist and educator par excellence Kev F Sutherland!) 

Anyway, you can read my thoughts over here.

I'll reproduce here for posterity one bit, which was a brief recommended reading list I came up with of Graphic Novels For Children:

The DFC Library is a great collection of new original graphic novels for children (and discerning grown-ups)
  • MeZolith by Ben Haggarty and Adam Brockbank
  • Good Dog, Bad Dog by Dave Shelton
  • The Spider Moon by Kate Brown
  • Monkey Nuts by The Etherington Brothers
  • Vern & Lettuce by Sarah McIntyre
  • Super Animal Adventure Squad by James Turner
  • The Boss by John & Patrice Aggs
  • Baggage by The Etherington Brothers
and of course, last but not least…
  • Mo-Bot High by Neill Cameron
Beyond that, here a few further suggestions: this is a subjective list of both obvious, all-time classic series and a few personal favourites:
  • Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
  • Asterix by RenĂ© Goscinny & Albert Uderzo
  • Tintin by HergĂ©
  • Bone by Jeff Smith
  • The Rainbow Orchid by Garen Ewing
  • Gum Girl by Andi Watson
And for the slightly older kids…
  • Spider-Man (hearts) Mary Jane by Sean McKeever & Takeshi Miyazawa
  • Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan & Adrian Alphona
  • Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Get those in, and there's any school library off to a great start. I'm aware how partial and incomplete that list is, of course, and I'd really welcome any further suggestions - it's something I get asked about a lot by teachers and librarians, and I'd like to have a good comprehensive reading list I can pass on to people in future. Please pass on your own suggestion for things I've missed, either in comments here or fire 'em at me on twitter - I'm @neillcameron.

One thing that list brings me onto is this great point, raised by Richard Bruton on the Forbidden Planet blog. US Publisher Scholastic have a fantastic line of children's graphic novels, including the colour collections of the aforementioned Bone by Jeff Smith and the hugely-acclaimed Smile by Raina Telgemeier, which for some reason Scholastic UK seem to have no intention of publishing UK editions for. In their response to Richard's enquiry they mention that at present there is not a huge market for children's graphic novels in the UK. Whilst I'm not about to dispute that - believe me, I'm not about to dispute that - I'd argue that there is an enormous potential market, and it's exactly by publishing brilliant works like Bone and Smile that you go about converting that potential market into an actual one. If like Richard (and me) you'd love to see these great books launched in the UK, why not drop Scolastic a line - enquiries@scholastic.co.uk, or on twitter at @Scholasticuk using the hashtag #GraphixForScholasticUK?

While I'm on the subject, another thing that I think would go rather nicely in any school library would be a school subscription (or two or three) to the Beano, the Dandy and of course The Phoenix

(I just renewed my son's subscription to the Phoenix for another six months. Admittedly I may be slightly biased here but I really do think it's just an absolutely brilliant comic. The latest issue (cover prictured above) - which I'm barely in, so feel I'm morally okay to enthuse about here - really was just a fantastic read all round; I mean, it's always good, but this issue I felt was stand-out fantastic; in part due to the return of James Turner's hilarious Star Cat, in part due to a very funny and genuinely beautiful instalment of Gary's Garden from Gary Northfield, and in part because Adam Murphy's Corpse Talk this week featured the reanimated corpse of Jane Austen, one of my favourite humans to have ever walked the planet.)

Kids need great comics! That is all.

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