One of my New Years’ resolutions is to read more graphic novels, primarily because my students are really drawn to them. Both strong and struggling readers in my class seem equally drawn to this genre, and I see such a variety of topics and genres being encompassed within the realm of graphic novels.
A Bag of Marbles is based on the true story of a family caught in Nazi-occupied Paris, and having to spend the war years in a desperate journey to safety. For ten year old Joseph and his brother Maurice, danger begins the day their mother stitches yellow stars on their jackets. Soon, their beloved Paris becomes too perilous for their family, and their father gives them 10,000 francs to travel all alone to the south of France, which is a free zone. They will find safety and their older brothers, their father assures them, until such time as it is possible to live freely and safely in Paris once again. The two boys manage to make their way to Menton, on the Italian border, but not without many a close call.
I was fascinated by the many twists and turns of this journey, where the boys encountered kind people as well as collaborators quite happy to turn them in. And, even when safety was at last at hand, events suddenly changed and the situation would often be dire once again. I thought Vincent Bailly’s artwork did so much to bring the settings and emotions to life. This would be a wonderful book to share with students in my class, who would be so interested to know what it was like to be Jewish in Nazi occupied France, a time of great peril for these citizens. The graphic novel format allows the reader to “see” so many perspectives all at once – which, I think, could lead to many seeds for discussion and written responses.
Emily Carroll’s Through The Woods was simply terrifying. There were six stories in all, strange, mysterious and spine tingling, just as the jacket copy promises. I was so glad that I chose to read these on a sunny afternoon with my dog Sophie lying near, alert to any danger, and I kept her close at hand for hours after. Each story is beautifully crafted, and although you the reader just KNOW that nothing good is about to happen…you are compelled to keep reading. The illustrations are even more terrifying, and I still have visions of these racing around in my head. Not a good thing.
Some kids will LOVE this, and others will run screaming from the classroom. You, the teacher, will definitely have to make the call as to which student to share this book with!