Monday, September 22, 2014

Middle School Monday: Historic Graphic Novels

There are several newer graphic novels based on actual historic events that are great reads for middle schoolers (and up!).  Here are a few of my top picks:

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Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales are graphic novels that tell the thrilling, shocking, gruesome, and TRUE stories of American history. Read them all--if you dare!  There are several in the series:  The first book One Dead Spy. sets up the narrators and their back stories, so it is a good place to start.  Other titles in the series include:  Big Bad Ironclad (a Civil War Tale), Donner Dinner Party (A Tale of Western Expansion), and Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood (a WWI Tale).  Review Katy Jane from says this about one of the Nathan Hale's books:  "Give this to a kid who likes history. Give this to a kid who likes creepy, weird stuff. Give this to a kid who likes a good story. Give this to a kid who likes to learn."

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Ernest Shackleton was one of the last great Antarctic explorers, and he led one of the most ambitious Antarctic expeditions ever undertaken. This is his story, and the story of the dozens of men who threw in their lot with him - many of whom nearly died in the unimaginably harsh conditions of the journey. It's an astonishing feat - and was unprecedented at the time - that all the men in the expedition survived.

Shackleton's expedition marked the end of a period of romantic exploration of the Arctic and the Antarctic, and this is as much a book about the encroaching modern world as it is about travel. But Nick Bertozzi has documented this remarkable journey with such wit and fiendish attention to detail that it's impossible not to get caught up in the drama of the voyage.

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Goodreads reviewer Sharon Tyler summarizes the book:  "I Remember Beirut has simple but striking black and white images that do a wonderful job of telling the story of everyday life. as a child we often see more than adults expect us too, and still miss vital bits of information until we look back at our childhood from a safe distance. Abirached show readers what it can be like living in a war zone, a situation far too many children have had to deal with throughout history, and are still dealing with today. the juxtaposition of what she saw and thought as a child with the full picture that see has of events today make everything come to life and really let readers understand where she is coming from and what others are still struggling with in a variety of locals today.  I would highly recommend I Remember Beirut to readers that want to dive in and understand what it was like to live in Beirut in the 1980's and beyond.

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Goodreads reviewer Steve says "Don't know who the Harlem Hellfighters were? You're not alone. Most people don't. Even professors with interest in highlighting black accomplishments in US history did not know of them. Formed from the 15th Regiment of the National Guard in New York, they spent 191 days in combat -- longer than any other American unit -- they never yielded a trench to the enemy, they never lost a soldier to capture, they were one of the most decorated units in the American force, they prevented Germany from taking Paris and drove them back into Germany, and they were the first soldiers of ANY army during the war to reach the Rhine River. This despite the waves of prejudice and hatred from their own Army, despite having to feign being rifle clubs in order to secure firearms from the government, despite being sent to the racist hotbed of South Carolina and restricted from fighting back against assaults, despite the Army openly demanding that France not overly praise their successes, and despite the fact that because they were black they were not allowed to fight for the US Army but were instead sent to France to fight with the French Army. They were issued French uniforms and helmets but they refused to remove their US gear.

Brooks and White bring this story to life, using some fictional flourishes, but keeping the heart of the regimental story intact. And it is a compelling tale. Imagine the horror and hell of World War I, with the newly advanced fighting machines and weaponry, the sicknesses, the vile nature of the trenches, and the deadly use of various gasses....and then also having to endure indescribably levels of hostility from your own forces because of race. To be so well honored and decorated (Henry Lincoln Johnson, one of the Harlem Hellfighters became the first American, black or white, to receive the Croix de Guerre) and then to have that history buried speaks to one of the great faults of US history and education." Added note: SONY has picked up the movie rights to this graphic novel. 

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