Rebecca Purdy

World War II Graphic Novels

Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography

These days it’s not uncommon for history to be brought vividly to life in a novelized comic book format called graphic novels.  Recently Sid Jacobson, the author of one such title with teen appeal, spoke as part of the Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series at the University of Mary Washington

His book, “Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography,” co-written with Ernie Colon, provides insight into Anne’s life before and after her famous diary.  When Hitler came to power, her father moved his family from Germany to the Netherlands hoping for safety.  After the Nazi’s invade and begin restricting Jewish activity, Anne and Margot wonder how they will stay cool with the local swimming pool now forbidden.  At the same time, their father desperately attempts to get his family out of the country and when that fails, finds a hiding place in the now famous secret annex.  The most difficult and compelling parts of this tale occur after their betrayal.   We follow the family to the concentration camp, where they are first separated by gender and then the mother from her daughters.  Thanks to information from camp survivors, we learn that Margot perished first, shortly followed by Anne.  Fans of Anne Frank’s diary will enjoy these new details in this heroic young woman’s life. 

For the Future Mountain Climbers of the World

My husband recently returned from a successful summit of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro!  He’d trained hard and I knew he was ready, but I’ve read too many mountain climbing books to sit back and relax.  While it’s not that I don’t love a good adventure from the comfort of my couch, when it comes to my husband climbing a mountain thousands of miles away, somehow it’s only the dangerous parts I remember.  Of course, now that he’s safely home I’m just plain proud and happy to recommend books for the future mountain climbers of the world.  

Early Literacy

Books for early literacy

Much to my husband’s amusement, I’ve recently had homework!  I took my first ever online class on early literacy and the components necessary for every child to learn to read.  This wasn’t the first time I learned these concepts, but as I did my homework I was reminded that many believe reading is a one-sided activity.  It shouldn’t be.  Whether a baby wants to stop and chew on a certain page or a preschooler wants to talk about the pictures, pausing a story to meet that immediate need is an important and often fun experience!  Here are some great read alouds with ideas for how to bring stories to life outside the text.

African-American Folktales

African-American Folktales

Although I grew up with the traditional Grimm fairy tales, when my son was young, it was folktales that we read most often.  Passed down from the oral tradition, they’re perfect for children either as a read aloud or a story you retell together.  In honor of Black History Month here are a few of my favorite from the African-American tradition.

Although a picture book, “The People Could Fly” by Virginia Hamilton, is recommended for older children and teens.  The narrator tells us that in Africa, some of the people “would walk up on the air like climbin on a gate,”  but when they were captured, they forgot that magic.  Sarah, a young woman in the fields, was “standin tall, yet afraid” and had “a babe tied to her back.”  That didn’t stop the cruelty of the Overseer or the one who called himself their Master and she turned to fellow slave, Toby, for help.  He told her, “go, as you know how to go” and Sarah “lifted one foot on the air; then the other.  She flew clumsily at first...then she felt the magic, the African mystery” and was gone.  The next day, a young man fell from the heat.  Toby came and spoke words to him and he flew away.  One after the other, slaves fell and there was Toby helping them soar like birds, towards freedom.  Of course, the Overseer came after him, but Toby just laughed and said “we are the ones who fly” and a group of slaves rose and “flew in a flock that was black against the heavenly blue” with old Toby flying behind them towards freedom.  

Get a Read on Summer

Exciting things are happening at your local library. The summer reading club has begun!

There's a program for children and another for teens. Both are free, fun and designed to keep students reading all summer long. After all, whether it's a book, comic or magazine, summer reading equals summer learning.

The theme for this year's children's club and this column is "Amazing Tales." Be they of the animal, tall, folk or fairy variety, all can be found at your library!

Rules: Love 'em or Hate 'em

17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore

Rules. Sometimes they’re awful and constricting, keeping us from doing what we want. 

That’s the situation in “17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore” by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter. It’s a humorous look at a child learning the rules by doing the wrong things. “I had an idea to do my George Washington report on beavers instead. I am not allowed to do reports on beavers anymore.” The poor girl progresses through a variety of bad ideas like stapling her brother’s hair to his pillow and giving him the gift of cauliflower. All, she learns, are forbidden. Illustrated with pen and ink, actual photographs of the offending items, (the stapler, the cauliflower) are humorously interspersed.
 

Books that are Songs

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!

I like to sing. I don’t do it terribly well, but I don’t let that stop me! Especially, when it comes to books that are songs. They are fun to share with preschoolers who love to hear them. Even if you read them instead, they will enjoy the rhythm of the words. Here are some favorites.

Graphic Novels for Kids

Love that Puppy! The Story of a Boy Who Wanted to be a Dog

Remember comic books? They’re still popular, but so are graphic novels; stories told using the comic form, but published as books. They can be an original tale or a retelling of traditional fiction. “The Swiss Family Robinson,” for example, was recently published as a graphic novel. Well loved by all ages, these books are great for reluctant readers. The combination of minimal text and many pictures grabs their attention and makes reading more accessible. Try some of these with your elementary school students.   

 Peter decides to become a dog in “Love that Puppy! The Story of a Boy Who Wanted to be a Dog” by Jeff Jarka. Not everyone thought it was a good idea, but Peter was happy. Besides he was good at being a puppy. He knew how to sit, beg and perform simple tricks. There were some downsides. His schoolwork suffered and his excuse? He ate it. He also developed an unhealthy interest in the mail and the mailman! Finally, his parents had had enough. That made Peter sad, but he decided to do what they wanted. He hung in there for a while, but one day he couldn’t contain it any longer. Out it came. “Meow?” This laugh out loud book has vibrantly colored illustrations.

Fairy Tales Find New Life

Beastly

You’re never too old for fairy tales! As proof, “Beastly” and “Red Riding Hood,” two movies aimed at teens, have recently been released.” 

Art Books for Young Readers

Look! Look! Look!

 My week has been filled with art! Last weekend, my husband and I enjoyed the Picasso exhibit at the Richmond Museum of Fine Arts. This week, I have been working with colleagues on the 16th Annual Teen Art Show. Both are awe-inspiring and worth a trip! There is a charge for the Picasso, in Richmond through May 15th, but the teen art is absolutely free and runs through March 30 at the Headquarters Library. If you attend either event, or know a child who’s interested in art, there are books to enrich their experience. 

 Three mice find a postcard that was delivered in the people’s part of the house. “Look! Look! Look!” they cry, in this book of the same name. On one side is a beautiful painting of a woman. “They looked from top to bottom, side to side, bottom to top.” One mouse, cuts viewing frames out of pieces of paper. Using their frames they discover the painting in new ways. They notice the patterns on her dress and the way her hand looks so real. They see each individual color and notice which ones are missing. Inspired, they draw the lady using only lines, but soon they recreate her using shapes and before long, are making completely new art. This book, written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace with Linda K. Friedlaender, is a wonderful introduction to not just looking at art, but truly seeing it.