Thursday, October 8, 2015


     The most satisfying thing about being an educator is seeing a former student achieve well-deserved success.  One of my former graduate students recently posted this piece for the Scholastic blog on a subject close to my heart.  It's nice to know there are such thoughtful and incisive people at the vanguard of this issue.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Banned Books Week

    As a librarian and educator (not to mention an author), I would be remiss in not noting that we are in the thick of Banned Books Week, which runs through October 3rd.  As a supporter of and writer about comics and graphic novels, I would be remiss in not noting here that the format is often particularly targeted by challenges.  Indeed, the Banned Books Week official website's case study focuses on Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

     Banning a book is cutting off an idea and ideas are the primary force in our learning and growth.  It's sometimes easy to say "well, sure, but not that idea.  That one's just trouble.  There are so many others to help us learn and grow."  But it's the notions that seem most uncomfortable, most painful at first that often prove to be the ones we need to become something better than we are, as a person or as a society.
      Something to consider as you take full advantage of the indispensable intellectual freedom we are afforded here by picking up a banned book and seeing what all the fuss is about.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


     The Austrian writer Peter Handke said "if a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood."
     Stories are how we come to understand the world we live in and navigate it as we grow.  With luck, a human being will find one or two in childhood that he or she can carry for an entire life.  After all, without a childhood, how can we ever properly grow into adults?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Comics Connector

     The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been safeguarding the rights of comic book professionals for almost forty years now.  Recently, they launched the Comics Connector online resource, which helps schools find people who work in the comic book field to come for visits and discussions.  For more on this excellent initiative to tap into the form's educational potential, have a look at this article from School Library Journal, which includes comments from yours truly.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Truth, Justice and the American Born Chinese Way

 Gene Yang comes to the writing duties on the monthly Superman comic with impressive credentials, among them American Born Chinese, the first graphic novel ever nominated for the National Book Award.  It shouldn't be so shocking then that he has managed to tell a fresh story with this venerable character, nor that he balances his own particular voice with the tried and true rhythms of the quintessential superhero comic (ably assisted, it must be said, by veteran John Romita Jr.'s dynamic visuals).  His most awe-inspiring achievement, though, is that he has perfected the central relationship of the piece and, more astounding still, managed to evolve it.  Over seventy-seven years, the Lois/Superman relationship has been done well often enough, but Mr. Yang gets it so right it makes you realize this is how it was supposed to be all along.  Lois doesn't need Superman because he's big and strong.  She needs him because she understands what he sacrifices for the sake of others and for his deep and honest (and necessary) innocence.  Superman doesn't need Lois because she's pretty.  He needs her because she understands things in a way he never can, an understanding which breeds a certain toughness in her, but which she still balances with humanity.     
      This relationship is proudly on display in Superman 43, where it reaches a new level as Lois makes an impossible decision for Superman that he fails to make for himself.  At the heart of all this, of course, is Mr. Yang's ability to write compelling characters and to find a certain heroism even in those who aren't superheroes.