Monday, January 4, 2016

Gareth Hinds & Graphic Novels in the Classroom

Former Vermonter Gareth Hinds is best known for his retelling of classic stories (really classic, like Odyssey classic) in graphic novel form. His latest work, a retelling of Macbeth, was highlighted in the New York Times in this review from February of 2015.

Macbeth will be a focus for Gareth this week, as he visits from his current D.C. home to meet with students at his alma mater, U-32, as well as Montpelier Middle School and High School. Increasingly, educators are looking to Gareth and other graphic novelists as sources of engaging material for classrooms. Once you see Gareth's books, it's easy to imagine how classic stories can come alive on the pages of a graphic novel.

Gareth's next project turns to Edgar Allen Poe, and he notes ". . . I've adapted four short stories and three poems, selected from Poe's most popular works. Each piece is drawn is a slightly different style and time period, and they range from just faintly macabre (Annabel Lee) to downright terrifying (The Tell-Tale Heart)."

Gareth talks about his work and how he thinks about it fitting into the classroom in this Teach.Com interview "The Art of Creating Classics." He'll also be a keynote speaker at the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Conference this May, in Fairlee.

Between now and the Poe publication, you can see Gareth's illustrations in the book Samurai Rising - scheduled to be published February 2nd.

Our Children's Room manager, Jane, anticipates graphic novels and (more broadly) comics increasing in popularity in the classroom. She says: ". . . with visual technology becoming more prevalent in children's lives at younger ages, I think this medium will be more heavily relied upon as a gateway to reading. . . we're also witnessing graphic novels win major literary awards from organizations like the ALA [American Library Association] in categories that include traditional text . . .I think we'll continue to see the bookshelves fill with new offerings from this publishing phenomenon."

Some of these books will come from authors and illustrators educated right here in Vermont at the Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS). Last year, CCS graduate Katherine Roy talked at Bear Pond about using the visual techniques learned in cartoon studies to craft her first picture book, Neighborhood Sharks, which was a finalist for the Sibert Award. The notes on her talk are here. In 2014, CCS announced a new track called "applied cartooning" which focuses on the communications side of cartooning, with skills for conveying information through visual designs. Vermont Public Radio reported on this track and a workshop the Center held for educators in the piece "Cartooning Gets Practical."

We can expect even more national discussion of graphic novels in the new year as graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang takes on the role of Ambassador for Young People's Literature. He follows the previous ambassador Kate DiCamillo. Gene Luen Yang is well known for his graphic novels "American Born Chinese" and "Boxers and Saints", as well as the Avatar series. His newest series "Secret Coders" intertwines mysteries at a strange school and information about computer programming. You can read a new interview with him posted by the Children's Book Council on the Mr. Schu Reads blog at this link.

Publishing, teaching, and book review media outlets also see graphic novels/ books and comics as an important trend in classroom teaching. Some recent articles on the subject:
Plus, some teachers' guides to teaching comics, found via Mr. Schu Reads:

Unfortunately, we weren't able to bring Gareth to our author-educators workshop series (scheduling conflicts), but hopefully in the near future we'll have an opportunity to look more at graphic novels and comics used in the classroom! And don't forget that he's back in town in May for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Conference - we'll mention it again closer to the time.

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