Hudson Valley Parent

HVP November 2015

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24 Hudson Valley Parent ■ November 2015 By JEFF SIMMS T o the uninitiated, graphic novels may just look like oversized comic books. But while some of them take place in the make-believe territory of vampires and zombies, graphic novels also tackle real-life issues such as world history, civil rights and even the love between a father and his son. While comic books in classrooms might lead to detention, graphic novels are increasingly being integrated into schools as a tool to encourage readers of all ages. "You can absolutely teach graphic novels just like any book," says Pau- line Uchmanowicz, an associate pro- fessor of English at SUNY New Paltz who has taught courses on graphic novels for more than 20 years. "You can discuss character, plot, setting and theme." They're slicker, glossier and thicker than traditional comic books, but what truly sets these novels apart is the interaction between text and illustration, Uchmanowicz said. "You can also teach these (graph- ic novels) in a way that analyzes not only what's being said," she explained. "You're looking at other elements too like the way the panels are laid out on a page. The illustra- tions often convey something that the words don't say." Thirteen-year-old Alexa Martins was browsing at Inquiring Minds bookstore in New Paltz recently. The eighth-grader agreed that the overall presentation of the graphic novel— often the creation of one person, rather than a comic book studio— appeals to younger readers. "All the colors and the textures— they add up to something really beautiful," she said. "You can see and feel the effort that the author put into the work." Where to begin Perhaps the most well-known graphic novel today is The Walking Dead, the ongoing Robert Kirkman series that's been mega-successfully adapted for television by the AMC network. Locally, Hudson Valley Zombie Apocalypse is a popular graphic novel series that's regarded as an intelligent, logical take on creatures emerging from the dead in Peekskill. While your local bookstore likely carries graphic novel adapta- tions of familiar titles like Star Wars or the Justice League, there's a lot more to the medium of graphic nov- els than just superheroes and science fi ction. One can also fi nd history, autobiography, and current events. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, is the autobiographical story of an Iranian girl growing up in the 1980s, during the confl ict between Iran and Iraq. A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge presents a variety of different DRAWING IT OUT Want your kids to read? Just add pictures. Forget superheroes. Graphic novels cover everything from history to racial identity to religion . . . and maybe even a zombie or two. "The illustrations often convey something that the words don't say." - Pauline Uchmanowicz , Associate professor of English, SUNY New Paltz

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