from graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:
No Starch Press continues to translate and produce a series of books that provide fact and fiction combined in a perfect balancing act. While Larry Gonick and Stan Mack have given us excellent nonfiction resources in sequential art form, this series takes a different approach. Gonick and Mack both utilize cartoons to document facts. The approach used in “The Manga Guides” series is more layered in format terms: there is a running manga story in each volume, while the facts of the subject of the volume are discussed most directly in illustrated, but not cartoon, narrative pages, paragraph-style. Both explicit and implicit in the manga story, however, can be found elements of the topic under “serious” study. For instance, in The Manga Guide to the Universe, the storyline includes episodes of the characters discussing astronomical principles, but as teens might with friends and siblings, not as mini-lectures for the reader. On the other hand, implicit in the manga story are some witty touchstones for the science: a piece of chewed gum on the floor leads to a discussion of the universe’s capacity to both expand and implode, the high school science teacher admits to having played several dramatic roles—all in stories that cleverly involve space-time issues, such as Alice in Wonderland–and then there is the kickoff point of the whole tale, which finds our leading lady wanting a Romeo for her Juliet to yearn for—under the moon, of course.
Besides the take-away of hard science made accessible, the series can serve as a model of effective teaching as well:
- Stories do help the listener/reader to track “hard” information
- Humor helps us learn by relaxing our resistance
- Difficult concepts can be explained clearly without belittling the audience
ISHIKAWA, Kenji & Kioshi Kawabata and Verte Corporation. The Manga Guide to the Universe. tr. from Japanese by Arnie Rusoff. illus. by Yutaka Hiragi. 239p. diags. illus. photos. index. No Starch. 2011. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-59327-267-8. LC number unavailable.
Adult/High School–This volume is an excellent starting point for teen readers, teachers, librarians, and others who have yet to encounter No Starch’s Manga Guides series. Basic information about the solar system and science studies that spring from astronomy are presented at a level that is accessible to average high school students, with the scientific text illustrated in black and white with charts and photographs. What makes the book stand out, however, is the surrounding high school story presented in manga: the girl who wants to be the star (yup, pun intended), the new kid at school, the adults who have some wisdom to impart and some to learn from their charges. The manga story is robust in both narrative flow and images. How this fiction and the science of astronomy are interwoven is the genius of this presentation. By moving between the two, readers are pulled along through the rough patches of comprehension–whether it is the fact or the fiction that gives any individual reader pause. The series consistently does this juggling act well, in each instance giving readers the equivalent of team teaching.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA