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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

Teamwork: In Government and In Explanation

from graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:

While editorial pundits offer up simplistic bits and pieces of opinion purporting to “inform”  readers and listeners about the why’s and wherefore’s of government programs, it takes a team of creative communicators to provide a truly insight-provoking explanation of something as complex as the Affordable Care Act. Simple soundbites may be attractive but they don’t educate, and an educated citizenry is a necessary underpinning of democracy.

In the hands of the economist on the team that helped to design of the Act’s how’s, an author who could “translate” the economist’s academic and technical language, and a cartoonist who explicated the verbal with visual elaboration and support, Health Care Reform (reviewed below) makes sense, not just good sloganeering. Economist Gruber’s insider knowledge, Newquist’s clarifying rhetorical skill and Schreiber’s readily interpreted visual idiom do what we can only hope the best team teaching does. They provide, together, a unified event more powerful than any one of the team could devise on his own (at least, on this particularly complex subject).

It’s not just that what the reader can’t understand in the verbal communication is available in the visual. As with any good sequential art narrative, that isn’t the case. Instead, the complementarity of media brings the reader’s full attention to what lies behind both word and image: the content of meaning. In this case, too, that content isn’t limited simply to this specific instance of government work, but also encompasses a larger understanding of what underlies any valuable government work: a well coordinated team approach, independent oversight, and appeal to the interests of diverse stakeholders.

Not so different from the best classroom?

GRUBER, Jonathan & H. P. Newquist. Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary and How It Works. illus. by Nathan Schreiber. 151p. charts. diags. illus. maps. bibliog. Hill & Wang. 2011. Tr $13.95. ISBN 978-0-8090-5397-1. LC 2011020495.  Health Care Reform

Adult/High School–This graphic novel is an excellent team effort, with Gruber’s technical vocabulary running through Newquist’s simplified rewording, without any loss of accuracy. Schreiber’s imagery of the four demographic groups of Americans most touched by and concerned about the new national Affordable Care Act enhance the detailed clarifications and explanations that Gruber, the MIT economist who helped to develop the nuts and bolts of the affordable health care plan, provides in this thorough but accessible work. By setting out the details of the book’s subtitle, the work as a whole not only addresses questions and concerns about this new act, but also gives readers new insight into how different offices of government actually do their work. By placing the whole in the context of a clearly drawn comic, the creators address readers’ need to slow down, look at each issue in both theory and practice, and build upon whatever understanding of the act–even if none–that they have brought to reading it. Parts of the narrative are realistically presented while others draw on reliable and easy-to-recognize icons, such as a cartoon Uncle Sam, or a maze of twisting and confusing lines. As a book for discussion, research gathering, and developing a personal understanding of how government, as well as the specific health-care act, works, this is a laudable choice.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.