If Stone Arch didn’t create such interesting titles, that group of boys might have put down the 4 books I had (2 Batman and 2 Superman titles) and gone to their next class. Instead those boys were so entranced that they sat in the reading area and kept reading through half another period beyond their class. Whenever someone asked what they were doing, they said, "Ms Chen told us to read these." Finally I had to pay attention to what was going on and confront them.
Sheepishly they admitted that, yes, I had told them to stay in the library with those 4 books because they hadn’t been processed and I needed to review them. They also admitted that they were having such a good time chatting about the books and reading them with other people that they had just stayed and stayed and stayed. Other boys would drop by and they’d hand them a title and say, "You gotta read these and tell Ms Chen if they’re any good." They knew the bell had rung but they were still reading.
Michael Dahl and Eric Stevens, you two may have to warn me if your books are going to entrance my students. I thought I was simply sharing four Super DC Heroes titles. Little did I know that I’d be starting an underground movement. Students slide up beside me and ask where I’m keeping "those books that got so-and-so in trouble."
I asked the students if they thought I should give these books to another nearby elementary school. "NO!" they shouted. I stepped back and rethought. Then I asked, "If I were to keep these and purchase another set, do you think the elementary school would like them?" Yes, they did think that was a good idea. As long as these four books didn’t leave the library. They leaned towards me intimidatingly and said, "Make sure you don’t lose these."
Tonight one of the girls was waiting on the front steps for her ride so I sat down to keep her company. "Tell me what you think of these books," I said. She read through them and agreed that they were going to be big hits among the boys. When I mentioned that next year some female Super DC Heroes were coming like WonderWoman, she really lit up. "I’d really rather read about girl superheroes," she said. She told me that guys get all the good stuff when everyone knows its the girls that are the real strong ones. "And when did you say you’d have that WonderWoman book?" she asked.
Uh, oh! I see potential trouble here. Am I going to have more teachers calling and asking if I have lured their students away from class with my good books? Who would guess these 48 page titles could instantly invoke such strong feelings?
Let’s look at them. Superman: The Museum Monsters was written by Michael Dahl and illustrated by Dan Schoening. I love the villain of this title – Mr. Mxyzptlk. Who cares if its hard to say? The students liked Superman’s frustrations. What? There is a plot and development in this book?! Amazing. As the students told me, there are not TOO many pictures to make it seem babyish. It’s a totally cool book to carry around even though it’s a novel.
I preferred Superman: Last Son of Krypton written by Michael Dahl (who must never sleep) and illustrated by John Delaney and Lee Loughridge. Again in simply 5 chapters this title achieves admirable depth. We learn of Superman’s home world (true to the original, ye loyal fans) and gain a sense of the young Clark Kent caring for his foster family. Well done, team.
On to the two Batman titles. Now, I have to tell you that secretly (oh well, not so secretly since it’s in my blog), I am a huge Catwoman fan. I like cats, shiny objects, and taking the things I want, with maybe a little romance with the big mysterious guy once in awhile to humanize me. Amoral? Immoral? Let’s forget those grown-up words and focus on the books readers.
Batman: The Revenge of Clayface was written by Eric Stevens and illustrated by Gregg Schigiel and Lee Loughridge. Sometimes a parent wonders how they can convey their love of a character and their background knowledge without co-opting the discovery experience of comics for kids. (Well, if you don’t you should!) Clayface is a great character who can’t easily be labeled good guy or bad guy. He is out solely for revenge, but so is Batman. I like the way this title causes the reader to pause and think about motivations. Oh, yes, Joker makes an appearance and we all love/hate the Joker.
The last of the four in my hands is Batman: Emperor of the Airwaves written by Donald Lemke and illustrated by the team of Erik Doescher, Mike DeCarlo, and Lee Loughridge. My favorite line? "Blasted! Fooled by a bird (girl) with a brain!" Librarians will appreciate the ending of this title. Teachers will attempt to use the discussion questions and writing prompts. Kids will ignore the teachers and simply enjoy the books.
Oh, no! What’s this I see at the end? A page showing 6 titles in each series?! Don’t those rascals at Stone Arch realize that my students are going to march in and demand we purchase more?! These publishers are getting too clever. Now I’m going to have to go out and purchase more books in the series.
Well, readers, if you have students who request "comic books," these titles are going to satisfy them with the characters while tricking them into actually R-E-A-D-I-N-G words in a novel format. So far, the students don’t mind.