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Illustrated books | Class #5, 2016

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This week’s class (March 1, 2016) focuses on visual literacy: pictures in young adult literature, in works of both fiction and nonfiction. The prompts below address the role of these books in the classroom; you might also respond to the interplay of text and pictures (or wordlessness), or to whatever engages you most about these books with pictures.

Two Picture Books

  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Scholastic, 2007)
  • The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís  (Farrar, 2007)

Three Graphic Novels

  • Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (First Second, 2013)
  • The One Summer by Mariko Tamiki and Jillian Tamaki (First Second 2014)
Lauren Adams About Lauren Adams

Lauren Adams teaches English and ELL at Natick High School and adolescent literature at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Formerly a Senior Editor for The Horn Book Magazine, she regularly contributes book reviews.

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  1. Alex Sucheck says:

    Shaun Tan’s “The Arrival” really moved me. I was impressed–paradoxically–by how anonymous and yet how personal the plot, images, and messages were. The author touches upon a universal note which may resonate with (almost) everyone in the Americas, or in countries of massive historical immigration. It is an atemporal story; it could be taking place in the 1930’s or right now; it doesn’t really matter, because Tan is depicting the feelings that accompany this experience. I was moved by the feelings of silence, loneliness, foreigness (especially his deliberate use of incomprehensible, “alien” scripts, totally invented by him to put us in the perspective of the character). Visually stunning, the author plays with apparently common images–but tweaks them enough so that he makes them universal. It may seem like NYC (that is what I was thinking, linking it to the arrival of my family in the USA), like the endless lines in the immigration halls of Ellis Island–but it is not NYC. It could be any city, London, Naples, Mumbai, Shanghai, San Francisco, Sao Paulo… and the people moving, coming and going, could be from anywhere in the world–he achieves this with the Ellis-Island-like portraits of people. I loved the anonymity and the intimacy of this book: two paradoxical themes which are wrapped up by the universality of emigration/immigration; being in a foreign land; leaving war, devastation; and finding hope. This is a masterpiece.

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