The Horn Book website has lots of material of interest to teachers. Here are some areas to explore. And follow us on Twitter: #lollysclass

Common Core State Standards

Interviews with authors and illustrators

Recommended books -- reviews and themed book lists

Book app reviews

Movie reviews

School -- reading in school, author visits, and more

Blogger bios

Suggestion box: what else to you want to see in Lolly's Classroom?

Three graphic novels | Class #5, 2016

boxers & saints    tamaki_thisonesummer


Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (First Second, 2013)



The One Summer by Mariko Tamiki and Jillian Tamaki (First Second 2014)

While teens have been devouring graphic novels, or comics (as Gene Luen Yang calls all such works) for years, they are also enjoying a surge of interest and attention from critics and educators, winning awards and finding their way into high school classrooms.

How might students learn from these texts? Should they be paired with more traditional texts to be meaningful, or can a graphic novel study stand alone? Common Core Standards require students to be able to “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats, including visually” (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7).  How important is visual literacy for our students?


Lauren Adams
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.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

Hannah Flint

Like Caroline, this was my first time reading a graphic novel. I also read "This One Summer" and I was also struck by the emotion expressed in story and pictures and by the way I was impacted by that emotion. Windy and Rose are both living in between childhood and adulthood but they at different places in that transition and the Tamakis capture those subtle differences so beautifully in both the language the girls use and in the images of them. Like Carla, I was struck by how well I understood the characters through their physicality. As I reader I was able to experience their posture and how they move through the world in a way that might have been difficult to capture with words. One note on my experience of reading a graphic novel: I'm a fast reader, and I found myself tending to speed ahead after taking in the few words on each page. It was a real struggle for me to slow down, take in the images, and really pay attention to the ways in which they propel the story forward. I would be interested to discover if, for me, "reading" a graphic novel is somewhat of an acquired skill. My hope is that I will find a more comfortable rhythm as I read more.

Posted : Mar 01, 2016 12:44

Caroline Walsh

This week, I read "This One Summer" by Mariko and Mariko. I am embarrassed to say that this was my first time reading a graphic novel (despite having suggested them to students on several occasions). I was absolutely shocked by the emotional impact that the both the story and the illustrations had on me. Typically as a reader, I am responsible for constructing my own visualization, which stems from both my prior experiences and results in a personalized mental representation of what I am reading. However, the images, and sound effects, throughout the graphic novel are imposed. I was surprised that I enjoyed having the visuals provided to me to the extent that they were. I was so moved my the depiction of the mother's sadness and the tension between Windy and Rose's age difference and readiness for their transition into adolescence. The children's and teenagers' experiences and attempts to rebel and move towards adulthood (the girl at the party with the braces!), was depicted so accurately. Additionally, the authors' ability to depict silence and tension solely through illustration was moving, and a bit eerie. I have not had such a visceral emotional experience while reading a book in a long time!

Posted : Feb 29, 2016 10:15

Debra C.

I read and looked closely at This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki. I loved how Rose and Windy just pick up where they left off and resume their summer activities. It made me slightly nostalgic of my own childhood summers in the Cape. Even though there were so many moments where I felt frustrated with Rose with being caught up in her preteen obsessions and misunderstandings, I appreciated her freedom and her friendship with Windy, as well as her discovery of herself. I loved the images, some dense and detailed, while others were sparse and simple. The images flow together seamlessly and present metaphor for the reader and viewer to consider. For example, the bonfire before Rose's mom rescues Jenny may perhaps be the anger Rose is feeling toward her parents and their strained relationship. Although I believe much of the gossip and teenage dialogue is realistic, I wondered if young people like Windy and Rose would overhear as much as they did in this graphic novel, even in a small beach town like Awago. I felt happy when Windy stood up for Jenny towards Rose. I think students reading this book may be able to relate to having to stand up for something that you believe is right even when your friends are saying something different. Mostly, I think would enjoy entering a space (such as this graphic novel) where they feel they can relate to having the questions and ideas about growing up and know one will judge them for it. .

Posted : Feb 29, 2016 09:59

Carla Cevallos

I had only read one graphic novel in my entire life. It was Maus, by Art Spiegelman. I read it in middle school, and I remember that I really liked the story, but I don’t remember paying much attention to the artwork or thinking about how the prevalence of drawings shapes the reading experience. Revisiting graphic novels this week, as an adult, was a wonderful. I think that at some point in our lives we learn to associate pictures with children’s books, and we forget of how incredibly visual we can be (at all ages) and how much meaning an image can convey (always). As the common saying goes, “an image is worth a thousand words.” This week’s books were perfect examples of how much complexity and feeling can be embedded in images, which doesn’t mean that they are better (or worse) than words, but simply that they bring a different reading experience to the table. This One Summer made me think about the intertwined relationship that pictures and words can build in terms of literary elements. For example, I was completely surprised by how well characterization was achieved without any explicit description whatsoever of what the characters were like. At the end I felt that I knew both girls intimately and understood who they were. Windy, in particular, was beautifully developed with a mixture of very detailed drawings of her facial expressions and movements and her phrases and dialogues, in which you could learn about the way she expressed herself and what sort of things were on her mind. The two things perfectly matched each another, creating a very complete picture overall.

Posted : Feb 29, 2016 08:07

Montserrat Cubillos

I read Saints and also agree that the novel may stand on its own and be perfectly understood. However, I think that the experience of reading it would be even richer if the teacher asked the students to read other texts on the same topic. The comparison between a first-person point of view and an informational text, for example, may spark important discussions around who gets to tell the story of a historical event (this also reminds me of the TED video, Ilana). When I started reading the novel, I thought it was going to be simple; I had a prejudice against comics. Yet, the characters evolve and the story is unpredictable. I loved the sense of humour that the book had and how it compensated for the sadness of the story. The author seems to use text only when it will add something to the vignette and does not like to repeat what the drawing is already saying. Both languages complement each other. Graphic novels are an invitation for students to learn to look closer, to analyze slowly and carefully.

Posted : Feb 29, 2016 07:28

View More Comments


Community matters. Stay up to date on breaking news, trends, reviews, and more.

Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more