March: Book One


Authors: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

Illustrator: Nate Powell

Publisher and Year: Top Shelf Productions, 2013

Number of Pages: 121

Genre: Non-fiction

march book one page preview 1In March: Book One John Lewis tells about the struggle he has gone through and witnessed since the beginning days of segregation. He highlights the highs and lows of the Civil Rights Movement, and how much influence he had in the process.

This book works hugely as a mirror. There are so many people that can identify with this text, and it is always helpful to get history on one’s culture. This book could work as a mirror for those who can identify with it, a window for those who can’t, and a door for those could learn a lesson from it. The 1950’s-1960’s weren’t an exciting time for African Americans, and John Lewis elaborates on that. In the beginning of the graphic novel, the Whites have all of the power. As time goes on and more Black people realize how powerful a peaceful protest could be, they begin to gain power. The use of peaceful protests is something that is still prevalent and effective today. Perceptually, the pictures mirror and add to the text, and vice versa. Most of the text is dialogue, and the rest are descriptions of scenes, people, and situations.

Structurally, the novel is set up as typical graphic novel would be: pop-out speech balloons and lots of pictures. The characters continuously move to the right, which symbolizes them moving forward. The entire book is in black and white, but the reader can still feel when a scene is “darker” than others. This may also be because the book was about problems between Blacks and Whites, so it would make sense to have the book in black and white only. Some backgrounds are white with black panels, which makes us feel lighter and less tense about what is going to happen next. Other backgrounds are black with white panels or no frames at all. There is usually a life-changing moment occurring on these pages. Ideologically, this story can serve to teach readers about African American history, if nothing else. It shows that everything does not have to be solved with violence, and that peacefully hashing things out can be more beneficial. This story also teaches readers that there are perks to being the bigger person and not letting others get to you.

Terrible Things: An Allegory for the Holocaust

IMG_4274Author(s): Eve Bunting

Illustrator/Photographer: Stephen Gammell

Publisher and Year: The Jewish Publication Society in 1989

Number of Pages: 28

Genre: Fiction


This story begins with a scene of animals in the woods, where everything seems to be going well until the “Terrible Things” come to the woods demanding to take different animals that have a specific trait like having feathers or being able to swim. The “Terrible Things” get away with taking the different creatures because none of the animals try to help the other ones because they do not want to make the “Terrible Things” angry with them. Therefore, group after group of animals are taken away by the “Terrible Things” until all the animals in the forest are gone, except for the one little rabbit who finally decides to go warn the other animals in the forest about what had happened.

This book is intentionally written as an allegory for the Holocaust, and therefore, this book can act as a window for children to learn about this tragic event from history. I also believe it can also act as a door to encourage children to stand up for others and to also question authority. This story shows the “Terrible Things” using coercion to assist in becoming more powerful, which illustrates how the Nazis gained their power in Germany in the 1940s. I believe that this story accurately depicts how the Holocaust occurred and how the people in Germany allowed it to happen, which was out of fear of questioning their authority figures and in hoping to save themselves. When first looking at this book, I noticed that the words are seen on both the top and the bottom of the pages, the “Terrible Things” are always placed at the top of the pages, and that there was no color used throughout the story. From page to page the text seems to be in a different location and I believe that this could represent the chaos that was occurring in the forest and the fact that nobody knew what was going to happen to the animals next. The illustrations within this text are extremely powerful because they are all black and white images and this lack of color exemplifies the dark and cold tone of the story. The images of the “Terrible Things” are always at the top of the page or above the other animals to symbolize their power and high status. I believe that the story itself is deep, but these images give another dimension and seriousness to the words being spoken.

The message that this story is trying to send the reader is that authority should be questioned because sometimes the reason they are powerful is because of the power the people have given them by not questioning them. I also believe that the story was also trying to explain the importance of standing up for others, especially those that do not have a voice.

Why War is Never a Good Idea


Author: Alice Walker

Illustrator: Stefano Vitale

Publisher/Year: Harper Collins, 2007

Pages: 28

Genre: Poetry


Without referring to any war in particular, Alice Walker in Why War is Never a Good Idea, poetically personifies war and its devastation. Walker depicts war as an unpredictable, out-of-control, blind, bad-mannered, gluttonous, and unwise force of man that is inconsiderate of the destruction it wreaks on innocent victims.

 Walker’s book certainly functions as a mirror for readers, especially children who have immigrated to the United States in search of safety and security, or felt firsthand the devastation of war (e.g. through death of a loved one, or flattening of one’s hometown). In addition, Walker’s poem introduces readers who have never felt the impacts of war to war’s many unknowing victims: a boy and his donkey, nursing mothers, ancient artifacts, pumas and parakeets, and civilians who are left to die from contaminated water. Walker’s picture book also calls readers, young and old, to not blindly support a tradition or concept (war) simply because it is old. For, as Walker comments: “Though War is Old / it has not become wise,” carrying with it a bundle of unforeseen consequences and striking at a moment’s glance (p. 16).

 Power rests in the personified hands of War, who acts without thinking, attacks without warning, and consumes without asking. The victims, both human and inanimate, are the unfortunate recipients of war’s havoc. Why War is Never a Good Idea shows lower-class native people (Asian, Hispanic, and African American) and their culture to be destroyed by war. While accurate, this depiction does not fully represent war’s devastation. Only on the final page of the book does a white family of three appear as a victim, individuals who will also have to drink the contaminated water. Non-White soldiers are not the only ones exploited by the war.

 The text communicates the differences between what war is and is not, highlighting how unforeseen consequences lie in this difference. The text also emphasizes the innocence of what war destroys, be it a boy dreaming of polenta and eggs for dinner, or a mother singing a lullaby to her baby. Weapons of war and destruction are illustrated realistically (compared to cartoon drawings) and described rather elusively. The photographs interact with hand drawn landscapes for a dramatic effect (e.g. wheel of truck ripping through the paper on which the village is drawn; little green soldier figurines sucked into a wave of grimy, contaminated water…). Images magnify how from all different angles—taste, smell, sight, and touch—war is bad and futile. Images also elaborate on the cruelty of war. All of the pre-war images of villages and natives are illustrated with a rainbow of bright colors to show their momentary peace and freedom. The colors turn more eerie and burnt as destruction ensues. Why War is Never a Good Idea promotes a global anti-war attitude, criticizes the unlimited power of war, and raises ethical concerns regarding the effects of war on victims.

Amanda Bean’s Amazing Dream

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Author: Cindy Neuschwander/ Marilyn Burns

Illustrator: Liza Woodruff

Publishing Information: Marilyn Burns Education Associates, 1998

Number of Pages: 30

Genre: Picture book

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Amanda Bean is a little girl who loves counting. Her teacher tries to convince her to learn multiplication but Amanda refuses until she has an amazing dream about counting a huge number of things. She realizes that multiplication is very helpful.

This book serves a purpose of giving children basic mathematical common sense about numbers and operations. It functions as a door for children to be interested in math by introducing Amanda Bean who “counts anything and everything” (P. 10).

I found the book problematic in the following two ways. Firstly, Amanda Bean seems to lose control of counting and I do not think it is a healthful habit. For example, “I am Amanda Bean and I count anything and everything” (P. 10) and “Now I must count the yarn, too!” (P. 21), such verses show a couple of times. It might mislead children to think that to love math is to count all the time. Psychologically, it is not proper to encourage children to “count anything and everything” (P. 10). Secondly, one of the ideologies the author conveys is that everything is quantifiable since Amanda Bean is able to “count anything and everything” (P. 10). However, in the real world, a lot of important things are not quantifiable such as love and friendship. It is also important for children to know that life is not all about counting.

Perceptually, the book use bright colors a lot which demonstrate Amanda Bean’s enthusiasm towards math. The images are not framed. Therefore, children can easily participate in the counting process. In her dream that she needs to count many things, the illustrations become chaotic and repetitive which means that the character is gradually losing control. Structurally, there is not any obvious separation between the text and images. Ideologically, this book promotes academic interest and conveys the idea that math is everywhere. Absorbing knowledge and being innovative can help people do better in academia. Besides, this book stresses individuality by mentioning the word “I” all the time. However, the book also points out that “I” is not necessarily correct all the time. “I” need help and accepting help could help “I” do things quicker and better.

The Red Tree

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Author/Illustrator: Shaun Tan

Publisher and Year: Simply Read Books, 2001

Number of Pages: 24

Genre: Fable/Dystopia

IMG_9619 [405976]Analysis: “The Red Tree” is about a young girl who feels trapped in a world of—what seems to be—never-ending sadness. It is not until she realizes that she has to take the good with the bad that her “red tree” grows. This book works well as a mirror for a lot of young girls who feel that they are trapped in a bubble of sadness or sorrow. In the beginning, the young girl feels helpless and almost like she has no power over her life. By the end of the book, she is rejuvenated and hopeful. The images of darkness and confusion seem to be an accurate representation of what sadness would look like if it was tangible.

Perceptually, this book has very few, spaced words. Some images are framed for a limited view, and the images are dark until the girl “reaches the light.” Her name is never given, perhaps because this could be anyone’s story.

Structurally, she walks to the right until she sees her tree-which is when she walks left, to her happy place. The word “wait” shrinks with each page to show a time lapse. She is trapped in a bottle because she feels isolated, and everyone around her is dark and gloomy.

Ideologically, this book teaches that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.