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Katie's Korner: Graphic Novel Reviews for Schools and Libraries

Little Bird: The Fight for Elder's Hope
Published by: Image Comics
Written by: Darcy Van Poelgeest
Illustrated by: Ian Bertram
ISBN: 9781534313453
Ages: 16+

Review

“The elders say that during our youth, part of us still remains in the dream. A home to distant memories and forgotten stories, until the time comes when we need them once more.”

 

- Little Bird -

Teamed up with Angulouleme nominated artist Ian Bertram, writer and Award-winning filmmaker Darcy Van Poelgeest bring readers a deep dive into a dystopian sci-fi story that has the power and scope to rival Harry Potter, Star Trek, Star Wars and, yes, indeed so much more.

While an advancing force threatens her family and her people in the Canadian Rockies, Little Bird’s warrior-mother asks her to hide underground, stick to the plan, and to understand that hope still exists. Just as she hands another warrior a map detailing where they can find the mysterious Axe, who may be able to help save them all, she replaces the ground above Little Bird’s head and says “Elders be with you.”

Three days later, Little Bird decides she can wait no longer and comes out from her hiding place. The story had begun through her mother’s perspective. When she comes out of hiding, however, Little Bird makes it clear that this is her story and it’s worth reading, for all who seek hope: “My name is Little Bird and this is the story of my life. And my death. A story about my mother, my father, and everyone else that’s tried to kill me.” Unsure of where to go and who to trust Little Bird begins her quest to understand what is really going on and what it has to do with her, her family, her people, and the greater world.

When she finds the headset of one of the New Vatican dead soldiers she tries it on. Inside, Little Bird sees a screen with a rugged man and a wounded face; he is standing in front of a flag with a cross and American red and white stripes. Also wearing a vicar holy collar, the man on the screen is talking to his troops about how the Lord has shown them victory over Little Bird’s people: “sending terrorists back into the rightful judgement of our Lord and Savior - - Jesus Christ - - is just the beginning of our work. We must remain vigilant and let nothing stand between us and his HOLY EMPIRE!”

Little Bird acts quickly as she sets out on the treacherous and freezing Rocky Mountains alone searching for answers. She knows the watch must be really important and that she must try to find the mysterious “Axe” in order to figure it all out.

When she finds Axe, he flashbacks to a traumatic event from thirty years ago, an inner and outer battle he no longer wishes to fight that seems to link to the rising Holy Empire. But Little Bird inspires him, and she also delivers the watch to him. Now he knows. Teamed up and with the world on fire, Little Bird and Axe are now up against a mighty foe.

In a city called "New Vatican, the United Nations of America,” the leader of the destructive army that destroyed her people (“Tantoo’s Canadian Resistance”) has just deemed himself the new savior and the Lord of the Holy Empire (aka: Bishop). And who is Tantoo? Tantoo is Little Bird’s mother. With Tantoo in captivity, the Reverend Mother asks the newly deemed Lord what he plans to do with his feelings toward her, and the reader is met with a mysteriously engaging answer: “I can assure you that whatever my feelings might have been in the past - - my only desire now is to extract what we need and be done with her. Gabriel’s well-being is of course the priority but . . . perhaps the resurrection gene can serve . . . a higher purpose.” The Lord and his Holy Empire have been running genetic modification experiments at various locations, and the Reverend Mother warns the Lord that the Holy Council might not want him using their resources just on his own son (Gabriel) without prior approval.

Despite the secret, the new Lord plans to take over and arrives on a balcony to tell his people that this is now “A time when we no longer bend policy to the whim of science or take orders from financial elites. When we no longer pray at the altar of Wall Street or Darwinian obscurities. We have turned to God as the only and only true authority . . . . Assured as I am the Vicar of Christ.”

What can Little Bird and Axe do against such a force that has successfully based itself in manipulating people’s minds into following a selfishly tainted and poisoned new Holy Empire out to kill in order to rule the world?  

Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: After her mother left her hidden underground during a battle, and did not return, Little Bird comes out of hiding. With her mother and people missing, Little Bird wants to know what it all means: her mother’s actions, her mother’s words, her mother’s gift of a watch, and her mother’s illusive statement about someone named Axe.  Sensing a call to duty and family, Little Bird remembers her mother’s emphasis on the “Elder’s Hope” and begins her epic role in a story named after her.

Major Characters: Little Bird, Little Bird’s Mother, Axe (Axel Joseph Pitre), God, Saviors, the Bishop/Lord, Reverend Mother, Bishop, Gabriel, Tantoo’s Canadian Resistance Warriors, Wolf, Fred, 75, Army of Twelve, Doctor Brandt, Tantoo, Kindness, Jesus, Captain Delyth Evans, Reverend Davenport, Oki, Sarge, Miltech, Rebel Fighters and Resistance Fighters, Global Council, the Black Lace Weaver, Jackson

Major Settings: Canadian Rocky Mountains, Little Bird’s Hidden Location, New Vatican (The United Nations of America), Rocky Mountains (22,658 feet), Northern Guard Penitentiary for Genetically Modified Beings, Axe’s Flashback to Thirty Years Before the Story, the World Within Little Bird and Her Mother, Stranger’s Country Home, New Vatican’s Secret Staircase, Alberta Badlands Northern Guard, Elder’s Hope, Fort Sask, the Foothills

Themes: Hope and Family; Vanity and Dogma; Saviors; Life, Death, and Resurrection; Religion and Power; World Building


Lesson Plan Recommendations Using the Common Core Standards

Key Ideas & Details

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.3

Analyze the impact of the author's choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

*The number(s) referenced above corresponds to the number used by the Common Core Standards (www.corestandards.com

Lesson Plan 

Directions: Louise Rosenblatt’s (1929) scholarly leadership on Reader Response Theory, which continues to be a trusted theoretical literary lens today, claims that when a reader and a text come together they create a unique aesthetic experience. In short, the text and the individual come together and have a unique and evolving interaction throughout the story, a relationship particular to that reader and that text alone.

Create a handout with has at least two - three triangles on it; be sure to leave space for students to write at least two - three sentence paragraphs next to all three points of the triangles. Label the right bottom edge of each triangle “Reader,” and draw a stick person below the word. Label the left bottom edge “Text,” and draw a book below the word. Next, draw a lightbulb at the top point of your triangle and write “Aesthetic Experience.” When a reader and a text come together they have a unique aesthetic experience (epiphany, Ah-ha!, or lightbulb moment) with the text that only they can explain or understand at certain points in the story.

As detailed above, spend at least a half hour teaching students about Reader Response Theory and Louise Rosenblatt’s early twentieth century scholarly role. Give students a few examples from your own reading experiences, and ask them to share one or two of their own as well.

Because Little Bird does not follow a traditional story path (beginning-middle-end) it is critical for readers to be able to identify and to comprehend the significance of linked plot points. Each time students find plot point links and think “Oh, Ah-ha! There it is!” they need to fill out a triangle. They will need to write a paragraph next to “Reader” that explains how they were personally reading the text at the time. They will also need to write a paragraph explanation next to“Text” (what in the text peaked a connection) and near “Aesthetic Experience” (what was their epiphany or lightbulb moment that occurred to them at that point).

Each triangle will have three paragraphs, and students will need to identify at least ten Reader Response moments from the story


Stargazing
Published by: First Second
Written by: Jen Wang
Illustrated by: Jen Wang
ISBN: 9781250183873
Ages: 8+

Review

From New York Times best-selling author-illustrator Jen Wang comes an entirely new tale for middle grade readers. An uplifting story about middle grade friendship, turbulence, and the similarities and differences that ultimately bring diverse communities and friends together, Stargazing is a must-read for all middle grade readers and educators.

Christine has never met anyone like her family’s new neighbors, YuWen Lin and Moon Lin. A middle grader like herself, Moon is artistic, spontaneous, creative, curious, brave, and a confident new addition to Christine’s life. Plus, Moon’s mother YuWen supports and encourages Moon to be different and to always be herself. Fascinated, Christine and Moon quickly become best friends.

In fact, they are planning to do a K-Pop song and dance routine at the upcoming school talent show. As the two become even closer Moon tells Christine her biggest secret; Moon sometimes has visions of celestial beings who communicate with her from the stars. These celestial beings even assure Moon that Earth is not truly where she belongs.

Despite a slight miscue during her first few days of school, the other students also seem to be learning to appreciate Moon and all of her differences. As a result, Christine begins to wonder about her own identity in their shared Chinese American community. Can she paint her toenails, like Moon does? Can she too go to her first K-Pop concert? Can she learn to do a K-Pop dance routine with Moon for the talent show?

When a catastrophe strikes, however, Christine’s questions and insecurities about herself come to a tipping point. Is she Moon’s friend? Is she acting like Moon’s friend? Is she afraid of

something? Is it ok not to know the answers to all of these questions?

Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: When Moon and her mother YuWen move in next door, Christine becomes Moon’s new best friend; she is fascinated by Moon’s artistic and care free spirit. When a real-life problem suddenly emerges, however, Christine must decide if she can be the friend Moon deserves and needs.

Major Characters: Choir Director, Christine Hong, Stephanie, Nellie Hong, David Hong, Moon Lin, YuWen Lin, Vivian, Hayden Mills, Angela, Ling, Andy, Harris, Madison, Mr. Pennypacker, Chara’s Angels, Li Bai

Major Settings: Church, Christine’s Home, Mayfair Elementary, Hospital

Themes: Family, Food, Friendship, Education, Social Culture, Faith, Pop Culture 

Lesson Plan Recommendations Using the Common Core Standards 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.3.A

Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

*The number(s) referenced above corresponds to the number used by the Common Core Standards (www.corestandards.com

Lesson Plan

Before Reading: Ask students to write a journal entry about “friendship” and what it means to them. Next, introduce students to both Christine and Moon’s as characters. Be sure to show students a few images and a few quotations from the story that best represent each character. After a visual and textual introduction to the two friends, ask students to choose to focus on either Christine’s perspective or Moon’s perspective.

During Reading: With their choice of character and accompanying point of view in mind, give students a handout that includes ten large spaces to write in (one large space for each of the ten chapters). As students read each chapter, ask them to draw two to three visual representations of their characters’ experiences. Students also need to provide two to three quotations to support the visuals of their character during each chapter. 

After Reading: Ask students to divide into groups depending on the character of their choice; these can be sets of smaller groups or two large groups. Next, give students fifteen to twenty minutes to share their visual representations and supporting quotations from each chapter. Finally, and as an entire class, walk students through the story chapter-by-chapter and ask the groups to share what they feel are the best examples of their character’s roles and feelings per chapter

 

 

 

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Dr. Katie Monnin is the author of eight books about teaching pop culture, comic books, and graphic novels in 21st century classrooms. Since 2010 she has written two monthly reviews and two corresponding lesson plans for her Diamond Bookshelf column: "Katie's Korner: Graphic Novel Reviews for Schools & Libraries." In 2018, Dr. Monnin founded "Why so serious? Productions," a consulting business that creates pedagogical materials for 21st century teachers, librarians, and publishers who want to teach pop culture. She served on the San Diego Comic Con jury in 2013, and she frequently travels the nation and the world to discuss teaching with pop culture in 21st century classrooms.