Ages 13+ | Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass (DC Comics)

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Mariko Tamaki
Illustrated by: Steve Pugh
ISBN: 9781401283292
Ages: 13+


Harley Quinn does not struggle to speak her mind. That’s why she is narrating the story. Not Harleen Quinzel. Harley is telling readers how she transitioned from Harleen to Harley.  And that’s that, Pumpkins!

A tremendous and contemporary origin story, Harley is sent to Gotham City at the age of fifteen with only a knapsack and five dollars. Her mother has signed up to work on a cruise ship for a year, and Harley will stay with her grandmother. Upbeat and curious, Harley welcomes all Gotham City has to offer. When she gets to her grandmother’s apartment, however, she finds out that her grandmother has passed away and a man named Mama now lives there; Mama runs a local cabaret called “Mama’s drag cabaret.”

Although bothered about her grandmother’s death and her mother’s serious lack of communication with her own mother, Harley keeps a positive attitude and wants to make friends. The gentle and kind Mama welcomes Harley into his home and his life: “Go to school. Stay cute, and don’t get into any trouble” (p. 14). Harley will excel in school and stay cute. But will she stay out of trouble?

At Gotham High, Harley meets a new friend named Ivy. Harley lets the reader know that Ivy smells like plants, and Ivy’s parents are both community activists trying to save a local community garden from the growing gentrification in Gotham City. She also meets John Kane, the president of the film club. While Ivy wants the film club to become more diverse and inclusive, John Kane refuses and will personally select and run the film club himself. He prefers films directed by white men. Ivy can’t believe how much power John Kane has, just because his parents own Millennium Enterprises and are the exact reason for the growing gentrification in the city.

When Mama gets an eviction notice along with the rest of the local neighborhood, Harley wants to help in the cause to restore the neighborhood. Harley and Ivy even learn of a protest that will march past Wayne Manor and Millennium Enterprises.

Unbeknownst to Ivy, though, Harley’s made another new friend in Gotham City, a friend who tells her he wants to help Gotham City as well. But no spoilers, kiddos.

Tamaki has written such a clever origin story, and Pugh has illustrated such an engaging new Gotham City for Harley to explore, that it is not my place to tell readers any more. Hats off to Tamaki and DC Comics for taking the time and the energy to tell this story and to tell it well!

Language Arts Elements of Story 

Plot: Harleen Quinzel / Harley Quinn is on her way to her grandmother’s apartment. But when she gets there she finds out her grandmother has passed away, and a new tenant named Mama is living there now. Mama welcomes Harley. He tells her he will keep her fed and clothed and in return Harley will go to school and stay out of trouble. But will the new, teenage Harley Quinn be able to stay out of trouble?

Major Characters: Harleen Quinzel / Harley Quinn, Harley’s mother and father, Mama, Ivy, John Kane, Mr. and Mrs. Kane, The Joker, Ivy’s mother and father, Dash Alabester Quinzel, Millennium Developments

Major Settings: Gotham City, Gotham High, Harley’s Grandmother’s Apartment, Mama’s Drag Cabaret, Kane Coffee, Community Garden and Neighborhood, Millennium Developments 

Themes: Angels and Devils, Identity, Community Activism, Costumes, Gentrification

Lesson Plan Recommendations Using the Common Core Standards for Middle and High School Readers

Text Types and Purposes:


Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation and its significance, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.

The number(s) referenced above corresponds to the number used by the Common Core Standards (www.corestandards.com) Lesson Idea for Middle and High School Readers

Directions for Lesson Plan

The growing gentrification in Gotham City is the key problem for all the characters in the story.

After reading Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass, please write three emails from three key characters’ perspectives. The emails will be sent to the Gotham City Police Department, explaining each character’s role and point of view in the story.

The emails must include the following sections: To, From, Subject Line, Email Content Writing Showcasing that Character’s Perspective, and a Signature Line.

Your choices for characters are: Harley, Ivy, John Kane, Mama, Mr. and Mrs. Kane (Millennium Developments), or the Joker.