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

Moth & Whisper Volume 1
Published by: AfterShock
Written by: Ted Anderson
Illustrated by: Jen Hickman
ISBN: 9781949028096
Ages: 13+


“The moth was a master of disguise, but the Whisper was a master of stealth.”

The entire city knows the names of its legendary thieves: the Moth and the Whisper. What the city doesn’t know is that the two legendary thieves are missing, and their child is about to step up to play both of their roles. An open gender-queer teenager, Niki, tries to find their parents by following the clues the Moth and the Whisper left behind in a secret video.

Niki has been trained in all forms of infiltration, stealth, and disguise. From Niki’s mother, the Moth, Niki has inherited and learned the mastery of disguising their-self anywhere, any place. From Niki’s father, the Whisper, Niki has inherited and learned the mastery of being stealth.

Following their parents video clues that lead Niki from one crime boss to another, Niki finds some help from a very unlikely friend. Niki also discovers a secret safe house that Niki’s parents never mentioned, and with a secret safe house comes another new friend, or another new foe?

With the skills of both parents, and an intellectually charged ambition to do right, Niki is perhaps more powerful than the crime bosses they encounter and their two very famous parents.

Set in a cyberpunk future that paints a picture of how far social media can be used for corruption, I strongly recommend Moth & Whisper to parents, teachers, and librarians. A surprise title find for me, but a growing title in the graphic novel industry, I look forward to picking up the next volume as soon as it comes out!

Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: The Moth and the Whisper are legendary thieves and everyone knows their names. When they go missing, however, their gender-queer teenager (Niki) finds a secret video and steps up to follow the clues. Will a young Niki be able to follow in their parents’ footsteps and find their parents?

Major Characters: The Moth, The Whisper, Walter Waverly, Derry Waverly, Macready, Chen, Haag, Armando Mazzei, Weaver, Niki, Ambrose Wolfe, Anilac Corporation, Khalil Morris, Carbon, Aada Novello, Wygans, Nia Tulles, Wolfe’s Bodyguards, the Mole

Major Settings: Art Gallery, Office Building, Seinai’s Drinks, Niki’s Safe House, Carbon’s Safe House, Waverly’s Mansion, Refuse Sorting Facility, Government District

Themes: Disguises, Family, Environmental Change and Big Business, Social Media and Facial Recognition Technology, Trust

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

Key Ideas and Details:


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

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

Reading Moth & Whisper: The Kid Volume 1 centers on putting textual and visual evidence together in an ongoing investigation to find Niki’s parents.

Ask students to create an outline for each of the five chapters. Underneath each chapter’s space, students need to leave room for citing three textual and three visual clues from each chapter, thus creating a document trail of the clues that they think best help Niki throughout the story. The goal is for students to identify the evidence, both textually and visually, at the same times Niki does, almost as if they are co-investigators in the story.

Students can summarize, paraphrase, or quote for textual evidence. For visual evidence, students can draw or take a picture(s) of the panel(s) / page(s) and insert it into each chapter’s visual evidence space.

After completion, and in order of the chapters, engage in a whole class discussion that allows all students to share their textual and visual evidence clues from each chapter in the story.

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.



Dr. Katie Monnin is the Director of Education at Pop Culture Classroom in Denver, Colorado.  She has written dozens of articles, curricula, reviews, lesson plans, and 8 books about teaching graphic novels, animation, video games, social media and other pop culture topics in the classroom.