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

by | Apr 17, 2019

Gender Queer: A Memoir
Published by: Lion Forge
Written by: Maia Kobabe
Illustrated by: Maia Kobabe
Colors by: Phoebe Kobabe
ISBN: 9781549304002
Ages: 13+

Review

“Having a nonbinary or trans teacher in junior high would have meant the world to me.” – Maia Kobabe

After writing this column for nearly ten years, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe is going down on my top ten favorite graphic novel list of all time! 

Centered on educating everyone (most especially parents, families, librarians, students and teachers, and even higher education professors) Kobabe explains gender and gender identity in the 21st century in both a uniquely personal and an extremely resourceful manner.

As an out lesbian who grew up during a different time than Kobabe and faced many similar discriminatory and/or uninformed people and their thoughts on how I expressed my gender identity both personally and professionally, I’ve struggled for years internalizing all of the names I’ve been called, employers who have discriminated against me, family who have asked me if I am “now going transgender because that’s the new fad,” strangers clearly talking about and pointing at me in public, and my most frequent experience: Being pushed out (sometimes gently and sometimes with aggressive force) of women’s restrooms all over the world. I guess most people think I don’t belong there. But I do belong there.  

In fact, Kobabe, myself, and every single person on this planet each deserve the same rights to live lives full of happiness and peace, and more importantly, on the respective terms we individually feel best express who we are both inside and outside.  

By tracing eir own childhood, teenage, college, grad school, and career experiences with gender identity, Kobabe presents a vulnerable and informative look at emself and society.  Sharing eir literary explorations on gender identity throughout eir life, Kobabe actually ends up generously offering eir readers a resource list focused on how to understand gender identity in the 21st century.

Note: Be sure to keep a notebook nearby as you read because Kobabe’s resources will inspire you to take notes as well.

Here’s a sneak peak of one of the most critical points Kobabe teaches readers of Gender Queer:  After literally spending eir childhood years and into eir adulthood self-reflecting and studying gender identity and how e fits within gender studies Kobabe explains why e has chosen the pronouns that e best identifies with: e, em, and eir. 

The most personal autobiography I’ve ever read, Kobabe gracefully and honestly tackles some of the toughest topics regarding gender and self-identity, giving educators a literary autobiography that will surely help every human being (both living now and for generations to come) better understand how gender identity and self-discovery are key to healing some of the angst and hurt that have come from countless years of misunderstandings. 

Elements of Story

Plot: Since childhood Maia Kobabe has thought about, reflected upon, and decided on which pronouns e prefers and would like to educate other’s about.

Major Characters: Maia, Maia’s mom, Maia’s dad, Phoebe, Rebecca, Brownen, Galen, Alexandra, David, Autumn, Toby, AJ, Fish, Rae, gynecologists, Ashley, Maia’s love interests, Melanie Gillman, Amila, Jaina Bee, Shari, Michael, Patricia Churchland, Josh, Faith

Major Settings: California, San Francisco, home, school, college, library

Themes: Identity, Coming of Age, Transformation and Growth, Relationships, Education, Terminology 

Lesson Plan Recommendation Using the Common Core Standards (CCS) for Young Adults

Common Core Standard(s)

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.3
Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

Directions for Lesson Plan

In order to analyze all of the complexities Kobabe experiences throughout eir life in Gender Queer, readers should keep track of the time periods e shares (first column), questions e struggles with during those times (second column), the resources and/or people who help eir answer eir questions about gender and self-identity (third column), Kobabe’s ultimate thoughts on how those questions and the people and/or resources have or have not helped eir answer them (fourth column), and, finally, what readers have learned from reading about Kobabe’s experiences (fifth column).

Time Period Maia’s Questions Maia’s Resources/People  What Readers Have Learned from Maia’s Experiences: From Eir Questions, Eir Resources & People, and Eir Ultimate Thoughts
Childhood & Young Adult

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
College 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
Grad School

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
Adulthood & Career 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 


Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Lauren Myracle
Illustrated by: Isaac Goodhart
ISBN: 9781401285913
Ages: 13+

Review

“I will be stealthy, like a cat. I will be fierce like a cat. And, like a cat, I will not fear the dark.” –  Selina

As the Gotham Growler terrorizes citizens, a middle school-aged Selina Kyle battles some of her own, more personal problems at home. After years of her mothers’ monthly boyfriends shuffling in and out of their home, Selina has almost given up hope on her mother’s decision-making skills. Although all the other men seem to come and go on a regularly basis, however, one day a guy named Dernell shows up and Selina’s mother (Gayle) gives him total control over the house. Including control over Selina.

When Selina finds an abandoned kitten outside of her home she has an immediate urge to save the kitten; in fact, she names and identifies with the kitten by naming it “Cinders” (after Cinderella) because “everyone treated Cinderella like dirt . . . when really, Cinderella was better than all of them. Cinderalla was kind and decent and … well . . . she was special” (p. 49). Selina also realizes that Dernell is really, REALLY not going to like this new kitten.  Trying her best to hide Cinders the kitten, Dernell’s control still looms heavily around the house.  And it just seems like a matter of time before Cinders and Selina are found out. 

When they are caught, Selina leaves the house, disowns her mother, and also decides her school doesn’t really fit her new lifestyle either.  Notably before leaving school, however, Selina is chased down for a talk with shy, high school Bruce Wayne, and in this interaction readers learn that the two have had a mixed and complicated past. With his gracious offer to let Selina stay at Wayne Manor while she tries to figure out what recently happened and the feelings that seem to be ever on her mind as a result of them, Selina responds like a cat and resents Wayne and his interdependence on money and good looks.  Selina respects independence.  Selina respects how cats solve their own problems, and often at night.

The independence of the streets offer Selina the opportunities to really set her own schedule, do what she needs to do to survive and also what she wants to do for kicks and thrills.  But when she meets another street kid named “Ojo” she learns the city-scaped acrobatics of Parkour.  Wanting to learn how to jump between buildings and flip to her desired location(s) anywhere in the city inspires Selina, and she thrives as Ojo’s new student. 

Mastering the streets with her growing Parkour skills allows Selina to lands softly, with stealth (gracefully and silent like a cat).  With her new skills mastered Selina teams up with Ojo and his friends (each gifted with their own origin and unique stories).  Together, Selina and her new crew have accidentally broken into Bruce Wayne’s house, and once Selina reflects on her new knowledge about stealing from Wayne she returns what they stole.  But Bruce and the rest of Selina’s new crew know that Selina might need more help than she thinks.  Will the team be allowed to help Selina solve the rest of the Gotham City Growler mystery and find her new friend Rosie? 

One of the best origin stories I’ve ever read for any superhero character, I can’t wait to read the next graphic novel in the series.

Elements of Story

Plot: As a teenager, Selina is misunderstood.  She’s misunderstood at home by her mother, and especially by her mother’s boyfriend “Dernell.”  She’s even misunderstood at school.  All of that changes, however, when Selina rescues an abandoned kitten and feels her destiny take hold.

Characters: Selina, Selina’s mom, Dernell, Angie, Tristan, Bruce Wayne, Gotham Growler, Cinders, Ojo, Yang, “Rosie” or Briar Rose, Rosie’s dog, Rosie’s brother

Settings: Selina’s home, Gotham High, city streets and parks, Falcone Tower, 404 Longmont Circle, Gotham Plaza, Todd’s shed, Wayne Manor, 1313 Wayfarer Lane

Themes: Family, Abuse, Self Identity, Independence, Trust, Superhero Lore, Human-to-Animal Relationships

Lesson Plan Recommendation Using the Common Core Standards (CCS) for Young Adults

Common Core Standard(s)

CCSS.ELA- LITERACY .RL. 11-12.5
Craft and Structure: Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

Directions for Lesson Plan

Lauren Myracle’s Under the Moon is one of the most striking graphic novels of the year.  Because of its intensity and brand-new origin story, the author’s choices on how to structure the plot are imperative to student comprehension.

“The Chapter Tracker” graphic organizer calls on students to really think about each of the following: chapter title, problem to be solved in chapter, problem resolution or not, significant metaphors/similes, and next chapter prediction(s).

Chapter Title

Problem to be solved in this Chapter?

Problem Resolution or Not?

Significance of Chapter Title

Predictions for Next Chapter

The Dark: Life in the Litter Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
My Pal, Dernell 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Another Brick in the Wall 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Dog Eat Dog World 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
One Purrrfect Moment 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
The Leaving 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
The Light: The Knife 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Parallax 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Licking My Wounds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Unsheathed 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Declawed 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Why Humans Should Have Fur 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Scardey Cat 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Life in a Pact 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Hell-Dog 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Bad to the Bone 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
The Big Day 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Catnip 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Hissy Fit 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Gone 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Cold Nose, Warm Heart?

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
Under the Bright White Moon: Search and Rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
The Dog Pound

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
It’s Not the Size of the Dog Cat in the Fight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

*****************

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.  

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