Great Summer Reads with Carol Jago: Graphic Books for Grades 9-12


Graphic novels are hugely popular with readers of all ages. They capture our attention and keep us turning pages compulsively. Best yet, upon completion of one, we reach for another, and another, and another!

Dear Readers,

A few years ago, I was highly suspicious of graphic books. I mean, what teacher assigns comic books? Then, I started reading the new generation of graphic novels and autobiographies that were coming out. Though not all graphic works are equally excellent, the remarkable ones I describe below (along with many others) are genuine works of art.

Happy reading!

Carol

THEY CALLED US ENEMY

Graphic Memoir by George Takei

You probably know George Takai from his role on Star Trek playing Hiraru Sulu, the helmsman of the USS Enterprise. What you might not know is that at five years old, George and his family were imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp. This graphic memoir (gloriously illustrated by Harmony Becker) is an unforgettable account of World War II history and the treatment of Japanese Americans during the war. A stunning work of nonfiction that interweaves personal experiences within a political context, it is also a testament to faith in American democracy.

MARCH: Books One, Two, and Three

Graphic Memoir by John Lewis

John Lewis, the congressman and icon of the Civil Rights Movement who died in July 2020, dedicated his life to fighting for social justice. His trilogy (illustrated by Nate Powell and written in tandem with Lewis’s long-time collaborator Andrew Aydin) moves from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the March on Washington to receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Obama. This account of a complex life is recounted in all its richness and complexity.

PERSEPOLIS

Graphic Memoir by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi tells her story of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution—juggling contradictions between home life and public life, witnessing acts of cruelty against her own people, attempting to understand the demands of different political parties, and relying on her extraordinary family through it all.

MONSTER

Graphic Novel by Walter Dean Myers

Steve Harmon is awaiting trial for murder. As he acclimates to life behind bars, he envisions the entire ordeal as a movie and begins to write a screenplay. As Steve reflects on events and witnesses provide their testimonies, readers will begin to question Steve’s innocence themselves.

As you read these titles, consider:

  • How do images enhance our understanding of a text?
  • Why might someone choose to write a memoir as a graphic text?

Try out one of these activities to further your reading:

  • Listen to George Takei talk about the very real events that inspired him to write his graphic memoir. Then, use these discussion questions to guide a conversation about the book’s events and their historical significance.
  • Social Studies Connection: How would John Lewis, a man who spent his life practicing non-violence and working for civil rights, view this year’s protests? Why does he think civic engagement is important? Listen to this podcast with the Congressman from before his death to find out.
  • Social Studies Connection: Want to know more about the Iranian Revolution, which led to the world portrayed in Persepolis? Check out this video which explains the causes and results of the revolution, including how it affects life in Iran today.
  • Interested in creating your own graphic story? Watch this video to understand what the process entails.

Note: HMH is not responsible for the content of third-party websites.

Photo of Carol Jago provided by ©Andrew Collings