Hey, everyone! I’m excited to bring you comic reviews that you can use, whether you are an avid comic reader, new to comics, or want advice about classroom use. We are beginning with an amazing graphic novel: Essex County.
Synopsis: Essex County, created by Jeff Lemire, is the tale of a group of individuals whose lives intersect over the course of almost a century in a small county in Ontario, Canada. The story is emotionally driven, focusing mostly on familial relationships that are developed and broken down over the course of time. While there are some moments that will make you smile, Essex County is real, and real is at times sad and depressing, so get a tissue ready.
Pros (and/or what you can use in the classroom): This story is thought-provoking and intelligent. Anyone that does not believe that graphic novels are a legit art form has to be given this book. This book is literature; this book is art. In my classroom, I could use this book to teach the importance and value of setting, tone, point of view, symbolism, mood, and characterization. The non-linear plot of Essex County also allows for some serious discussion on how the manipulation of time affects plot and meaning. You can also pair this bad boy up with a coming of age novel, a story thematically linked to family relationships, or in introduction to an interesting personal narrative assignment. Get creative with it!
Cons: There are really only two major beefs that I have with Essex County, and those come from a teacher’s mindset. If you are a casual reader, just go pick it up and love it. But educators, the book is large; class sets of the actual text would be expensive and very bulky; although, if you have a paperless/digital classroom, the book can be picked up fairly cheaply. The other issue is that some teachers may have an issue with some of the language; the are some “F-Bombs” and a few sexually driven lines of dialogue; however, if you are using this book with 11th and 12th graders, you should be fine. This language is found in many other books that we use in the classroom. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking about the language in Catcher and the orgy scenes in Brave New World…yikes!
Rating: For the common comic reader, this gets a 10/10 from me. This book is beautiful and brilliant. For the classroom teacher, this gets a 8/10 simply because of the language and the size of the actual book (seriously…it’s like a math text book).
Let me know if you have any questions; I’d love to help out any educator looking for advice or connections to the Common Core.