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The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen

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Yolen, J., & Guay, R. (ill.) (2011). The Last Dragon. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books. ISBN: 978-1595827982

Annotation: Two hundred years after the dragons are all killed, a hidden dragon’s egg hatches. The dragon grows quickly and begins to wreak havoc on a nearby village. In order to defeat this enemy, the village seeks a hero, but does not get what they bargained for.

Reaction: The art in this book is what first grabbed my attention. Rebecca Guay beautifully illustrates Jane Yolen’s adaptation of her 1985 novella “Dragonfield.” The illustrations fit the fanciful, medieval tone of this romantic dragon hunting story. Guay is able to put so much expression into all the characters’ faces and movements without overpowering the quiet story being told. Her style is very reminiscent of pre-Raphaelite paintings, specifically bringing to my mind The Lady of Shalott. While the art for this book is less detailed than that painting, the tone of each is remarkably similar, evoking a vast array of emotions. Through utilizing such a similar feeling, Guay adds romance, longing and quietly burning passion to the story.

Yolen does not feel the need to fill the book with action, as the climactic fight against the dragon only takes up 20 of the book’s 141 pages, but she develops characters with distinct personalities with whom the reader sympathizes. Even the shining hero, who the reader is sure will swindle the village out of it’s money, has depth and relatability. The story and the art is descriptive and lovely. I really enjoyed this just for fun, all ages (5th-12th grades) book and easily place it in my Top Ten Favorites for this assignment.

This book also briefly employs onomatopoeia, especially during the climactic battle with the dragon, using words like “smack,” “rooooooaaaaaaar,” “snap,” “twack,” “bong,” and “clang” to allow the reader to hear the action of the story through these words, which are set apart from the dialogue or other descriptions in all caps, onomatopoeia specific font.

Media Used: Mostly ink and acryla-gouache – but Guay switched to doing more digital color over traditional ink in the last 3rd or so of the book

Author’s Website and Last Dragon post.

Illustrator’s Website


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Persepolis: the story of a childhood

Image from Amazon.com

Satrapi, M. (2003). Persepolis: the story of a childhood. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN-13: 978-0375422300

Annotation: In Satrapi’s graphic novelization of her childhood in Iran, she depicts the horrors and hardships experienced on a daily basis by citizens who just want a better life for themselves.

Reaction: This book deals with recent history from a part of the world about which I feel most American teenagers aren’t taught. I know I learned a lot about Iran and the tensions in that country. Satrapi uses black and white cartoon-ish drawings to illustrate her story, giving the reader some space from the true awfulness of growing up in a country ruled by such an oppressive government, while at the same time highlighting the hardships through the juxtaposition of the cartoony drawings with the depictions of protesters being held prisoner and executed by the government. This book would be a great tool in classrooms as part of a world history section focusing on the Middle East, and the easy to read format will inspire classroom discussions on the situations described. I believe teachers could utilize this book in classrooms of all ages, though grades 8 and up might benefit from it the most, as they should be able to grasp some of the political issues that 5th-7th graders may not comprehend.

This book has also been made into a French animated film that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2008 for best animated feature (IMDB.com).

Author Website

This book is on the 2011 Students’ List for “Books receiving votes for Top Ten Favorites from students in Summer 2011.”

IMDB.com, Inc. (2012). Awards for Persepolis (2007). Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0808417/awards


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Harvesting Hope: the story of Cesar Chavez

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Krull, K., & Morales, Y (ill.). (2003). Harvesting Hope: the story of Cesar Chavez. Harcourt, San Diego. ISBN: 0-15-201437-3

Annotation: After working as a migrant worker from a young age, Cesar Chavez creates a movement seeking equal rights and fair wages for farm workers and peacefully negotiated many contracts for the workers.

Reaction: This is a book that would be very useful to teach 5th and 6th grade students history of migrant workers and their fight for equality, especially in California where Chavez’s protests and peace marches took place. This book is written in clear, straightforward language about migrants workers’ struggle to earn a living and the unfair and unsafe conditions in which they lived and worked. It explains Chavez’s nonviolent beliefs and how he managed to convince wealthy farm owners to pay their workers a fair wage.

The illustrations are done with acrylics, handmade stamps and computer-created cutouts on BFK Rives Paper. The art really sets the tone for the story: bright, vibrant colors in the beginning, before Chavez and his family were forced to sell their farm and become migrant workers, duller, earthy tones for his time laboring in fields, and more vibrant colors at the end when his protest march from Delano to Sacramento gains followers and is ultimately successful.

Among other honors, Harvesting Hope was an ALA Notable Children’s Book.

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s website and Harvesting Hope Teacher’s Guide


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BB Wolf and the Three LPs

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Arnold, J., & Koslowski, R. (ill.) (2010). BB Wolf and the Three LPs. Atlanta, GA: Top Shelf Productions. ISBN: 978-1-60309-029-2

Annotation: This retelling of the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs examines racial tensions in Mississippi in 1920. In a twist on the traditional tale, BB Wolf is the hardworking hero who sets off to seek revenge after the Little Pig brothers murder his family.

Reaction: I love the way Arnold turns the traditional Big Bad Wolf into a sympathetic character who is just trying to make a living for his family and struggling against the pigs who believe wolves are inferior and don’t deserve equality or fair treatment. The black and white art evokes the feeling of desperation and hopelessness felt by BB throughout the book, and the black page borders only highlight the dark themes. Arnold and Koslowski do not shy away from depicting violence, and they show BB savagely dispatching with the pigs he comes across. Because of these graphic illustrations, I would only recommend this book for older teens in high school, possibly as a supplement to units about civil rights and US history during that time period to encourage student discussions about the struggles of African Americans in the 20’s. As Gail said at noflyingnotights.com, this book features “American history, blues music, issues of racism and corruption, and darn good storytelling” (de Vos, 2011).

This book uses allusion to reference the struggles African Americans had in the US, especially in southern states like Mississippi, in the beginning of the 20th century. The wolves live in fear of the pigs because the pigs hold all the money and power, in the same way African Americans were forced into subservience to the white population. The wolves are punished if they are disrespectful, and the pigs seem to take pleasure in withholding basic rights from the wolves.

Also, by giving voice and human mannerisms to the wolves and pigs, this book depicts personification.

Media Used: The art was all done with brush and India ink on 11″x14″ Bristol board. To achieve different shades of grays I simply used watered down ink. The lettering was done digitally.

No Author Website
Illustrator’s Website

References: de Vos, G. (2011 19-December). BB Wolf and the Three LPs. From No Flying No Tights: http://noflyingnotights.com/?p=8375


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Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale

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Hale, Dean & Shannon (authors) and Hale, Nathan (illustrator) (2008). Rapunzel’s Revenge. New York: Bloomsbury. ISBN-13: 978-1-59990-288-3

Annotation: In this adaptation of “Rapunzel,” the heroine rescues herself, then wields her hair lassos and whips to rescue the rest of the country from the witch who has everyone under her power.

Reaction: Rapunzel’s Revenge is a fun retelling, featuring a strong-willed, independent Rapunzel who isn’t going to wait around for her prince to come find her. She is strong and confident and ready to take on the world, which makes her a great role model for tweens who are going through a rough transistionary time.

The protagonists are drawn in vivid colors, setting them off most of the other characters, who are drawn predominately in shades of brown, which is a testament to the hard lives they lead trying to eke out a living from land that is increasingly barren thanks to Gothel’s strict rule. Panels of the story are evenly laid out and keep the story flowing smoothly. After growing up in the Southwest, I love the deserty setting, and the rough Western movie vibe that most of the supporting characters bring to the story.

This book was included on the 2011 Students’ List for “Books receiving vote for Top Ten Favorites from students in Summer 2011.”

Media Used: Drawn with ink on bristol board, and was colored in Photoshop using a Cintiq display.

Shannon Hale’s Website
Dean Hale’s Website
Nathan Hale’s Website