Sunday, April 20, 2014

Helping Kids Deal with Overcoming Loss

As we have come to the first year anniversary of the tragic Boston Marathon bombing, we find ourselves again dealing with tragic loss around the world - from natural disasters, to illnesses, to the Ferry Disaster in South Korea. And we all experience loss (we tell ourselves that it is, unfortunately a part of life), tragic disasters and personal loss are difficult for adults to deal with, and we worry about the ramifications even more that our felt by our children. 

Below are suggestions on how parents can help their children deal with loss along with additional resource links.  May all our losses be few and far between, and when we must face them, may we have the strength to face them gracefully and effectively.

Common Ways Children Respond to Loss and Death Children express their grief, feelings/fears of loss, and anxieties in a variety of ways. Here are some of the most prevalent ways:
  • Loss of concentration
  • Anger and irritability
  • Inability to sleep
  • Nightmares
  • Loss of appetite
  • Playing games centered around the event or about dying
  • Fears of being alone (or in the dark)
  • Withdrawal from friends
  • Physical complaints (such as headaches and stomachaches)
NOTE: Children's reactions to trauma are strongly influenced by adults' responses.

The NIMH (National Institute of Mental Helath) notes the following ways children might respond to trauma:
Children age 5 and under may react in a number of ways including:
  • Showing signs of fear
  • Clinging to parent or caregiver
  • Crying or screaming
  • Whimpering or trembling
  • Moving aimlessly
  • Becoming immobile
  • Returning to behaviors common to being younger
  • Thumbsucking
  • Bedwetting
  • Being afraid of the dark.
Children age 6 to 11 may react by:
  • Isolating themselves
  • Becoming quiet around friends, family, and teachers
  • Having nightmares or other sleep problems
  • Refusing to go to bed
  • Becoming irritable or disruptive
  • Having outbursts of anger
  • Starting fights
  • Being unable to concentrate
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Complaining of physical problems
  • Developing unfounded fears
  • Becoming depressed
  • Expressing guilt over what happened
  • Feeling numb emotionally
  • Doing poorly with school and homework
  • Losing interest in fun activities.
Adolescents age 12 to 17 may react by:
  • Having flashbacks to the event (flashbacks are the mind reliving the event)
  • Having nightmares or other sleep problems
  • Avoiding reminders of the event
  • Using or abusing drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
  • Being disruptive, disrespectful, or behaving destructively
  • Having physical complaints
  • Feeling isolated or confused
  • Being depressed
  • Being angry
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Having suicidal thoughts. 
  • Adolescents may feel guilty. They may feel guilt for not preventing injury or deaths. They also may have thoughts of revenge.
Examples of problematic behaviors could be:
  • Refusing to go to places that remind them of the event
  • Emotional numbness
  • Behaving dangerously
  • Unexplained anger/rage
  • Sleep problems including nightmares.

Gene Beresin, M.D. wrote after the Boston Marathon, that after tragic loss, children need to have the answers to the following three fundamental questions:
  1. Am I safe?
  2. Are the people who take care of me safe?
  3. How will these tragic events affect my daily life?
Beresin then continues that these questions can (and should) be answered as often as need be (and often repeatedly, especially immediately following the tragic event) through words and through actions.

How might you show your child they are safe?
  • Provide for their needs without them even having to ask (food, laying out clothing, bathing, hugs and nurturance, reading, etc.)
  • Let children partake in decision making from choice of meals to clothing to new family rules/routines.
  • Let them call, text, and/or email close friends and relatives. Let them feel the love around them.
  • Keep to normal schedules as much as possible. 
  • Let them be sad and allow them to react in the ways they're reacting (including bedwetting).
  • Keep to family rules and structures as much as possible (same rules, bedtime, meal structure, etc.). Don't be afraid to say "no" when you need to. In fact saying  "no" when you need to tells the child that some things are still the same (and that is often reassuring).
  • Share your feelings with your children, as you encourage (but don't force) them to share their feelings, letting them know that not only is it okay to be frightened, sad and/or angry, but it is actually part of being human. 
  • Let them and/or encourage them to ask questions.  When responding use very concrete words  (avoiding euphemisms such as "dead" and not "passed on" or "the very worst thing"). At the same time, adults should know that it's alright to not always have the answers. Also understand that children may ask the same question(s) repeatedly.  Let them.  This is their way of internalizing the events, questions and responses. Furthermore,  these repeated questions about death are a form of reassurance that the story hasn't changed.
  • Explain how these events will effect their daily lives.
  • Tell your child what to expect over the next few days/week/months.
  • Know that art/play is often an effective way for children to work out their feelings.  IF you see your child "stuck" in one scenario of play (repeating the same event repeatedly), offer some suggestions for change or resolution of that scenario.
  • Know that children will often complain of physical symptoms - address them don't ignore them.
FINAL NOTE: Reading aloud is a wonderful way of providing a SAFE environment, while providing a vehicle to problem solve and talk about trauma and loss.  Here are a few reading suggestions:
  • Always and Forever by Alan Durant (picture book ages 3+) When Fox dies, Mole, Hare and Otter are devastated. When Squirrel visits she reminds them of all the warm and funny things about Fox and they realize that in their hearts, Fox is still with them.
  • Dead Bird by Margaret Brown Wise (picture book ages 4+) With sparse text and warm images and design, the author shares feelings about death and provides a starting point for discussion about the feelings and fears young children may face with the loss of a pet or loved one.
  • Everett Anderson's Goodbye by Lucille Clifton (picture book ages 5+) We see Everett Anderson come to grips with his father's death as he goes through the five states of grief in this sparse and moving poem.
  • The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic (picture book ages 5+) A boy struggles with severe emotional swings following the death of his mother (sadness, sympathy and fear). He tries to deal with these emotional fluctuations by closing all the windows, holding his breath and running until his heart pounds.
  • Someone Special Died by Joan Prestine (picture book ages 3+) An unencumbered explanation of death for children that addresses the feelings they may have about death.
  • When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death by Laurie Kransky Brown and Marc Brown (picture book ages 4+) This book answers common questions kids have after experiencing the death of a loved one. The questions are answered honestly and frankly, and are paired with wonderfully gentle illustrations.
  • A Terrible Thing Happened: A Story for Children Who Have Witnessed Violence or Trauma by Margaret M. Holmes; published by the American Psychological Association, ages 4+) The story of Sherman Smith who saw the most terrible thing happen. He meets Ms. Maple who helps him talk about what he was trying to forget (and as a result had bad stomach aches, nightmares, was angry and got into trouble). The story is told with text and pictures and has an afterward by Sasha J. Mudlaff with extensive suggestions for parents and caregivers on how to help traumatized children.
  • Bird by Zetta Elliott (ages 7+) Mekhai (a.k.a. "Bird"), struggling to understand the death of his grandfather and his older brother's drug addiction, retreats into his art. This story provides a look at a boy coping with his real-life troubles and traumas.
For older kids:

  • I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Nimura (graphic novel grades 5+) Barbara, a fifth grader must come to terms with her mother's death. A MUST READ book. 

    • Found at :

      Additional Resources and Related Links:
      As always, thank you for your visit.  Please leave your own means of helping your kids cope with loss and trauma in the comments below.
      May all your lives be blessed wi
      th joy and as little loss as possible. 

      Monday, April 14, 2014

      Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

      Nothing-coverIn line with ABCWednesday's "N" Week, I want to share with you are "nifty" graphic novel "Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong" by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second 2013).
      Honoring Women’s History Month, we highlight a wonderful young adult book that is written by women about bending stereotypes, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second Books, 2013).

      Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a graphic novel for older kids (for mature middle school or high school and older) adapted and drawn by Faith Erin Hicks from the young adult novel Voted Most Likely by Prudence Shen. It’s full of unlikely friendships and nicely nuanced characters who bend and shatter stereotypes and expectations.

      The central characters are Charlie Nolen, captain of Hollow Ridge High School basketball team and his (best) friend Nate Harding, president of the robotics club.

      Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
      In a twist of fate, the robotics club and the cheerleaders are vying for student council funding. Charlie, a science Geek decides that the best way to guarantee getting those funds is for him to run for student council president.

      The “Gestapo” cheerleaders decide to have Nate (Charlie's best friend and the ex-boyfriend of on of the "Gestapo" captains) run against him with the hopes that they can manipulate Nate into funding their new outfits and not the robotics club. And while each group is convinced that their strategies are flawless, things don’t work out the way anyone had planned.

      The book is all about friendships, cooperation, heartbreak, and the myopic pursuit of goals versus creative thinking. Along the way, there are break-ups, disappointments, and lots of fun.
      Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
      Aside from the interesting story weaving high school basketball, cheerleading, and robot rumbles, it’s the nuanced characters that really make Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong fun and different. And these characters are developed both in the text and in the way they’re drawn, dressed, and artfully designed. Each and every one of them is full of contradictions that empower them to bend and break their stereotypic roles along with the reader’s expectations.

      The popular jock gives into his unhappiness; the nerd flips between being sympathetic and manipulative while being blindly driven. The cheerleaders are kick-ass Machiavellian but not at all shallow. They, like the nerd, are focused in their efforts to reach their goals. And then there’s the cute Joanna, who is one ruthless robot driver, welder, and science geek who helps Charlie find his way again.

      Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)

      The book opens with Nate giving Charlie a lift home from school. Charlie has just received a text from Holly (Cheerleader Co-Captain), breaking up with him. Nate, meanwhile, is blindly focusing on how upset he is at finding out that Holly and “her evil fembot co-captain Nola” want to take funding from the robotics competition to fund new cheerleader uniforms. Principal Getty has just decided to let the student council decide who gets the available funds: the cheerleaders or the robotics club.

      As Nate meets with his robot team to tell them the news, it's then he decides the answer is for him to run  for student council president. While his fellow teammates try to convince him that the election is merely a popularity contest he can’t possibly win, Nate is absolutely determined and convinced that nothing can possibly go wrong.

      When Charlie decides to run for student council president and the Cheerleaders nominate Nate, some serious negative politics and ploys ensue.  They're so negative in fact, that Principal Getty informs BOTH teams that they went too far and as a result have been dropped from any possible school funding.

      Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
      Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
      At this point, Joanna (a very cute fellow robot geed), just wants to knock the crap out of Nate. But, “the twins” (two other robot teammates whose names we only learn at the end of the book), have a more productive idea: They suggest that they might get funding by competing and winning a “Robot Rumble” that takes place on Thanksgiving. First and second places will win them a ton of money that will more than meet their funding needs for the robotics club.

      There are two minor problems with this idea. First, the Robot Rumble involves robots tearing each other apart. IF they don’t win — and even if they do win — their robot may be seriously damaged, if not totally disabled. Second, they don’t have enough funds to reinforce “The Beast” (their robot) from possible rumble damage or to even enter the rumble itself.

      Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
      Meanwhile, while dealing with his mom’s leaving, his parents subsequent divorce, and his mom’s recent announcement of her engagement to another man, Charlie comes up with a solution for his friends: have the cheerleaders invest in The Beast. If The Beast were to win, there’d be more than enough prize money to fund both the robotic teams’ entry and trip to the Robot Competition AND fund the cheerleaders’ new uniforms. IF, of course, The Beast were to win the rumble.
      The rest of the story is up to you to read and enjoy.

      In short, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is about friendship, dirty politics, rumbling robots, basketball, cheerleading, and family. In addition to wonderfully nuanced characters and the wacky bending of expectations and stereotypes, the story relays:
      Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
      • That there is more to the simple stereotypes of Jocks, Geeks, Nerds, Cheerleaders (to name a few);
      • The power of friendship, especially when things get tough;
      • How dirty, even in high school, politics can become;
      • The power of persistence and cooperation with others to achieve your goals;
      • That navigating social hierarchies takes skill and insight;
      • Popularity does not insure happiness; and
      • Anyone can be bullied and anyone can be a bully.

      Cultural Diversity, Civic Responsibilities, and Social Issues
      • Define stereotypes your students come across in their lives. Discuss the pros and cons of using stereotypes and why they persist.
      • Have the class describe/define social labels such as “Nerds,” “Jocks,” and Geeks,” and analyze how the characters in this book comply with and defy these definitions and expectations. Talk about how these expectations might be used and misused in your school.
      • Discuss and define typical male and female roles and expectations. Analyze how the book’s characters meet and defy these expectations, and why.
      • Follow and discuss how both sides effectively and ineffectively campaigned for student council president, making sure to include their use of posters, slogans, and strategies. Discuss how their approaches were similar and different to those of local political campaigns in your area.
      Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)

      Language, Literature, and Language Usage
      • Search for, and discuss the book’s use of alliteration, simile and metaphor. Discuss how these literary tools help the authors relay details and nuances in the story’s characters and plot.
      • Discuss the derogatory words the kids use to describe others (i.e. “Gestapo cheerleaders,” “hoochie-forms,” and “evil fembot co-captain,” to name a few).
      • Discuss why your students think the twins were not given names until the end of the book. How did this affect the story and the way we perceive them?
      • Chart and analyze the slogans used by Nate and by the cheerleaders. Discuss how they help and/or hurt their political positions.
      • Discuss the various team and robot names at the Robot Rumble. Have students discuss team and robot names they would use and why.
      Critical Thinking and Inferences
      The authors make many inferences in this book both with language use and through imagery. You may want to discuss the following uses of inference:
      • This book is all about navigating socially in high school. Have students come up with their own “handbooks” or unofficial social rules of high school (or middle school depending on the age/grade of your students).
      • Charlie’s solution for both teams’ financial issues is for the cheerleaders to invest in The Beast in the hope that The Beast places first and the prize money they receive will more than pay for the respective teams’ needs. Discuss and evaluate the risks versus the benefits of this strategy. Would you do it?
      • There are a number of political/historical references made by Nate regarding the cheerleaders. Find and discuss them. (For example: On page 28, Nate tells Charlie, “You’re such a mess. They’re cheerleaders, not the KGB.”)
      • After going too far and destroying the football field, Holly tells Principal Getty, “What we did was in extremely poor judgment and taste, but we were obeying the spirit of the electoral process.” Discuss the inferences and implications of this statement and how they were or were not “obeying the spirit of the electoral process.”
      Modes of Storytelling and Visual Literacy
      In graphic novels, images are used to relay messages with and without accompanying text, adding additional dimension to the story. Compare, contrast, and discuss with students how images can be used to relay complex messages. For example:
      Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
      • Discuss how posters are designed and then used during the campaign. Analyze the images as well as the choice of words and slogans.
      • On page 50, Nate says to Charlie, “Breathe. I hardly think the Pom-Pom Gestapo can do anything to you. Discuss the author’s choice of words and the imagery they relay. Then search the book and see how the illustrations further relay this image.
      • To get to the Robot Rumble, Charlie, Nate, Ben, Joanna, the twins, Holly, and Nora drive from Hollow Ridge to Atlanta. On pages 196-197, we are told that the kids “argued vociferously (for 15 minutes) about the best way to get onto the highway.” Using various maps (NOT on the computer), plot how you might drive. Discuss where you might stop and why.
      • Discuss the effective design of the Robot Rumble poster. Make sure to include the use of font, the use of the space and the choice of images used. How effective were these choices?
      Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (First Second, 2013)
      Suggested Prose and Graphic Novel Pairings
      For greater discussion on literary style and/or content here are some prose novels and poetry you may want to read with The Silence of Our Friends
      • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins — a story about Katniss Everdeen, a strong young woman who defies stereotypes.
      • Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks — for high school readers, a story about missing mothers, distant brothers, high school, and new friends.
      • The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks — about a superhero girl who loves kittens and battles monsters and the mundane.
      • I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls Series) by Ally Carter — about Carrie Morgan, a sophomore at an elite spy-training school who has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary guy who thinks she’s ordinary as well.
      • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton — a story about the social divisions among kids and the mechanisms that drive their rivalry.
      • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier — a story about a kid who defies social convention in his school and the subsequent fallout from his actions.
      • American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang — a graphic novel that explores stereotypes and adolescent worries over perception and acceptance.
      • The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie — about a bright motivated young Native American who must decide between a long commute to a better all-white school off the reservation (and face ridicule from white kids he must befriend and from his local friends he leaves behind) or to remain with his friends at the reservation’s  limited high school and head nowhere fast.
      For more details on this book and its characters, as well as further book club and classroom uggestions (and how they meet Common Core State Standards) please see Using Graphic Novels in Education: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong.

      In the meantime, thanks for your visit and please leave your reactions in the comments below.

      Tuesday, April 8, 2014

      Mind Over Matter

      As I am swamped with work (which is a good thing), and in conjunction with ABCWednesday this week's post is a simple message for all: Mind over Matter.

      According to Wikipedia "mind over matter" first appeared in 1863 in The Gological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man by Sir Charles Lyell, and refers to the increasing status and evolutionary growth of the minds of man and animals throughout our history. Since then, it has also been used in reference to psychokinesis and paranormal phenomena or for motivational and/or healing purposes. For example, defines it as:
      mind over matter
      Fig. [an instance where there are] intellectual powers overriding threats, difficulties, or problems. You need to concentrate harder. Pay no attention to your surroundings. This is a case of mind over matter.
      mind over matter
      the power of the mind to control and influence the body and the physical world generally I'm sure you can talk yourself into believing that you're well. It's a case of mind over matter.
      mind over matter
      thought is stronger than physical things Curing cancer may not be a question of mind over matter, but your attitude is important.
      Clearly, this idiom can mean different things to different people.  I leave you with this:

      Thank you, as always for your visit.  Please leave your own thoughts on mind over matter in the comments. I hope to see you next week.

      Tuesday, April 1, 2014

      Pretty in Ink: Looking at Women's Contributions to Comics

      Pauline Loth's Miss America 1945
      “Today, although as a whole, the industry is still male-dominated, more women are drawing comics than ever before, and there are more venues for them to see their work in print. In the 1950s, when the comic industry hit an all-time low, there was no place for women to go. Today, because of graphic novels, there’s no place for aspiring women cartoonists to go but forward.” – Trina Robbins, Pretty in Ink (2013)
       While I realize we just finished Women's History month, that's no reason to stop looking at women's contributions. Below is a review/ summary of Trina Robbin's Pretty in Ink.

      Pretty in Ink: North American Women Cartoonists 1896-2013 by Trina Robbins discusses the lives, times, struggles, and contributions of women in the world of cartoons and comics.   [For high school and older.]
      Pretty in Ink by cartoonist and comic historian, Trina Robbins, explores 117 years of women’s contributions of female cartoon creators and artists. Not only does Robbins discuss the lives of these women, but she puts them and their contributions in the context of their times. Pretty in Ink is a history of women cartoonists and of the cartoon/comic industry as a whole. Robbins has researched and relayed the stories behind the comics and cartoons, along with some samples of their gems.
      Pretty in Ink relates the role of women in the history of comics in eight chapters:
      Trina Robbins Pretty in Ink 2013
      • The Queens of Cute
      • The Pursuit of Flappiness
      • Depression Babies and Babes
      • Blonde Bombers and Girl Commandos
      • Back to the Kitchen
      • Chicks and Womyn
      • See You in the Funny Pages
      • Postscript: 21st Century Foxes
      Below is a brief summary (with little time or room to mention all the awesome women who've paved the way for others while giving women a cultural voice):

      Chapter 1: “The Queens of Cute” is devoted to the first women creators or artists of comics. For the most part, women from 1895-1920’s created comics with cute cherubic kids who got into trouble (i.e. Kewpies, and The Turrble Tales of Kaptin Kiddo) or they were creating/writing about suffrage and love (i.e., Flora Flirt). To help make ends meet, many of these women were also drawing for corporate advertising for companies such as Campbell (i.e. the Campbell Soup Kids, Jello, and Ivory Soap).
      Rose O'Neill's Kewpies

      Nell Brinkley's February 13,1927 The Fortunes of Flossie Sunday page
       Chapter 2: “The Pursuit of Flappiness" takes us from the 1920’s Flappers to The Great Depression. These were the days and times of pretty girls and flappers. Nell Brinkley set the style and stage during the 1920’s with her “Brinkley Girls” whose fashionable clothes and flamboyant hair inspired controversy and fan mail. [Robbins notes that Florenz Ziegfeld made his fortune glorifying Brinkley Girls in his Ziegfeld Follies.] Robbins, continues, however, noting that while Brinkely created the penultimate female, her daily panels provided sharp commentary of women’s roles and rights of her time, “squeezing” in important comments on suffrage, working women, and women in sports. In this chapter, however, Brinkley is just the starting point. Robbins then discusses the other women contributors of this era and their valuable contributions to comics.

      Chapter 3: “Depression Babies and Babes" takes us from roaring parties to depression.  Robbins notes that while the average heroine of the 1920’s had been a pretty girl, often a “co-ed” with nothing on her mind but boys, the 1930’s plunged America into a The Great Depression and brought us “The Depression strip”  (i.e. Apple Mary by Martha Orr).

      Robbins notes,
      “This type of strip featured unglamorous protagonists dealing with real problems: poor but happy American households; upbeat unflappable orphans; plucky working girls (i.e. Brenda Starr by Dale Messick) out to earn a living rather than merely having a good time.” (p. 51).
      Image from

      Chapter 4: “Blonde Bombers and Girl Commandos" reflects America in 1940’s – a country teetering on the brink of war. Robbins notes that movies, pulp fiction and the new medium of comic books all echoed the action-oriented themes of war.  While earlier comics had been about cute animals and kids and pretty girls out to have fun in a carefree world, women were now more involved men’s world – both in the story content and in their production. Dale Messick’s Brenda Starr, for example, paved the way with a Rita Hayworth-like reporter who parachuted from planes, joined girl gangs, escaped from kidnappers, almost froze to death in snow-covered slopes, and got marooned on desert islands.  Other comics followed with female spies, female commandos and undercover agents soon followed.
      Brenda Starr: Reporter by Dale Messick - image from
      Robbins notes, however, that while other comics had women as foils for the hero to rescue, only the Fiction House comics had women in charge.  Fiction House, started in 1936 by Jerry Iger and Will Eisner was also the company that hired more women cartoonists than any of the others. It was also one of the only publishers who had women writing the stories.
      As America entered the war, women assumed men's places at work as the men went off to fight. Robbins notes that while few women drew the costumed heroes that had been popular since Superman in 1938, most exceeded at and drew female figures. Typical wartime heroine titles were “Yankee Girl” (drawn by Ann Brewster), or “Blonde Bomber” and “Girl Commandos” (drawn by Jill Eglin and later Barbara Hall). Furthermore, women were able to work under their own names.  The only times pseudonyms were used was when drawing and/or creating action strips.  Those were male domains.

      Chapter 5: “Back to the Kitchen" relates what happened to women and the industry after the war. The returning men assumed the production of the superhero /action comics while the women developed children’s action comics, teen comics, and love comics. Robbins notes that teen and romance comics continued to employ women throughout the 1950’s, but slowly the number of women in the field dropped, with many of the female artists moving into illustrating children’s books. Robbins pegs the recession in the comics market during the 1950’s to Dr. Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent  which (falsely) claimed that comics were responsible for juvenile delinquency. DC and Marvel, the two major comic book publishers to survive the comic book depression began gearing themselves toward superheroes and the young male market. Female-oriented comic books were being slowly phased out.
      by Trina Robbins
      Chapter 6: “Chicks and Womyn" relates what the female comic book artists and creators did to survive – they like most of the comic book industry went underground, developing the Comix market. Robbins notes that the early comix were psychedelic, focusing on design rather than story. The women’s underground comics of the (later) 1970’s dealt with political and social issues from the female perspective.
      By the 1970’s the only way for women to produce comic books was on their own, and so many women, including Robbins created their own anthologies.  The late 1970’s saw the beginning of a boom in self publishing and small press black-and-white comics. It also saw the rising of comic book specialty stores.
      Chapter 7: “See You in the Funny Pages" during the 1980’s and 1990’s attempts at producing comics for women and girls were scattered and mostly all failed because the comic book stores either didn’t carry them or the ordered too few and failed to reorder when their few copies sold out.  These comic book stores became bastions for the young male market the major comic book publishers were courting. In 1993, Robbins notes that “Friends of Lulu” – a group of the comic industry’s women began to create and distribute their own media in “zines” (magazines) with mixed success. Women creating comic strips, however, met with more success as many were self-syndicated.
      Chapter 8: 21st Century Foxes" relays the successes and disappointments of the 21st Century (so far).  In terms of the disappointments, Robbins notes that women creators/artists/inkers are still significantly underrepresented in the major publishing houses. She notes, for example that in 2011, as DC opened their new line of comics, The New 52, only 1% of the new line creators were women, and 12% of their canceled strips were done by women. On the positive side, with Will Eisner’s A Contract with God and Art Spiegelman’s 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Maus, the graphic novel became a more accepted art and literary form. Now there was much more than simply superhero stories out there.  There were graphic stories and graphic memoires. And, women were creating their own graphic novels and memoires for adults, teens and kids. Finally, webcomics, which are mostly creator owned have also give women a stronger voice in the industry.  It is on this upbeat note that Robbins ends her history with the hope of even greater access to women’s stories and women’s work in the future.

      Amanda Conner and Laura Martin's cover for the collected Girl Comics, by Marvel

      I have only recently entered the world of comics and graphic novels (aside from the awesome Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts) and found Robbin's history fascinating and illuminating. I hope those of you visiting, will leave your own memories and accounts of women in comics in the comments below. In the meantime, I have listed a few lesson suggestions for teachers, and as always, thank you for your visit.

      Lesson Suggestions for Pretty in Ink:
      • Use this book as a reference to a particular period of American history from 1896 to the present. Look at the comics Robbins selects and analyze/discuss how the reflect the period in which they were written.
      • Selecting various periods of American history (1896-present) compare/analyze/discuss women’s roles in comics versus other industries at that particular time. 
      • Select comics done by men versus comics done by women of a particular tie period.  How do the differ in content, in style, in language?
      • Use this book to discuss the course of American publishing.  How has it changed?  Where is it going today?
      • Reading through Pretty in Ink one gets a very definite perspective on history.  Discuss this perspective and how it influences one’s understanding of the eras involved. Are there other perspectives?

      Tuesday, March 25, 2014

      Keeping Your Brain Healthy: Cool Kids' Infographics On Nutrition and the Brain

      There has been growing controversy about how to "train your brain" questioning the effectiveness of some of the brain-games in books, apps and brain-gyms.  While they have been found to be fun and stimulating, their effectiveness peaks after a point.  Learning new languages, physical exercise and proper nutrition and gaining ground on the games.  So below, I share an infographic on "Are You Keeping Your Brain Healthy? Brain Boosters and Brain Busters" sponsored by Gourmandia ( and found at ...

      ...How can you not love this with references to Pinky and The Brain!!!??!!

      As always, thanks for your visit and please share how you're boosting your brain with us in the comments below.

      Monday, March 10, 2014

      Shakespeare through Infographics


      Inspired by an outstanding production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Nights Dream this past weekend (University of Ch
      icago's Dean's Men Production), I thought I'd take post an interesting collection of facts, quotes and infographics related to Shakespeare and his works.

      For me, the brilliance of Shakespeare's work is its timelessness, and his outstanding play with language. All gifts, thrills and treats, the infographics below cannot begin to relate or express. As a result, while fun, I find the infographic limiting.  That said, they can be used to motivate, detail, and summarize aspects of The Bard's genius with language and character.

      So, while I provide you with the inforgraphics below to help students and readers learn, appreciate, understand, and simply have fun with Shakespeare  - it his insults, jabs, sonnets, and prose that should be savored and enjoyed. The infographics below introduce his work - be they his "history" plays, his tragedies, comedies, famous quotes, suggested reading, life history, or interesting statistics. They are fun but should be taken and enjoyed ALONG WITH THE  reading and exploration of the texts and plays themselves.

      More specifically, the infographics below relay:
      • Aspects of his "History" plays;
      • His tragedies - as told by their deaths;
      • Interesting Shakespeare "statistics";
      • His more famous quotes and where they're from; 
      • helping you "Choose" which Shakespeare play you want to read; and
      • An "anatomy" of Shakespeare's insults
      For more on Shakespeare (to supplement the infographics)  please see:

      So please enjoy the infographics below, but don't stop here.

      INFOGRAPHIC #1: The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare's History Plays - Shakespeare's Game of the Hollow Crown designed by Ricardo Galvez and Produced/Researched by Tom McNamara. Please visit Shakespeare Uncovered ( more Shakespeare infographics. Note these come from PBS's Anatomy of a Scene: Shakespeare like your High School English teacher never taught you.

      Hamlet and Macbeth are about a lot of things. Power and revenge. Madness and the otherworldly. But, when you get right down to it, these are plays about death and dying and murder: so that you know evil when it crosses your path.

      See Shakespeare’s dark world illustrated and how each character came to their bloody end. (Click on the image to enlarge or open in new window.)
      Using Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV, Part One and Henry IV, Part Two as your map, follow the history of rebellion in turn of the 15th century England and the successive stories of three kings: Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V.

      Richard II (Click on the image to enlarge or open in new window.)

      Henry IV, Part 1 (Click on the image to enlarge or open in new window.)

      Henry IV, Part 2 (Click on the image to enlarge or open in new window.)

      Look at Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It. They take place in a wood and a forest respectively. Interestingly, “wood” meant “mad” back in Shakespeare’s day. So, it makes sense that while these are settings of enchantment and escape, they are also sites of confusioneven madness: where fairy queens fall in love with ass-headed (literally) common folk; or where you don’t even know if you’re sleeping or awake.

      Enter Shakespeare’s Enchanted Forest and see all the comedy (or madness) that ensues. (Click on the image to enlarge or open in new window.)

      INFOGRAPHIC #2: Shakespeare's Tragedies by Cam Magee and Caitlin Griffin - summarizing Shakespeare's tragedies in a nutshell. Cam Magee and Caitlin S. Griffin created a infographic that crosses Shakespeare with the people from bathroom signs. It shows every death from the tragedies, plus one of the most famous stage directions ever, from The Winter's Tale: "Exit, pursued by a bear."

      An infographic that keeps track of all of Shakespeare's deaths for you

      INFOGRAPHIC # 3 William Shakespeare in Statistics The source for this infographic was which I  found at View the full image at NoSweatShakespeare’s
      Note that some of the personal 'items' below related to Shakespeare's personal life are believed true, but a good amount of his life was and still is not fully known to us.
      View the full image at NoSweatShakespeare’s Shakespeare facts & statistics infographic

      INFOGRAPHIC #4: Eight Phrases We Owe to William Shakespeare found at by 2011

      INFOGRAPHIC #5:What Shakespeare Play Should I read by and posted by Jessica on 4/23/2013 at

      INFOGRAPHIC #6: A Grand Taxonomy of Shakespearean Insults created by Charley Chartwell at

      That's about it for this week.  Thank you for your visit. Please leave your own teaching ideas and/or your memories of the thrills and chills of reading/learning Shakespeare in the comments below.

      Tuesday, March 4, 2014

      Here's to "Frozen" - How it Touches Us and Makes Us Happy!

      Have fun with my a Toast to Disney's Frozen, as we see  how it touched us all...

      First, here's Jimmy Fallon, Idina Menzel and Roots singing "Let it Go" with classroom 'instruments'(here's the NBC's link

      Then, YOU MUST (if nothing else) watch the fabulous Maddie and Zoe singing "Let it Go" This is my absolute favorite - I love their faces, their expressions, their passion, their energy...all of it. (Here's the link

      And then, of course, there's Olaf's wonderful ruminating about "Summer" (Here's the link

      That's it for this week.  And while I know there are many more awesome Frozen  links and take-offs to share, I leave that to you - please share them in the comments.

      Thank you all for your visit.
      Thank you Disney for making this.
      Please share your own Frozen gems, stories, or reactions in the comments below.