All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely is a story that focuses on the relationship between Quinn, a white boy, and Rashad, an African American boy who is violently beaten by a white police officer. This week, we discuss the racial issues of this book and how they relate to society today. We will also discuss how bullying in this book compares to what we observed in The Hate U Give and Wolf Hollow.
By Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District and Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico
This week, we share three sixth-graders’ thoughts on manga and their manga experiences. Many teenagers love reading and illustrating manga, yet there has not been a clear discussion about young readers’ criteria that asks how they recognize excellence in Japanese manga. Since manga is popular among young readers, we wonder how they choose a quality manga that is aesthetically attractive to them. We interpret manga as a product of childhood cultures, so we explore our three manga fans’ thoughts on the quality of manga and compare it to similar sequential art texts like graphic novels.
In this post, we share our mini interviews with three manga readers who read manga wherever and whenever they can. We made our interview questions simple and casual, like a short conversation at a dining table at home. We asked, “What is your favorite? And why?”
Students’ input doesn’t earn official credibility in terms of reading material; however, manga can be an exciting exception. After all, they are insightful manga critics who are serious about their manga selections. We hope that the students’ voices that recognize good manga can support teachers and parents who consider adopting manga into their shared spaces with teenage readers.
Manga vs. graphic novels: “Graphic novels give you pieces of stories, but manga give you pictures of stories.”
We are curious how students see manga and manga differently from graphic novels. The recent popularity of graphic novels extends graphic novel visibility in schools. These interviews help us to understand how students see the strength of manga compared to graphic novels. All of our interviewees picked details of pictures or illustrations as a strength of manga and agreed that significant features of manga illustrations are different from graphic novels.
The interviewees’ have a personal manga history of at least two years, and while many recent graphic novels take color as an important visual element, the original colorless nature of manga illustrations for cost-effective reasons actually appears to be a stronger, more attractive feature to the sixth-graders. The economical rationality of colorless print manga leads to enriched details in illustration and realism in art styles. Detail in the illustration adds a fullness of visual arts, and it appears to be a unique aesthetic strength of manga that graphic novels may not offer in the same way. It was somewhat surprising to hear one of the students say, “Illustrations for graphic novels are cartoons, and manga is, like, more realistic.” A general social concept of manga is that manga would be more like cartoons, but this interview shows an opposite point of view from the sixth-graders.
Junko: I saw your manga drawings. How do you like it? Graphic novels also have illustrations. Do you think there are any differences between manga and graphic novel illustrations?
Student 1: Yes, they are different. With manga, they are more illustrated and more detailed. With graphic novels, they give you pieces of stories. Manga gives you pictures of stories.
Junko: How is reading manga different from reading graphic novels, chapter books and other books?
Student 2: I like the details of manga.
Student 3: I find some differences. Sometimes graphic novels have colors, and manga rarely has colors. When you read a manga, you read differently because of art styles and concepts of boxes [panels]. Graphic novels have boxes and words, and manga has sort of the same things, like boxes and words. Illustrations for graphic novels are like cartoons, and manga is, like, more realistic. Art styles of manga are more realistic and detailed.
In last week’s post, we noted that successful manga titles are often adapted into anime, and animations are different forms of a multimodal text from manga. In our conversation below, the three students compare manga with anime based on their experiences in both multimodal texts. The students’ perceptions about these two types of texts are quite insightful. The students conclude that manga gives more details, complex characterizations, storylines and character backgrounds, and these qualities make manga good.
Junko: How did you learn about manga?
Student 3: I started watching anime, and then I got more into manga because it makes more sense reading a manga.
Junko: What do you mean by “makes more sense”?
Student 3: Because anime has details, but sometimes manga has more information than anime. Manga tells you more. Manga has more of the characters’ thinking, and anime is just there. Manga has more back stories, and anime just assumes.
Talking about good manga: “Manga makes you wonder what’s going to happen.”
In this interview, we also ask about the criteria of manga that the sixth graders apply when they choose to read. Their criteria seems to focus on art styles, techniques, themes and storylines. The students add that they closely look to see if books are authentic. Readers take an “aesthetic stance” to focus on what is being lived through during reading (Rosenblatt’s 1995). The sixth graders make sense of manga stories and identify with characters who are just like them by their experiences, memories, feelings and backgrounds. They constantly make text-to-text connections to other manga, too.
Junko: What criteria makes good manga?
Student 3: When [manga] makes you wonder what’s going to happen. I like romance manga.
Junko: Graphic novels have colors and look more attractive, but manga is just black and white.
Student 3: Yeah. People think manga is more boring. But it doesn’t matter if it’s colored or not. It matters more what you are reading and what interests you. Sometimes what interests you is color, but if what you are reading interests you, you will read it.
In this interview, the students show their text-to-text connections that ignited personal interest in manga reading. The students are aware of a wide range of genre and topics that manga cover, such as adventure, romance, school life, detective and sports. Their confident knowledge seems to be built from their last two years of manga and anime experiences.
Junko: When did you start reading manga?
Students 1, 2, and 3: 5th grade.
Student 2: My sister gave me a manga book that she got from her [high] school.
Junko: So do you read manga at home with your sister?
Student 2: Yes, we read at home.
Junko: How do you like manga? What kind of manga do you like?
Student 1: I like adventure, romance and sometimes school life.
Student 3: I like adventure, romance and life.
Student 2: I like fantasy, action, detective and sports like basketball, baseball and football manga.
Although manga is often colorless and so “people think manga is more boring,” these lived-through experiences create a space for these readers to engage with manga texts and to enjoy drawing inferences about stories. Their manga experiences are not limited to particular story topics, and their wide range of interests in reading lead them to have a unique reader’s identity. Next week, we will talk about globally famous and favorite manga authors and their representative work.
Rosenblatt, L. (1995). Literature as Exploration. New York: MLA
Journey through Worlds of Words during our open reading hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Check out our two online journals, WOW Review and WOW Stories, and keep up with WOW’s news and events.
This week, we look at Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk, a story focused on bullying and friendships in a rural Pennsylvania town in 1943. We will also compare and contrast this book with last week’s book, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Both books contain elements of bullying, abuses of power, and the choice to do what is right. However, these books also have a number of differences worth discussing.
By Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District and Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico
Manga translates literally to “whimsical pictures” and are Japanese comic books (Bonser, 2017, p. 201). Manga was originally published in Japan and then republished in other countries, including the U.S. A dive into manga history shows that it is rooted in Japan’s long tradition of sequential arts, dating back to the Middle Ages when Bishop Tuba, a Buddhist priest, drew caricatures of his fellow priests (Schodt, 1996), which is considered a forerunner of manga. Katsushika Hokusai, a ukiyo-e (floating world picture) woodblock printmaker, coined the word “manga” and Hokusai Manga, containing assorted drawings from Hokusai’s sketchbooks, was published in the early 19th century (see Figure 1). Later on, “manga” was used in reference to a storytelling-style of book by Rakuten Kitazawa, a manga artist known as the founding father of modern manga (see Figure 2).
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a powerful young adult novel that centers on the death of Khalil, an African American teenager who is shot by police after a traffic stop. Starr Carter, a witness to the shooting, frames the story as she watches the chaos and controversy erupt from Khalil’s death. Starr is caught in the middle of a conflict: she must either speak out about what she saw, or let the rumors speak for themselves. It’s a book full of controversy, tension, community and heart that takes a long look at relevant issues and movements, including the Black Lives Matter movement.
By Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District
This past spring, Junko visited a 6th grade classroom in Tucson, Arizona. She watched three girls having fun reading together. These readers kept reading and shared their thoughts from their reading any time and anywhere they could, like in the classroom or at recess. Holding their attention–Japanese comic books called manga. It didn’t take long for those manga fans to ask Junko any number of questions about Japan. Their knowledge was based on the popular Japanese manga they had read, so it was thoughtful. The 6th-grade manga fans were not shy about showing off that they read manga alongside other novels. The fact that they read manga whenever possible makes them similar to “book nerds,” except people wouldn’t call manga fans “nerds” because manga is meant for pleasure and fun. It is not traditionally considered as literature with a high literary value.
For this final week we wrap up talking about continuation through adaptability and change in children’s literature. In the last few weeks, we talked about The Tree in the Courtyard, My Grandfather’s Coat, and Seven and a Half Tons of Steel. Here, Dorea Kleker and Seemi Aziz discuss how all three books tie into continuation in children’s literature.
This brief but powerful non-fiction text projects the journey of continuation onto a steel beam from the World Trade Center. The beam lives on, becoming an integral and enduring part of the warship USS New York in the aftermath of September 11. The Governor of New York donates the steel beam and it is driven to a Louisiana foundry where the USS New York is being constructed, and the beam becomes its bow. Ten years after 9/11, it makes its way back to New York on September 11, 2011.
Written by Jim Aylesworth and illustrated by Barbara McClintock, My Grandfather’s Coat is an adaptation of a Yiddish folk song that weaves a tale of immigration and continuation in a new land. This retelling is full of joy, with a rhythm and rhyme that excites readers young and old. The story follows a single coat as it transforms and changes shape over the years, becoming something brand new. The song is also present in Simms Taback’s Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (Viking, 1999) and Phoebe Gilman’s Something from Nothing (Scholastic, 1992) and is reimagined once more in this charming picture book.
By Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University, Monmouth, OR
September is the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom’s “Banned Books” month, when we celebrate books that at one time or another have been challenged and/or censored. These books are often removed from the shelves of school and public libraries because an individual or organization found them to be politically, morally or religiously offensive and problematic. This year, Banned Book Week runs from September 24-30, which coincides with a special exhibit at Worlds of Words–Hello, Dear Enemy!