WOW Currents

Expanding Reading Boundaries: Mixing Manga with Culturally Diverse Children’s Books

By Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District and Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico

Graphic novels are entertaining for teachers and students. Lately we see more teachers adopt graphic novels in their classrooms. Manga may not be the same. Manga have a wide range of volume numbers and often have long series. Many teachers may not be able to monitor the entire volume sets in their busy schedule. We wonder what will happen if manga are mixed with other children’s books, specifically culturally diverse books. I, Yoo Kyung, often observe that students don’t always grab multicultural books when they have other choices (even in Albuquerque, “the Land of Enchantment”.) Book covers with different ethnic groups are not always their passion. Mixing manga within a text set may interest students in multicultural books through common themes and topics, not by category of “diverse” books. Intertextuality pursued by themes and topics attract students to read.

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WOW Currents

Sixth-Grade Fans’ Best Manga Choices

By Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District and Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico

We continue with favorite popular manga authors and their work and introduce popular manga titles the sixth-graders selected. Interestingly, four out of five titles are boys’ manga, though the three manga fans are girls. The gender classification practice of manga isn’t necessarily ruling criteria. Perhaps manga producers need “target reader” categories more than young readers. For example, contemporary realistic fiction with a high school setting seems to interest sixth-graders. Japanese high school may differ from sixth-grade classrooms, or the authors might make school exotic yet universally empathetic to sixth-graders. Readers identify with the characters’ concerns and issues, relationships with families and siblings, music and sports, school lives and peer cultures.

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WOW Currents

In My Opinion: Sixth-Graders Share Manga Experiences

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.

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WOW Currents

Fun Reading but Serious Talking: Manga History and Social Practice

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).

Figure 1. Hokusai Manga, First and Second Series (Ota Memorial Museum of Art, 2013)

Figure 1. Hokusai Manga, First and Second Series (Ota Memorial Museum of Art, 2013)


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WOW Currents

Get to know Japanese Manga Up Close and Personal: Children and Youth Choices for Fun

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.

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