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Sari WJD June06 P31 Steinberg

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  • 1. JUNE 2006 JEWISH FAMILY LIFE 31 Reading for Pleasure TeachesPicture Me a Book BY SARI STEINBERG the Pleasure of Reading School’s out, but reading doesn’t have to be. Here areWHEN I ENCOURAGED MY DAUGHTER TO READ COMIC STRIPS, I was pretty sure she’d be hooked. What some books that promise to bring out the voraciousI didn’t realize was that she would go far beyond “Betty & Veronica” to read graphic novels depicting Jewish reader within every child.heritage and history. With their well-crafted text, hand-drawn or YOUNG READERS (4-8):computerized images and detailed panels, graphic novels “Before You Were Born” by Howardare part of a booming genre that has gained prominent Schwartz; art by Kristina Swarnerspace on bookstore and library shelves in recent years. According to this retelling of a JewishAccording to ICv2, a pop-culture merchandising agency that midrash, your child knew all of thetracks retail sales, the graphic-novel industry grossed an world’s secrets … until he was born.estimated $245 million in 2005, an 18-percent increase Listen as your child shares his questions andfrom the previous year. observations. While many of these long-form comic books are meant “Bagels From Benny” by Aubreyfor a more mature audience—Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust Davis; art by Dusan Petricicstory “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale,” Marjane Satrapi’s Adapted from a Ladino folktale, this is a“Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood” and the upcoming touching tale about a boy who wants to“The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation” edited by Sid thank God in his own unique way andJacobson—youth publishers like Scholastic, Inc. and Henry ends up doing an incredible mitzvah.Holt are getting into the graphic-novel groove withspecialized imprints that crank out illustrative works offiction, nonfiction and even manga (Japanese translations PRE-TEEN (9-12): “Julia’s Kitchen” by Brenda A. Ferber (fiction)that read from right to left like Hebrew books.) This award winner is an excellent exploration of So what do teachers and librarians think of this reading revolution? It appears it has been met with faith and tragedy with a perfect dose of humor andboth apprehension and excitement. While some school professionals don’t take graphic novels seriously, courage. The emotional intensity makes it hard toothers feel it’s an important genre for young readers to explore, especially those reluctant to pick up a read but impossible to put down.traditional, text-only book. “You have to get [kids] interested and excited to get them to appreciate reading,” says Maryann Mondrus, “Escaping into thea librarian at the Skokie Public Library, just outside of Chicago, who believes students can benefit from having Night” by D. Dinagraphic novels in the classroom. “The artwork is so good … I think there’s a lot of appreciation for [graphic Friedman (fiction)novels] at all ages.” A gripping Holocaust narrative, based on historical events, told from the perspective of a Polish girl For the younger reader, publishers are putting out graphic-novel versions of classic childhood favorites, who survived the Underground.like “The Baby-Sitters Club” and the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries, as well as biographies of famouspeople like Alexander the Great and Amelia Erhardt. (Shh! We won’t tell they’re educational if you won’t.) Several Jewish publishing houses are taking note of the trend and adding their own sequential-art YOUNG ADULT (12+):selections for kids and young adults. This fall, Nachshon Press will release a groundbreaking, 120-page novel “Light Years” by Tammar Stein (fiction)called “Homeland: The Illustrated History of the State of Israel.” Offering a comprehensive overview from Having completed her army service, Maya leavesbiblical to modern times, the story is framed as a course taught by a young, female professor of Middle East Israel for Virginia but finds that she is still attachedStudies at an American university. Students’ questions are part of the narrative text, as are classic Jewish to her family, her boyfriend, her past and hermidrashim (traditional lore). homeland. “There are some excellent 500-page histories of Israel,” says Nachson’s executive editor William J. Rubin, “The Weight of“but 90 percent of people haven’t read them.” He adds that “Homeland” is an academic piece presented in a the Sky” by Lisa“very hot” medium that will appeal to a broad range of readers. Ann Sandell (fiction) Another publisher, Shazak Productions, is targeting an even younger crowd with its cartoon-style books Perfect for summertime reading, this is theexploring the Jewish holidays. So far, Shazak has released “The Queen of Persia” (Purim), “Miracle Lights” story of the life-altering summer college-bound(Chanukah) and “Out of Egypt” (Passover). Some other sequential-art titles from the past few years that your Sarah spends on a kibbutz.young people of the Book might enjoy are “The Rabbi’s Cat,” “Samson: Judge of Israel” and “Megillat Esther.”These titles target different age ranges, though, so be sure to vet them before your kids start reading. Even if schools aren’t sold on graphic novels yet, they may make a real difference in the lives and BOOKS YOU CAN SHARE: “A Day Apart: Shabbat at Home” by Noam Sachs Zion andeducation of children by providing a stimulating source of extracurricular entertainment that isn’t online or Shawn Fields-Meyeron television. And with the fantastic and futuristic literary world we have today, just imagine the possibilities: Finally, a book that raises the bar. FindComic book history textbooks, the final frontier? inspiring explanations and practicalSari Steinberg (SariScribe@aol.com) is a freelance copywriter, author (“…And Then There Were Dinosaurs” and “King Solomon guidance to enhance your family’s ShabbatFigures It Out”) and parent. in this step-by-step guidebook. “From There toDID YOU KNOW? Here: Points on the Circle of Life” collectionJews pioneered both the comic book and graphic-novel genres. An exhibit running through from JRC PressJune 30 at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum in New York pays An anthology of Jewish essays by 45 differenttribute to the work of acclaimed Jewish artists, including the late Will Eisner, creator of “A authors on topics ranging from adoption and deathContract with God,” and the newcomer JT Waldman, whose “Megillat Esther” turned the Book to intermarriage and Orthodoxy.of Esther into a graphic novel (see WJD March 2006).PHOTOS CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: COURTESY OF NACHSHON PRESS; COURTESY OF ROARING BROOK PRESS; COURTESY OF KIDS CAN PRESS; COURTESY OF FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX; —Sari SteinbergCOURTESY OF SIMON & SCHUSTER; COURTESY OF RANDOM HOUSE; COURTESY OF PENGUIN YOUNG READERS GROUP; COURTESY OF HAGGADAHSRUS.COM; COURTESY OF JRC PRESS

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