Modeule 13 – Graphic Novels: Camp Babymouse

Holm, J., and Holm, M. (2007).  Camp Babymouse. New York, NY: Random House.

Genre: This book meets the criteria of a graphic novel because of the story it tells being heavily supported by images, in this case, black and white drawing with pink accents.

Summary: Her first trip to summer camp does not turn out as she dreamed it would. In this 6th in a series of graphic novels, Babymouse seems to make a mess of everything. In fact, at one point she decides to give up, but the tables turn slightly and she gets back on her feet to help her team pull out a victory in an important competition. Even though her team is in last place overall, the one victory gives Babymouse confidence and respect from fellow campers.

Library uses: Sharing this book with second or third graders would be a good introduction to the graphic novel genre for emerging readers.

Impressions: While so many books for kids entertain by putting others down, this Babymouse book does not. Yes, her cabin mates suggest she change to another cabin at one point, but they don’t insult her or run her down. Yes, Babymouse gets demerits galore, but she keeps trying and eventually works things out. The plot is simple and more entertaining than didactic, although there is a lesson learned through the story.

I am not a big fan of graphic novels, but I can see how students who are beginning to read chapter books would feel a great sense of accomplishment on finishing this book. Having 96 pages makes it seem like a long book. The serial nature of Babymouse will help students find more books they like, if they like one of them. One of the biggest challenges for new book readers is finding something they like, so serials help give them direction at least for a while.

Professional Review: Kan, K. (2007, August). Camp Babymouse. Booklist. Retrieved from https://www.booklistonline.com/Camp-Babymouse-Jennifer-L-Holm/pid=1982757

Babymouse is convinced she’ll have a great time at summer camp, never mind that she doesn’t like the great outdoors. Despite her daydreams of derring-do, she succeeds only in getting into trouble, racking up an impressive number of demerits for her team, the Buttercups. What is she to do? This charming series entry, illustrated as in the familiar black, white, and pink, continues to put Babymouse into situations that most children will immediately recognize. The book’s small, square size will fit perfectly into young hands, and the story promises great fun for both new comics readers and avid ones.

Readalikes:

The Night Before Summer Camp  by Natasha Wing – This is another book on the same subject for the same audience. It is not a graphic novel, but a picture book and part of a “night before” series.

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey – From the author of Captain Underpants, since Dogman is not wearing underwear, this may be more acceptable graphic novel series to some than the actual Underpants series.

The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson – This is a graphic novel from the 2017 – 2018 Bluebonnet list which features animals on the loose in a school when the kids aren’t there, and is alaso appropriate for a 7-10 year old audience.

 

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Module 14 – Poetry and Story Collections: Odette’s Secrets

Macdonald, M. (2013). Odette’s Secrets. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Genre: This novel-length historical fiction story is an excellent example of a novel written in lines and stanzas, as verse novel, as opposed to the typical prose paragraphs.

Summary: The struggle to survive the Holocaust has been told many times, yet this verse novel told in first person from Odette’s perspective makes it fresh again. Odette and her mother do not face the horrors of extermination camps, but struggle to hide their identity as Jews in France as her father enlists in the French military, and her mother maintains her job and assists others for as long as possible in Paris, before joining Odette in masquerading as Christian peasants in the French countryside. The focus is on Odette’s struggle as a child to reconcile all she experiences related to war and to deal with the forming and breaking of bonds with those she encounters. It is strongly founded in the history of Odette as told in her autobiography Doors to Madame Marie, interviews by the author with Odette’s son, and visits to the locations Odette lived during the war.

Library uses: This is a fantastic book to recommend to teachers of older elementary and middle or even high school students who are teaching writing biographies (even though this is fiction) or narratives. Reading a sample and introducing students to verse novels would also be a good hook to get students into either verse novels, or historical fiction. Of course it is also great for making historical connections to World War II and the Holocaust

Impressions: Verse novels strike me in many ways as a cop-out, as does much lyric poetry. Without having to conform to the constraints of typical sentence structure, paragraphs, punctuation, or chapters, it is much easier to create impressions. But just as readers and writers of old wearied of the limitations of the villanelle and sonnet, contemporary readers and writers get bored with typical things and try new forms. I am averse to many changes in contemporary language, so my mindset was negative as I picked up Odette’s Secrets. Had I known it was also another Holocaust novel, I would have also sighed. Had this not been on an assignment list, I probably would not have read it. But I am glad I did.

As compelling as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl is, at times, due to its overuse, it can seem worn out, from a teaching perspective. Odette’s Secrets takes the same perspective, first-person from a young person’s point of view, but tells the story in lines and stanzas. This fictionalization of Odette Meyers’ true life story gives the author the liberty to create conversations and tell the story in language today’s young readers will enjoy with ease.

The focus on Odette’s struggles are not just with the war scenes or fear, but the friends she makes as she moves from place to place. Through these relationships, we see her grow from a child to teen and cope with her religious beliefs and struggle with who she is. It heads in the direction of bildungsroman but treads lightly on the struggle for Odette to understand who she is. This taste of the war and the Holocaust ends as happily as possible and does not enter death camps. I always like happily ever after, and although that is not always realistic, it is nice to have a book that shows that there were some more positive endings than being sent to crematories or shot into mass graves.

The verse format is not cheesy, or overly sentimental and does not seem like a cop-out. It works well for conveying the thoughts of the main character. In the end I am converted to wanting to reaad more verse novels.

Professional Review: Publisher’s Weekly. (2013, January 21). Odette’s secrets. Publisher’s Weekly LLC. Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-59990-750-5

Odette’s life in Paris is happy until Jewish shopkeepers’ stores start being vandalized and rumors of war become fact. With her father in the army, Odette, her mother, and her beloved godmother are left to manage under the growing restrictions against Jews. Eventually, Odette is sent to the countryside—safer, but not devoid of anti-Semitism—where she spends the rest of the war as a hidden child. When the war ends, Odette, no longer sure how Jewish she feels, is reluctant to return to Paris, memorably described, like the rest of postwar France, as a “gigantic Lost and Found” for Jews seeking missing family members. As Odette starts to understand the extent of the losses her community has suffered, she rediscovers her identity as a Jew. Macdonald used the real Odette’s auto- biography as the basis for this book, and her free-verse narrative is charming and effective. Although Odette’s age is never given, her youthful perspective and the overall nonspecificity about the war, make the book best suited to readers on the younger end of the target audience. Ages 10–14. 

Readalikes:

Little Cat’s Luck by Marion Bauer – Although on a very different subject, this is another verse novel that young readers will enjoy.

House on Mango Street – This is a novel for upper middle and high school-aged students written as a lyrical prose poem that also recounts the contemporary struggle of a young (Latina) girl moving from place to place. This

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – A Holocaust book for an older audience, middle and high school, this story also has its happy moments, but is sadder and includes more details about the death and destruction during the war.