Graphic Novel Review: Sailor Twain

(Note from Kevin: A few years ago, I was a reviewer for The Graphic Classroom. I really enjoyed the way we look at graphic novels with a lens towards the classroom. The site got taken over by another site, and then … I guess the owner of The Graphic Classroom stopped doing what he was doing. Which is fine. But I still had some reviews “sitting in the can” so I hav dug them out to share out here. This is the last one.)

 

Story Summary: It is often said that the sea holds many stories. So, too, do rivers, and Mark Siegal expertly explores this watery storytelling terrain in his graphic novel, SAILOR TWAIN, which comes with the subtitle of “The Mermaid in the Hudson.” Weaving history, literature, and the lore of mermaids and sirens into a complex story of a riverboat captain named Elijan Twain, Siegel brings the reader below the surface into a beguiling mystery of magic that centers on the saving of a mermaid’s life by Captain Twain and all of the ramifications that eminate from that event. (Yes, Twain is a purposeful and overt nod to Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens is also referenced here, too). The powerful Hudson River, in the 1800s, is the setting for this book, and echoes of Greek myths resonate, too. Siegel sets up expectations one way, only to turn the story another way, and the reader is rewarded with an original graphic novel that fully uses the graphic format to tell its story.

Art Review: Siegel, the writer, also is the artist here and his black-white charcoal sketch drawings are detailed, and full of mystery, too. Close-ups of eyes, in particular, tell much about the souls and thinking of his characters. We’re brought into their actions by the looks on characters’ faces, which is a testament to Siegel’s skills as an illustrator.

More Information:

• Hardcover: 400 pages
• Publisher: First Second (October 2, 2012)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1596436360
• ISBN-13: 978-1596436367

Siegel has created and nurtured a pretty lively website about the book that is worth examining. See the site at http://sailortwain.com/

For the Classroom: Let me just say upfront that I believe this book is not appropriate for most K-12 classrooms. Not for the story content, but for the images of the half-naked mermaid and for the sexual escapades of one of the main characters (who believes having seven loves will cure him of the mermaid’s siren song that lures him beneath the water). While these elements certainly fit nicely into the story, it may not fit so nicely into the K-12 classroom. Which is unfortunate, since the story’s focus on the mythology of river lore and magic would be of high interest to many students. Still, for the university, this book might be a good example of how graphic novel storytelling can unfold along complex lines and stand up with a lot modern literature.

My Recommendation: I highly recommend this book, but with significant reservations about the nudity and sexual themes of a storyline. Therefore, I would not recommend this for young children. A teacher might want to consider it for a high school classroom setting, if they were to preview the book first. At the college level, however, I see it a solid example of graphic storytelling on many levels.

Peace (with references),
Kevin

In the News: Me, the teacher/writer

MassLive Article
The regional newspaper (for which I once worked as a journalist in my life before teaching) did a feature story on my role as a contributing writer for the collection, Teaching with Heart. I tried to raise the role of teacher advocacy in the interview, as best as I could, and I hope the message may resonate. The collection, by the way, is fantastic, with short essays by dozens of educators writing about poems that are important to them.

Read the article and check out the book (be sure to use the discount code at the bottom of the article)

Peace (on the page),
Kevin

What We Made: A Collection of Tech Tools

Peter Kittle started up a crowdsourcing activity early on in the Making Learning Connected MOOC — asking people to add tools and technology resources they were using as they were “making” projects this summer. I took that list and grouped things as best as I could, and share it here with you. A list like this can be useful to a limited degree — in the end, what you compose and make comes from your own ideas, not the tools themselves. Still ….

Curated Collection of #CLMOOC Tools

Peace (beyond the tools),
Kevin

Thanks to Fellow Facilitators, or All I Got Was a Comic

If you have been following me this summer, you probably figured out that I was a facilitator with the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration. It was a blast, and I was part of an amazing team of people who worked tirelessly to engaged participants and Make Cycle teams from late May right through, well, today (the official end of the CLMOOC).

As part of my work around making comics for CLMOOC, I made a few as thank you notes to my fellow facilitators:

For Karen, whose work at organizing Twitter chats and whose push for the CLMOOC Make Bank has been inspiring …

The Make Bank

For Joe, whose role as a coach for teams of folks leading the Make Cycles this year made all the difference in the world, so much so that you probably didn’t even realize how many moving parts there were …

Clmooc comics

For Anna, whose research lens has us all reflecting and hopefully, documenting our learning for ourselves and for others …

Clmooc comics

For Christina and Mallory, who really were the threads behind the scenes on the CLMOOC, making sure everything was organized and on time and in some thematic order ….

My Imaginary Friends

For Jordan, who worked all of last year and at the start of this year to make the launch of the CLMOOC smooth and seamless …

Friend Wanted

For Paul and Chad, who were busy with other things this summer but whose work last year and earlier this year informed the way we made the CLMOOC what it was this year …

Invisible Forces at Work

For Terry, my pirate-in-arms across many media divides this summer …

Pirates Make Adventure

And most of all, for Terry, Michael, Sheri and Rosie — who were all part the Support Team that I had the pleasure of facilitating this summer as we worked to support each and every person on their journeys.

Support Crew

Did I forget anyone? I hope not.

Thank you to all of you (and to everyone who dipped their toes into the CLMOOC waters and who might still do so in the days to come). I had a blast and I learned so much.

Peace (in the framing of the learning),
Kevin

Capturing the CLMOOC in Comics

Since before the start of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, I have been creating and publishing comics each Make Cycle, partly as reflection points and partly to make fun of myself. The main character become a sort of alter-ego. The comics were created in an app called Rosie Comics, although Rosie herself barely appears.

Before the CLMOOC actually started, I was already making comics:
Clmooc comic 1
Clmooc comic 2
Magic Box of Stuff
Then, the first Make Cycle was launched, with folks sharing their expertise during a How To project…
Make Cool Stuff
In the next Make Cycle, there were memes everywhere ..
So you wanna make a meme
You are so meme
… which led into games for the next Make Cycle …
Make a game with me
… and Hacking your Writing as a Make …
Hacking writing
Hack the Notebook
… which led to considering “light” as a theme for stories …
In the light
Light Rock
… and then, it was all about images as narrative …
Five Frame Story
… which has brought us to reflection ..
The Reluctant Reflecter
… and nearly the end of the CLMOOC (for now) …
Bye Bye
Tomorrow, I will share out my “thank you” comics for all my fellow facilitators in the CLMOOC.
Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

 

A Nearly Perfect View from Above

Skinner Mt View of the valley
I took two of my sons, and a friend, for a hike up a local mountain. A beautiful public building sits on top, open again after two years of renovations, and on the railing, you can see … forever … or at least as forever seems in our valley area of Western Massachusetts. I used a panoramic lens app on my iPad to stitch together this view on this perfect day, with puffy clouds overhead.

Peace (in the picture),
Kevin

Connecting Projects into Connected Learning Framework

Updated Connected Learning Infographic

One of the goals of the final reflective week of the Making Learning Connected MOOC is that participants might look anew at all of their projects and use the Connected Learning framework as a guide to do so. While the CLMOOC itself is designed with the Connected Learning principles in mind, we have purposely avoided being too explicit. Instead, we hopes the making and connecting would flow from a shared experience, instead of an academically-removed stance.

I suspect I am no different from others. I struggle with this part of the experience. I am good at diving in, making, sharing, collaborating, and less apt to wonder where everything connects. But I know it is important, and in the interest of helping others think about a frame, I went into Padlet and categorized some of the projects I did this summer under the Connected Learning framework.

It’s not perfect. Far from it. I see a lot of places where overlaps could be shown, and Padlet is limited for this kind of activity. In fact, I struggled mightily with the best way to present this reflection: flowchart? Prezi? Hyperlinked document? Nothing felt right, and that may be another way of understanding that the interconnected nature of how we learn is complicated and not easily put down on a single piece of paper, or represented in a single screen.

With that said, here we go — My CLMOOC:
myclmooc padlet

Peace (in the connection),
Kevin

 

The Power of the Song as Digital Story

Yesterday, I shared out a song that I written and recorded rather quickly on Sunday night. The song is called Your Words Still Hang Around. I like it well enough but don’t see it as something that fits well with my rock band, Duke Rushmore.

After I shared the demo of the song, I asked my friend, Terry Elliott, if he might consider using the audio file in Soundcloud to create a Zeega digital story version of the song. Zeega allows you to layer in images, animated GIF files, and text, and the viewer decides on the pace of the digital viewing. On Twitter, Scott Glass (a fellow musician and traveler in the CLMOOC) said he might give the song a try in Zeega, too.

Both did, and I nearly cried watching both of their projects that used my demo song at the center. They hit the tone of the song just right, I thought, and it brought to mind the power of juxtaposition of image with sound. I find it so powerful when done right. And it’s not the individual media. Not the song itself. Not the images. Not the words on the screen. It’s the way those various parts come together to make the whole.

If I had been the one constructing a digital story from my song, I think my role as the writer would have gotten in the way of the composition. I had the narrator (not me, by the way) in my head. I had the story I wanted tell, even as the song unfolded. I could see it as I sang it. Scott and Terry came at the song from another angle – tilted by our shared experiences in the Making Learning Connected MOOC which is now nearing its final reflective stage for the summer — and you get the sense that the song of loss and hope became more of a symbol of where we have been this summer with the CLMOOC and beyond, and the light of possibilities that still remain with all of our connections.

Or maybe I am “reading” too much into what they have done. I don’t think so, though. It brings back the idea of why “context” can matter in the partnership between reader/viewer and composer, although sometimes it is interesting to play with context. You, for example, might not have known about the CLMOOC connections here without me raising it to the surface. (Maybe I just ruined it for you. Sorry)

Anyway, I am so grateful for both of them to take on this project and get it done and shared out in a single day. I’m listening again this morning, and I’m watching, and I’m learning more about the song than when I wrote and recorded it. I’m considering this song in a new light.

Here is Terry’s version of Your Words Still Hang Around.
terryzeega

Here is Scott’s version of Your Words Still Hang Around.
scottzeega

Peace (in the song),
Kevin

Song Demo: Your Words Still Hang Around

I sat around, tinkering on my guitar last night when this song emerged. It’s a rough demo and it might never go anywhere other than here. I also wanted to try out recording directly into the Garageband App, and the quality is pretty darn good, I have to say. (You can hear my boys out in the backyard playing whiffle ball if you listen closely).

This song is definitely not biographical, and I can’t quite figure out if the narrator has had his lover leave him, or if she has passed away. What’s left are memories and words, and poems, and this song that has a hint of hopefulness amidst the loss.

YourWordsStillHangAround

Peace (in the muse),
Kevin