Graphic Novel Review: Dragon Hoops

I’ve read plenty of Gene Luen Yang over the years, with great interest and as a fan, and Dragon Hoops is another fantastic example of graphic novel to tell a story as Yang dives into his own place of work (before he left to become a full-time graphic novelist) as a teacher.

And his focus is on the high school basketball team, although really, his interest and keen eye is on the stories of the students who are players on the team (and the coaches) that uses elements of graphic storytelling to great effect, including fourth wall breakage as he struggles with how to include a darker history of allegations against a former coach whose resonance is everywhere in the team’s story.

The story follows the talented basketball team over a few seasons as they approach the biggest game of the year in California. Yang, no sports buff, is learning not just how the game of basketball is played but also what it means to be part of a team. He focuses on a few players, but showcases the cultural tensions with clarity, too, as well as life lessons being learned.

We also see Yang as a teacher, struggling to balance teaching, family obligations as a father/husband, and his expanding role as a graphic novelist (this book was being written just as he was being offered the role of a lifetime: taking over the Superman comic franchise for DC Comics). He shows his struggles to find the threads of the stories, and how his passion for narrative drives him, and bewilders him, and inspires him to create the book we are reading.

This graphic novel is geared for middle and high school students, and the allegation of misconduct against the former team coach and teacher is something to keep in mind for readers who are also Yang fans. The issue is not central to the story, but it is mentioned, and told with nuance.

Peace (in panels),

Pandemic Poem Published: Words/Matter

Poem at Straw Dog

A few months ago, in the midst of this still growing Pandemic, I submitted a poem about my students and classroom to a writing guild called Straw Dog, which has been curating poetry about the times we live in.

Yesterday, my poem –entitled Words/Matter — was published. The Straw Dog Writing Guild is a regional writing organization that supports and celebrates writers.

Peace (in poems and more),

Pandemic Podcast Audio Diary (August 2020)

I’ve been trying to periodically do an audio podcast journal entry as a teacher in a Pandemic and this latest comes just a few weeks before we start our new school year.

Here are the others in the series:

Peace (talking it through),

OpenWrite Poem: Don’t Stop With the Bebop

Musicien de rue - Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Musicien de rue – Santa Cruz de Tenerife flickr photo by Laurent Simon shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

I’ve been writing poems over at Ethical ELA for an August OpenWrite. This one is inspired by the form of a pantoum, which has a mathematical element to lines moving through stanzas.

Don’t Stop With the BeBop

Grease the cork; wet the reed –
– don’t stop with the bebop –
as your fingers touch the keys
forget it all for the sake of the tune

Don’t ever stop with the bebop
Go on and let the needle drop
forgetting it all for the muse
as the flatted fifths hop

Go ahead as the needle’s dropping
on the old vinyl grooves,
the flatted fifth keeps hopping
with the corner street blues

The old vinyl, in its groove,
with static of skipping time
and old corner street blues,
syncopated rhythm and rhyme

The static of skipped time
white noise shouting out
syncopated rhythmic rhyme:
Don’t stop with the bebop

Peace (dancing it),

Book Review: Eyes & Spies (How You’re Tracked and Why You Should Know)

Where’s the line between sparking fear and providing necessary information when it comes to talking to young people about their digital lives? I struggle with this shifting and slippery line every single year I work with my sixth graders on our Digital Life Unit (wetalk about the topics of privacy throughout the year). The line itself keep shifting on us.

Eyes & Spies: How You’re Tracked and Why You Should Know takes the approach of being pretty blunt in its delivery of eye-opening ways that governments, companies and others are exploiting our online and digital lives for surveillance and for profit, and for nefarious activities. Whereas I try to keep more positive in my discussions, this book for middle and high school students does not hold back the punches, not at all, and I suppose that is as it should be, for older users of technology.

This visual book covers a lot of ground, too, but in language and format that is accessible — there are lots of short bursts of information within the larger chapters, and lots of illustrations and color. Charts also offer suggestions for privacy for different topics.

I particularly enjoyed the running pieces that coupled the pros with the cons of topics in the form of short, reasoned arguments — such as why GPS tracking of kids might be used for protection and why it might be an invasion of privacy.

Another feature I appreciated were small stories under the banner of the Creepy Lines of technology, with ethical and moral dilemmas with no clear-cut answer to the issues facing society, such as police using fake identities on social media to find a criminal. Each of these also ends with a question for the reader to ponder.

Overall, I found the book useful for my own talking points but I feel that the text is best for high school students, and maybe in different sections, too. I would also argue that it is useful for parents of teenagers, like myself, to remind us to have these conversations with kids about how they are using technology, how much privacy they are giving up, how to protect themselves, and how to step back to see the larger picture of how our devices and the growing field of technology are invading our lives, for both good and for bad.

Peace (post it),

Poem: Reading the Morning Newspaper

Advice From An Old School News Reader

Read the paper backwards,
from the funnies
first to front page
last so as to begin
the ink with a laugh
and end the reading with rage

Note: My eyes go to the front page of our delivered morning newspaper (yep, we still get the local newspaper during the week and the Sunday Boston Globe on Sundays) but I often begin my time with the comics and funnies, and then wind my way back to the hard news.


Peace (keeping it light),

PS — this poem reminded me of a remix activity from a few years ago

Sunday comix remix