Book Review: Book Love (Comics by Debbie Tung)

A few years ago, I reviewed a book called Book Love by Penny Kittle, which is all about how to instill a love of reading in students. It’s a wonderful book, full of insights and wisdom and ideas. And perfectly titled.

Along comes Book Love, by Debbie Tung, which is a collection of comics about loving books (and tea), from the view of a passionate reader and collector of books, and self-described introvert. And perfectly titled.

I love that we all love books so much. Tung’s small book collection of her comics explores her passion about stories and reading. I saw myself in way too many of her comics, but maybe that is not a bad thing. Each page here is a different comic, and most come from her Tumblr site, focused on books and tea (she loves to drink tea when she reads).

Here, you see her character (her) refusing to pass by a bookstore without either gawking at the window or going in (and coming out with a book or two or three). You see her praising libraries as the most perfect public space imaginable. You see her passing books to friends (and worrying that the books won’t get returned). You see her bringing books with her everywhere … just in case a minute or two frees up for some reading.  You see her worrying that movie versions of books she loves will ruin the stories and characters in her head. You see her choosing paper books over digital books, for the tangible nature of bound stories (and her fascination with the smell of real books).

If you’re like me, you see yourself.

Book Love is a quick read, but a lovely one.

Peace (beyond books),
Kevin

Freewriting Fun: A Comic of Musical Notes

Missing the Notes comicWhile my students were freewriting stories, poems, play skits, comics and other ideas, I was working on this comic in my notebook about a staff that has lots its notes, and the notes who come to the rescue. I got a kick out of making the notes with faces and expressions.

Peace (in tiny boxes),
Kevin

Comic Book Review: This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Images from Center of Cartoon Studies

 

I was happy to crowd-fund some support for the creation of this “Graphic Guide to Governance” by The Center for Cartoon Studies.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like is a comic book that explores American Democracy, tackling not just the structure of government (from the very top — president, congress, courts — to the most localized — town meetings) but also to show how every voter has an obligation to take part in keeping Democracy alive and vibrant.

So, a book for our times.

Inside the pages, the comic utilizes aspects of comic book genre, with sight gags (not too many, but just enough to keep the important and weighty issues in balance), artwork and page design.

We get a crash course in the three main interlocking parts of the US government, the way each — federal, legislative and judicial — are designed to check and balance the other. There’s also key reminders that the federal government is not the only government — states and local communities also wield the power and purse to make change.

“Our system is still flawed, but if people are willing to fight, progress can be made.” — from This Is What Democracy Looks Like

The comic book takes a turn of tone near the middle, where it explores the ways that Democracy may not be working as intended (big money, voter suppression, lack of diversity, unresponsiveness, divided government, etc.) but then pivots to why voting is essential, and how elections at every level have consequences.

Again, a book for our times.

“Democracy is a WE …. not a THEM,” the book reminds us. It also reminds us that there are many ways to engage in creating the government you want, from local elections (many of our towns here still have Town Meeting) on up.

You can download a free version of this ebook comic. The last page has a long list of resources for engaging more in the voting process and in learning more about Democracy. As we approach the coming 2020 presidential election season, perhaps a comic like this might be valuable for students in the classroom. (There’s even a teaching guide to go along with the book)

Peace (voting for it),
Kevin

Book Review: Cartooning (Philosophy and Practice)

There’s a boatload of good suggestions in Cartooning by Ivan Brunetti on the art of comics/cartoons (terms which he uses interchangeable but which in my mind are different — I think of comics as Calvin and Hobbes and cartoons as The Jetsons — this is no doubt influenced by a childhood of Sunday Comics followed by Sunday Morning television). Brunetti has put a semester-long graduate level course into this small book, with chapters of overview and activities replacing actual desk time at a university.

It’s a fair trade-off.

I had been reading this book earlier this summer because some other friends in a splinter of DS106 and CLMOOC were also reading the book, and we were all doing some of the activities.

I love the concept of comics for the way visuals can help tell a story or make a point or create a joke, but my patience with making the art necessary on paper is thin, and my drawing talents, slim. I’m more apt to use apps or online comic makers, a move that would raise Brunetti’s ire.

I’m not sure Brunetti helped me on this weakness as an artist, but the blame is not with him. It’s all on me. Still, his professorial and rather authoritative tone — do this, don’t do this, in a way in which I could almost see his finger pointing at me — sort of put me off on him as a teacher in the early going. He name-drops comic artist Chris Ware a bit too much for me, too, but then redeems himself in my eyes with a lovely dedication of the book to Charles Schultz.

Since I wasn’t in the actual classroom, I began to skip around a bit (one of his earliest “no no no” in the book, where he nearly demands the reader follow him in sequence or risk injury. Ok. I exaggerate. But he does make it clear, following him in sequence is important). Yeah. No. That’s not how I learn. I’m affiliated with DS106, for goodness sake. I skip around. Liberally.

But, given all that resistance to his teaching style, I recognized early on that Brunetti definitely knows the field, and his advice on the art of making comics and writing visual stories, and of the ways one must consider the placement of lines and characters and dialogue, and more, is all very valuable and intriguing. It’s clear early on that he has thought through a lot of this on his own and in college courses that he has taught, and his own mentor comics in the book are interesting as examples to consider.

Cartooning

I proceeded to do a handful of his assignments, to explore his ideas, and I found the ones I did to be valuable and fun. Maybe if I had spent the hours necessary, as he demands, on the lessons, things would have come out more polished and clean and thoughtful. But I took some valuable ideas from Cartooning, and what more could you ask for?

Cartooning

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

Comics for the End of School

School Ends: The First Impression

Over in another online space, I am working to make and share a comic every day for 100 days as part of a challenge. I don’t know how I will do it. But I am trying (I am on day 16!).

With the end of the school year (kids left yesterday but I still have today in the classroom), my comics were focused on those final, hectic days. I had a great class this year — sort of loud and most days edged on chaos on times, but overall, they were wonderful, and I will miss them, for sure.

School Ends: Too Loudand then …

School Ends: The Goodbye Classroom

Peace (in the frames),
Kevin

Dog’s Eye View: Cat on Break

Dog’s Eye View 2

This is the second in a periodic but not all that regular series of comics featuring a dog, whose personality (in my mind) is inspired by Duke, my dog. The comic is called Dog’s Eye View, and cats figure prominently at times. Like this one.

Peace (in the yard),
Kevin

Dog’s Eye View: A New Webcomic Series

Dog’s Eye View 1

We have a dog. His name is Duke. I’ve wanted to bring his spirit and personality into a comic for some time now.

Well, here we go.

In a series I am calling Dog’s Eye View, I’ll be posting comics now and then with a dog as the center of the action. The real Duke is an inspiration for the comic strip Duke, but who knows where this idea is going to go. I’m using my go-t0 comic-making app, so the art is limited. In other words, you might see common poses of the main character across strips.

Let me know if this comic strip idea, as seen from a dog, seems like a good idea …. Maybe I’ll even use some of the ideas in a books some of us are reading about the art of cartooning and move over to paper at some point!

:0

Peace (with kibbles and biscuits),
Kevin

The Practice of Cartooning

Cartooning

Bill, a DS106 friend, shared out that he is reading Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice — which Brunetti describes as a sort of cartooning class in a book — and so a few of us — Sarah, Ron, etc. — are also getting the book. Mine arrived via library yesterday.

I joked that Brunetti telling the reader that they should do everything in sequence, to “not skip any of the assignments, jump ahead, or fudge on the instructions” seems counter to all of the ethos of DS106, but I will give it a try. I will not likely try all of the drawing/comic exercises here, but I’ll dip in now and then.

Cartooning

This activity — in which you draw 100 small boxes and then sketch without thinking to fill every box with an image — came out interesting, although I miscounted the boxes (see? already cutting corners!) and did it all in three sittings, not one.

Still, it is interesting to see what my brain came up with. Some of the boxes contain images I have no idea what I was thinking about.

Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

PS — on a strange tangent — when I started to type “cartooning” in my browser, a reference to a WordPress site that I helped my son make TEN YEARS AGO with paper-cut animations (he had a stable of invented characters on the theme of peas), and some live action, came up. He called the site Crazy Cartoonz. There’s not much there, other than a few movies that he made. (Somewhere, I have three large PDFs with pages of the cartoon/comics that he made as self-produced books). Ten years … wow … time flies. (He’s a media/film major in college right now).

See: https://crazycartoonz.wordpress.com/ 

 

 

Book Review: Math With Bad Drawings

I admit it upfront: it was the reference to stick figure drawings more than the math that got me interested in this book when I first saw the cover. But, truth be told, it was the math ideas and concepts, and Ben Orlin’s wonderful sense of humor and explanations of those ideas, that kept me reading on to the end.

Math with Bad Drawings (Illuminating the Ideas that Shape Our Reality) covers a lot of mathematical ground, and some of it went beyond me but most of it I found really intriguing and I learned a lot from Orlin (a math teacher, turned stick figure artist, who — it turns out — lives in the same city as I do). You can even follow Orlin’s blog, where he posts his comics and ideas.

What I enjoyed about the book — other than Orlin’s simple but funny drawings — was the expanded notion of math as a guiding principle and underlying force in our world, and the ways in which Orlin surfaces those ideas. Yes, we are covering probability, statistical analysis, number theory, logic, and even the weird underlying math of the Electoral College, and more, but Orlin — who knows his audience is likely neither math teachers nor math fanatics — uses clear explanations, connecting math to the real world as much as possible, and when all else fails, letting us know when we’re moving into geeky esoteric mathematical principles. At least, the reader is forewarned.

In an early chapter, Orlin introduces a strategy game called Ultimate Tic Tac Toe, which I brought into my sixth grade classroom as a challenge activity, and many of my students really enjoyed the game, which expands the game board and tweaks the rules to make an otherwise predictable game much more challenging. (You can even play a version of it online — against a computer or with a friend. Neat.)

via Wikipedia

 

Math with Bad Drawings is a recommended read for anyone interested in learning math beyond the textbook, even writers and teachers of young writers like me, and you’ll come out the other side of the text with an expanded knowledge of theory and practice, and a few ideas for making stick people drawings. So, you know, win win win.

What are the odds of that?

Peace (beyond numbers),
Kevin