Tag Archives: Graphic Novels

Tales From Big Spirit (Series) by David Alexander Robertson


I have been a fan of David Alexander Robertson since I read his 7 Generations graphic novel series a few years ago. Recently I stumbled upon his graphic novel series for a younger audience called “Tales from Big Spirit”. Each book is about a prominent First Nations person from history and teaches the reader about their contributions using beautifully drawn graphics (there are a few different illustrators for the series). Although intended for children, I as an adult really enjoyed reading the books and learned a few new things.

The first title I read was “The Peacemaker- Thanadelathur” (illustrated by Wai Tien). This book teaches the reader about Thanadelathur, a remarkable Dene woman who helped make peace between the Cree and Dene peoples in the 1700s. She was originally captured by some Cree people, and managed to escape after the winter had passed. Nearly starving in the process, she was discovered by some geese hunters from the Hudson’s Bay Company and she agreed to become an interpreter for the Hudson’s Bay Company to establish trade agreements. After some difficulty, she proved the be successful, and Thanadelathur is still remembered today through oral tradition and the Hudson Bay Company’s records (quite a rarity for a First Nations woman at that time!)

Second was “The Poet-Pauline Johnson” (illustrated by Scott B. Henderson). This book introduces Pauline Johnson, a Mohawk poet who was quite famous for her poetry reciting, especially “A Cry from an Indian Wife” which told of the Battle of Cut Knife during the Riel Rebellion. Being half European and half Mohawk, she worked towards reconciliation towards those groups of people, and her works have been honored by different groups yesterday and today.

Third was “The Ballad of Nancy April- Shawnadithit” (illustrated by Scott B. Henderson) which tells about the extinction of the Beothuk people in Newfoundland in the 19th century. They became instinct due to various reasons, including loss of food sources due to competition with other groups in the area, death due to European diseases (especially tuberculosis), and violent encounters from other groups. Shawnadithit was the last known full-blooded Beothuk person until her death in 1829, and because of her, some history of the Beothuk people survive today.

Last was “The Scout-Tommy Prince” (illustrated by Scott B. Henderson). This installment teaches about Sgt. Tommy Prince, the most decorated First Nations Soldier in Canada, who served in both World War II and the Korean War. As a young man, he spent a lot of time outdoors hunting and doing other skills, and he joined the army cadets when he was a teenager. Despite facing discrimination, he applied for recruitment several times until he was accepted in 1940. He volunteered to the parachute unit, being one of few who passed training. Later on he did many dangerous tasks; including scoping out and reporting on German assembly points (he laid a 1,400 meter long telephone wire and attached it to a phone in an abandoned farmhouse to do so!). After the wars, he became known once again for saving a man from drowning in Winnipeg. Since his passing, many schools and awards have been named after Prince to honor him.

In total, this has been a wonderful group of graphic novels that taught me a bit of Canadian History. Pauline Johnson’s writings are officially on my to-read list, and I have done further readings on the other individuals.  I truly recommend this collection for those young and old. These titles are available by Interlibrary Loan.



Shakespeare as Graphic Novels



Classics Illustrated MacbethShakespeare continues to appear in new and usual ways and one of the newest  formats is the appearance of traditional and manga style graphic novels, though the plays have appeared in illustrated editions for hundreds of years. Copies of the plays were illustrated in both adult and children’s editions and proved particularly popular with the Victorian middle class. There was another surge of popularity during the depression and following the Second World War. Classics illustrated which operated between 1941 to 1971 in it’s incarnation did brisk business selling over 200 million copies.

manga shakespeareAs illustrated novels again rise in popularity, its not surprising that Shakespeare has found a whole new audience. graphic shakespeareShakespeare Manga publishes the plays in a manga format and from it’s own advertising claims the works will appeal to  “manga fans and kids that find Shakespeare intimidating”.  A number of companies offer graphic novels in English, including No Fear Shakespeare Graphic Novels and Shakespeare Graphics but there is also a large market for Shakespeare graphic novels in none English speaking editions, especially in Japan.

midsummer nights dream

Pride Week (Graphic Novels and Comics)


merey-a+e-4ever_lgTo continue with some reviews for Pride Week, I have a collection of lgbt related graphic novels that are part of TBPL’s collection. The three comics are: Drama by Raina Telgemeier, Kevin Keller by Dan Parent and A + E 4Ever by Ilike Merey. Each of these have characters in the lgbt community with vastly different stories and demonstrates their various struggles, and most importantly shows how great these characters really are.

Drama is one of our children’s graphic novels and it is definitely a really cute story. It follows Callie and her attempts at being the best set designer she can for her school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi. Not only does the drama appear on stage, but also off the stage as well. This story has it all including crushes on boys, the appearance of two cute brothers as well as the general teenage drama that comes with middle school. It truly is a drama-filled work of art, and it demonstrates how the lgbt community can be treated mostly positively in schools. It is one of those books that shows how acceptance can happen even when coming out so young. I highly recommend this one for anyone who is a fan of graphic novels, as it is definitely not just for children.

Almost everyone has read an Archie comic growing up. And if you haven’t, you really should since they are all kinds of awesome. And recently, the series has added a new character, Kevin Keller. There has been quite a bit of backlash on this character as the Archie comics have generally been seen as “wholesome” literature. However, this new addition is great. Not only is Kevin not a stereotypical homosexual character, he is also a big hit. It’s great to see a gay character that isn’t simply a contrived stereotype. On the contrary, Kevin is a figure that other homosexual youth can look up too. This is partly because he is not defined exclusively by his sexuality. For example, he loves journalism and wants to serve in the military. This is super unheard of especially with all the gay men in television. It is all quite refreshing. Check this mini-series out for yourself. Whether or not you’re a fan of Archie comics, I doubt you will be disappointed.

The last graphic novel I’m reviewing is A + E 4Ever. This one is quite different from the other two. While it shows the life of lgbt characters, it shows it in a more stylistic and grittier way. The story revolves around its two main characters, Asher, an androgynous boy who has a fear of being touched and loves art, and Eulalie the tough “dyke” at the school. It is an interesting mix of the lives of straight and gay teens as it blurs the lines of sexual orientation, gender, love and friendship. A + E shows that not everything can be black and white that there can be a grey area in many things. I think this is an important aspect to read about especially during Pride Week, when we can all afford to learn new things, think about acceptance, tolerance, love etc. It’s a really gripping story and while the distinctive artwork may take some getting used to, you will not regret reading it.


Check out the pride website: http://www.thunderpride.ca/

-Eric Stein

kevin_keller-300x450                   drama