Wednesday, April 10, 2013

GladStone's School for World Conquerors by Mark Andrew Smith & Armand Villavert - A review by Nick Petersen

At Gladstones School, the children of the world's most famous villians train for a future in dastardly plots and evil deeds. Classes include death traps, creating your own evil minions, and home economics. The story follows a group of friends as the navigate the troubles of evil youth. They fight their parents' arch nemesis, find themselves on the cusp of an earth shattering secret, and study for their magical history test.

I was incredibly pleased that one of the selected texts for the Book Wind project was to be a graphic novel. Comics and graphic novels are a relatively new art format that not only embraces the visual medium that is so popular today, but also allows the reader to engage with the text in exciting new ways. Gladstone's School for World Conquerors follows this tradition. Who doesn't love an anti-hero? Growing up watching cartoons and movies, I always thought that the villians were the most interesting. They were original, creative, and had depth, unlike the cookie cutter heroes and heroines. This book is similar, except the protagonists aren't full villains, at least not yet. Readers will love the wacky situations, be moved by the honest portrayal of teen angst, and be impressed with the inclusion of certain existential elements within the story. The ending had me wondering, what is good and evil, really? I think it's a must read, must own part of any serious Graphic novel collection.
This would be a fun (yet intelligent) treat for any young adult, middle school or high school. The only complaint that some may have against the book is that it isn't recognized as "high" literature, but I think we can all agree that just because a book isn't one hundred years old doesn't mean that it has nothing to offer.

Here is a link to see some artwork from the creators.

But graphic novels aren't just about cool illustrations. Here are some links to graphic novels in the specific use of education:
Graphic novels used to inspire interest in chemistry
Graphic novels are also great for teaching history
Here is a nice list of graphic novels for a variety of different age levels and subject material. These would be great for a literary study class.

To gain a more insightful look into the argument about the use and benefits of graphic novels, see this recording of a web conference on the subject.


Samantha said...

I really enjoyed the links you included in the review. I think its important to note that teachers can and should use different mediums of instruction, and that the graphic novel can be just as valid as a traditional novel. Some students are more visually oriented, so for them, a graphic novel might actually be more helpful. I personally do better with traditional reading, but can't help but enjoy the action and beautiful graphics in the examples of graphic novel I've seen.

Zak Q said...

Sounds like a fun read with a pretty novel premise (although the "school for kids with special talents thing is being done a lot, I don't think I've seen one for villains). It's nice to see the 'superhero' comic take a different direction. Seems like it could be a pretty fun read for middle school readers.

I love the "legitimization" of graphic novels, and would love to teach one in high school English one day. Last summer, I took a Graphic Novels class that covered a few works in the 'comics canon' (Maus, Fun Home, Persepolis, to name a few), and it was eye-opening, especially to see just how long (3 hr class) we could hold discussions on comics. There's a lot of literary mining to do there, and I think this could be a 'gateway' graphic novel to introduce kids to the extended-form comic.