This gorgeous and gritty graphic novel will educate everyone, not just indigenous Canadians, about institutional racism and other topics.
The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, illustrated by Kelly Mellings.
House of Anansi, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2015.
Adult graphic novel, 120 pages.
CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature Winner.
Pete and his younger brother Joey only have each other and their drug-addicted mother to get through their violent, gritty urban life. But when their mother’s boyfriend pushes them too far, Pete ends up in jail and Joey in foster care. What will happen to their family? Can Pete’s gang become their new family?
This book is about Canadian urban aboriginals. Because I am American and not indigenous, I was surprised by the way it sucked me in as we read about generational poverty and the systematic dehumanization and institutionalized racism that had affected Pete’s entire family. So much of what I read applies to so many other groups, and reading about Pete and his family was an easy way to absorb how these things can alter a family for generations at a time.
Cece Bell just wants to live her life and make friends without her hearing aids getting in the way. This graphic novel memoir will appeal to a wide range of students.
El Deafo by Cece Bell, color by David Lasky.
Amulet Books Imprint, Abrams, New York, 2014.
Graphic novel memoir, 242 pages.
Newberry Honor winner, 2015.
Lexile: not yet leveled
AR Level: 2.7 (worth 2.0 points)
Cecilia Bell just wants to live her life, make friends and have fun. But she lost her hearing after a bout of childhood meningitis, and now she has to wear hearing aids. Even worse, at school she has to wear the phonic ear, a special device that allows her teacher’s voice to travel from a microphone directly to her ear. She soon discovers that most teachers forget to turn the phonic ear off, allowing her to hear them anywhere in the school building. This leads to an imaginative fantasy life where she transforms into El Deafo, superhero with mesmerizing rosebud underwear and the power of feedback! Meanwhile, in real life she’s trying to navigate friendships in the hearing world, a tricky business as the only student in her school who can’t hear.
Penelope (Peppi) Torres has a few rules for surviving at a new school. But on the very first day, she runs right into a shy boy in the hallway. What do you do when you’re associated with the school nerd on your first day? Why shove him away of course!
Beyond the Peppi/Jaimie drama, the main plot of this book follows her friends in the art club as they fight for the right to a table at the annual school club fair while bickering with the science club, their biggest rivals.
So why am I reviewing this book? Well, Peppi is clearly a person of color. My guess based on her portrayal and name is that she’s Latina, but it never really comes up. In fact, this book is incredibly diverse, with most ethnic groups represented by at least one character. There is a girl wearing a hijab and a character in a wheelchair. The characters have ethnically diverse names and sometimes appropriate backstories as well. But the best part of this? It has nothing to do with the story! There is a full plot which just happens to have a diverse cast of characters.