From the first year that we transitioned to teaching with authentic literature through the Reader’s Workshop model to last spring, my classroom library grew exponentially. Anytime I heard about new books being published, I ran to the local bookstore and grabbed them. I follow several blogs and twitter accounts that are focused on children’s literature.
In the last few years, graphic novels have become more popular, and students love to read books in this structure. Last year, I had a student in my class named EJ. He is an avid reader, and especially loves fantasy books and graphic novels. EJ is up to speed on many of the latest and greatest graphic novels, and he is always willing to share a title or sit down and chat about one with other students or me! When I’m looking for up to date graphic novels to read, I often reach out to him for suggestions.
This month, EJ suggested several titles, and we ultimately decided to read and discuss Gert and the Sacred Stones written by Marco Rocchi and illustrated by Francesca Carita. This title was originally published in Italian, and was translated to English by Jaime Richards.
The story is about overcoming challenges, bravery, believing in yourself and forgiveness. Gert is an orphan, who wants to become a warrior and avenge her mother’s death, however she is forbidden to do this because she is a girl. She leaves her village in order to become the warrior she is meant to be.
I had the opportunity to discuss this book with my former student. His love of fantasy books and the magic in this one is what drew him in. Gert’s desire to find her mother’s killer and seek revenge was understandable to us, and we discussed that Gert ultimately did understand that the creature was protecting itself and doing what it had been taught to do, protect itself. Gert was able to forgive the killer and as readers, we were able to appreciate how this character changed over time.
Gert and the Sacred Stones contains very little text, even for a graphic novel. The images are filled with details and require attention and frequent review. It is very important to READ the pictures, make inferences and draw conclusions about setting, characters and plot.
The themes of forgiveness, courage and overcoming challenges are mature and are sure to spark discussions in your middle grade classes and above.
Both EJ and I recommend this book and are looking forward to the second in this series.