Intro to Graphic Novels: Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral

Chopsticks

Since this whole class is optional, you can choose to participate (or not) whenever you wish.

However, if you choose to participate, we want to make clear our expectations for that participation.

  • Realize that you should have the book read before you read through the comments. Spoilers will likely appear in the conversations, so please do not be surprised or angry if this happens.

  • Bring reader questions and observations about the text. We will throw our own questions and observations out for you to consider,  but your questions and observations are as important and necessary in this as ours.

  • Please abide by the Thumper Rule when interacting with others:

  • Back up what you’re asking or saying with quotes and page numbers so that we can all follow along.

  • Think about and share possible thematic text connections (classics, YA lit, picture books, poetry, non fiction texts, news stories, movies, YouTube videos). This will be especially helpful information for the teachers among  us, but it’s good thinking for all of us.

Some additional housekeeping thoughts:

  • Please try to respond to be careful about responding to comments – keep main threads together, but try not to get where it is so indented that no one can read what you’re posting!
  • Also consider clicking “Notify me of follow-up comments via email.” when you post a comment. This will keep you informed of continued discussion without having to come back at random intervals to see if there is anything new.
  • Consider introducing yourself briefly in your first post and including a link for your blog if you have one.

ONE FINAL WARNING:

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS DISCUSSION!

DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK!

Advertisements

About CBethM

I'm a book lover and technology geek who happens to also be a high school English teacher, National Writing Project teacher consultant, and certified school librarian. The opinions I offer here are reflective of my thoughts and opinions and not that of my employer, family, or friends.
This entry was posted in Graphic Novel, Summer 2013. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Intro to Graphic Novels: Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral

  1. Jen says:

    I wish I had this in front of me, but it is out at all local libraries. When I read this book last year, I remember thinking that I was pretty sure it was like Black Swan (the movie) and that I was missing most of the really important symbolism. Hoping to snag a copy before the discussion ends so I can do a quick reread and reference some pages.

  2. Jen Eiserman says:

    I am a High School Reading Teacher/Literacy Coach and I recently started blogging at http://theuninterruptedreader.blogspot.com .

    I loved this book and the teaching possibilities it presents. I’m not sure where to start so here’s some rambling reflections. There are some pages/photographs that really stood out for me. I loved the incorporation of Spanish (my husband’s a Spanish teacher, so I loved sharing this with him). There is a page where Frank is filling out a lame worksheet called “Let’s Learn English.” He’s supposed to just copy down the sentences but instead he reveals how extremely biased and racist they are. His responses made me laugh out loud (after asking my husband to translate a few lines for me, of course). On one of the paintings of a flower (loved the symbolism throughout) Frank writes “Love is wild and when it is cut returns again, stronger whether you want it to or not.” Love it! What a fantastic representation of love.

    The artistic beauty of this book drew me in, but the story captivated me. The pictures give you an insight into Glory’s mind, into her life. It almost feels intrusive at times. And the end? Holy cow! I am still thinking and questioning and trying to figure out exactly what happened (but, in a good way). I appreciated that the authors left it open-ended; they let the reader decide what was real and what was madness. What do you all think happened? Was it all in her head?

    I enjoyed this book as a reader, but I really loved it as a teacher. It is completely unintimidating when you look at; it could be a great start for some of my non-readers. Even though it’s all pictures, there is SO much to analyze and discuss. I honestly thought more during this book than any other novel I’ve read all summer. I need to try and get my hands on a few copies for my classroom, because the possibilities of this book are endless!

    • Jessica Anthony says:

      Hi Jen,
      Thanks for this wonderful response to Chopsticks. I’d be happy to donate a few copies to your classroom. Send me your address.

      Cheers,
      Jessica Anthony

      • CBethM says:

        Wow! Thank you for stopping by, Jessica! What an awesome and unexpected – and generous! -comment to find here this morning! Thank you!

      • Jen Eiserman says:

        Wow! This just made my day! I can’t wait to share this book with my students…YAY! Thank you so much for your generosity!

    • Terry says:

      I do love that the ending is so open-ended that anyone could argue for any conclusion! I am definitely going to read it several more times just to find different rationales… I personally 🙂 want to believe that whatever was really going on, she actually did “escape” and live life on her own terms (as a cruise ship pianist)! (That actually made me think a tiny bit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple.) But I think one could make the argument that NONE of it is real; that she is, indeed, writing from a mental institution, and the entire story, including being a piano prodigy, is completely made up–that she imagines a whole life for herself as a piano prodigy and creates a “special” institution in her mind, and so on.

    • I felt the same way when I read this (there being so much to analyze and discuss). I had to read it more than once and then passed it on to students and asked them to read it multiple times so we could discuss it. It’s always an all-around rewarding experience for us.

  3. Jen M says:

    Wow! This book was amazing. I love that I got to the end of the book and thought,” Wait. What did I just read?” I actually went back and read the whole book again. I really liked how the pictures, drawings and news articles came together to tell a great story. I have to say, the picture of the “Francisco” wine bottle gave me chills. This is a book that will stick with me.
    On a personal note, this book also brought back memories of watching Lawrence Welk reruns with my grandparents. Jo Ann Castle ( we called her the piano lady) was always my favorite.

    • Yes, this one almost begs for a re-reading. And it short enough that students won’t mind a re-read on it.
      (Lawrence Welk was a big deal with my grandma too. The Lennon Sisters were my favorite.)

    • CBethM says:

      I remember watching Lawrence Welk with my dad. I remember wanting to learn to play after seeing her at some point. 🙂

  4. Jen says:

    On an aside – this conversation is apparently only open to people named Jen. :0)

  5. CBethM says:

    My name is Cindy Minnich & I teach high school English in PA (grades 9 & 12).

    I’m curious if anyone else read this as the app. That’s what I got when I first heard about it – in part because I was intrigued by the idea of interactivity with the text and the potential for reading it out of order. Since it was an option (and I suppose it’s always an option even with the book – but I’d be afraid I’d miss something important by accident!), I read it in shuffle mode. I felt a bit like a detective shuffling through evidence, the stuff left behind to attempt to figure out what happened. I loved the music playlists that I could actually play and the Joann Castle videos – my son was obsessed with her for weeks after seeing one over my shoulder.

    I haven’t spoken to my students about it, but they tend to get frustrated with what they perceive to be ambiguous endings. I wonder if they would feel that way about this one – no matter what order they read it in. (I felt like I knew how Eleanor and Park ended – but they were frustrated with that ending…but more about that in a couple of weeks.) I’m not sure if this one would be open to interpretation or argument – I feel pretty strongly that they ended up together. So much of reading this book is about making connections and making inferences to figure out what happens. It reminded me a bit of this short story that I like to use with my students: Ordeal by Cheque (http://corbettharrison.com/documents/OrdealbyCheque.pdf).

    • Many of my students want clean and tidy endings as well, Cindy, but I don’t remember any of them complaining about this ending. I’ll have to pay more attention this school year when I recommend it and discuss it with future students.

    • now I feel like I NEED this app… 🙂 Sounds really cool! I love the idea of sharing this type of format with students,

      • CBethM says:

        I had fun playing around with it – but some of it seems forced. The music and videos make sense to have there – any easy choice – but other things don’t add much to the story (the chirping of birds). Overall, I liked it. But like with ALL ebooks, it’s hard to find the page you’re looking for. But when you’ve read it on Shuffle, it makes it nearly impossible. 🙂
        I let my dad play with it yesterday when he stopped by and he got frustrated with the back and forth of the texts showing up on the screen. He thought it felt too slow, but I didn’t mind it as much.

    • Terry says:

      Thank you for sharing that story..! (Kids today probably want to know what a “check” is. Ha.)

      • CBethM says:

        Believe it or not, the bigger problem is the cursive! They have the best arguments about what they think is going on. 🙂

  6. First our library staff read Chopsticks and kept telling me to read it. So I did. Wow. I felt like I didn’t make all the connections I was supposed to make, but our friendly librarians kept explaining things to me until I had it.
    Then I book-talked it with my students, and some of them picked up on Chopsticks and really liked it. Here are links to two student blog posts about Chopsticks: http://fremdeng.ning.com/profiles/blogs/a-different-type-of-chopsticks and http://fremdeng.ning.com/profiles/blogs/chopsticks. (The comments are interesting too.)
    When it comes to graphic novels, I’m always looking for titles that do something that couldn’t be done with text, works that use the format to tell the stories in ways that could not be done through other genres or media. Chopsticks definitely accomplished that. If anyone doubts whether a graphic novel can be literary, Chopsticks should answer that question. If anyone assumes that graphic novels are glorified comic books, Chopsticks will blow away that assumption.
    Gary #notajen

    • Terry says:

      Hi Gary #notajen 🙂 Thank you so much for including the student blog posts–I was really interested what actual teens think of this book! It made me change my reaction/hesitations about the book a little bit. I like that the students, at first, don’t even realize what’s happening right under their noses. I can see it might be fun to see if students can get together in groups and defend their own conclusions as to “what is real”…hmm.

      • Terry, that might make for a fun writing assignment. I’d love to see how students support their claim as to what is real in the story.

      • Terry says:

        Yes…one of my (many) theories is that VICTOR is the actual narrator. Because he caused the motorcycle accident that caused his wife’s death, he created a (genius of a) daughter as part of a nervous breakdown (are “F&G” fame and glory..?! Maybe I’m going to far. PROBABLY.) out of guilt! But–not everything supports that theory. Ha. Hmmm! I am also wondering who “John” is–especially since his email seems to make clear in his email that Glory is dead. On the other hand, the “she” in the email seems ambiguous. Was Maria the one who “couldn’t stop playing”? With her death, does Victor imagine a daughter (and son-in-law) that ties all the potentials of their lives together..? Who knows. 😉

  7. Denise Keogh says:

    High school English teacher, Indiana.
    This reminded me so much of Middle School is Worse by Jennifer Holm than Meatloaf. Chopsticks requires a much more mature reader, but it is nice to see that same thought process again. It also reminded me of the Griffin & Sabine stories by Nick Bantock. I loved those books – such a radical concept in 1991 – books for adults (or young adults) to play with and piece together all the bits.

    • I think you’re right about the mature reader part, Denise. I haven’t added it to my library because of that opinion.

      Has anyone here used it with middle school students? My library is 6th-12th and although I do push the envelope quite a bit, with graphic novels it’s a bit more difficult…

  8. Terry says:

    Hi everyone! I work in a community college with students whose reading levels are around the 5th-9th grade level; I’m also working on my MA in Education from Goddard College.

    I don’t think I responded quiiiite as positively as everyone else to the book (here is my GoodReads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/669329496). I would be really interested in hearing what readers who are (presumably) the target audience think of this book, especially in “app” form (I do think it probably loses a little bit in being in “book” form, with youtube links that a reader has to type out, and I think one reviewer said some of those links as published in the book don’t work..?). So I’m excited to read Gary’s students’ blogs! Thanks!

    One of my biggest quibbles, which might seems small 🙂 , is that a blurb on the book comes right out and says “nothing is what it seems”. I think it would have been a lot more fun to come to that slow-dawning realization that some things don’t add up as we go along! I feel like just saying that right out on the book cover erases some of the pleasure of reading it and discovering it on your own.

    I do think this would make a great text to use in a unit or class on something like “unreliable narrators” and the like. I think it would go GREAT with Robert Cormier’s I Am the Cheese, actually, or for older readers, Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace or even Ian McEwan’s Atonement.

  9. I’m a 6th-12th grade School Librarian in Indiana.

    I read this book when it first came out…then immediately re-read it and took it to school to share with my high school library workers. They were intrigued by the format, but didn’t seem as caught up in the “mystery” of the story as I was. I think I’d like to re-explore this book with high school students using the app. The unreliable narrator aspect is a powerful part of the story.

  10. Kim McSorley says:

    I too was captivated by the artist expression. Beautiful. Did not look at it as a graphic novel, rather more of a scrapbook of sorts. I was hoping for a positive outcome for Glory. Upon reading it, I knew that I have to reread along with app. There are so many aspects of this book

  11. Pingback: ‘Reading’ my first graphic novel | Books are my Bling

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s