Monday, July 2, 2012

American Graphic biographies - a review

I haven't seen this entire series, but I think that the American Graphic biographies by Capstone Press may fill two needed niches.  The first, and probably the intended purpose is to fill the need for easy reading biographies that will interest older kids.  A secondary benefit, however, is that these books can bring complex historical figures to a level where they can be understood by young elementary schoolers who so often express interest in people and things way "beyond their years."

First up, the King of Pop

Collins, Terry. 2012. King of Pop: The Story of Michael Jackson. Ill. by Michael Byers. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press.

Written largely as a first-person account, ten short chapters chronicle Michael Jackson's life, focusing both on his genius and his pecularities, though not going in to great detail regarding the latter.  A two-page illustration of tabloid headlines offers the reader a glimpse into Michael's personal life, but "Thriller" and "Billy Jean" are also illustrated expansively - including his famous moonwalk. The book concludes on a positive note with a collage of the many faces of Michael Jackson and the following summation,

And in his heart, he was still a little boy who never grew up ...
... and the world is all the richer for it.
The panels are easy to follow and have easy to read text. This graphic novel biography concludes with two pages of standard text titled, "The Legacy of Michael Jackson," followed by a Glossary (which includes eccentric and surrogate, as well as innovation and mourn), sites and books where more information can be found, and a small index.

I predict this one will be popular.

 Next up, Hip-Hop Icon: Jay-Z

This book never even made it onto the shelf!  Within minutes of receiving it, a young adult male spotted it on my desk and asked to borrow it.  Sometimes, a little bit of information is enough - perhaps that's a third niche for these easy-reading comic style biographies.

Other titles in the American Graphics series include: ELVIS: A Graphic Novel, Obama: The Historic Election of America's 44th President, Sara Palin: Politcal Rebel, The Bambino: The Story of Babe Ruth's Legendary 1927 Season. A complete list of the American Graphic biography collection is available on Capstone's site.

Also on the site are complete readability statistics - ATOS, Lexile, and GR.  These high-interest, low-level biographies are suggested for grades 3-9, with general reading levels equivalent to grades 3-4. These may not be the best biographies ever written, and granted, I've chosen to display the most eye-catching of the twelve covers, but I would bet that these two books at least, will be quite popular.

Sadly, their minimal page count may preclude kids from using them for school assignments (only 31 pages in King of Pop), but these are books that will surely interest lower level readers in upper level grades.

Now if there were only a children's bio of Marilyn Monroe, surprisingly, my most-requested biographical figure.

It's Nonfiction Monday again.  Today's hosit is none other than author and Nonfiction Monday founder, Anastasia Suen.  Visit her at her Booktalking blog.


  1. I've never heard of Capstone Press, but these books look great - there is a niche for them, as you say.

  2. Jay-Z and Sarah Palin? That's an eclectic list. This looks like a great find for reluctant and/or struggling readers. Since these books are short, maybe they can compare two subjects.

  3. Interesting approach to biographies for kids. What is the minimum page limit you reference for reports? Is that at your school or more a general standards requirement?

  4. Jeanne, I'm a public librarian, but I see so many children come in requesting biographies for school assignments with minimum page requirements. I believe it's quite common because there are many publishers that appear to cater to it, publishing very small size books that contain over 100 or 150 pages. It's irked me for years, I even penned a poem about it, "Minimum Rage."

  5. Elvis! That would be cool! I really like biographies that I can share with my younger kids, it's so important to their cultural eduction. Thanks for sharing.


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