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Archive for 2010

The Power of Reading . . . Testimonials

Written on Thursday, September 16th, 2010 [permanent link]

No, no — there’s NOT a lot of money in selling history comic books. It’s a niche business. I had good friends this summer brainstorm with me ways I could be the next “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” But I’m not just doing comix — I am committed to doing comix that boost reading and a love for American history. I can’t jump to a superhero book or a pure comedy comic because I actually care about my content.

So testimonials keep me going between bank deposits. I hope it’s fun for you to see different testimonials pop up in those explosions on the right side of my web pages; my webmaster Brian Korte has done a fantastic job making those work. But more and more testimonials to Chester Comix are popping up elsewhere — such as the website for the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.

The Co-op has sold my books for two years now and was the push behind the publication of my Homeschool All-Stars hardcover comic last holiday season. Its community has been great to me. Seeing all that warm feedback gathered in one spot is humbling. And reinforcing. I’ve never had time or resources to do a proper study to measure the impact of my books in the classroom, but I’ve had so many teachers and parents and kids say the same specific things that I know the books work for reluctant readers.

My favorites in a beautiful list:

“My boys, 9 and 12, enjoyed reading it. It’s funny and the author inserts other characters with side comments that my boys find hilarious. As for me, I love that it is historically accurate and entertaining at the same time. It brings history to life! What a rare find.”

“They have all the flavor of comic books (colorful and funny), but they are also chock full of historical information. When we get into historical discussions, my kids will say, “No, remember it was the…” and they really remember the facts as well as the fun!”

“As a historian, I’m always on the lookout for things that might make my kids like history. I was reluctant to try these unseen, but am so glad I did. I figured these might be useful when my boys got older, but at 3.5 and 7, they’re both completely in love with the Chester Comix series. There must be something seriously compelling in the art, because I can’t imagine the three-year-old is understanding a word I read him of the ideas behind the Constitution! But for less abstract ideas, they really can absorb something even at this young age. Nothing warms a historian mom’s heart like hearing kids discuss Rosa Parks or argue about the Mayflower. We hope the author will do many more! We bought a second set to give away.”

Posted in Author's Purpose, History Teacher, literacy | No Comments »

Anti-British?? Not on ye life!

Written on Monday, August 30th, 2010 [permanent link]

Today I got a great chat message from friend of mine working a historic site bookshop at Jamestown: “British couple just bought ‘Revolutionary Rumblings,’ ‘War for Independence,’ and ‘Revolutionary City‘ – they loved that it wasn’t just pure ‘anti-Brit propaganda.’ They said they are used to that in American accounts of the war.”

That is a very high compliment to me. I’ve studied the American Revolution since I was a 10-year-old during the Bicentennial, and I view the conflict as a civil war. American colonists spent the years between the French & Indian War and the Boston Tea Party asking to be considered full British citizens. It was the King and the English politicians’ refusal to grant full British political rights to their colonists that led to war. The shifting of the political wind in the 13 colonies happened very suddenly between January and June of 1776 — Full, declared independence from Britain was a move that came a year AFTER the first shots fired in Massachusetts! We held onto our British-ness for a long, long time.

I try to approach all history with a broad view. There are very few dastardly villans and shining heroes in real life, and I resist storytelling that shows real life historic figures that way. Look how complicated Jefferson was! But so was Patrick Henry and James Madison and John Adams and . . .

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about my point-of-view in my comic storytelling — most of it about the 1860s Civil War stories, of course. Amazing how that debate rages on. I own up to my point-of-view. Every human storyteller has one. To pretend otherwise is a lie. There is no one right way — one “unbiased” way — to tell the life of Washington or Lincoln or Roosevelt. I can be accurate with facts, but at some point I have to choose which facts and events to include in a story, and those decisions come out of my point-of-view. But I don’t just shoot from the hip — I’ve learned that my storytelling is better if I listen first. So I listen to as many different points-of-view as I can before I make my Author’s Choices. To those who have objected that I’m changing the historical stories they grew up with, I reply: I’m not changing history, I’m just including EVERYONE’S story now.

And when I listen to 1775, I hear a lot of debate that still echoes through our politics today. That must mean there’s no one right answer 😉

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Posted in Author's Purpose, Colonial Williamsburg, History Teacher | No Comments »

FREE comix! (Two of my favorite words in the English language)

Written on Monday, August 23rd, 2010 [permanent link]

Here’s a new feature on the Chester Comix website to start your school year with a bright burst of fun: a FREE episode about NORTH AMERICAN GEOGRAPHY!

And when I say “episode,” I mean the whole shebang. All five pages, start to finish, the way it was meant to be read when I drew it for the Daily Press almost a decade ago. I’ve included sample pages on this site for seven years so you can get a good feel for the way I build social studies material into my adventure stories (maps, timelines, key words in bold). But I’ve never provided a whole episode.

The North American geography story seems a good choice for the freebie — many teachers cover that material at the start of their school year, and it’s a topic really too broad to fit any of my printed books. I slice off the part of the map that I need to for different stories, but ALL of North American geography applies to many of my books “Exploring the Americas,” “First Americans,” “Revolutionary Rumblings,” “Moving and Grooving,” — heck, almost all of them! How could I pin the North American geograpy lesson to any one of them?

Now I don’t have to. The episode will live here, 365/24/7. And when you have your students check it out, I hope they will find many other interesting things to read and think about . . . 😉

Posted in Author's Purpose | No Comments »

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