Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reader's Diary #1093- David Boyd (writer) and Drew Ng (illustrations): Battle of Queenston Heights

When I was a wee lass growing up in Newfoundland, I remember my history classes as either being Newfoundland-history or world-history. Since leaving Newfoundland and living in the north for the past 12 years, I've also picked up a lot of northern-specific history. I'm not diminishing all of that, I think more Canadians should learn the country's history beyond Ontario, Quebec, and the early days of colonialism. That said, I also think the Ontario/Quebec/Early Colonialism stuff's important and it's certainly an area of knowledge I'm weak in. When Canada marked the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham a few years back I was completely in the dark. Plains of Abraham? The Biblical Abraham? Was that in Israel or something?

So, when I saw the Timeline series of historical  fiction at the library recently, I thought it could be a good way to take a crash course in Canadian history while supporting my love of graphic novels. It's aimed at young kids, the books are short, so it shouldn't have proved onerous.

If Battle of Queenston Heights is any indication, it also doesn't prove very good. This seems to be a case of educators hoping to jump on the graphic novel bandwagon, without any real respect for the art form. Want kids to learn history? Stick it in a comic. They'll read that.

Ultimately, I think this cheapens the medium and I think kids see through it. Battle of Queenston Heights feels slapped together. Problem #1: a couple of young twins thrown into a story about Americans invading British North America (Canada)— presumably because the writer thinks kids won't be interested unless there are children involved. Possibly he's right. Except the kids are cardboard cliches, especially the "girl out to prove she's as tough as any boy" and they wind up being more of a distraction to the historical story than anything else. Problem #2: the cartoonishly villainous Americans who plan on hanging one of the kids. Even if we falsely presume that the intended readers don't have the maturity to understand the gray areas— that war isn't always as simple as good guys vs. the bad guys— then do they need to hear this story now? Do we need to start sowing the seeds for offensive generalizations and stereotypes? Problem #3: the artwork. It's not terrible, but it's terribly generic.

I know it's difficult* to find appropriate and/or educational comics for an elementary classroom, but if you can't do it right, don't do it at all.

(*Difficult, not impossible.)

1 comment:

Swordsman said...

An original way to present history, just too bad it wasn't done well.