Good Comics for Kids Blog - School Library Journal - Snow and Esther
"A few months ago, Snow and I discovered that we were each planning to review different titles in the Max Esther: I should start by saying I don’t use the science part of my brain very well. I was always okay with math. I excelled at literature, Language Arts, and History, but science - while interesting – was always more of a struggle for me. When my students come to the library to work on a science project and need my help, I’m always quick to point out that I’m there to help them find the information not explain it, because they really really don’t want me to explain science to them! So I was really interested in seeing this series. I wanted to know if it could really help the scientifically challenged like me! And the answer… drum roll please… yes, it really does. Obviously, the ideas presented in this titles are topics that I’ve learned and possibly even mastered while I was in school. But I was in school a very long time ago.
I see myself including these titles into my collection, and having students use the books to help them with ideas they’re struggling with in class or I can see them using it to help them understand a topic for a project.
The Max Axiom series is part of the Graphic Library collection from Capstone Press. They and other publishers that gear to the school market have created a number of similar type series with very similar product… I’ve always had issue with these series. For one, as a colleague once noted – they don’t excel in art and they don’t excel in story. I have to agree with this assessment and while there has been improvement in that area, I think the key factor that’s missing here is heart. Take a nonfiction GN like the The United States Constitution: a Graphic Adaptation – the creators put their soul into the project (or at least part of their soul). I’ve seen great nonfiction GNs, but they’re usually stand alone titles, like Amelia Earhart , or Satchell Paige (which is probably more of a historical fiction title.) These books feel like someone invested themselves in the project. I never got a sense of that from any of the 4 volumes of Max Axiom.
Another issue I had with Max Axiom was that of late, as a reader and reviewer, I’ve been trying to concentrate more on how the art and text work together in a comic. I think it was something that was said at the GC4K panel at ALA that made tune into this more. I’m much more of a textual based person, and the art has always been secondary to me. Yet, in reality, this doesn’t work with comics. In a solid comic, the art moves the text along. I never got that sense when reading Max Axiom. Rather, the series was just capitalizing on a popular format to entice kids to read and they could have used the standard illustrated book format. I still contend, they really do explain the science well in an accessible manner, but it’s not the pictures that do most of the explaining it’s the text. There isn’t a balance between the art and text.
Snow: I see what you mean about text and art not working well together. That’s something I try to look for, but there are times when it bothers me more than others. For some reason, Max Axiom is not one of the series that gets to me. I know that they’re just using the graphic novel format, but I’ve seen worse cases of cashing in (for example, the hideous adaptations of the Box Car Children books). For me there were enough moments in Max Axiom where the creators were obviously trying to keep from simply having static panels with text boxes above them. In The Surprising World of Bacteria there is a panel with a picture of a glacier. Rather than just showing an ice sheet, the ice is falling off, adding motion to the scene. A Crash Course in Forces and Motion tries hard to make sure that the physics principles are illustrated, not just mentioned.
How do your students like the series? Do they find them useful? Do they think they are interesting to read? Does it feel to them like they are being pandered to by havi" - Good Comics for Kids Blog - School Library Journal
August 5, 2010