There are many benefits to working in a faculty where you have some freedom with your text choices. One of these benefits is that you can teach awesome books that the kids love, or in this case, awesome graphic novels.
I’ve been a fan of comics since I was younger, reading the underdog comics such as Robin, rather than Batman, and I use to read a lot of Simpsons comics too. I loved the artwork and the colour and also that it was something you could read quickly if you had a spare 15 minutes. When I got older, like 20s, I began reading Manga. I had watched Anime for many years, especially Pokemon and Sailor Moon, but I had never stretched to reading Manga. I now read two main series, Neon Genesis, and Full Metal Alchemist, with a bit of Deathnote here and there. I love it. I love reading it, collecting it and discussing it.
The final unit that we study in year 8 is a thematic study called Dreams. The kids really enjoy this because they get to talk about all different aspects of dreams, including the dreams we have when we’re sleeping, nightmares, but also the dreams as in what we want from our lives. It’s a good way to get them thinking about where they want to be in the future, what kinds of things they want to work towards, we look at setting small goals for them too, short term goals that they really want to achieve. By the time the end of the year comes around the kids are sick of being in the same class, they’re sick of school, they want it to be Christmas, and in the West where I teach, it’s really freaking hot. It’s at this time that I choose to look at Coraline-The Graphic Novel with them.
The story of Coraline follows a little girl who moves into a new house that has been turned into four small four flats, with her parents. Unfortunately, she is an only child and feels as if she is being ignored by her parents. This leads her to explore the other tenants in the building, they include two elderly ladies who have retired from the stage, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, and Mr. Bobo, the crazy old man upstairs who’s training circus of jumping mice.
Coraline is bored one day and finds a locked door in the drawing room which has been bricked up. Mr. Bobo says that his mice are warning Coraline not to go through the door, but when she is home alone she unlocks it finding the brick wall gone. She walks down the passage way to find herself in the Other World. This Other World contains an Other Mother and an Other Father and Other versions of her neighbours. At first Coraline believes this to be better, her parents are paying attention to her and she feels loved. However, when she wants to go home, the Other Mother offers to stay in the Other World forever. Coraline chooses not too, but the Other Mother does not take no for an answers. She locks Coraline in a mirror and Coraline must find a way to escape. Coraline does find a way and I won’t ruin it all for you but the lesson learned is that we should appreciate what we have, not be greedy or spoilt and learn to love unconditionally.
I think it’s clear now that the texts I choose to teach all have important messages that I believe the students need to learn or be reminded of. Coraline is no different. So many of these students live their lives only focusing on themselves that it is easy for them to forget that their parents, teachers, friends, are all people with their own problems and are always trying to do what is best for them. Too many of us take for granted what we have and when things do not revolve around ourselves, we get angry, frustrated and feel hardly done by.
The students enjoy not only the new experience of reading a graphic novel, but also the understanding they can gain from the story and the perspective they can obtain about their own lives and their own values.
I lost my mum earlier in the year and it was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. When I think about it there is no doubt that at times I took her for granted. I think the lessons we can learn from Coraline are important for all of us, not just the students. We can see that what we think we want, might not be what is best for us in the long run. The kids learn about not making selfish decisions, or rash decisions, understanding that we need to accept things, even if we don’t always like them at first.
A cool thing about studying Coraline too is that the kids often continue to read graphic novels once they’ve started. It even inspires some of them to write their own graphic novels and really use their amazing artistic skills. It’s a great read and a great lesson for all of us.