Top Texts for June

Richard Charlesworth introduces picture books and graphic novels that create an emotional response in the reader.

Maia and What Matters

By Tine Mortier, illustrated by Kaatje Vermeire

Thankfully back in print, after a successful recent Kickstarter campaign, Maia and What Matters is a gentle, beautifully moving tribute to grandparents and the intergenerational friendship they can have with their grandchildren.

Maia is a determined, enthusiastic and fiercely independent young girl. She shares many personality traits with her grandmother, especially a fondness of cake! When her grandmother falls ill and loses control of her words, it’s up to Maia to help bridge the gap that’s been left where words once inhabited.

Translated by David Colmer, in this picturebook, words and art coalesce to create an emotional experience that resonates long after reading. Themes around age, death and life are sensitively explored, Vermeire’s illustrations imbuing each page with the full range of emotions.

What matters is that you need this book in your collection. A perfect picturebook for all ages, Primary to Secondary to Adult.

A Different Pond

By Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui

Brought to my attention by Dr. Rebecca Garcia Lucas, A Different Pond explores the relationship between father and son; between cultures old and new; and traditions. Graphic novelist, Bui, uses both picturebook and graphic novel forms to depict the family’s personal history.

Phi’s poetic text reflects and ruminates on a conversation between the two characters during a fishing trip, on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Past events, about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam, are interwoven throughout. It’s a text that almost requires a re-read.

Perfectly suited for children in Key Stage 2, readers will be able to learn about the challenges and difficulties of building a new life in a strange land, far from home. Deeply empathetic and personal, the text is a great one to introduce to classes to widen their understanding of the world that surrounds them and the stories, histories and relationships that are contained within each individual.

My Brother’s Husband

by Gengoroh Tagame

My Brother’s Husband is a touching and heartfelt manga with themes of love, loss, family and life.

Yaichi, a work-at-home father and single parent to his young daughter, Kana, has his life upended with the sudden arrival of an affable Canadian named Mike Flanagan who informs him he’s the widower of Yaichi’s estranged gay twin, Ryoji.

The text offers a heart-breaking, yet hopeful, insight into the largely still-closeted Japanese gay culture. The story (which is read from right to left, and in panel form) explores society’s changing attitudes and perceptions, delicately. Readers will find out lots about Japanese culture, language, traditions and (especially) food!

An informative and important read, that ultimately explores what it means to love and be loved, My Brother’s Husband would be at home in any Secondary library and in any teacher’s personal collection. 


About this month's reviewer

Richard is an experienced Key Stage 2 teacher and Professional Teaching Enhancement Lead of English at Springwell School, Heston. He is an advisor for the OU/UKLA Research Rich Pedagogies website and has spoken at various conferences exploring Creative Writing and Reading for Pleasure. Richard is the UKLA representative for London.Having studied the effect that graphic novels may have on their readers in his own research, he is interested in developing children’s empathy through a wider range of texts. He Tweets @rcharlesworth