Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Essex County

Lemire, Jeff (Author/Illustrator)
Top Shelf Productions 2009. 512 pages
First published: 2009
ISBN: 9781603090384 (paperback)
Original language: English
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

characterization, conflict, dialogue, layout, multimodal, panel arrangement, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This graphic biography travels back and forth in time to convey a multi-perspective story of one family’s secrets and adventures in an Ontario farming community. Grieving young Lester is adjusting to life on the farm with his bachelor uncle, Ken. His love of comics—reading and making his own—is shared by Jimmy, the local gas station attendant (who suffered brain trauma as a pro hockey player).

Dialogue and narrative language skillfully bring characters’ voices to life. “That’s it boys!” cheers the semi-pro hockey coach, as the next panel shows players grappling against the boards: “The Kings didn’t know what hit ‘em and we weren’t about to let our feet offa their throats!”

Expressive images in high-contrast, monochrome brushwork convey characters and settings with a sense of melancholy and nostalgia. Young Lester’s present-day tale incorporates boyish comic-art that revels in the power and caped glory of his superhero invention, “Night Bird.” The mid-20th century story of brotherly love and rivalry between two hockey players incorporates news clippings, photos and handwritten letters. Recurrent symbols create connections between the tales: Night Bird’s costume bears a crow logo, while during a dangerous winter trek for survival (generations earlier), an orphan standing in the snow spies a crow flying across the panel.

Skillfully stitched together, these graphic stories create a compelling and nuanced whole, much like the panorama of patchwork farms depicted among the book’s final spreads. Beneath the wings of a passing crow, the road sign says: “NOW LEAVING ESSEX COUNTY.”

  •  

    The narrative, known as an autobiographic comic, was originally published in three instalments. Read the prologue and discuss the narrative structure prior to reading the text. As you read, identify and review the connections between the three story arcs.

  •  

    In reading groups, discuss how author/producer’s craft is used to convey meaning. Use examples from the text to support your ideas. Build on the ideas of others during the discussion.

  •  Select a key scene and reproduce it as a short story or a script. Use a production process to draft, revise and edit the piece. Incorporate elements of author/producer’s craft to the written text.
  •  

    In a small group, discuss what life in small town Ontario must have been like over the past century. Consider topics such as family life, work, leisure and relationships.

  •  

    As you read, keep track of the relationships by drawing a family tree and adding connections as you go. Pay careful attention to the clues in chronology and names (first and last).

  •  

    Compare the family tree you created to the one on page 447. Are they similar?

  •  

    Go back and find the pages with an image of a crow. What might it symbolize? Write down your theories and justifications, then discuss them in small reading groups.

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal Development
  • Social Sciences