Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Monster: A Graphic Novel

Myers, Walter Dean (Author)
Sims, Guy A. (Author)
Anyabwile, Dawud (Illustrator)
HarperCollins 2015. 154 pages
First published: 2015
ISBN: 9780062274991 (paperback)
9780062275004 (hardcover)
9780062275011 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

conflict, panel arrangement, point of view, stance

Reading Range

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

Description:

Is Steve Harmon guilty or not guilty? In this dark and suspenseful courtroom drama, the question of innocence never arises. A bright, talented black kid, Steve Harmon has his whole life ahead of him—unless he spends it in prison for murder. This graphic adaptation skillfully splices its themes of street life, family love, art, education and a legal system that functions as imperfectly as a badly executed robbery.

Steve’s narration runs on a filmic theme: “I’m going to have to do some editing,” reads one caption in the middle of his arrest. “It’s too real. I’ll start with this section.” Or in another sequence, erasing notes: “I have to change the script. I can’t go out like this.…”

High-contrast, monochrome artwork contributes to the noir tension. Images flip back and forth through the story’s timeline, creating a montage effect while reflecting a life spiraled out of control. In one panel, the prosecutor questions a witness against a backdrop of ghetto graffiti. In another, a threatening figure looms behind the witness box: “I’m gonna cut you up! I’m gonna get your moms, too! Believe that!”

Finally, this story’s strengths lie in the gray areas, as it expertly portrays imperfect characters trapped in a tremendously flawed legal system that offers no hope of true justice or redemption. “I didn’t do nothing!” Steve protests (or confesses), “I didn’t do nothing!”

  •  

    The use of scene-to-scene transitions to highlight key scenes adds to the cinematic quality of the novel. Use the opening sequence, which introduces the setting, conflict and protagonist from different points of view, as a model for making meaning.

  •  

    In small groups, discuss how the story might be told from the perspectives of different characters: the judge, lawyers, film club leader and Steve’s family.

  •  

    Explore issues of personal and social interest stemming from a discussion of perspectives presented in the text. Prepare a class debate. Make use of effective strategies such as precise language, factual statements and rhetorical strategies.

  •  

    Look at the front and back covers and read the front end paper. What is the role of a prosecutor? Discuss and write predictions about the plot.

  •  

    Select panels that depict Steve’s frame of mind at the beginning, middle and end of the trial. How has the illustrator used body language to convey Steve’s feelings? How does he make you connect with Steve?

  •  

    Which text components helped you understand the story? Use these to create a short graphic text to share the possible points of view of secondary characters like Steve’s parents, brother or teacher.

  • To cooperate with others
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Media Literacy
  • Personal Development
  • Visual Arts