Archive for February, 2010


Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

My high school’s media center hasn’t had any funding in the past six years; students go down there to check out a book and find stuff like this:

I am not kidding. That book was written in 1975 and is in our freakin’ library today.

Every once and awhile, I mention my DonorsChoose projects. DonorsChoose is a great website where teachers can draft projects for funding through small donations. If you read a project and you’re of the mindset to give, you can kick a couple of bucks its way. I’ve had great success with the site, mainly in building my classroom’s lending library.

I’ve mentioned my own DC projects a few times here and have had an overwhelming response from readers who have enjoyed the comic and have donated a small amount to my classroom.

I don’t like to come to folks with hat in hand most of the time, but if you have enjoyed the comic in the past, this upcoming week (March 1st through March 8th) is the best time to donate. DonorsChoose is, for the first week of March, matching all donations made to classroom projects. If you donate $5 bucks… DonorsChoose will also pony up $5 bucks.

I have several projects currently available for funding. Several of them are comics-related projects. I won’t try to sell you on them here… if you click over to my Teacher Page, you can find out all about them and reasons why I think using comics and graphic novels in the classroom is one of the surest ways to gives students who are reading well below their grade level a chance to enjoy literature, some of them for the first times in their lives.

What can you do to help? Good question! DONATE! Even it’s only a small amount, with a matching grant like this, several small donations can roll into a fully-funded project.

I will sweeten the deal for you thusly: Anyone who donates between midnight tonight, March 1st and March 8th gets a free original drawing from yours truly.

These limited edition drawings are suitable for framing and at 9.5 L x 4.25 W, fit easily in most business letter sized envelopes. They will be chockablok with doodles, sketches, and inked wonders, all from the fertile, imaginative mind of a teacher who greatly appreciates your support of his work, molding the young minds of tomorrow. There is no minimum to donate to earn this prize… I only ask that you do the following:

– When you donate over at DonorsChoose, leave some kind of testimonial so I know you donated. You can mention the comic, if you like.

– After you donate, e-mail me at with your name and mailing address. I promise I won’t sell any of the addressed to unscrupulous junk mail vendors.

– Wait patiently by the mailbox for your “art” to arrive!

In all seriousness, if you’ve enjoyed the comic at all over the past few weeks, I’d be so grateful if you’d consider a donation. Your money doesn’t go to me, and it doesn’t go to running a website or  buying new art supplies or anything… it goes straight to a school system where 80% of the students are on free or reduced lunch. Further, the books these projects will purchase will help young people for YEARS to come.

I hope you’ll consider donating. Thank you for letting me shill for my classroom today, and thanks in advance for all the times I will be doing it in the next five or six days.

day eighty five.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 25, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

There are probably better ways to approach kids having trouble reading Shakespeare than making comparisons between his writing and a foreign language… but to a lot of the kids I teach, English itself is sort of a foreign language. At any rate, they use the skills for the rest of the unit.

Plus, I LOVE Tintin comics. My father bought me The Blue Lotus when I was six or seven years old and I remember being entranced by that thing, even if I couldn’t make heads or tails of what “opium” was at the time. The scene the students are reading in Panel 2 is, of course, involving Thompson & Thompson’s wild hair growth on the way to the moon. You already knew that though, didn’t you?!?!?

day eighty four.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 24, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

This one got away from me, but eagle-eyed readers may recognize the majority of these students, as they all appeared at least once previously in earlier comic strips.

day eighty three.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

Spot the goofy Marvel Comics reference. Yes I realized it while I was doing it. That’s just the kind of craft of writing you can expect from these wonderful comics.

day eighty two.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 22, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

chalkboard photo post!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 22, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

The snowdays we’ve had in the past few weeks have wreaked havoc with the schedule and my lesson plans, so I had the snow take center stage in the chalkboard drawings.

Hoping to get back into old routines in the upcoming week…

Thrift Store Finds: I’ll Shovel the Cards, A Family Circus Collection

Posted in commentary, thrift store finds with tags , , on February 20, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

Last week, I talked a little bit about Bil Keane’s The Family Circus and I may have done the venerable strip an unkindness by saying that I found it “as bland as boiled celery.” I have to be honest though, it’s never been a favorite of mine. I didn’t enjoy the antics of Billy, Jeffy, Dolly, and PJ they way I felt like I was meant to. They just set my teeth on edge.

I suppose what I disliked about The Family Circus as a kid can be reflected in some of the other comics I was readily enjoying at the time. Calvin & Hobbes was still in the newspapers every day when I was a kid, and Calvin made Billy Keane look like a choir boy. To say nothing The Far Side, the other major one panel strip that was competing for space on our comics page when I was a kid. The sensibilities of those two strips, side by side, made for a weird pairing. If memory serves, Gary Larson even took a couple of shots at The Family Circus during his tenure.

That bein’ said, I found this book in my thrift store and I picked it up because I pick up any and all of these types of comics.

I’ll Shovel the Cards is a relatively late addition to the comic paperback genre; the copyright information indicates this came out in 1992 but I’d hazard a guess a lot of the strips collected here came from the late 1980’s. Comic strip collections really started to change in 1980 with the publication of Jim Davis’ first Garfield trade, Garfield at Large. While before At Large, most strip collections were formatted like Shovel the Cards, after the gigantic success that Davis found with his first book, publishers gradually started changing size and format to accommodate comic strips.

This Family Circus collection entirely encapsulates my problem with the strip in its very title. The saccharine punning, the just slightly naughty behavior of the kids, all those things just didn’t ring true to me as to a young reader. Why did Keane stick with these collections for so long? The back cover seems to have an answer:

FIFTIETH IN THE SERIES. I guess that’s as good a reason as any to keep on keeping on with the paperback format, even in the wake of greater successes from fellow cartoonists’ work. I’ll also say this… one panel gag strips like The Family Circus collect far more comfortably in these paperback collections than stuff like Peanuts strips or old MAD Magazine features.

Also interesting is the picture of Keane with wife Thel, the basis for the Mommy character in the strip. I knew Keane modeled most of the family in the comic after his own brood, but I’m so familiar with Mommy’s black helmet of hair that seeing the inspiration for the character is sort of disconcerting.

At any rate, how are the comics? Well… they’re Family Circus comics.

Cutesy and disposable. Although there’s nothing that explicitly says when these comics were printed, they seem to be collected from early March through the summer. There are a lot of St. Patrick’s Day and Easter jokes to bear that assumption… which brings me to another point. Last week I said something about how unspecific Keane tends to be with this comic. I think this is most greatly represented in this comic.

Look at the title of that movie off to the left! Am I reading too much into this, or does that not sound like a porno flick?

I will give credit where credit is due however… Keane does draw a mean Optimus Prime.

This gave me some pause as the copyright information says that this book was printed in 1992. Usually the strips in a collection are about a year or so old, which would point toward these strips being written and drawn in 1990 at the latest.  According to Wikipedia (that unimpeachable source of information) the Transformers cartoon was cancelled in 1987. That strikes me as a HUGE gap in time between the time that Billy would be playing with Transformers toys and the time that this book’s copyright details say I’ll Shovel The Cards was printed.

Of course, there’s probably a very easy explaination for the strip. Either it appeared earlier than 1990 and was just included here for kicks… or Keane was a few years behind in drawing a Transformer into his comic. I’d wager on the latter. Still, it’s a cool little reference!

The best part of the book for me was the extended vacation to Boston the Keane’s take toward the end of the collection. I lived in Boston for a year and a half during graduate school and I can safely say I have never enjoyed living in a place more. If money weren’t an object, I’d pick my family up and move back to Boston in a second.

Honestly, the Boston strips show a wonderful depth of cartooning that make them quite fun to read. I’ve knocked Bil Keane a few times myself, but he’s got a great line… and when you consider how small most newspapers shrink their comic strips, everything in these two Boston strips is completely readable.

Although the back cover of this collection promises “many more to come”, The Family Circus paperback collections only continued into 1995/96. The strip continues to this day with Keane’s son Jeff becoming involved (and, if I had to guess, completely taking over the strip when Keane either retires or kicks the bucket… the latter being more likely at this point, I guess) The strip continues its tradition of inoffensive hijinx and if you’ve read it in papers recently, it’s pretty much the same its always been. Again, I’m not a great fan, but I’ll definitely pick up another collection if I see ’em.

day eighty one.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 18, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

day eighty.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 17, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

day seventy nine.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 16, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

I think I overused the word “hope” in this comic, but I was watching Lost while I was drawing it and I got distracted.

KWL charts are one of those things that even elementary school teachers do with their students… but as long as you don’t spend all period on the chart and you work to make it relevant, the KWL thing can be a smart little activity with high schoolers. I usually use post-it notes and let the kids stick ’em all over the room so that as we go through the unit, we can pull questions off the walls and talk about them as their answers come up. I might post a picture this weekend, if anyone’s interested.