J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Friday, February 09, 2018

Colonial Comics “make history come alive in a potent time”

For the School Library Journal website, Johanna Draper Carlson reviewed the second volume of Colonial Comics: New England, focusing on the years 1750 to 1775.

Carlson wrote:
This anthology of 18 historical comic stories aims “to focus on the people and events that tend to get ignored in American history classes.” It’s an admirable goal, and one that succeeds, opening readers’ eyes to lesser-known but involving figures and events.

Stories such as
  • “The Devil and Silence Dogood”, by J.L. Bell and Braden Lamb, humorously shows Benjamin Franklin’s early days as a printer’s devil (apprentice) and writer of satire
  • “A Lonely Line”, by Sarah Winifred Searle and Carey Pietsch, introduces Molly Ockett, a Native American and Maine legend known for her knowledge of medicine
  • “The Newport Riots”, by James Maddox and Rob Dumo, portrays the coming changes and public protest from the scared perspective of crown officials
  • “The Grand Illumination”, by Kevin Cooney and Matt Dembicki, illustrates how it’s possible to tweak authority while pretending to honor it in the light of the repeal of the Stamp Act
  • “The Stranger’s Corpse”, by J.L. Bell and Jesse Lonergan, tells of the first American casualty during the Boston Massacre
  • “The Spunker Club”, by Lora Innes, digresses from politics to look at the mishaps of a group of Harvard medical students trying to option a corpse for their studies
  • “Join, or Die!”, by Josh O’Neill and James Comey, sheds light on the first, best-known American political cartoon
bring to life the period and make history come alive in a potent time of pending rebellion. Coincidentally, it’s a particularly timely period in analogy, as debates continue today around whose voice should count in determining the future and politics of the country.

These stories encourage empathy with a variety of viewpoints, as we see and follow lives, whether humorous or tragic. Each story has a text introduction to put them into context and explain any background needed, which aids in comprehension and understanding why the story was selected.
You may have noticed my name a couple of times in there. I scripted two of those stories for some great Massachusetts artists, and contributed research and editorial input on other stories.

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