Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Whazamo! Get Graphic: An Interview with Mark Thurman

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Get Graphic

Author and illustrator Mark Thurman knows the power of a strong image. He's written and illustrated 16 books and designed and illustrated more than 25 books for other authors. He's also spent over 30 years visiting schools to help students create their own picture books. In this interview, Mark speaks with Pembroke Publishers about visual literacy and how images can help students build their language skills.

Mark's latest book, Get Graphic!, is Pembroke's Book-of-the-Month, which means throughout May, you can check out a free preview of the book and discover what a great resource it is. Mark co-wrote Get Graphic! with author and educational expert Emily Hearn.

Pembroke Publishers: What have you learned about reaching students through art that may surprise educators?

Mark Thurman: I have seen many students who struggle with writing become passionate and engaged when given the opportunity to draw their ideas and stories. Language can then be added to the story once it is drawn (and consequently planned out).

This forces the student to carefully choose words and language that will match the action, emotions, etc., they were trying to convey through images. As a result, their experience with creating stories becomes positive rather than frustrating.

PP: Do you think there is a certain type of student that responds more readily to graphic novels and the visual arts?


MT: It is understood in today’s educational community that people learn and see things differently. That said, I find that students who respond to the visual arts and graphic novels in a very strong way are those who may have trouble reading and are clearly more visual learners; They may love to draw — always doodling — and their comfort level is with visual images and visual thinking.

PP: Why do you think graphic novels have captured the imagination of so many readers?

MT: Our modern society relies heavily on visuals to tell our stories: be it through movies, TV shows or online videos. Some may argue that this has moved us away from “real” reading, but our need to hear and tell stories remains strong.

Being highly visual, graphic novels fit neatly into this new type of storytelling and therefore resonate with a wide variety of readers — of all ages and abilities.

PP: Can you suggest some simple techniques that can be used to demonstrate the power of visuals in relation to reading and writing?

MT: One technique/activity I would suggest is showing a large dramatic or emotional image (be it a painting, photograph, or drawing) and getting the students to respond to it in writing: What catches their eye? How does the image make them feel? You can do a similar exercise with displaying a sequence of images, such as a comic strip, that need to be completed, either visually or by adding words — or both!

Mark Thurman is best known as a children's author/illustrator. He has written and illustrated 16 books and designed and illustrated more than 25 books for other authors. As an author/illustrator, Mark has toured Canada extensively, sharing his stories and ideas with children and teachers in hundreds of schools. As a gallery artist his primary focus has been the human figure and portraits. He works in several different styles — realistic, impressionistic and the symbolic — according to the requirements and mood of the subject matter.

Mark, along with his co-author for Get Graphic, Emily Hearn, collaborated on "The Mighty Mites" comic strip series that appeared in Owl Magazine for more than a dozen years. Together they have also created books that have helped hundreds of children and young people draw and write picture books, comic strips and graphic novels.

Emily Hearn has written picture books, poetry and music, radio and TV scripts. She is a speaker on children's creativity and a mentor for the Toronto District School Board and for elementary school children who send work to WIER (Writers in Electronic Residence). Emily's popular workshops for children and teachers have supported young writers throughout the country.

Emily collaborated with her co-author, Mark Thurman, on "The Mighty Mites" comic strip series that appeared in Owl Magazine for more than a dozen years.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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