Anthologies tend to be uneven, and Show & Tell is such an example. It’s unevenness, however, speaks less of uneven work (this book is fairly strong throughout) and more of its wide net of themes which is a bit too wide but also serves as a blueprint of how I’d love to see future volumes evolve. It would be a shame for this series to not continue.
The anthology was put out for the first England Comic Arts in The Classroom conference that took place in March 2011. I’m not sure why Ninth Art Press put this out (and this is the only book) when it seems to be a Boston Comics Roundtable project. As far as I can tell, the majority of contributors, if not all, are members, and BCR man Dan Mazur is one of the main people at he helm. Either way, the book is at least a finalist for best convention freebie ever.
The editing approach to the book is similar to previous Inbound releases I’ve read co-edited by Mazur. There are several themed sections, but the majority of the tales are stories by and about teaching. Though there are funny and even compelling stories in that long section (“Teaching High School” by Mar-T Moyer, “Yo Miss” by Lisa Wilde, and “George Enjoys Billiards, Apparently” written by Alexander Danner and drawn by Mazur) I’m not sure why the stories by students had to be separated.
I wonder if it’s some kind of commentary on education that the “pedagogical Playtime” section is not only the shortest. Only two pieces! It also has the most effective picto-essay on comics in the classroom with Marek Bennett’s fantastic piece under the (intentionally?) misleading academic title ” Multiple Intelligences and Comics Education.” Even if by some twist of fate this book didn’t come together, it would have been enough just to have Bennett’s piece handed out as a pamphlet to the conference goers.
Was this book meant to communicate to teachers about the effectiveness of comics as a learning tool? If so, why not also have it geared for children as well? Why “some material was unsuitable for children” when even that very tame material could have been edited out for the most part? Compiled here with a whimsical cover by the rarely seen Dan Moynihan, this book is very good, but it’s not something I could give as a whole to my friends and relatives’ young kids expecting them to read it through.
There were were some strong pieces on or about teaching that I think deserve to be widely read like Kevin Moore’s “4 Myths About Teachers’ Unions” and “Open Structure” by Dan Mazur, a compelling account of the failed efforts of an imperfect progressive teacher from the 60’s. Here, though, they almost distract from the superior pieces that best promote comics in the classroom, which are really what a group of contributors like the Boston Comics Roundtable was practically formed to do.
At least the book ends on a promising note with BCR regular Ron LeBrasseur’s comic collaboration with his niece Emily, “Robots Kill Vampires.” That girl’s got a future in the medium, if only because she has her finger on the cultural zeitgeists of our time. And she’s already figured out that vampires are done.