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A work by Lynd Ward in the graphic novel show in Stockbridge. A work by Lynd Ward in the graphic novel show in Stockbridge. (©1929 Lynd Ward)
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January 6, 2008

The statistics about children's reading habits are so dismal that some teachers are introducing comic books to the curriculum. The trend is not without critics. Yet proponents say visual storytelling helps interest students in reading. As a children's librarian recently told The New York Times, "What we say is 'Whatever works.' "

Comic books in the classroom are the subject of a symposium at the Norman Rockwell Museum, in Stockbridge, on Saturday. The keynote speaker is Jay Hosler, a science professor who created "Clan Apis," a graphic novel about the lives of bees.

The museum is hosting the day-long forum in conjunction with the exhibit "LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel," on display through May 26. Among the artists represented is Lauren Weinstein, who found her calling after creating illustrated stories about her classmates when she was in fifth grade. Her first book, "Girl Stories" (Holt), draws on her teenage years in Brookline.

Political prose

With US senators in the thick of presidential primary contests, along comes Sue Miller's new novel, "The Senator's Wife" (Knopf), about the self-sacrificing spouse of US Senator Tom Naughton, a notoriously philandering politician. The novel is set in New England, but the state is not identified because Miller did not want to encourage speculation about the faithfulness of senators from any state. As for Naughton's politics, Miller says she imagined them to be like those of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a four-term senator from New York.

Lost generation

Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust will launch her new book, "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War" (Knopf), with a lecture at the National Archives, in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Faust, a historian of the American South, spent more than a decade studying the nation's struggle to face the death of approximately 620,000 soldiers during the conflict. (An equivalent proportion of today's population would be 6 million.)

Testifying

This month marks the 200th anniversary of the US ban on the slave trade. US Senator James DeWolf, a slave trader in Bristol, R.I., is the infamous ancestor at the heart of Thomas Norman DeWolf's "Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History" (Beacon).

After the Civil War many former slaves migrated to the North. In "From Bondage to Belonging: The Worcester Slave Narratives" (University of Massachusetts), co-editors B. Eugene McCarthy and Thomas L. Doughton present the autobiographies of eight onetime slaves who settled in Worcester. History students at the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, were so moved by the first-person accounts that McCarthy and Doughton decided to bring the narratives to a wider audience.

Coming out

"Simon Says: A True Story of Boys, Guns, and Murder," by Kathryn Eastburn (Da Capo)

"Airman," by Eoin Colfer (Hyperion)

"The Olmsted National Historic Site and the Growth of Historic Landscape Preservation," by David Grayson Allen (University Press of New England)

Pick of the week

Peggy Sands of Millrace Books, in Farmington, Conn., recommends "Homecoming," by Bernhard Schlink (Pantheon): "Peter Debauer discovers by chance that his father was not the man he thought, and so begins a search-for-identity thriller with links both to Nazi Germany and a book with missing pages. I loved this quick-paced story and its flawed but feeling hero."

Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.

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