G-Man by Chris Giarrusso
is a smart, poignant, and childish take on superhero comics. The main character is G-Man, a boy who gains superhero powers after reading a book called How to Fly. The book suggests using a magic cape to learn how to fly. G-Man asks his mom where their magic blanket is. When she tells him, he cuts it to cape-size and flies off to join his friends at the park. G-Man is born!
The first collection of G-Man is appropriately called “Learning to Fly.” It contains an introductory story followed by a series of short stories, some as short as a single page. Each story acts as an episode allowing readers to learn incrementally about G-Man and his town where the super-human is ordinary. It describes his interactions with his peers and quarrels with his older brother and, ultimately, how a hodge-podge team of super-kids defeats the ultimate villain.
The remainder of the first volume of G-Man is a series of smaller comics. The most innovative is a page that is a 12-panel grid. Each panel is the same size, giving equal importance to the information inside the panel. The innovation is that the strip can be read left-to-right and top-to-bottom, or top-to-bottom and left-to-right. The strip is one of the many “Comic Bits” in the book.
G-Man is an excellent book that meets all of the Common Core State Standards except for CCSS
9 for Grade 4. A discussion can be led about the introductory story. How to summarize and draw more from the story, perhaps about the characters, their daily lives, their “super” world (CCSS 1
, and 3
), and to compare G-Man’s story to mythology such as Achilles (CCSS 4
). Even to aid text-to-image connections by the simplicity of its being a comic (CCSS 7
). The book in its entirety opens a whole world of opportunity for the comparison of structure (CCSS 5
), perhaps between the setup of the main story in relation to the “Comic Bits” titled “Mean Brother/Stupid Brother” and the differences between points of view since not all of the bits are told from the same character’s eyes (CCSS 6
It is important at the fourth grade level to begin to understand superhero mythos and how the stories express their personal lives. For this reading level, the best introductions to character depth are Mini Marvels by Chris Giarrusso and Marvel’s Adventures comics which are younger versions of their most popular characters like Spiderman, Thor, Iron Man, and the Avengers.
Reading Standards for Literature Grade 4:
1. Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
2. Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
3. Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).
4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).
5. Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue
, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.
6. Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third-person narrations
7. Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.
8. (Not applicable to literature)
9. Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and
evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.
10. By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, in the grades 4–5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.