Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rubicon's Timeline Series...Timeless!

In the 21st century many comics book publishers still tend to focus on the superhero genre. However, I recently found a comic book company that is breaking new ground on bringing history and learning into graphic novels. The company is Rubicon Publishing and the series is Timeline graphic novels. To further add to the progressiveness of the situation, Rubicon is Canadian with their headquarters in Oakville, Ontario. The Timeline books are historical retellings of world history told through the eyes of both fictional and real-life historical figures.

I found the Timeline books in a local public library and was very impressed by the quality of them. I saw children of different ages rushing to the shelves and plucking them off one-by-one. Whether it was a narrative about D-Day or a tale of Henry Ford, I could see children were hooked. I investigated why children were interested in these books and I was immediately struck by how accessible they are to young readers.

The simple-to-read English text brings elementary students right into history and I quickly found myself engaged in an installment called Timeline:Trapped in Gallipoli. In one profound instance I saw an African gentlemen reading a Timeline book in the corner and casually asked him about it. He told me he was new to Canada and learning English for the first time with his daughter. This was a very eye opening experience and I recognized the benefit of these graphic novels on children and English second language readers.

In addition to simple English writing, the artwork is quite good. I asked a young boy why he enjoyed the series so much and he responded “I like the art”. After reading a couple of issues, I noticed the trend with Timeline is that the artwork is clean and filled with eye-catching colors.

The Timeline series has a very personal quality to them. These graphic novels appeal to students because they feature characters not much older than some of the readers themselves and strip away a lot of historical minutia leaving bigger historical themes intact. As a child I would have yearned for these Timeline books, rather than having to soak in facts from non-fiction encyclopedias (as was most times the case). The Timeline series is designed for young readers to relate to the characters and in this quality the books succeed very well.

Another thing that I find really progressive about these books is the emphasis on multiculturalism. For example, I was really touched by Timeline: Crying For A Vision, in which the main character of Jesse realizes his own courage through an adventure into his Lakota family history.

I think the Timeline graphic novels are great for entertainment and learning. The books are divided into color coded subsections (red set, blue set, green set) for each of the different reading skill levels. In the same tradition of the Classics Illustrated books generations ago, these graphic novels are making a difference in promoting reading to young children.

*Timeline is also available in French. You can check out the entire series at http://www.timelineseries.com/canada.

-Jared Robinson.