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Letters of Recommendation

Letter from Brandy Hebert, KIPP Academy Middle School


A few months ago, I received an email about a project that was starting on my campus, and I was asked if I wanted my students to be a part of it.  I actually knew very little about it at the time, but I immediately said, “Yes” because I knew it was related to two things: writing and the Holocaust.  I agreed that just a few of my 7th and 8th grade Art students would have time to help illustrate a story that a few students were working on.  It wasn’t until I met Ruchir and looked at his comic books that I realized the potential impact that the comic book could have on my classroom.

At that point, I rearranged what we were working on so that all of my students could be a part of this process.  This was a great decision; the process of illustrating this book has been educational and rewarding for everyone involved.  Creating the comic book allowed my students to work collaboratively, think critically and creatively, and it inspired them to do research.    It was also was a great platform for discussion regarding character building.  My students are proud of what they’ve learned and therefore eager to share.

Ruchir’s comics are exciting because they cover so many disciplines. Comic book creation requires students to research, organize, and synthesize their information.  From an early age we associate comics with enjoyment, adding the academic element is simple and brilliant.  Students are set up for success because they know they will enjoy the work.  I have started rearranging lessons in other classes, so I can incorporate this one.  The possibilities for this project are endless and only limited by a student’s thirst for knowledge.

Brandy Hebert
KIPP  Academy Middle School
Art 7th, 8th

Letter from Laura Lensgraf, KIPP Academy Houston


November 17, 2010

To Whom It May Concern:


This fall, four of my seventh grade students collaborated to create a comic book based on the events of the Holocaust. This creative, poignant, graphic project was a visual representation of this tragedy, giving my students first-hand knowledge about the intricacies of publishing a small book. The comic book was the original inspiration of Ruchir Shah, a Rice University student, who kindly devoted expertise and enthusiasm to KIPP Academy Middle School. Ruchir is the author of many historical comic books, and KIPP is so lucky to have him donate his time to teach our students about publishing a book.

I have included several statements from my students:

“During the project, I got to know Ruchir, and he is going to help me on future projects. The time helped me put aside my problems and concentrate more to respect other people’s perspectives and point of views. It is a good feeling to know that this will change other people’s mindset about the Holocaust and their victims.”Victor Margarin

“The project gave me a sense of responsibility. Every night, we had homework so we can keep the project going. I know this book is important to many people.”Izu Eneh

“The Holocaust project was a once-in-a-lifetime project. I appreciated that Ruchir came to our school and encouraged us to finish this exciting project. I hope that all of this hard work that was put into this project is is respected and that it changes peoples perspectives on what happened during the Holocaust.”Nestor Zalaya

“This project gave me time to learn more about the Holocaust and why the event is important to the world.”Armando Hernandez

Our school is so proud to be a part of the Kaddish symphony project. We are thrilled that this comic book will be published and given to the patrons of the symphony on performance day. Ruchir, on behalf of KIPP Academy, we appreciate you time, generosity, creativity, and enthusiasm with our students. We congratulate you on a successful project! Most importantly, thank you for your time and for building a relationship with our Kipp students.

Laura Lensgraf
English Department Chair

Click here to view the original letter

Foreword Reviews – The Civil War


In his college application essay, seventeen-year-old Ruchir Shah, the author of three historical comic books, writes that he was inspired to make history more interesting for children by portraying it in comic form. “As exciting as it is to me, the study of history is often considered boring, so I wanted to depict history visually to make the learning process more engaging,” he wrote. At age fourteen, he created his own press, EZ Comics, and published three books: The Civil War: The American Civil War 1861-1865 (978-0-9795887-1-6), Martin Luther King, Jr. (978-0-9795887-0-9), and Benjamin Franklin (978-0-9795887-2-3). These fascinating comic books will open the marvel and wonder of American history to reluctant readers and English language learners as well as to all those kids who simply like a good book for its own sake.

Reluctant readers will be attracted to the straightforward comic frames in which Shah narrates history. They will also appreciate his dual-level narrative that tells these stories in frames lettered in capitals, while dialogue bubbles add depth and detail. For example, when Martin Luther King’s home was bombed, the strip at the top of the frame explains, “Hearing about the bomb, an angry mob of people began gathering at the King residence.” The following frame shows King addressing the crowd in a dialogue bubble: “Do not panic. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. What we are doing is just and God is with us.” The accompanying strip reads, “Thus he averted a disaster.”

Shah’s first book, The Civil War, delivers a history that will even fascinate Civil War aficionados. In one frame, a white manager says, “I am against slavery. My workers are free, and paid wages.” Shah also devotes space to the unprecedented killing that this war saw. From the two battles of Bull Run to Shiloh and the Battle of Antietam, he highlights the high casualties, poor medical care, and poor living conditions suffered by soldiers of both armies, especially near the end of the war. Neither does he flinch from depicting racism among Union troops who refused to “fight WITH blacks” or “FOR blacks.”

A century before the Civil War took place, Benjamin Franklin, who “snatched lightning from the sky and the scepter from the tyrant,” was busy leading the kind of life that has come to represent the American dream. This all-around eighteenth-century man invented the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, bifocal lenses, and the extendable arm that many stores still use today to reach items on the highest shelves. He also played a significant role in the American War of Independence and helped write both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In an age when many people change not only jobs, but careers, the varied chapters of Franklin’s life provide lessons in adaptability that are especially relevant.

Shah corresponded with historians at several universities to verify the accuracy of his work. He also consulted multiple sources for each book, including Franklin’s autobiography. Contacts made at a summer internship with a publishing firm in India enabled him to enlist the services of prominent Indian artist Shriram Hisabnis, a prizewinner in the Indian Cyber Humour Cartoon Contest, as well as other Indian artists who were “both talented and inexpensive.” In a telephone interview, Shah commented that working with Indian illustrators was a “really intense process” that highlighted cultural differences. For example, when he asked for a frame showing Martin Luther King playing baseball, the illustrator instead drew King playing cricket.

Aimed at a fourth- to eighth-grade audience, these books provide much more detailed and interesting history than most textbooks for that age. They will be a valuable addition to any library or home, and they certainly challenge adults to expand the definition of what a comic book can be. (2007)

To read the original article from Foreword Reviews – click here

Children’s Bookwatch review on EZ Comics books


“Education Made Easy” EZ Comics teaches young readers about American history in an engaging and readily accessible format. Three color graphic novels offer a brief yet historically accurate survey of notable American heroes or eras of history. “Benjamin Franklin” (9780979588723, $6.95) is a kid-friendly biography of the titular Founding Father, showcasing his talents in science, politics, diplomacy, and more. Of special note is the attention paid to the trials of Franklin’s personal life, such as the dilemma of how he would care for his sick mother, as well as the national deeds for which he is more famous. “The Civil War” (9780979588716, $6.95) introduces young readers to the harrowing true story of the American Civil War and its immediate aftermath. A surprisingly detailed battle-by-battle account of America’s deadliest conflict ensues, culminating in the restoration of the Union followed by the tragic assassination of President Lincoln. “Martin Luther King, Jr.” is a biography of the charismatic and dedicated civil rights leader, who believed and worked for peaceful protest to bring an end to American injustice. Among the positive changes he helped bring about and lived to see were the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which gave everyone the right to vote regardless of race. At only thirty-nine years of age, he was assassinated, and the nation grieved the loss of one of its most inspirational and principled leaders. All three graphic novels are highly informed and informative, adhering scrupulously to historical facts with no creative license (all words that historical characters say are direct quotes attributed to them), and highly recommended as educational additions to children’s bookshelves and library collections.

This article is from: Children’s Bookwatch. To read the original review – click here