Art + Words = Graphic Novels

By Mary Ann Weber

At one point in my life I would never have imagined that I’d ever read a graphic novel. But then I met Jerry, who eventually became my husband. We’re both avid readers and I had visions of us reading the same book and engaging in invigorating discussions. However, he had no interest in my suspense mysteries and I had no interest in his science fiction reads. And to make matters worse, he spoke with delight about his growing comic book and graphic novel collection.

Eventually Jerry convinced me to read a graphic novel as a way to expand my world and I couldn’t argue with that.

MausThat is how I came to read Maus, by Art Spiegelman. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, the first graphic novel ever to win that coveted award, and it deserved it. Maus is a story about Spiegleman’s father, a Polish Jew during the Holocaust. It was a sobering read and I learned a lot.

One of the first things I discovered when reading a graphic novel is that I need to read slowly in order to take in the pictures, because they tell as much of the story as the words. A second thing I realized is that there are graphic novels that deal with very difficult and serious issues.

AmericanBornChineseOne day I came across a graphic novelist, Gene Luen Yang, who incorporates faith issues with fiction. I picked up American Born Chinese. About halfway through I had to put it down to savor the richness of the words and to express gratitude to a God who holds us even when we don’t recognize it. It was powerful.

With this background of graphic novels, I am excited that MennoMedia recently published Radical Jesus. I’ve read it numerous times and appreciate the way the life of Jesus is portrayed, as well as the lives of those who followed Jesus from the early church to the present day.

RadicalJesus_CoverI hope to use it soon as a study with the youth at our church. Several of them enjoy art and sketch elaborate pictures during the worship service. A number of them also like to read, and some even go through Jerry’s comic book collection when at our house. And so Radical Jesus, with its combination of art and words, is something they will connect with. I want them to think deeply about what it means to take Jesus’ words seriously, and to follow Jesus. This is a great book to help youth (an adults, too) think about these concepts.

You can find Radical Jesus at our store, Amazon and elsewhere. Purchase 5 or more copies and receive our study shelf discount.

Have you used an graphic novels in teaching youth or children? Adults? We’d love to hear any experiences you have had.





Mary Ann Weber, Editor for curriculum


All I Really Need to Know About Leadership I Learned at Home and Church

Guest blog post by Shirley Hershey Showalter, author of Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World (Herald Press, 2013)

Train up a child in the way she should go, and when she is old,
she will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

I never went to kindergarten. Fairland Elementary School didn’t have one.

So I can’t say kindergarten taught me all I needed to know.

Nor did I ever take a course called “leadership” even though I would later be called to be a leader. People have asked me, after they read my memoir, Blush, which ends when I leave the family farm in 1966, how my childhood relates to my later life as a professor and college president.

What was clear to me as I wrote, and now again as I engage with readers, is that I learned a lot in childhood, whether or not I recognized wisdom around me at the time.

In fact, I learned many leadership lessons from these people:

BlushExtras033 (2)Melvin Lauver and his wife Mary led the Lititz Mennonite Church as a pastoral couple. Mary was not just a “helpmeet,” she had her own sphere as a speaker, and leader of activities for women and girls.

From these two people I learned:

  • The best way to lead is by creating a team of people with complementary gifts. Affirm those gifts and connect the people to each other.
  • Pay special attention to nature. Renew yourself in prayer, meditation, and walks.
  • While on walks, gather feathers, dry weeds, create works of art out of them. Use them to make notecards and then write personal notes, hundreds of them, every year. (I still have Mary Lauver’s thank you notes in my scrapbook.)
  • Make the love of Jesus the theme of your life, and let the Light of love shine from within in your relationship to God, each other, and the world.

I also learned about leadership from these people:

Blush10-1 (2)My siblings, Doris, Sue, Henry and Linda are standing. I’m seated. My parents Richard and Barbara Ann also seated on the right.

My family taught me even more basic rules of leadership:

  • Work hard. Always give a “baker’s dozen” when making a sale and more than you are paid when you work.
  • Tell the truth. (Daddy)
  • Tell stories. (Mother)
  • Spend a lot of time on Mother’s lap listening to her read. Then read to each other and read for your own pleasure and edification.
  • Share. Don’t hit. Fight fair and then make up. (Siblings)
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone.
  • When one of you hurts, all of you help.
  • We will all die, like our sister Mary Louise died after 39 days. So make this life count!

I may not have gone to kindergarten, but I learned all the lessons Robert Fulghum, the author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten attributes to that setting –including this most important set of affirmations:

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”


Where or from whom did you learn your most important lessons?

Shirley’s book Blush is available from the MennoMedia store here. Shirley posts regularly at her own blog, here.







Poof: Great Sunday school materials DO NOT just suddenly appear

By Rachel Nussbaum Eby

I was hired this past July to become the managing editor for Shine: Living in God’s Light, the new curriculum available to all Anabaptist related churches (and beyond) that will follow the popular Gather ‘Round curriculum. Even though I have been a Sunday school teacher and superintendent at my church, working with Sunday school curriculum in this role has been an eye-opening experience.

ShineLogoHere are the top five things I’ve learned about producing a high quality curriculum:

#5 – The process to produce one quarter of a curriculum begins many months before Sunday school teachers begin to teach it. The Fall 2014 quarter began in in earnest in 2012, and planning and raising funds way before that. Staff and volunteers worked together on the curriculum to determine the elements of each session and decide on which Bible stories to use. Curriculum writers were hired. After an Editors Conference in February, writing for the Fall 2014 began. All of this happened before I was even hired so it was like jumping on a moving train. Fall 2014 was already in the editing stage, rough drafts of its illustrations were arriving in my inbox, and music for the Early Childhood CD and the Year 1 Shine Songbook and CD (for primary through junior youth) were ready to send to the two music coordinators who had been hired.

ShineWritersConferenceShine writers at the first writer’s conference

#4 – It takes a lot more than writers and editors to produce a great curriculum. This dedicated group also includes the project director, proofreaders, illustrators, designers, music coordinators, musicians, website designers, marketing departments, and assorted staff persons who do things like get the ISBN numbers and find the best printers. Even congregations and individuals have provided feedback, donated money, and provided teacher tips that we are using in the Shine teacher’s guides. (If you like to learn more about how you can also contribute a tip, please email me.) This curriculum is such a wonderful example of how well two separate companies—MennoMedia and Brethren Press—and three denominations—Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, and Church of the Brethren can work together when they have a shared vision.ShineAtConventionShine at the Phoenix Mennonite Church USA Convention summer of 2013.
Shine was also at the Charlotte Church of the Brethren Conference

#3 – Technology is vital to the process. Skype and videoconferencing are essential for planning meetings.  Special sites handle the movement of extra large files. The internet enables people to work from lots of locations. I am so thankful for technology. At the same time, I am also glad I have met some people in person. I visited the Church of the Brethren offices in Elgin, Illinois, and had the opportunity to get to know the Gather ‘Round staff. This week, I met my coworker, Chrissie Walls, in person for the first time. She traveled from her home in Rochester, New York, to Elkhart, Indiana, for Shine staff meetings.

3D-BookCovers_ShineOn_lowRGB (2)#2 – A curriculum goes through many, many steps before it is ready to be sent to printer. The best image to explain this process is a weaving loom. I hold the long strands (the warp). There’s a strand for each teacher’s guide, student piece, and resource/poster pack. There’s a strand for Shine On: A Story Bible, the songbook, and each CD. There are strands for each type of image. There are even strands for web pages on the public website, and on the website for writers, editors and staff. As I hold the warp, it is my job to coordinate the order of the transverse strands (the weft) to eventually make the final useful and attractive product. For example, the illustrator cannot draw illustrations until each editor has described them. It’s a complicated process and can threaten to become hopelessly tangled. But Rose Stutzman, the project director, is a terrific guide.

EC_MusicCD_cover (2)

#1 – Developing a new curriculum can be very exciting. I have enjoyed looking at the two-dimensional illustrations and designed pieces that came from one-dimensional descriptions. I was fascinated by how combining words with images in Shine On have made the stories come alive in new ways. Most of all, I anticipate that moment when the first quarter has been printed and I can see all together on my desk—the final useful and attractive product.

I would love to hear from you: comment on the blog or write me directly:

Rachel Nussbaum Eby
Managing editor of Shine