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The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation

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Our leaders swear to uphold it, our military to defend it. It is the blueprint for the shape and function of government itself and what defines Americans as Americans. But how many of us truly know our Constitution?

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation uses the art of illustrated storytelling to breathe life into our nation's cornerstone principles. Simply put, it is the most enjoyable and groundbreaking way to read the governing document of the United States. Spirited and visually witty, it roves article by article, amendment by amendment, to get at the meaning, background, and enduring relevance of the law of the land.

What revolutionary ideas made the Constitution's authors dare to cast off centuries of rule by kings and queens? Why do we have an electoral college rather than a popular vote for president and vice president? How did a document that once sanctioned slavery, denied voting rights to women, and turned a blind eye to state governments running roughshod over the liberties of minorities transform into a bulwark of protection for all?

The United States Constitution answers all of these questions. Sure to surprise, challenge, and provoke, it is hands down the most memorable introduction to America's founding document.

ISBN-13: 9780809094707

Media Type: Paperback(First Edition)

Publisher: Farrar Straus and Giroux

Publication Date: 10-14-2008

Pages: 160

Product Dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)

Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

A ten-year veteran of the film and television production industry, JONATHAN HENNESSEY is a writer living in Los Angeles. AARON MCCONNELL is a freelance illustrator living in Oregon.

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. The first images we find in this book are isolated, individual moments—a two-page series of distinct, wordless pictures: a candle, a locked door, an inkwell, etc. What sequence of events is being conveyed? Who are these people? And who are the people we see when we turn the page? How many kinds of people can you find here (as in background, ethnicity, profession, historical era, or social class)?

2. "The Constitution is not just a document," we read on page 22. "It is also an act." What does this mean? And who are the "actors" shown in the top and middle panels of the page?

3. Look again at how a "truly direct democracy" is illustrated and captioned on page 28. Did this rendering strike you as comic in any way? Why or why not?

4. Explain the "partial" manner in which American slaves are drawn on page 31 (and elsewhere in this work). At what point are they finally shown "in full"? At what point — historically—was this possible?

5. The narrative box at the lower right corner of page 74 points out a specific way in which the Constitution improves on the Articles of Confederation. Name a few other ways.

6. On pages 54 (in the top panel) and 83 (in the bottom panel), we see two different street scenes, two different renderings of people in public. Why are these two scenes — both set in colonial times—drawn so differently? What moods or mindsets are being conveyed in each?

7. Why do the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branches play "Rock, Paper, Scissors" at the bottom of page 71? What ideas are being artistically communicated here, both generally and specifically? Also, what is a "hydra"—and why did Alexander Hamilton refer to such regarding our state and federal courts? And finally, what is the only crime mentioned explicitly in the Constitution?

8. A juggernaut-like machine appears occasionally in this book—a large, difficult-to-assemble contraption that must be harnessed by several ropes pulled by several people. Looking back over these pages, where do we encounter this assemblage? What does this great and unruly thing stand for? (See especially page 86, where we read in a speech balloon: "The more you pull, the more stable we will all be!")

9. What Franz Kafka novel is echoed by Hennessey and McConnell's explanation of the Fifth Amendment? What rights are granted to Americans by this Amendment? Paraphrase the narrative graphically depicted on page 102, and explain how this Amendment prevents such a narrative.

10. What changes did the 14th Amendment bring to American society? What rights did it ensure, and when did it become law? Why do you think this particular amendment is often "foreshadowed" in these pages? And how is such foreshadowing graphically accomplished?

11. On page 137, we see a young man—apparently about to vote for the first time—walk into a polling booth. He then suddenly finds himself immersed in deadly combat. Explain the logic or argument that is being put forth in the somewhat surreal visual narrative comprising this page.

12. On the final page of this book, a distinction is made between "a perfect union" and "a more perfect" one. Explain this distinction, and then talk about how Hennessey and McConnell's book—as a graphic rendering of the defining document of our government — fleshes out such a distinction of them change over the course of this book? Explain.