By Jennifer Vargas
LIT4331: Envisioning Environmental Disaster in Children’s Literature (Spring 2021)
Instructor: Brianna Anderson
Throughout the semester, students carefully analyzed how the relationship between images and text in comics, illustrated novels, picturebooks, and other media allows creators to convey environmental messages to young readers. We devoted particular attention to two central questions: 1) how can the structural components of these imagetexts (such as color, the gutter, and panel size) represent abstract and frightening environmental issues in a way that young children can comprehend? and 2) how can imagetexts and their paratexts empower children to participate in environmental activism? For this Creative Imagetext Project assignment, students built on the imagetext principles we examined in class by creating their own comic, picturebook, or zine about the environmental issue of their choice. All the imagetexts feature informational paratexts, such as lists of additional resources and suggestions for ways that readers can participate in environmental activism. Significantly, the students each created their imagetexts digitally using free software. Their creations demonstrate that anyone can use comics and picturebooks to advocate for the issues that they care about.
Jennifer Vargas’s comic “From Drool to Green School” centers on a middle school girl who engages in local environmental activism.
Jennifer Vargas is a junior at the University of Florida, where she is in the process of earning her bachelor’s degree in English. Her academic interests lie primarily in examining diverse works of American literature from the late 19th century onwards. Occasionally, she will dabble in writing poems and short stories. She is currently active as a peer mentor for the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program, a scholarship dedicated to supporting low-income, first-generation students at UF, of which she is also a proud recipient. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue teaching in her native Florida, thus intersecting her passions for education and literature.