J.D. Ho
Author and Children's Book Reviewer

Overview Legendary illustrator Hilary Knight’s “Nina” runs the gamut of dramatic emotions, from frustration to joy. Young readers will love identifying with the heroine in each sticky situation.
Subject English Language Arts
Grade Level 1-2
Objectives Students will improve their reading comprehension by learning to use visual context clues to understand changes in the characters.
Before Reading Do a picture walk through one of the stories, observing the details (such as facial expressions and movements of the characters) in each panel and describing what is going on. What are some things that make you mad?
During Reading Discuss how we can track the changes in Nina’s emotions as each story progresses. What are the various visual cues that tell us how she is feeling?

For all of the stories, compare Nina’s facial expressions in the first panel and the last panel. How are they different? In a story such as “When I need to stay up late and you say it’s bedtime…, (pg. 28)” the panels look very much the same. How do Nina’s facial expressions show us the progression of the narrative?

For “When I do something nice and no one cares… (pg. 18)”: Compare and contrast the first and last panels. What is different between the two? Look at the way words appear on the page. How do we know that Nina is yelling in the last panel? How do capital letters and the size of the text tell us how to read? Why does Nina have three faces in the middle panels? What does that tell us about how she feels?

What other things in the illustrations show us the progress of the narrative and Nina’s emotions? In “When you get mad at me and I didn’t do it…(pg. 8),” what is going on with the bathwater during the story? How does the state of Nina’s clothing correspond with how she’s feeling in “When I try and it doesn’t work… (pg. 14)”?
After Reading 1. Activity sheet: Faces from the stories. Have students write what emotion the character (including the cat!) is showing.

2. Have students make their own two-panel comic showing a situation that made them mad. In the first picture, students will show how everything looked BEFORE getting mad. In the second picture, students will show how things looked AFTERWARDS. Make sure students use facial expressions and the surroundings to show their emotions. Have them tell you what happened between the two illustrations.