Making Curriculum Pop

A casual reader who picks up a book titled One Hundred Demons might be surprised to find stories about hearing a meaningful song on the radio, head lice, bad boyfriends, and a first job, but those and more are inside this “autobifictionalographical” work. The eponymous demons come from a painting exercise Barry found in a library book, practiced by Hakuin Ekaku, a zen monk who lived in 16th century Japan. As she paints each demon, stories and memories came to hear and become the contents of this book. Some of the tales are sad, others funny, and almost all of them touch upon aspects of growing up, dealing with family, and finding one's place in the world.

Lynda Barry, the author/illustrator, is well known for publishing her weekly alternative comic Ernie Pook's Comeek for the better part of the past 20 years. Additionally, she is the eponymous "Funk Queen of the Galaxy" to whom Matt Groening dedicates every volume of his Life in Hell collections. Yes, that Matt Groening. Barry's most famous creation, Marlys, is a freckled faced young girl who appears to be a stand-in for Barry herself, and Barry certainly can remember and express the feelings of being young and concerned about everything around her.

The individual strips that make up One Hundred Demons were published originally in This collection won the 2003 Alex Award, which goes to ten adult books chosen by the Young Adult Library Services Association for their appeal to teens. Reviewers are very positive about the book as well. Andrew D. Arnold stated that it uses "acutely-observed humor to explore the pain of growing up." Derik Badman was so engrossed that he read the book in one sitting. More reviews can also be seen at Goodreads.

This collection was published by Sasquatch Books, and an extensive preview is available from Google Books.

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I am halfway through this book, having been given it to read by a student who loved American Born Chinese (thanks Laura G!). I did not realize it, but I had seen another student teacher use a segment of this book, the "Common Scents" segment, to introduce a unit on class. I don't remember her essential question around the unit, but it was something like "What does class look like, smell like, feel like, sound like?" And Barry's "Common Scents" segment is perfect for its focus on how different homes (in poor neighborhoods, in Barry's hands) smell (thanks Mary M!).

I definitely think young adults would love this book.
Thanks for the great idea about using the "scents" story in a social studies lesson. That sounds really cool!

And I agree that there are lots of great stories in here that I think many adolescents could connect with. It reminds me a lot of her Marlys stories, too. I'm reading Barry's What It Is book now, and that one is dense and quite beautiful.
Lynda Barry's work has long been Autobifictionalographical (great word!) and from what I read of this book, it is excellently in that vein. Almost from page one Barry stretches the confines of graphic storytelling and storytelling itself. The characters, the dialogue, and the emotions ring true.

The vignette style, a la "House on Mango Street," would make nice short examples of plot, character, character traits, and conflict/resolution (each demon) within lesson plans. Sophia, thanks for passing on the idea for the lesson plan on senses, which works well when teaching imagery, symbolism, and mood. This book could be especially beneficial when teaching topic and theme! Perhaps asking students to summarize (in one sentence/thesis statement) what Barry is saying in the chapter about the topic, and then backing it up with evidence from the segment.

For art teachers (and everyone) PLEASE check out Stephan Bucher's "Daily Monster" series,

Wish there was more of this for boys, but do check out "Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age" edited by Ariel Schrag (



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