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Girl Genius


Found in: language arts & literature; social studies; 3-5; 6-8

Girl Genius  is a Hugo Award (among many others) winning free “Gaslamp Fantasy” webcomic and graphic novel. The hero is Agatha Heterodyne, though as the story opens, she’s known as Agatha Clay, having been left by an uncle in the care of the Adam and Lilith Clay. Adam is a blacksmith and runs Clay Mechanical. Agatha is a lab assistant at Transylvania Polygnostic University (PTU) and doesn’t know that she is a Spark, a mad scientist, or that she’s of the House of Heterodyne, a very Sparky family. Troubles and Agatha’s awakening to Sparkdom begin when her locket is stolen and she is captured by Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, the son of Baron Klaus Wulfenbach. Names often prove to be aliases, relationships complicated, the plot knotty. But don’t fret, the Girl Genius Wiki  can help answer questions. The series is filled with Victorian-style robots (Clanks), period clothes, fun names and vocabulary, constructs (the living creations of Mad Science), monsters, and lots of airships. Students in grades 5-8, or anyone who likes adventure and fantastic mechanical creations, will enjoy the series.

The genre Gaslamp, or Gaslight, shares the 19th century look of Steampunk but adds a touch of fantasy. Some say it’s a bit more lighthearted, though Girl Genius has its explosions and moments of grossness. Gaslamp Fantasy vs Steampunk will make the distinctions clearer.

The first book, Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank, is 81 pages long. The illustrations are in B&W and color. The later volumes are all in color. Twelve books are online. The current adventure of Girl Genius is updated on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Two more online comics are Narbonic and Dresen Codak. Narbonic  tells of the misadventures of the staff of the Narbonic Labs, which is the domain of mad scientist Helen Narbon. Other characters are computer programmer Dave Davenport, superintelligent gerbil RT-5478 (or "Artie"), and the evil intern Mell W. Kelly. There are two versions of Narbonic, the original and a director’s cut, which includes author commentary. Dresden Codak  stars Kimiko Ross whose devotion to science gets her into trouble. The stories feature elements of philosophy, psychology, and science & technology.

All three series can be used in language arts and in science classes addressing ethical issues.

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