Media Meltdown: a media literacy comic for kids

Orca Books sent me a review copy of Media Meltdown, a graphic novel about media literacy for kids, written by Liam O'Donnell and illustrated by Mike Deas.

The premise of Media Meltdown is to teach kids how to question the media they get, and to make their own. It follows the adventures of a group of kids who have discovered that the local monster-home developer is up to no good, and is getting away with it because he's a heavy advertiser with the town's only media company, which owns the newspaper, stadium, and TV station. Working together, they break the story on their own, using the Web, and along the way they learn to analyze the media they receive, to use that analysis in making their own media, and to work with others to get their message across (there's also a surprise appearance of this blog, which had me laughing aloud).

Media Meltdown is a good mix of instructional and narrative comic, using the medium's strengths to illustrate how media is made, and giving kids the tools they need to research media-making for themselves. The mystery plot is simple, but has some good tension and twists, and the resolution is really sweet. Understanding how media gets made and learning to make your own media are critical skills for kids, and this is a great starting-point.

Media Meltdown -- more resources


  1. can you estimate the reading level or “minimum age”? is this something the “average” (priviliged/smart) 7 year old would love? would a young teen find it too childish or is it sufficiently multi-level for a wide swath of kids to enjoy it and get something out?

  2. Along the same lines, here is an excellent old-school insulator against media manipulation, the Propaganda game.

    I played this game in eighth(?) grade in the latter half of the 1960s, and it really taught me to see how advertising, press releases, and what not, were worded to manipulate my thinking.

  3. Along with your Little Brother, this is a great addition to truly engaging media literacy texts. No generation has ever been in need of these tools more than this one. I challenge you (Cory) to put together a kids book about Privacy – the next greatest literacy of our times :) perhaps as a graphic novel!

  4. It’s always some evil corporation, isn’t it? How about a local politician who siphons tax dollars to a pet project which does nothing but helps him get re-elected? Too crazy extreme, right-wing I guess. Not that it happens in every municipality in the country or anything.

  5. Thrilled to see this come to light, as I’m a firm believer in using graphic novels/media literacy methods to reach and teach in multiple forms. (see recent post on meaningful manga about Gandhi on Shaping Youth:

    I ‘virtually met’ Liam O’Donnell on the hub, so know he has serious edu-tech chops so am anxious to read this myself. There’s also a new online immersion game to instill media literacy in the UK which I’d like to cover and test out a bit, as peer to peer collab learning has proven insightful & effective time and again. (we’ve done some ’embedding’ of positive concepts in virtual worlds to test what ‘sticks’)

    And finally, we also use film dramatization for media literacy w/tweens, as it uses a cast of kids tackling everything from a cyberbullying mystery/clue based ‘whodunnit’ to safety loopholes (e.g. an online ‘crush’, school plagiarism on papers, etc.) without being too heavy handed.

    Thanks for the heads up on this. Much appreciated!

  6. Thanks for the great review Cory. @anonymous#1 – the reading level is 8-14 years, so yes a privleged/smart 7 year old could read it for sure.

    @shapingyouth – long time no chat! is a great project – keep up the excellent work – the web needs more.

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