Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio

Abrams ComicArts. Apr. 2020. 288p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781419734847.
Gr 8 Up–In the midst of the divisive Vietnam War, Ohio’s Kent State University was a haven for free thinkers and creatives who were fed up with compulsory enlistment and didn’t believe that the United States’ military involvement in Vietnam was about “keeping Communism at bay.” On April 30, 1970, Nixon informed the nation that the United States would be invading Cambodia and that the war would ramp up instead of winding down. Protests were organized, including one at Kent State, prompting chaos and violence. The mayor of Kent begged the governor to send in the Ohio National Guard, and two days later, as the smoke cleared, four unarmed young college students lay dead and more than half a dozen were seriously injured. Compiling firsthand accounts, interviews, news articles, and photographs, Backderf skillfully recounts almost by the hour everything that occurred between Nixon’s announcement and the aftermath of the shooting. The amount of text is a little daunting at times, but readers will be riveted by the black-and-white comics and strong linework. Revealing malice, panic, fear, and frustration, Backderf’s depictions of people tell the story as powerfully as any eyewitness and will make readers crave even more information.
VERDICT Fans of the author’s My Friend Dahmer won’t be disappointed. Students learning about the Vietnam War will find this vivid exploration of history a welcome supplement to dry textbooks.

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