The graphic novel Quaco – My Life in Slavery was written for students in KS 3 (11-14 years). The English edition of the graphic novel includes a 15-page section with background information. Lesson plans and worksheets for KS 3 students were created by Els Schellekens (Bureau ELS).

Why does a graphic novel work so well?

Experience has taught us that using graphic novels engages all students, including those who do not normally enjoy reading. The graphic novel Quaco – My Life in Slavery draws them into an exciting and personal story. They learn about the history of slavery almost without realising it.

The comic genre provides information in four different ways: through the illustrations, the dialogue texts, the thought bubbles, and the captions above the illustrations. A student in Suriname summarised their experience as follows: “Now I can really see it in my mind’s eye”.

The graphic novel format stimulates reading and shines light onto a crucial period of European history.

The attraction of the graphic novel lies in the interplay between image and text. You can both read and see what is happening. In addition, the comic format delivers a complex message in a single image: what a person does or says is not necessarily what they are thinking.

This is often the case with the protagonist, Quaco. As the students will discover, it becomes clear that Quaco as an enslaved person, is rarely free to say what he really thinks. In fact, he thinks a lot more than he speaks.

Download the teachers’ guide and worksheets from this website.