May 102014

My last post about the Top 5 Graphic Novels For Kids got a terrific response and I got some good recommendations for titles I wasn’t aware of. It also stirred up the old grey cells and I went digging deeper into the kids’ bookshelves to find comics that once upon a time lovingly littered the floor around their beds. I found some real gems. I’m not adding them to the Top 5 at this point because they may not have the monster sales numbers of a Wimpy Kid or are falling apart from a surfeit of love like Bone but they are worthy nonetheless.

Wonderful Wizard of OZ

He is a whiz of a Wiz if ever a Wiz there was.

The Fantasies

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, adapted by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young
I love this book. It’s a straight-up adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s original Oz stories but the thing that really sells this for me is the fantastic artwork of Skottie Young. You’re no doubt aware of the (1939) movie and you may even be familiar with the significantly different original books but this graphic novel takes the whole world of OZ to its own unique and fantastic place. I want to get the whole series so I can just sit and explore the artwork. The fact that it illustrates a delightful and classic fantasy tale is just icing on the cake. Check out the rest of the series so far (The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, The Road to Oz).

Giants Beware! by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre
This is a really fun book. The main character is a precocious girl, Claudette, who is desperate to be a hero and slay a giant. With her little brother Gaston, and her friend Marie the aspiring princess she embarks on a heroic journey filled with adventures that reference classic fairy tales and myths. This is a good all-ages book and an excellent introduction for children to fantasy graphic novels.

Fog Mound: Travels of Thelonious by Susan Schade and Jon Buller
The Fog Mound trilogy is interesting in that it alternates chapters between graphic novel and heavily illustrated text. Not to get all educational on you but from a reading development standpoint it can be a good tool for helping kids transition from the primarily visual storytelling of comics to chapter books. Beyond that, however, it’s a fun and engaging tale about talking animals that leads ultimately into a story reminiscent of  – are you ready for this? Planet of the Apes, but without Charlton Heston. I know. Check it out.

The Superheroes

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade by Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones
Introducing superheroes to kids can be a tricky proposition. When I first brought superhero comics to my kids I thought it would be a simple matter of putting early issues of X-Men, Fantastic Four, Avengers, and Spider-Man in front of them and letting nature take its course. But as I revisited those early 1960s issues I was very uncomfortable with their treatment of women and the experiment soon ended.

However, when the major publishers (Marvel and DC) try to put out versions of their superhero titles aimed specifically at kids the result is often insipid and uninspiring. I’m happy to say that this Supergirl title breaks that sorry mold and brings much needed energy and humor in a new approach to the character.

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil

Broad shoulders, squints A LOT, you know.

Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith
Yes, that Jeff Smith, the one who created Bone. I have never been a fan of Shazam! aka Captain Marvel because I’ve always seen him as a less interesting version of Superman. Ok, let’s get this out of the way, I don’t like Superman either. “Boo hoo! I have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! I’m morally and ethically perfect.” Bo-ring!

ANYway, back to Jeff Smith, this book proves that a writer with the necessary humor and vision can breathe interesting life into most any character and Smith does a good job with ol’ Shazam in this one. To be fair Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Mark Millar all did a good job with Superman in their respective titles (Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, All-Star Superman, and Red Son). But I’m not necessarily recommending those as an entry point for kids.

Thanks to Tom Burns for the recommendation of Giants Beware! and Supergirl.

Do you agree or disagree with my assessment or have something to add?

Scroll down just a little…the comments are Right There!

Let me know what you think.

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