Last week, friend of the fund, Ben Hatke, shared his thoughts on kid’s comics with us with an exclusive comic! In celebration of Children’s Book Week, Hatke shares further on boingboing not only the story of how comics, specifically Calvin and Hobbes, helped his daughter learn to read, but also a list of some of his favorite and most recommended kid’s comics for everyone to pick up and enjoy.
“Comics really do help developing readers,” Hatke begins. “I’ve seen it firsthand. When my daughter, Angelica, first started picking up my old Calvin and Hobbes collections she would come downstairs and tell my wife and I the funny things Calvin did. Then, slowly, she started coming downstairs and telling us the funny things Calvin said.”
From Meryl Jaffe’s feature articles Using Graphic Novels in Education to CBDLF’s own publications Raising a Reader! How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read! and other helpful resources and guides, we all know — and celebrate — the fact that comics can not only help the developing reader, but that they can encourage a type of reading and learning unlike any other medium. The combination of picture and word “allows the reader to follow a page-by-page narrative with a wealth of visual context clues, building vocabulary while being aided by the physical posture and gestures of the characters.”
And yet, as Hatke points out, so many people still only see comics as the “gateway” materials to a more legitimized form of reading. “Because comics are such a great tool for the developing reader, there can be a temptation to think of them as gateways to “real” reading. (“Real” reading being any kind of reading that doesn’t involve a lot of artwork).”
We know this assumption to be false and it is our job to continue encouraging people to see comics as something more than simple pictures and word bubbles; to see these books as an artform to be celebrated and protected! This is much easier nowadays because comics and graphic novels cannot only be found on the shelves of almost every local bookstore, but they can be bought online and through digital means, and even borrowed in local libraries and off school shelves. “In this new golden age kids have access to longer stories in multiple genre featuring a diverse cast of heroes. The drugstore spinner racks are mostly gone, and these comic books are shelved in libraries and bookstores.”
To celebrate the diversity of kid’s comics and just in time for Children’s Book Week, Hatke shares the following list focusing on original, creator owned printed comics:
- Around the World by Matt Phelan: three true stories of adventurers who circled the globe.
- Owly by Andy Runton: wordless stories of friendship starring the best owl ever.
- Mouse Guard by David Petersen: gorgeously illustrated stories of Medieval Mice trying to surviv in a world full of predators.
- Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack: Does what it says on the box. The actual historical 15-year-old Cleopatra gets whisked off to space for adventures.
- Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi: A sprawling detailed epic. (Also see Copper or anything else with Kazu’s name on it).
- Bone by Jeff Smith: Smith inspired a generation of creators with this massive work. Hand the collected single volume to any kid and watch them disappear for a week.
- Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks: A collection of short comics about a young superhero trying to figure out how the whole hero thing works. See also Friends with Boys.
- Macanudo by Liniers: A collection of beautifully-drawn comic strips that are half Calvin and Hobbes, half Far Side. Highly reccomended. Astronaut Academy by Dave Roman: Wacky, shiny spacey fun.
- Hereville, How Mirka got her Sword by Barry Deutsch: A wisecracking Orthodox Jewish girl fights a troll.
- Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff: a magnificent swashbuckling adventure.
- Smile by Raina Telgemeier: the story of a girl on the cusp of her teenage years who, after an accident, faces some difficult dental drama.
- Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol: A high school coming-of-age story and a creepy ghost story.
- Broxo! by Zack Giallongo: a Sword and Sorcery mystery/adventure pitting a young barbarian against a zombie horde.
- Cardboard by Doug Tenapel: Sentient cardboard.
- Boxers and Saints (and anything else) by Gene Yang: Two harrowing stories explore tow sides of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900’s China. Part fantasy part historical fiction.
- Jellaby by Kean Soo: Two kids and a big gentle purple monster.
- Ojingogo by Matt Forsythe: wordless and gloriously weird.
- Clan Apis by Jay Hosler: Steeped in science, this is also, somehow, a touching story about a hive of honey bees.
- Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado: Young Claudette lives a quiet medieval village. So she sets off with her friends to find a giant to slay.
- Battling Boy by Paul Pope: a young demigod tries to save a city overrun by monsters.
- Teen Boat by Dave Roman and John Green: the angst of being a teen, the thrill of being a boat.
And don’t forget to check out CBLDF’s Children’s Book Week Spotlights, showcasing some of these and more of the best (and most challenged) kid’s comics!
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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!