FROM “THE PARENT PAPER”
Graphic novels for kids
BY PAT VASILIK
A generation or two ago, comics were the reading of choice for a huge number of kids. You bought them, traded them, saved them and read and re-read them. The one thing you didn’t do was borrow them from the library. After all, said the grown-ups of the time, comics are not “real” reading. Well, that has certainly changed in the last decade or so. Now it would be hard to find a library without a selection of what are now called “graphic novels.” And big bookstores have dozens of bookshelves devoted to these and the very popular manga, imported mainly from Japan.
While many of the popular manga series are aimed more at young adults, there are a number that are great for kids. Some are connected with animated television shows or card games, like Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. These stories are filled with adventure and fantasy quests. While they do contain some violence, the good guys are clearly good and fight only the obvious villains. There are some other great manga series for kids to read that are a little lesser known – except of course among Japanese Anime fans! One is Hikaru No Go by Takeshi Obata. A young boy finds a game board possessed by the ghost of an ancient Go master. When the Go master is linked to Hikaru’s consciousness, the two make an unstoppable team. Another is Yotsuba by Kiyohiko Azuma. This series follows a green-haired, adopted girl on her everyday adventures, discovering the world around her. For slightly older children, Cardcaptor Sakura by the well-regarded Clamp and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by the master Hayao Miyazaki are both wonderful examples of manga at its best.
But the graphic format offers much more than manga for young readers. Even very young children have a selection to choose from. In a funny book called Meanwhile, author-illustrator Jules Feiffer introduces readers to Raymond. Raymond, engrossed in his comic book, ignores his mother when she calls for him. As his mother becomes more insistent, Raymond notices that his comic uses the word “meanwhile” to change scenes, and decides to try it himself. Soon Raymond finds himself transported to a pirate ship. When he is forced to walk the plank, his scene-changing device comes in handy yet again, and so Raymond jumps from one adventure to another. This frantic and funny look at a boy, who is literally absorbed by his reading, will have kids eagerly turning the pages to see where Raymond ends up next.
Younger kids will also enjoy the antics of a funny feline in the Comic Adventures of Boots by Satoshi Kitamura. From trying to claim the best place to sleep on the wall to getting Madam Quark, a duck, to teach him how to fly, Boots never seems to run out of ways to get himself in and out of trouble. All of his escapades will be sure to bring a smile and a giggle to young readers.
For slightly older children, the sister and brother team of Jennifer and Matt Holm have created a terrific character called Babymouse. From the first volume, Babymouse, Queen of the World to the newest, Babymouse, the Musical, this heroine has been delighting a growing number of fans.
Although the pink covers may, at first, make you think that this is a book for girls only, Babymouse has the spunk, smarts and daring that make her appealing to both boys and girls. Drawn as a mouse, kids recognize that Babymouse is really every kid, as she struggles with fitting in at school, figuring out how to cope at camp and in her latest adventure, handling the starring role in the school play.
While kids are waiting for the next Babymouse adventure, they can try Scott Morse’s very funny Magic Pickle. Created (by accident, of course) by Dr. Jekyll Formaldehyde, our superhero has been brought out of his decades’ long sleep to fight the Brotherhood of Evil Produce and protect mankind from the likes of the Phantom Carrot and the fiery Chili Chili Bang Bang. The tongue-in-cheek humor is broad enough for kids and the stories and the art are packed with both adventure and silly puns. This
Books and Series Mentioned:
Hikaru No Go by Takeshi Obata (Viz Media, $7.95); ages 9-12.
Yotsuba by Kiyohiko Azuma (ADV Manga, $9.99); ages 9-12.
Cardcaptor Sakura by Clamp (TokyoPop, $9.99); ages 10-14.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki (Viz Media, $9.95); ages 11-14.
Meanwhile by Jules Feiffer (HarperCollins, $6.99); ages 4-8.
Comic Adventures of Boots by Satoshi Kitamura (Farrar, Straus, available out of print); ages 4-8.
Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm (Random House, $5.95); ages 6-10.
Magic Pickle by Scott Morse (Graphix, $9.99); ages 8-12.
Bone: Out of Boneville, vol. 1 by Jeff Smith (Scholastic, $9.99); ages 9-13.
Amelia Rules! The Whole World’s Crazy by Jimmy Gownley (Atheneum, $9.99); ages 8- 12.
Alison Dare: Little Miss Adventures by J. Torres (Tundra, $12.95); ages 9-12.
The Boxcar Children, A Graphic Novel, #1 by Gertrude Warner and Mike Dubisch (Albert Whitman, $6.99); ages 8-12.
Coraline: the Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, $9.99); ages 10-14.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, adapted by Jane Brigman (Puffin, $10.99); ages 9-12.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, adapted by Hamilton Tim (Puffin, $10.99); ages 10-13.
Call of the Wild by Jack London, adapted by Neil Kleid (Puffin, $10.99); ages 11-14.
To Dance by Siena Siegel and Mark Siegel (Aladdin, $9.99); ages 9-12.