Showing posts with label Great comics for kids. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Great comics for kids. Show all posts

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Kirby's Treehouse

Kirby's Treehouse is a small press comic. I picked up issue #5 at the Small Press Expo and was very impressed. I was even more impressed when I found out the creator Sam Leveille was sixteen years old! I've read issues 2-5 now, and I have to say that the comedic timing and characterizations just get better and better. I can't wait to share these comics with my students. Check out Sam's website here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Jeff Smith

There's just been a documentary made about Jeff Smith, the cartoonist responsible for Bone, the all-ages masterpiece. I hope to get to see it some day. Even this preview on You-Tube was interesting.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Night of the Grasshopper Mouse

I just received a copy of Night of the Grasshopper Mouse by Chris Ruggia. It is great for all ages and a really excellent story that gives all kinds of information about animals that live in Texas in a fun and exciting way. It's both a great story and very educational. I learned a lot myself from reading it. For instance, I had never heard of the grasshopper mouse, a mouse that sometimes eats other rodents and lets out a "howl" with a long, high-pitched squeak, like a "miniature wolf". I highly recommend it, and if you're interested, you can get a copy from his online store.

This 28-page comic is a printed companion to Ruggia's webcomic, Jack Adventures in Texas' Big Bend. As he puts it, "Jack is based as closely as I can manage upon actual natural history: the habitats, behaviors, and diets of the animals living in Texas' Big Bend area." It really is admirable how much of the story is factual while still being very entertaining.

Chris was also kind enough to send me a hand-drawn sketch of his version of the Mighty Andar, below. I really like seeing other artists' interpretations of my characters.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tales of Unusual Circumstance

I recently got a copy of Tales of Unusual Circumstance by Joey Weiser. I loved it! It is a really great all-ages romp through the worlds of science fiction, folklore, talking animals, monsters, superhero parody and all kinds of neat things. This book is a collection of all sorts of odds and ends of short comic stories, collecting Joey's mini-comics and anthology work in one volume. It's kind of like channel surfing on a bizarre, funny world. It's neat to see how effectively he can introduce characters and tell a story in a few pages. It's full of humor and charm.

While Tales was an anthology, Weiser's other book is a full-fledged graphic novel -- The Ride Home. I've read this online, but have ordered a copy to add to my collection. I like how he incorporates mythological characters in a contemporary setting -- like Nodo the Van Gnome, the Junkyard Trolls and Ferdinand the Sewer Dragon.

Joey is a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and a frequent contributor to the Flight anthologies. You can keep an eye out for his upcoming projects like Cavemen in Space (his next graphic novel) on his website, The Tragic Planet.

Joey was kind enough to make the drawing below of The Mystic Yak, drawn in his own style. I think it would be neat to see how other artists interpret my characters. Maybe some of them could go in the next Mighty Mailbag (the letters page of Eclectic Comics).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Friday, May 8, 2009

No Fear Shakespeare

I have a confession to make. I've never read much Shakespeare, probably because I never "had to" for a class. However, I've been really enjoying this book, No Fear Shakespeare: Hamlet. It has the whole of Shakespeare's original text, but side by side with a modern paraphrase. For instance, the original gives us,
What art thou that usurp'st this time of night
Together with that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march? By heaven, I charge thee, speak
Beautiful language, but -- Huh? The translation re-words that,
What are you, that you walk out so late at night, looking like the dead kind of Denmark when he dressed for battle? By God, I order you to speak.
This book is available online as well, but I still prefer reading real books made of paper that I can hold in my hands. I've been reading a page of the modern and then the original, while at the same time enjoying the book below.

The same publisher has put out a companion graphic novel. It really is very good. The artist Neil Babra created the adaptation. Below is one page that describes the lines shown above.

The books are very reasonable in price - six bucks for the translation book and ten bucks for the graphic novel. I'd highly recommend them.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Wimpy Kid Hits the Big Time

I think it's interesting that writer and cartoonist Jeff Kinney made the 2009 Time magazine's list of 100 Most Influential People. He is the author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series of books. This book series is one of the kind of thing that even kids who "hate to read" absolutely can't get enough of. The books are in the form of a kid's diary, with text that resembles a kid's writing and the cartoons are similar to what a young artist might make. They are funny! If you know a reluctant reader, this would be a great gift for them!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two New Graphic Adaptations for Students

Book publishers Hill & Wang have two graphic novels coming out this summer that should be of interest to many teachers. I was sent fourteen page previews of both, and I'll give you my thoughts.

Che: A Graphic Biography is the latest work by two veterans of the comics industry who brought us the excellent comics adaptation of the 9-11 Commission Report. In that graphic adaptation they took something that was completely not understandable to most people and made the facts clear. They have a commitment to stick to the facts and present information objectively without personal agendas. This book presents the facts of the life of the Argentine Marxist revolutionary and guerilla leader. The artwork presents the facts of his early life interestingly, but at times a little stiff. It would make an excellent resource for students doing research on his life, especially for reluctant or struggling reaers. I'm not a big fan of computerized lettering. I'd rather see hand drawn lettering any day. However, for a straightforward, almost encyclopedia style account, it seems to work.

The second work, Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation is also well. done. The artwork is excellent, and drew me in immediately. I was sorry I couldn't keep reading. However, the computerized word balloons and letters are a disappointment. The work would have been much better with a hand drawn font. I won't say that it ruins the work, but it is a distraction.

From what I've read, both books would be probably best suited for junior or senior high school age students. As an educator, I am excited to see the collection of works I can recommend to teachers continue to grow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cartoonists I Like -- Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier posted a really neat image that shows her working process. I am really interested in seeing things like this from as many artists as I can. I like how it shows how an idea goes from idea to rough to finished. It is good instruction especially for young artists who put way too much time into the idea stage and then have to do all that work over again.

She is most famous for adapting several of the Babysitters Club series into graphic novel format. She's working on a graphic novel she wrote herself about the "joys" of getting braces. As the father of two girls who needed them, I'm betting a lot of kids will identify with this.

These books are especially popular with the girls in our school. The girls in the stories have real-world problems, like divorced parents, sick grandparents, fights with siblings, etc.

I love the lively line work and expressive faces in the drawings. I highly recommend them!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Stuff of Life

In The Stuff of Life, the main character Bloort 183 is an interplanetary biologist assigned to study the planet earth. After compiling his findings, he presents them to his leader Floorsh 727. This is the premise of a new educational graphic novel called The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA. I received this in the mail the other day. I don't know how I got on their list of review copy recipients, but I'm glad I did. I would love to receive any kind of graphic material for the purpose of review.

After reading selections of this book, I'm convinced that this book is a great example of how the medium of comics can be used to take material that might be complicating, confusing and dry -- and present it in a way that is entertaining, amusing and fun. As the main character Bloort presents his findings, he has to really break it down for his dim-witted boss. That makes it easier for people like me to grasp it as well!
In a recent interview, the artists involved in the project give their own insights.
Artist Kevin Cannon explains, "Complicated scientific concepts like DNA are best understood through viusal metaphors." He continues, "I dropped out of an A.P. biology course in high school because I was having trouble grasping the basics of DNA and genetics, so I guess my experience is having once been the ideal audience for this book."

If I were a science teacher who taught this subject matter, I would definitely want at least one copy of this book. I'm sure it would be useful to explain some material to students who just weren't "getting it". If possible, I'd get enough copies for a whole class and use it as a supplemental text. As a parent who sees more and more of this topic being covered in school, I'm grateful to have it for my kids to read. I think it will promote understanding of some difficult concepts.

That being said, I will also say that at times some of the controversial aspects of the subject matter come across a little like heavy-handed propaganda. For instance, the author questions whether objections to cloning are based on ethics or superstition. I'm also going to open up a huge can of worms here -- evolution. Now, I'm not a scientist. As an individual, I have come to believe in God and that there is much Truth revealed in the Bible. If I can go off on a tangent here, I think some of the quandaries in reconciling science to the Bible are based on misinterpretations and mistranslations. For example, the "Seven Days" of Creation presents a problem to a lot of thinking people. However, the Hebrew word translated day in Genesis 1 can also be translated age.
I recognize as a parent that it takes a huge leap of faith to believe in the super-natural and it's not Science's job to teach that. However, the book summarizes where life came from in this way

5 billion years ago (the earth) was no more than a river of dust and rocky
fragments circling...its sun. Over enough time, even dust clotting together can
gain enough mass to create a gravity chain reaction...The transmutation of base
elements and compounds jump-started by a supply of energy into self-perpetuating
It just all happened by itslef at random? I'm sorry -- I just don't buy it. To me, it takes more of a leap of faith to believe that! I guess the point I'm making is that while it isn't Science's job to teach faith -- it wouldn't hurt them to respect it.

"The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom." -Lady Bird Johnson

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mini-Marvels: Rock, Paper, Scissors

What if Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame had drawn for Marvel Comics? Well, if he had, it might have looked something like the comics in this book -- Mini Marvels: Rock, Paper, Scissors. When I present on comics in education, I'm often ask which titles are best for younger viewers. This is one I'd heartily recommend for any age. We bought it to put in my two-year old's Christmas stocking this year. He's fascinated by the characters and sits still for the longest time listening to someone reading it to him. The neat thing about the book is that it provides a lot of chuckles to the older kids in the house and even their dad! It's very clever, with a lot of inside jokes for the diehard Marvel fan.

As I understand it, Marvel was on the fence as to whether they should publish this or not. They were surprised when it sold out in under a month. It's now getting a second printing and they'll also be putting out some other Mini Marvel digests. I hope that they get the message that there is a market for comics that are fun and humorous and inviting to kids and publish more stuff like it.

The artist is Chris Giarusso. Check out his website -- there's a lot of really great stuff there.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Fog Mound

I have a new favorite author/illustrator team -- the creators of Fog Mound. Susan Schade and Jon Buller have created this fantastic new series of books that many are calling a graphic novel "hybrid". The story is presented in half comic strip, half chapter book format. The books in the series so far are

Thelonious is a chipmunk, who is fascinated with the tales he's heard of a race of humans that some say existed at one time. After all, the legends claim that they once ruled the earth. His sister insists that humans are only make-believe. One day Thelonious is carried away in a flash flood to the decaying remnants of a post-apocalyptic human city. He meets many friends and enemies in his quest to find the answer to this question, "What happened to the humans?" With his friends, a bear, a lizard, and a porcupine Thelonious explores the secrets of earth's past.

I think that many elementary age reluctant readers would be pulled into the wonderful characters and exciting story that they read in the comic sections -- so much so that they would make the effort to find out what happens next in the chapter book sections.

So far there are three books in the series. I discovered them at Barnes and Noble. I was looking at the kids' graphic novel section, checking out the new stuff. Frankly, a lot of things that are new look like someone has taken a commercial property and created comic strip versions that stale and lifeless. Then I discovered Fog Mound, which is far from that! It's the just the kind of book I would have loved as a kid. Though the underlying moral that we really better start taking care of the earth could have been heavy, the illustrations and story are lively and full of humor. I think most kids would think, "We're much to smart to let this happen -- we'd better be!"

When I shared my stack of favorite graphic novels for kids at a recent Comics in the Classroom workshop for librarians, this is the book they were most excited about and hastily wrote down the information needed to order copies for their collections. If you're looking for a book series to share with a young reader, this is one I highly recommend.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cartoonists I Like: Stan Sakai

One of my favorite cartoonists is Stan Sakai. He has drawn, inked, written and lettered 109+ issues of his comic Usagi Yojimbo (Japanese for Rabbit Bodyguard). His comic features the anthropomorphic adventures of a17th century Samurai rabbit. It's consistently very well written and drawn. It's also neat that you can catch up with with Usagi's adventures in the 22 paperback collections. This comic is great for adults or kids, especially around middle school age. It has won several awards, including the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) of the American Library Association.

In addition to being a phenomenal artist, I hereby nominate him as the Nicest Guy in Comics. He has a fantastic website called the Usagi Yojimbo Dojo, which includes a forum where he personally interacts with fans. Over the years he has offered advice to me about my artwork and answered my questions about drawing, tools and techniques. He has even made some sketches for Daniel and I. Mine is in a frame and hangs over my computer at school.

Stan is very involved in Boy Scouts in his area and his own son is nearing the rank of Eagle. When he heard that my son Daniel had passed his Eagle Board of Review he sent me a personal message and offered to make a "letter" of congratulations. We just opened the package he sent and discovered that the letter is actually a painting of a young Usagi in Boy Scout garb! It's now in a frame and will be the centerpiece at Dan's upcoming Eagle ceremony. To top it off, the accompanying note is on the back of a page from a Groo script which he letters. To say the least, Dan and I are geeking out!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Amulet" by Kazu Kibuishi

I have been looking forward to this book coming out. It's a great graphic novel for kids and for the kid at heart. It's by Kazu Kibuishi, a really great cartoonist who's editor of the Flight anthologies and several comic creations of his own. The Flight anthologies are great collections that demonstrate the wide range of fantastic stories that can be told in the medium of comics.

The first volume of the Amulet series is Book One: The Stonekeeper and is an all-ages story about two kids trying to save their mother from terrible creatures, filled with action, pathos and almost any fantasy element you can imagine. Using a powerful amulet left by their great grandfather as their guide, the kids have to journey through a giant subterranean labyrinth to rescue her before it's too late.

It's a great story, and the book had barely seen print when it was already snatched up to be made into a live action movie, with Jaden and Willow Smith (the children of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith) as the leads.

The best kids books authors aren't "writing down" to kids. There's something for adults too in books like these. Amulet is definitely an example of an "all ages" graphic novel that both kids and adults can enjoy.

In an interview, the creator says,

Most of your work is aimed at all-ages readers; not necessarily about kids and not only for kids. Do you think that's fair?

Well, I think that "Amulet" is the first book I produced with the younger readers in mind. "Copper" and my "Flight" stories are made mostly to appeal to the artist side of me. With "Amulet," I knew for sure that young readers would be the ones reading it, so I tried to channel my ten year-old self and tried to make the book that I would have begged to have at the school book fair. I wanted to give that feeling to new readers out there too. If I were that age, at the book fair, I imagine this would indeed be the ultimate find. Heh heh.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Professional Cartoonist says, "These Knots Really Work!"

Independent comics creators often go to a lot of trouble making copies of home-made comics. Sometimes the results are underwhelming. I've been to shows where I sold two! But, almost always, I've found that my fellow creators are up for a trade! I'm personally not getting rich of the comics I've made, but I've made a lot of friends who have as strong a passion for sequential art as I do.

Through the wonder of the U.S. postal system, I've enjoyed trading lately with cartoonist Chris Schweizer. Chris not only read T.A.I.L.S. Book One, he told me recently that by reading it he learned to tie the Manharness Knot and used it to move a log! In exchange for my published work, I received several mini-comics from Chris, a really awesome poster, and an original sketch of one of my characters done in the inimitable Schweizer style. It is really neat to see my character re-interpreted by another cartoonist.
Chris is a real up and coming talent in the graphic novel field. His first book Crogan's Vengeance will be published this fall by Oni Press, the first of a line of historical adventure graphic novels.

Here is a close-up of the poster he sent me. The poster was created to advertise a 24 Hour Comics Day event this past October.

To see more of Schweizer's art, visit his website, The Curious Old Library.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Great Comics for Kids

At our house, the Easter Bunny doesn't leave candy, he usually leaves a book for everybody. They can be enjoyed longer, and don't give you cavities! Here is Nathan with his new book, Super Friends #1. This is a new comic book just for little kids. The characters look just like his little Mattel action figures. Nathan looks at it for the longest time, flipping through the stories, and even lets me read a few pages aloud to him.

The book below was for David. It's not a comic book exactly, but a "novel in cartoons". It is designed to look as if it was a cartoon diary of a 7th grader. I read it and got quite a few chuckles and even a guffaw or two.

Everyone's favorite is Bone! It's been described as "Pogo meets Lord of the Rings". It's full of humor and adventure. These books are coming out in paperback now and colored beautifully. In our school library, when one is returned, there's always a big fight to see who gets to sign it out next. Our kids have all of them that have come out so far up to #7. I think there will be two more and the saga is complete.
For his next project, the creator of Bone re-envisioned the story of Captain Marvel. Those stories are classics, and Smith stayed true to the mythos for the most part, and the new version brings Shazam into the present day. The style of art and writing is very appealing to children. It was a four issue mini-series but is now collected into a big, beautiful hard-cover book. I petitioned a comic book distribution company and they donated one to our school library! The kids are going to go nuts when they see that.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mimi's Donuts Zine

At the Norman Rockwell Museum Educator's Symposium, I had the pleasure of meeting Marek Bennett, a fellow educator who is also a cartoonist. (Is this a new trend? --educators who are also cartoonists?) Like the indy comics creators we are, we also swapped our self-published comics. Since I got three copies of Mimi's Donuts Zine and he only got one copy of T.A.I.L.S., I definitely got the better deal!

Marek's work is a joy to read. He seems to follow a stream of consciousness train of thought as his comics veer from topic to topic, much like we do when we think. It reads like a daily newspaper strip -- only funny! The topics might deal with elections, teenage angst, biography, Stick Figure Civil War History, or anything really -- but they are always funny.

The zines are in black and white, a look very nice, but wow! They look great online in color. He puts one each week on his website. I started with the current one and read backwards for months. I highly recommend a visit to Mimi's Donuts and to Marek's Blog.

If you are like me and like to read comics you can hold in your hand, you can order copies of Mimi's Donuts Zine at his online store.

Marek also does comics workshops for kids and is a science teacher. What a creative talent! His students are very lucky.