My five-year-old loves to read, and I do my best to encourage her. We’ve got a shelf full of books that I hope to someday read to her and, eventually, for her to read herself. This includes some comics, which range from kid-safe to keep-out-of-reach-of-children. Still, even the easier comics can be a little tricky for a wee reader, but my daughter is old enough to handle more than Owly’s rebus writing. At my library, I’ve recently discovered a couple comics that bridge the gap.
Jeff Smith, the creator of the popular Bone series, has just put out a cute book titled Little Mouse Gets Ready. The cover says “A first comic for brand-new readers!” and it’s exactly that: very short (about 30 pages), mostly single-frame pages, but still done in a comics format. It’s a silly book about a mouse getting dressed to go to the barn, talking himself through buttoning his shirt and pulling on socks, etc. My daughter zipped through it several times, and at age five the same joke never gets old.
Inside the back cover they mention Toon Books, which is a project of Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, “bringing new readers to the pleasures of comics!” Our library hasn’t gotten any of the others yet, but if they do I’m planning to check them out. It looks like they’ve got a couple books by several different artists.
Slightly higher on the reading level (recommended for ages 7 to 10) is Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires, also recently published. This one approaches closer to standard comic books, with a lot of variation in panel sizes and shapes, and a combination of narration boxes and dialogue balloons.
Binky is a cat who’s secretly a “Space Cat,” protecting his poor ignorant humans from the aliens (i.e., flies). It’s a pretty funny story and I think kids will enjoy it. I wasn’t incredibly impressed with the artwork, but I don’t think younger kids will really mind.
And, finally, a book that came out earlier this year: Joey Fly: Private Eye by Aaron Reynolds and Neil Numberman. “Creepy Crawly Crime” is Volume One, so I imagine there will be more coming. It’s in the vein of hard-boiled detective mystery, set in Bug City. It’s filled with colorful bug-related metaphors (“We were closing in on the culprit like a moth on a flame. Hopefully with less dangerous results.”) and goofy characters.
The plot itself is about a stolen diamond pencil box, so no gruesome murders to be solved. It’s recommended for ages 8 and up; I think much older and the “mystery” won’t present much of a challenge to the reader. The artwork by Numberman is all right, but not nearly as good at capturing the mood as, say Calvin’s “Tracer Bullet” sequences. With no mouth and no pupils, Joey Fly doesn’t make for a really expressive character, and sometimes you’re not really sure if he’s shaking with anger or in fear.
Still, it’s a decent book to check out for your younger comic-book fans.
My daughter has also been poring over my old “Calvin & Hobbes” paperbacks, which is another fun way of getting her into reading and comics, but I like the idea of getting her into longer-form comics as opposed to individual strips.