My second-grade daughter loves to read: picture books, chapter books, comic books, you name it. She reminds me a lot of myself—she’s the sort of kid who will sit and read a cereal box if that’s all she can get hold of, and it always seems like the cruelest of punishments to her when we tell her not to read during dinner. (Hey, I’m really tempted myself but we’re trying to pretend we have good table manners. Also we have a small dining table and an open Calvin & Hobbes book takes up a lot of space.) She’s also showing an early sign of geekiness that I think she inherited from her mother: she’ll read a favorite book over and over. I tend to have so many different things I want to read that I don’t often read books (or watch movies) multiple times, but both my wife and my daughter love to re-read books until they’ve committed much of it to memory.
She loves reading comic books, too, and my comic book shelves are quickly getting crowded with kid-appropriate fare. I’ve already mentioned a few of her favorites: Calvin & Hobbes, Amulet, Spiral Bound and Fog Mound have all been read too many times to count. Well, here are four more comics that my daughter has been reading lately, and each one comes with her stamp of approval.
Missile Mouse by Jake Parker
I first saw a bit of Missile Mouse in Flight Explorer #1, sort of a kid-friendly version of the excellent Flight anthologies, but got a more in-depth look when Scholastic sent me a copy of Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3, the second full-length book. Missile Mouse is a special agent for the Galactic Security Agency—he’s like the wild card cop that the boss can’t stand except that he manages to get the job done. MM wears a giant rocket jet pack on his back and carries a big blaster. In Rescue on Tankium3, MM is seen at the beginning chasing down a Tankian (an amphibious sort of alien guy), who turns out to be hypnotized by this odd device on his head. This eventually leads to the discovery that nearly all the able-bodied males of Tankium3 were kidnapped, zapped and taken away for some nefarious purpose. MM sets out to rescue them, while being pursued by the bounty hunter Blazing Bat.
The whole book is full of exciting action, silly humor and lots of derring-do. The artwork is top-notch, from the big city-scape of Venturi to the organic Tankium village. There are lava caves, security droids, giant armored beetles and a strangely addictive beverage called Cosmic Cola. Reading the book reminds me a bit of watching the Clone Wars animated series, in a good way. After I’d read through it and approved it for my daughter, she spent the weekend reading it on repeat, and I don’t blame her. I may need to go back and get the first volume now.
For more about Missile Mouse you can check out Jake Parker’s blog.
Peanuts by Charles Schulz
It’s hard to express the significance of Peanuts in just a few sentences, but it’s certainly one of the first comics I remember reading. My dad had several little paperback collections when I was growing up (often with little copied doodles in the margins) and I must have read those couple volumes hundreds of times. At some point, around high school or college, I somehow decided that Peanuts wasn’t really funny anymore, that Schulz had gotten old and lost his touch … and then a few years later realized how wrong I was and fell back in love with the gang of Li’l Folks. I don’t have collections of Peanuts strips myself, so my daughter hadn’t read much until fairly recently. We found a couple old volumes at the library, approximately a year’s worth of strips in each one, and she read those front-to-back nearly every day until they were due back. I loved the way she would just sit and giggle, even at jokes she didn’t quite understand. And then I would read through them and giggle myself.
Well, Fantagraphics Books has been printing some hefty collections of Peanuts for several years—each volume covers two years and has an introductory essay and an index (so you can easily find Joe Cool or all the references to Bo Derek). The bulk of the book, of course, is just the strips themselves, offered in chronological order without annotation or commentary so they can speak for themselves. They sent me their latest, 1979-1980, which is already the fifteenth volume in the series (and they still have twenty years to go). But you can pretty much start anywhere and be guaranteed a wonderful collection. In 1979-1980, Snoopy continues to visit small cafes in France as the World War I Flying Ace, Charlie Brown still fails to get any Valentines, and Peppermint Patty is still bad at school. There’s also a spell in which Charlie Brown ends up in the hospital for a month, Peppermint Patty and Pig-Pen have a Valentine’s Day romance, and Snoopy heads out to the desert to visit Spike.
Someday I would love to have a complete set of these Peanuts collections, but you just really can’t go wrong—from the little mass-market paperback versions to these high-quality hardbound books, Schulz’s genius shines through no matter what format you choose.
Pilot & Huxley by Dan McGuiness
The first thing you have to know about Pilot & Huxley is that it’s weird. Really weird. Here’s just a small sampling of what you’ll find in this slim volume: a videogame rental store run by aliens, the Grim Reaper as a debt collector, a sea of bees and the golden nose hair of a sleeping dragon. Somewhere I read that it’s like a G-rated “South Park” and that sort of works, though probably more because of its appearance than the actual plot. Pilot and Huxley are two friends who get blasted by a dimensional-replacement ray and end up in some other dimension where “Huxley” turns out to be the worst swear word in the world. They sail across the aforementioned sea of bees, fight monsters, meet up with the Internet and save the day. Sort of.
Like I said, it’s very bizarre, and the drawings are kind of crude and over-saturated, but it’s perfect for kids who love a good bit of silliness. This one wins the stamp of approval from my daughter, who discovered it on the shelf and zipped through it in no time at all. It’s not one of my personal favorites but I did enjoy reading it and I’d be curious to see where McGuiness takes it next. It looks like volume 2 will be due in September of this year. (Note: Scholastic sent me a review copy of this book.)
Fraggle Rock from Archaia Press
I don’t, actually. I was aware of the show but for some reason it’s not one that I ever watched growing up. But now, thanks to Archaia Press, my kids and I have all been introduced to the world of Fraggles and Doozers and Marjory the talking Trash Heap. Okay, most of you probably won’t need this, but a quick explanation: “Fraggle Rock” was a TV series by Jim Henson featuring his amazing puppets. Fraggles are little creatures who live in Fraggle Rock, a world connected to our own through a hole in Doc’s basement wall. The Fraggles all have different interests and personalities (one’s an explorer, another loves competition, one is artsy and one likes to clean).
Archaia Press and The Jim Henson Company have teamed up to write new Fraggle stories, which are available as single issues and now in a hardcover collection. The Volume One hardcover collects the first three issues (with twelve stories, a cover gallery, activity pages and a special Skrumps bonus comic); the single issues are now up to Issue #2 of Volume Two. Archaia sent me Volume One as well as a couple of the single issues, and they’re gorgeous to look at. There’s a wide range of styles on display, and it’s been fun getting to know the Fraggles through the comics. This is a series that my four-year-old has really gotten hooked on, too, and she was particularly excited to find the activity pages at the end of each issue. Today we made fingerprint art, inspired by the Fraggles.
Whether you grew up with “Fraggle Rock” or have never heard of them, the new comics series is a great pick for young kids, who will love the colorful cast of characters and the brand-new storylines.