My recent new-found appreciation for children’s comic books and other simpler, non-traditional tales has led me to some fantastic books that are interesting and fun for kids, and for families to read together.
The first series, that we originally discovered at our local library, are the Johnny Boo books. While our local library only had the first book in the series, there are actually four books all together. Each one of them is fun and quirky, all the while teaching a simple lesson.
The first book in the series, Johnny Boo: The Best Little Ghost in the World, is a feel-good comic book for kids or for your inner child. Like the books that follow, it is adorable without being saccharine. Read along as Johnny Boo and his trusty sidekick/pet/friend Squirt battle against their sometime-nemesis the ice cream monster. Author/Illustrator James Kochalka has created something special that is bound to help you indoctrinate even your youngest minions into Comic Book Land.
The book we read second, Johnny Boo and the Mean Little Boy, made me apprehensive before I read it. I wasn’t sure I’d like it as much, since I don’t like mean people. But it turned out to be one of my favorites. This one made me laugh with its simple, cute logic. It is a really playful book that kids will enjoy reading over and over. In it, Squirt ends up battling a mean little boy when all he wants to do is be friends. But in the end, Squirt and Johnny Boo prevail.
The third book we read, Johnny Boo and the Happy Apples, also made me laugh out loud, several times throughout the book. That’s always a good sign for a children’s book, especially when it really takes something unexpected to make me laugh loudly. The ice cream monster shows up in this story, too, for added colorful ridiculousness.
The last book we read, Johnny Boo: Twinkle Power, had a different, more serious feel to it. The ice cream monster shows up part way through the book, after Johnny Boo and Squiggle have a fight. The three of them proceed to try out different kinds of powers such as Johnny Boo’s Boo Power and Squiggle’s Squiggle Power. This one is less funny than the other three, but it is still a silly story (in a good way).
James Kochalka has written and illustrated other books as well. GeekDad Jonathan Liu describes one of them, along with Johnny Boo, in a previous article.
Johnny Boo books each retail for $9.95, and are super silly fun books that grown-ups won’t mind reading. You may even laugh out loud as I did, or perhaps just chuckle repeatedly. The pages have rich, simple colors, and the innocence of the characters help kids identify with the characters’ predicaments.
Another series of books that I keep finding myself drawn to are the Owly series of books by Andy Runton. They have been out for a while, but the fifth book in the series, Owly: Tiny Tales is the most recent. Like the books that came before it, Tiny Tales is a collection of wordless stories about a cute non-nocturnal owl named Owly and his companion worm, Wormy. Communication and intentions are conveyed through speech bubbles containing exclamation points, question marks, and descriptive pictures. Sad upon occasion, these stories express emotion of all kinds. The storylines are about living with other animals in nature, and many of the storylines involve Owly and Wormy making friends with or helping other animals in the forest. Unlike for most comic books, however, these require no reading. They are great to look through with your kids or alone. Some concepts expressed by the speech bubbles can be quite complex or subtle, so a few of the stories might need to be explained to your very young kids. But these comic books will bring a smile to your face.
Owly is branching out now, with the brand new book Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter. In the comic books, Owly’s stories are in black and white. In Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter, the art is all in color, and the format is changed to a typical hardback picture book (by publisher Simon & Schuster/Atheneum Young Readers). Whether this was to pull in the market of people who don’t typically buy or read comic books or graphic novels, I don’t know. Intended for ages three to seven, Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter, like the Owly comic books, works for people of all ages.
Join Owly and Wormy in this single-story book as they try to make friends with the butterflies. As the story progresses, they learn many valuable lessons about life and friendship. Appreciate the wordless story, or make up dialogue with your children to go with each page. Owly remains his cute, optimistic self as he and Wormy try to make friends with the butterflies. There are more speech bubbles in this book than in the comics, but they are still just filled with expression, or descriptive pictures.
I’m not the only GeekDad fan of Owly. Doug Cornelius spotlighted them previously.
Owly: Tiny Tales retails for $10, the same price as the many other Owly comic books. Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter retails for $15.99, and is a complete story perfect for a picture book. Owly books are wonderful for all ages. Their innocence and emotions help you sympathize with the plight of Owly and Wormy in whatever predicament they are in, and the happy endings will bring smiles to faces. In addition, Owly plushes and T-shirts are available, to have your own smiling, friendly woodland companion to take with you wherever you go.
For those of you interested in comic books, don’t forget that this Saturday, May 7, 2011, is Free Comic Book Day. Take your kids to your neighborhood comic book shop, if you’re lucky enough to have one!
Note: I received the four Johnny Boo books and the two Owly books for the purposes of this review.