Back in February, I wrote a list of comics I’d recommend for a seven-year-old girl. Several people got in touch with me over social media to point out issues with the article and to give what they felt were better choices. I loved this and figured, hey, sounds like a follow-up is needed!
The biggest bone of contention with my previous article was that some titles were a bit too advanced for the average seven-year-old. I admit my blind spot, as my daughter was something of an advanced reader at that age. Also, a desire to try to have more than one superhero on the list led me to one entry that arguably may have been too advanced for even my daughter at age seven: She Hulk. So really, it was 11 titles. I failed my mandate.
For those who don’t recall, here are the guidelines we used:
- Titles must be female-led. Yes, girls can read comics about boys, but our focus is on representation.
- Titles should be more than a toy ad or a cliche. Something beyond “girls solve problems by making people their besties” and or “boy trouble.” Girls can kick ass physically or emotionally, but they must kick ass.
- Books must be in print!
- Books don’t have to be superhero books or monthly comics. As long as it is a comic you would (or should) find in a well-stocked comic book store, then it’s fair game.
- Age is important. As I note above, this is where some feel I fell short last time.
- This list should not be considered any kind of authoritative list. My first list had some flaws, and this may as well. Your mileage may vary.
Before we get to my list, I’d like to give some Honorable Mentions to books suggested by others that I have not yet read.
- Jill Thomson’s Scary Godmother and Magic Trixie books.
- Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, which Amazon keeps suggesting. I’ve just learned the first two chapters are online, so you may want to try it.
- Hildafolk by Luke Pearson, part of a series of tales about a young protagonist named Hilda.
- The Courageous Princess, Rod Espinoza’s tale (well, tales, there’s three volumes now) of a princess who doesn’t need rescuing. This is similar to another book in the full list, but different enough to note.
- If your daughter wants more traditional superhero fair, I don’t think I’d recommend Spider-Gwen (too continuity referential) or Spider-Woman (just not sure where it is headed), but Silk is turning out to be pretty solid. One downside? Your kids may want to know what pheromones are.
Kazu Kibuishi’s tale of a family sucked into an otherworldly war may have been the most common suggestion. Now that I have finally read it, I am willing to recommend it, with one caveat. It’s an amazing book, but the death of the father is way, way too emotionally intense for some seven-year-olds; they get in a car accident, the father is pinned, and as the mother tries to rescue him the car falls into a chasm. All on panel. Then later the protagonist has to re-live that when something happens to her mother. It’s a great book, but read it first and make sure your kid is ready for the emotion.
This title has the distinction of being the only one I have not personally read. It is here by recommendation alone. Yes, I’d heard of it, but it really seemed too simplistic to me.
Scott Robins, a children’s librarian out on the front lines, disagrees. “I find Babymouse has appeal over a wide range of ages despite looking ‘young,'” he told me. In reviewing the book, I do see the charm. I don’t know if it passes the “kickass protagonist” test, but I’m adding it based on Robins’s recommendation, a prior Geekdad review, and the Amazon reviews. That, and when I tried to take it out from my local library, there was a wait. That’s a darn good sign.
Truly, I am an idiot for missing these the first time. We own both volumes of Barry Deutsch’s utterly charming series about Mirka, an eleven-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl who wants to fight dragons. I can’t believe I missed this. Mr. Deustch just posted the art for the cover of the third book, due out in November.
One great thing about this book is that Mirka is not perfect. She gets angry with her step-mother (who is not wicked, sorry), frustrated with her siblings, and makes mistakes. She also follows through and resolves those mistakes. An excellent read.
#4 Abigail and the Snowman
The first list had three kaBOOM! titles on it, but, puzzlingly, I left off Roger Langridge’s story of a fugitive abominable snowman who befriends a little girl. That’s a little nuts, considering GeekDad has covered the book before.
General rule: Anything with Roger Langridge’s name on it is solid gold. This series just wrapped up, but stores should still have it and there may be a trade paperback soon.
#3 Princess Ugg
This book is possibly for audiences older than seven. I suggest reading it yourself first. Ted Naifeh is a great creator. In this series he tackles a “barbarian” princess, fulfilling an oath made on her mother’s death-bed… to go to Princess Finishing School.
The stories have an element of violence to them, and the bullying by the “mean girl” clique of princess may be too harsh for some kids, but it’s well written with good art, and a strong message.
#2 Phoebe and Her Unicorn
I confess to a maybe-more-than-normal love of Dana Simpson’s webcomic. It actually launched in newspapers this April, with one of the largest such launches in some time. People have a tendency to describe it as “Calvin and Hobbes for girls,” but that is as inaccurate as it it reductive. Phoebe’s unicorn friend is not, like Hobbes, something only she can see. Rather, she is a flesh-and-blood, slightly arrogant unicorn. She interacts with the whole cast, and Phoebe interacts with the other unicorns. Strong art and just fun stories makes either volume and excellent choice.
A princess gets sick of waiting round in a castle and rescues herself, then sets off to rescue her sisters. Because, you see, her father has stuck them all in castles to be saved and married off. Because that’s what you do in fairy tales.
This is a fun book on the one hand, and on the other it’s a brilliant introduction to traditional gender roles and why they suck and must be demolished. With a dragon if possible. Think of it as My First Guide to the Patriarchy. My hat is off to Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin for creating such a fun series.
That’s it for now. I’m sure the comments will be full of books I’ve forgotten or reasons why I’m wrong for picking one book or another. Which is awesome. We can focus on the bad things about the industry, but the fact remains that there is a wealth of choices right now for children of all ages and genders. You just need to know where to look.