Benny and Penny: The Toy Breaker by Geoffrey Hayes is an easy-reading comic book for that most younger kids should relate to in some way. Bo is a toybreaker, a cousin whom Benny and Penny don’t really like because he tends to break things. It takes a bit but Benny and Penny realize he doesn’t want to break things, and they find a solution so they can all play happily together.
Dalen and Gole: Scandal in Port Angus is a comic chapter book set in British Columbia, Canada and the strange land of Budap. It starts off with a jet racer competition, vaguely reminiscent of the pod-race of Star Wars, with two friends, Dalen and Gole, reacting differently to losing the race. Gole thinks there is something fishy about how Tunax pulled in front of them at the last moment. Is he just being a poor sport or is something really going on? Tunax tells Dalen he can put his jet racer away in his garage, and Dalen thanks him for the honor. Gole isn’t so impressed. They find a tunnel which leads them to a world they don’t know about but that will seem much more familiar to the story’s human readers!
Port Angus is a fishing community that has no more fish. The grey fog-filled backgrounds show the town’s desperation and make the colorful bodies of the aliens and their new human friend stand out. The friends have to work together to save both Port Angus and Budap, but before they can do that they have to get on the same page about whether Tunax and his father are their friends or foes.
The story takes an environmental problem and turns it into an adventure story. We learn that the environmental problem isn’t natural but created by businessmen attempting to make their own profits. The book is fun, cheerful, but in some ways suited for a generation of children that are going to grow up with the consequences of the environmental destruction happening today.
The book does a good job of showing the language differences, with white speech balloons for things said in Budapian and yellow for Earth languages. Before the characters learn to speak English we see Earth languages predominantly as untranslated straight lines and exclamation marks.
My kids greatly enjoyed exploring the Dalen & Gole website where they can read comic strips, play a little arcade game and best of all, make their own Dalen and Gole comic book. It’s a great way to do writing practice!
Lila & Ecco’s Do-It-Yourself Comics Club by Willow Dawson is an instruction manual for how to write comics, and it comes in the form of a comic book itself. I find the sharp black and white contrast of the whole book a little dizzying to look at, and the instruction aspect of it is not subtle at all, but still its a good book. There’s an emphasis in planning and writing. Kids learn terms like “panel” and “gutter” and the difference between a 1/4 view of a head, a profile or a 3/4 view. Every idea is illustrated by the characters in the story.
The story is good not just for learning about writing or drawing comics, but also for learning about reading comics. There;s a lot of artistry that can go into comics, and the book helps teach kids to watch for those aspects, and gives them the vocabulary to discuss it.
Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde: The Devoted Friend and The Nightingale and the Rose illustrated by P. Craig Russell. I am amazed at how sad some of the children’s comic books are, and these two stories are really sad ones. They are stories of self-sacrifice for someone unworthy. I am thankful, in some ways, that they are not stories of women sacrificing themselves but even as I admit that, I think, why shouldn’t it be, except that women as girlfriends, lovers and/or mothers are encouraged towards way too much self-sacrifice already. But if you read the stories with a child, its worth discussing in what ways the stories might feel different if the one making the sacrifice was a female. Also worth discussing is the role of wealth and inequality play within the story of the Devoted Friend, and how the framing of the story of the devoted friend adds to it – it is a story within a story, with the main story (of humans) being told by a bird to a water-rat…. and how does the mother and her ducks play into the framing?
Unlike most comic books, this one contains extra little phrases like “said hans to himself” outside of the speech balloons. It makes it easier to read outloud than a normal comic book, because a child listening from across the room can still know who is talking.
The Country of Wolves by Neil Christopher, Ramón Pérez, and Daniel Gies. This is another story that is not for sensitive children who require a happy ending. It is an Inuit story, published by an Inuit publishing company, and I can’t help comparing it in my mind to both the Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde and to the Grimm brother fairy tales, particularly the original versions of the later, where everything does not end happily-ever-after.
This is a story of a journey. Reading it we presume it is about a journey home and in some ways it is, but in other ways it isn’t. I found myself rereading it a couple of times (its fairly short) and asking over and over, it is it a story of dedication that lets one achieve the impossible or a story of hopelessness to fight against the inevitable?
There is a book study guide available on the publisher’s website.
If you like comic books, check as well my posts about Superman:
Check out my post as well about this other great (not entirely child friendly) comic book:Radioactive : Marie & Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout.