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October 2011

What Can They Read Once They've Finished Bone? Graphic Books for Elementary-School Kids

October 11, 2011 | Claire | Comments (4)

 I'm a big fan of the high-quality graphic books that are now being published for the children's market, mostly because I've seen so many kids light up when introduced to them.  Kids who love to read and kids who haven't yet found the love both seem intrigued by the combination of lively storytelling plus that extra oomph that pictures can bring.  Here's a rundown of titles that are bound to excite kids grades three and up. 

The benchmark in graphic books for kids in North America is definitely the Bone series by Jeff Smith.  Devoured by readers of all ages and highly respected within the graphic novel industry, Bone is a nine-book epic quest fantasy which Time magazine called "as sweeping as the Lord of the Rings cycle, but much funnier".  Those who have finished the whole thing can check out the equally funny and exciting Bone:  Tall Tales in which Jeff Smith takes some of the Bone characters on a few shorter (but still pretty wild) adventures.


    Baby2 Baby6  Baby1
Baby4 Baby3  Camp
Skater Baby9 Baby5

  Baby15  Baby7 Baby8
Baby10Mad Squish
Rapidly catching up in popularity is the huge and girl-friendly Babymouse series by Jennifer and Matthew Holm.  Babymouse, a.k.a. the Cupcake Queen, lives a life which is ordinary on the outside (school band, dodgeball, math tests) but wildly dramatic in her imagination (dragon-slaying, rock stardom, the locker from the black lagoon...).  Anyone remember Walter Mitty?  These books are easier reading than Bone but have tons of personality, just like their perky protagonist.  The Holm siblings have also begun a more gender-neutral spin-off series starring an amoeba named Squish. 



Missile Missile2 And speaking of mice....for kids who prefer a little more action, the Missile Mouse books are a great choice.   Missile Mouse is an intergalactic spy (think James Bond) who's just the slightest bit of a throwback to the film noir detective.  In his first adventure, Missile Mouse and the Star Crusher, he's sent on a mission to find and destroy a weapon of mass destruction.  Galaxy-sized mass destruction, not just puny earth-sized.  Can he do it?  Well, he's smart, he's cool, and he's got lots of nifty gadgets.  But most of all, he believes what his father told him long ago:  "You are a mouse who matters.". 

Just out and already getting lots of love from kids and critics both is Dan Santant's superhero-with-a-twist story Sidekicks.  Side This jaunty new title is about Captain Amazing, a high-flying, super-strong, invincible good guy who's getting a little old and decides to hold auditions for a new sidekick. Captain Amazing's three pets immediately begin training, each determined to be the one who will get to spend more time having adventures with the Captain instead of sitting around at home all bored.  Of course, squabbling and relying on superpowers will only take them so the end, brains and teamwork are what allow them to conquer the evil genius who has Captain Amazing stymied.  This is a book my son gobbled up immediately and then re-read with me, and then with his Dad, then by himself.  I really hope Santat writes a sequel. 

One book that's been circulating like crazy since it hit the library shelves last year is Smile by Raina Telgemeier.  Smile,  taken from Telgemeier's own life, is about an accident she had as a tweenager which knocked out her two front teeth and necessitated several years of orthodontia. You wouldn't think this would be a story that would glue kids to the pages, but Telgemeier makes it amazingly funny, goofy even in places, but still realistic and very relatable.  
Smile3 Raina Telgemeier is also the creator of graphic books adaptations of the first four books in the Babysitter's Club series.  Telgemeier's updates have made this once-popular series fresh and current once more. 

Baby1 Baby3 Baby2 Baby4

One of my personal favourite series is Magic Trixie by the fabulously talented Jill Thompson. Thompson is probably the most acclaimed female artist working in mainstream graphic books today, and I think her children's work is her best.  Magic Trixie is a young witch living in the warm embrace of an extended  (and very cool-looking) witchy family, and going to school with the likes of werewolves, monsters and Egyptian mummies who are all perfectly childlike, even slightly cuddly.  Magic Trixie's adventures feature typical child concerns:  the trials of having a new baby in the family, the unexpected homesickness that is triggered by sleepover parties, the longing for an exotic new pet.  Magic Trixie herself is full of spirit  and lots of fun, and the illustrations are bright, energetic and expressive. 

Trixie Trixie2 Trixie3

For a few years now, Boom! Studios has been putting out some extremely well-written books based on popular children's films (think Incredibles, Toy Story, Cars, Wall-E) and characters such as Mickey Mouse.  These aren't just flimsy film novelizations but original stories by experienced writers and artists using the film characters.  TPL owns many of these, and one that I keep returning to with my family is Toy Story:  The Return of Buzz Lightyear.  What happens when a well-meaning relative gives Andy a brand-new Buzz Lightyear?  Andy's original Buzz gets returned to the toy store by accident, and Woody and the gang have to rescue him, wading through a whole raft of variant Buzz Lightyears (Naptime Buzz, Stone Age Buzz...).  It's hilarious. (My favourite scenes is when "new Buzz" nicknames "old Buzz" Sally.  Even kids who are unfamiliar will Buzz Aldrin and Sally Ride will find the idea of calling Buzz "Sally" pretty funny).  

Buzz Incredibles Cars

I was first introduced to the Daniel Boom:  Loud Boy comics at the Eden Mills writer's festival a few years ago.  I was hooked as soon as I heard D.J. Steinberg talking about how having three young boys sparked the idea of a superhero with "no indoor voice."  Loud Boy and his friends have ordinary kid powers pumped up a notch:  with superhero names like Tantrum Girl, Destructo-Kid, Fidget and Chatterbox,  it's funny even before the story starts.   Loud Boy and his friends spend the series fighting the evil organization Kid-Rid, with strange Uncle Stanley as occasional guide.  These books have the feel of Saturday morning cartoons--action-packed humour with a dash of ridiculous, and a happy ending guaranteed.

LoudBoom-mac Loud2

For young comic fans who enjoy a touch of the macabre, the Little Vampire series by European graphic novel superstar Joann Sfar is a real treat.  With Little Vampire, Sfar creates a world which is visually complex and interesting, slightly creepy but ultimately safe, and full of deadpan humour.  Children who like Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas will find a similar vibe here.  In the first volume, Little Vampire Goes to School,  Little Vampire is lonely and wants to go to school and make new friends.


Delighted when his mother gives him permission to go as long as he is home by daybreak, Little Vampire discovers that the other kids are going to school in the daytime when it's light out.  What to do?  The Captain of the Dead has a great plan--he will run a special night school for Little Vampire and the monster community.  But things go awry when Little Vampire becomes pen pals with one of the day students,  who has a hard time believing that a vampire is doing his homework every night.  Sfar is also the illustrator of the new graphic novel adaptation of the children's classic The Little Prince by Aintoine de Saint-Exupery.

  Vampcover Kung Prince

What are some of your children's favourite graphic books?