Great Graphic Novels for Kids – May 2010

Covered in this installment are these graphic novels for kids. (All except the last were provided by publishers for review.)

Previous columns were published in January and March.

Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker

Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker cover
Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker
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by Geoffrey Hayes
Toon Books, $12.95 US

Each story I read with these mice siblings is better than the one before. I think it’s because the characters grow on me with exposure — I get more sense of them and their adorable little personalities. In this third book in the series (after Just Pretend and The Big No-No!), cousin Bo comes to visit. Benny and Penny have to hide all their toys, because Bo always breaks them.

Bo is grabby and selfish and obnoxious, which makes for great comedy and visual action. Youngsters will love seeing a conflict they can identify with — a kid they don’t want to play with, for very good reason — while adults will love the accurate portrayal of the way children think and act. A surprising amount happens in this 32-page color comic under hard covers, with a lovely resolution.

Author Hayes is also very approachable by readers, with a new blog featuring his characters.

Prilla’s Talent

Prillas Talent cover
Prilla’s Talent
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by Various, Papercutz, $7.99 US

Papercutz’s graphic novels are aimed firmly at tweens, and this new property should hit that mark for girls squarely. It’s the first of four Disney Fairies comics.

After a short illustrated text introduction explaining Pixie Hollow, the land where Tinker Bell and her fairy friends live, there are four stories, each with an obvious moral. Be proud of your unique abilities. You can get a stubborn friend to help with cleanup by outsmarting her. (Well, that one’s maybe not such a great lesson. I’d rather see the speedy-but-selfish Vidia learn her own lesson and be nicer.) Friends can help you fix things and get ready for a party in time. Friends should be trusted.

There’s lots of characters and rituals and so forth that make a lot more sense if you watch the movies or play online or otherwise are already familiar with this latest Disney franchise. Visually, Tinker Bell always looks like she should, important with a character brand, and the art is colorful. There’s a lot of text, sometimes shading into clunky exposition, so this is best recommended for strong readers with parents who don’t mind seeing the Disney brand everywhere. But for those who already love the fairies, this is a fine way to introduce them to comics. There is some preview material online.

Paul: Tarsus to Redemption

Paul: Tarsus to Redemption cover
Paul: Tarsus to Redemption
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written by Matthew Salisbury; art by Sean Lam
ATIQTUQ, $11.99 US

This ambitious project aims to tell the life of Paul, the persecutor of the early Christians who became one of their strongest missionaries, in three OEL manga volumes.

The art is solid and faithful to the chosen, Japanese-influenced style, although the pages are bigger than the standard manga digest size. I wish the storytelling was more straightforward. This is only going to make sense to someone who already knows the basics of Paul’s life, since his blindness, for example, is never explicitly mentioned. The dialogue is too old-fashioned in flavor for modern or younger readers.

Younger readers may also have problems with some of the wordless sequences, understanding exactly what’s happening. (The book is recommended for ages 12 and up.) The storytelling concentrates on dramatic events, opening, for instance, with Paul burning out a Christian household. But there are lots of names and references I didn’t recognize. I’m sure it’s faithful to the story, but I would find the book best used in guided reading, such as a study group with someone who recognized the significance of all the details and names. Alternately, endnotes would be great. I wanted more hand-holding, some narration or captions to explain what was going on.

I can’t figure out a good audience for this, since those with enough knowledge to follow the story will likely be distracted by the art, and younger readers will find it a slog, very slow going. You can find out more at the book’s website.

Mini Marvels

Mini Marvels cover
Mini Marvels
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by Chris Giarrusso; some stories written by Sean McKeever, Marc Sumerak, Paul Tobin, or Audrey Loeb
Marvel, $19.99 US

This Ultimate Collection is full of Giarrusso’s hilarious takes on Marvel superheroes and storylines. His big-headed characters are close enough to be parodies but with their own motivations. Spidey, for example, is a paperboy, and he and Brock (Venom) are in competition for the best routes. Wolverine just wants to get some more breakfast cereal. Spidey has to babysit the even younger Power Pack. Hulk tries to go on a date. Plus, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and the X-Men come around to help out.

The more you know about the comics, the funnier this is, but often, the stories explain big events better than the “regular” comics. It’s a wonderful romp through the Marvel universe, with lots of humor, and because they’re kids, they don’t have to take it all seriously. It’s also a time capsule, reminding me about major Marvel storylines that have already been forgotten.

Later, the stories become one page, and then one strip, which is a shame, because the gags can’t be developed into layers, but I’m glad everything’s in this one handy volume (especially since there apparently won’t be any more). Fun for the whole family, especially to share!

4 Responses to “Great Graphic Novels for Kids – May 2010”

  1. Links: Manga in schools and libraries « Good Comics for Kids Says:

    […] Reviews: The webcomic Unshelved  has a review of Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro’s Foiled in comics form. At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson reviews an assortment of recent graphic novels for kids. […]

  2. Toon Books Package Deals » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Benny and Penny in the Toy Breaker […]

  3. Great Graphic Novels for Kids – February 2011 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] for younger readers regularly, but after three pieces last year — in January, March, and May — I got behind. So this edition will catch up with a lot of books released over the past […]

  4. Catching Up With Toon Books: A Year’s Worth of Releases » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Toon line, all starring brother and sister mice Benny and Penny, Just Pretend, The Big No-No!, and The Toy Breaker. Here, he returns to his earlier children’s book character, Patrick, a baby […]




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