Great Graphic Novels for Kids – May 2012

My, my, such go the best-laid plans. I last wrote one of these columns in February, which isn’t so bad, except it was February 2011. Ah, well, at least that means I have plenty to talk about (and I aim to have the next installment out next month, which starts tomorrow). Most books discussed here were provided by the publishers as review copies.

Deep-Sea Duel

written by John Sazaklis; art by Art Baltazar
Capstone, $4.95

It’s a bit unfair of me to start with something you can’t get yet, but I wanted to note that a fourth wave of six DC Super-Pets books will be coming out in August. This is one of them, starring Aqualad, his family, and their undersea pets.

Aqualad has Fluffy, a goldfish, who travels in a special freshwater bubble. His cousin Nicoletta’s pet is Betty, a baby beluga. Geoffrey, a hammerhead shark, belongs to his mom, Mera. They all fight the Ocean Master’s “evil hench-fish” because Ocean Master is mad he didn’t get invited to the family reunion. For older readers, or cartoon fans, Aquaman’s sea horse Storm and octopus Topo also make cameo appearances.

While not comics, these short hardcover stories are cute and funny. They give kids an idea of the depth and breadth of superheroes and their adventures and how imaginative that world can be. (Shame there aren’t many comics that have the same appeal.) That’s done by recasting elements that might be familiar to kids — a pet goldfish, a family picnic — in larger-than-life ways. The approach provides comfort while being exciting. I was also pleased to see that in this volume, there is a credit that Aquaman was created by Paul Norris.

Batman: Super-Villains Strike

by Michael Teitelbaum
Starscape, $5.99

Speaking of superhero books, this “Choose-Your-Fate Adventure Book” allows readers to pretend to be Batman while he figures out which villain is responsible for the crimes occurring in Gotham City. At the end of each short (2 or 3 pages) chapter, the reader makes a choice and moves to a new chapter. Some chapters also contain small puzzles, such as word searches or codes, to provide additional clues.

Favorite bad guys — including Catwoman, the Riddler, and Poison Ivy — appear, and there is one path that does actually result in success. All of the others have you get captured, ending the story.

It’s a fun idea, but reading the book requires a tolerance for second-person narration. (“You” keep doing things.) It’s always somewhat boring in what actually happens, since all you do is chase villains, fight villains, and track down villains. Still, I was impressed at the way the story twists and turns around, particularly in the reuse of segments, even if the message is “don’t trust anyone.” I guess that’s true to the character, too.

Guinea Pig: Pet Shop Private Eye: The Ferret’s a Foot

story by Colleen AF Venable; art by Stephanie Yue
Graphic Universe, $6.95

The third in the series, after And Then There Were Gnomes and Hamster and Cheese, is the best yet. No wonder it got nominated for an Eisner Award!

Sasspants, the guinea pig PI, finally helps out the distracted pet store owner by putting all the right signs on the cages (so the hamsters are no longer labeled “koalas”), which allows the shop to bring in new animals. They’re ferrets, or as assistant Hamisher has it, “snakes with giant beards!” Hamisher is hilarious, hopped up on soda and trying to find them a catchphrase when they go detecting.

The dialogue is funny, nicely targeted at the young audience without talking down to them, and the animals are all really cute and expressive. Plus, Sasspants is a reader, which gives her (yes! a her!) all her smarts, nice behavior to model. Hamisher, meanwhile, goes on a guilt trip with some impressive visual tics.

Speaking of literacy, the mystery this volume is finding out who’s been changing the signs, so that the “lizards” become “blizzards”. It’s a word game that reminds me of Letterman on The Electric Company. The back of the book has text pages with information on ferrets and a glossary of common mystery story terms.

My Boyfriend Is a Monster: I Date Dead People

written by Ann Kerns; art by Janina Gorrissen
Graphic Universe, $9.95

After vampires, fairies, and Frankensteinian monsters, this installment of the supernatural romance series gets back to the classics: ghosts.

Nora and her family have moved into a new home that’s also a landmark, the prior home of a writer. Odd things start happening — the TV comes on by itself, small items go missing — until Nora sees Tom, a boy about her age who died over a century ago. He’s not the only ghost in the house, though, and the other inhabitants aren’t quite so friendly. They want to drive the family out.

The plot can feel a little rushed at times, but that’s because there’s so much happening in it. The art is dense, with plenty of backgrounds to establish the setting of the house and the area. Manga fans might feel comfortable with the heroine’s large eyes, open face, and supernatural affinity. I found the characters attractive, as you want for a romance. While lightweight, it’s a complete story with plenty of emotional high points.

Earthling!

by Mark Fearing
Chronicle Books, $12.99

From fantasy to science fiction. Bud and his dad have moved out to New Mexico so his father can work at the radio telescope lab. Bud catches the bus for his first day of school… but it’s the wrong bus, and he winds up at Cosmos Academy, where he learns that Earth is off-limits. Will his new friend Gort help him get home? Well, of course, but along the way they also foil an intergalactic war and learn the teamwork necessary to play ZeroBall.

This is a really long graphic novel, given the younger audience, with almost 250 pages and plenty happening, so readers involved in Bud’s adventure will enjoy the value. The art tends to what I consider an “ugly” style, which means the aliens and humans fit well together. Bud, at times, looks a little weird himself, with a big square head.

The story is simple and classic, with the aliens and sports themes aimed particularly at boys. It’s due out in June.

Yes, Let’s

Yes, Let's cover

written by Galen Goodwin Longstreth; art by Maris Wicks
Tugboat Press, $6

The publisher describes this full-color minicomic as a “picture book for kids”, and it does a wonderful job of being such. Each page is a complete illustration, with a rhyming caption over top describing how this large family — parents, four kids, large dog — decides to spend a day in the country, hiking in the woods, having a picnic, swimming in the river. It’s a terrific paean to enjoying the outdoors and being part of such a family.

The art is amazing, too, with such active participants who obviously care about each other, and such detail! Readers will spend a lot of time poring over each picture, finding all the surprises around the edges and following the various characters. Even though they’re unnamed, they each have their own personality and attitude. My favorite images are the evening ones, as the light fades and the family has to wrap up and head for home. The colors are so true to twilight.

I found this book so refreshing, I will read it over and over. Give it to your favorite young one, especially if they’re heading out to camp.


9 Responses to “Great Graphic Novels for Kids – May 2012”

  1. Izandra Says:

    Deep Sea Pets is PERFECT for my ocean-loving nephew. Birthday present for October!

  2. Izandra Says:

    Er, Deep Sea Duel. Got too excited there.

  3. Johanna Says:

    That’s ok, excitement is cool! I hope he likes it!

  4. Kat Kan Says:

    I absolutely love the Guinea Pig: Pet Shop Private Eye series! The second graders in my school just discovered the graphic novels just for them in the library, and they’ve been reading everything I added to the collection; I’ll be adding more Guinea Pig, the TOON Books, and more. It helps that the second grade teacher thinks these books are great! Also, for school librarians, Junior Library Guild has graphic novel sets, and I signed up for the elementary gn set; Earthling is on its way now! Yay!

  5. Guinea Pig: Pet Shop Private Eye Books 4 and 5 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] The Ferret’s a Foot […]

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    […] I Date Dead People — Ghost […]

  7. Another Wave of DC Super-Pets Books » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Deep-Sea Duel, written by John Sazaklis, I’ve already talked about. […]

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    […] but their experiences are also clear and inspiring. I’ve only read one of her comics before (Yes, Let’s), but I’ll be on the lookout for anything else she does in future. She does great work with […]

  9. Superman: Peace in the Balance » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] I previously talked about another “Choose-Your-Fate Adventure Book”, Wonder Woman: Power Outage, which I didn’t care for. Thankfully, the Superman entry, Peace in the Balance, made more sense for that character. (The third one is Batman: Super-Villains Strike.) […]




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