*A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids’ Comics — Recommended

I’m almost a year late talking about this reference guide — it came out last May — but the nice thing about a well-done, beautifully formatted volume like this is that it quickly becomes timeless. Particularly since the authors, both librarians, focus on graphic novels and book-format comics.

The book is diverse, including titles in a variety of genres. (Few superheroes, though, since they avoid periodicals, although a handful do get mentioned in collected form.) It’s arranged by grade level, in four sections from Pre-K to eighth grade. Within each section, the books are presented alphabetically.

It’s nicely laid out. Each selection gets its own double-page spread. The left has key information, while the right reproduces a page from the recommended book. The thick gloss paper makes for a heavy book for its size and reproduces the art samples well. The text information includes publisher, publication dates, genre, and format, while the writers made sure to include a “heads up” that indicates whether the work includes any areas of concern, whether violence, name-calling, potty humor, or kissing. Each title also has a “What’s Next…” section that lists similar books as a kind of “if you liked this, try that” continuing recommendation.

I was surprised at how many of the titles I hadn’t heard of, particularly in the section for the youngest readers. I suspect many of them are sold primarily to the educational/library market and/or promoted as children’s books instead of comics. Although many come from book publishers, Top Shelf, Toon, First Second, and Viz, to name a few, are also represented. This would be a good book to take to the library with the kids, or for a comic shop to keep behind the counter to help clerks with recommendations for families.

Right now, the publisher’s website has the book on sale. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

9 Responses to “*A Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids’ Comics — Recommended”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Hmm sounds interesting, but, and maybe this is me being cheap. lol

    Seems like something publishers and creators would/could fund in order to get these in book stores, libraries and the like. $16, $11 on sale I see on the site. Is just a bit steep for what amounts from the sound of it to a shopping list.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Weird, when I go to the publisher’s site, it shows a price of $7 right now.

    There’s more to it than a list — it’s also got capsule summary reviews and series listings.

  3. James Schee Says:

    Huh it does say $7 to me now as well. (Amazon is higher though)

    I guess I wonder at target audience though. I don’t see a lot of people, who aren’t already comic fans, looking for something like this. And if they do… will they pay?

    Especially in this time when there are so many free alternatives, like this very website.:)

    Sorry to any contributors or the like. I’m sure it is a fine book, I’m just stuck at work bored and this is just a topic I’m curious about. I’ve asked my non-comic reading coworkers if they buy reference/review books in general and if so what kind. Seems to be magazine format mostly, but it is a small sampling (3 others)

  4. Snow Wildsmith Says:

    Hi James! You’ve asked some good questions and I hope you don’t mind if I, as one of the authors, provide something of an answer.

    The target audience, as we envisioned it, is parents, librarians, and teachers, though we certainly hope that our book will be of use to bookstore staff also. As librarians, Scott and I get a lot of questions about what books are out there for kids and what titles are for what ages. There are still many parents and teachers who are confused by the term “graphic novel,” assuming it has more to do with erotica than it does with comic books.

    So we wanted to help them be aware of some of the great titles — both newer and classic — and help point out which ones might be of interest to their kids. The library world refers to that as readers’ advisory and it’s always been one of my favorite parts of being a librarian.

    You are definitely correct that there are many wonderful websites that provide that information and which are able to do that in a more up-to-date manner than a print reference title can do. But many librarians, teachers, and parents don’t feel that they have the time or understanding of comics to find those sites and to use them efficiently. So we were hoping to offer them an off-line reference. Many parents have told us that their kids like paging through the book, marking the titles they want, much like catalog shopping.

    Thanks for the great questions! And, Johanna, thank you for a wonderful review and, as always, for your site, a terrific comic resource.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Oh, stop, you’re making me blush. (Thanks for listing my site in your reference list!) I appreciate hearing more about your thinking in putting this together, too. It’s good insight into a field (libraries) that’s so important but I don’t know enough about. Do you plan on creating any kind of update or addition later on?

  6. Snow Wildsmith Says:

    We’d love to do an update or addition, but it all depends on how well the first volume sells. So fingers crossed for that, especially as there are so many great new titles that have come out and we want to talk about them!

    It is very interesting to me the divisions that exist in the comic world. It seems to me that there are distinct groups publishing comics today: the big 2, the ones just below them in size (Dark Horse, Image, etc.), the independents (Oni, Top Shelf, Fantagraphics, NBM, Archie, etc.), the book publishers (Random House, Abrams, etc), the manga publishers (Viz, Yen, Vertical), and the school/library publishers (Lerner, Capstone, Scholastic, so on — those publishers who aren’t as likely to be in either bookstores or comic shops, but which are prevalent in school and public libraries). There is some overlap, such as Vertical being distributed by Random House, but that’s the rough breakdown.

    And too many of them don’t talk to each other. So, for example, the school and library publishers may not be up on what’s happening in the superhero world, beyond the fact Disney now owns Marvel. And the comics publishers may not be aware of what’s happening in the book publishing world. An excellent example of that last is the number of comics professionals I (and other librarians) have met who have never heard of Jennifer and Matt Holm’s Babymouse series. This is a bestselling graphic novel series that has 17 volumes and counting, plus a spin-off series! But because it’s published by a book publisher (Random House), it has flown beneath the comics radar for many people.

    Add to that the fact that many librarians don’t know comics publishers beyond the titles of theirs that are reviewed in Booklist and other library review journals and you end up with a situation where things are just overlooked. I was on a panel a few years ago at Dragon*Con that included Chris Schweizer (Crogan’s Adventures), Andy Runton (Owly), and Van Jensen (Pinocchio Vampire Slayer) and the topic of communication came up, how there needs to be some bridge between all the various types of comics publishers, the library world, the education market, the bookstore and comic store market, and the ultimate consumers, which in the case of kids’ comics are, by and large, parents. Scott and I were just lucky that our editors (Maggie Thompson and Brent Frankenhoff) were aware of the need for that type of bridge and asked us to be one small stone in the larger structure.

  7. James Schee Says:

    Thanks for your view point Snow I appreciate the look. I really was just bored at work. Being around the online comic community as long as I have it us easy to forget how most aren’t. So your book probably is a great guide to what is out there.

  8. Snow Wildsmith Says:

    I know exactly what you mean about insular communities! I have to remind myself not to talk “library speak,” because not everyone speaks buzzword. :-)

  9. James Schee Says:

    Hah true. I was watching a tv show the other day, and they changed a character in the show’s past. I went “Oooh retcon!” and my friends had no idea what I was talking about.lol

    I hope to see the book at a local library or something soon. If even Johanna didn’t recognize some of the books, that is something pretty neat.




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