Today we are launching a new feature here at Good Comics for Kids: A weekly look at what our writers are reading, for work or for fun. These aren’t really reviews, just first impressions, and we reserve the right to change our minds once we finish the books and, in some cases, write real reviews.
We want to know what you are reading, too, so feel free to chime in with your current books in the comments. As a special incentive, we are going to give a copy ofZig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework to a commenter selected at random.
And if you’re wondering where we got the idea for this feature, we borrowed liberally from one of our favorite features at Robot 6. (Hey, it’s not copying if you acknowledge your sources, right?)
Brigid: This week I got a copy of And Then There Were Gnomes, the second book in Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue’s Guinea Pig: Pet Shop Private Eye series. Like the first one, this book is filled with wacky humor—misnamed animals, vain chinchillas, dopey fish, and the long-suffering Lady Sasspants, who has become the hero of the hamsters (now renamed gnomes) and is called up on to solve the mystery of the disappearing mice. The mystery in the previous book was a bit of a cheat, as there were no clues to the solution in the story, but this time the sharp-eyed reader may pick up on what’s happening. Yue’s animals are cute and funny at the same time, and this book would be a lot of fun to read aloud with kids—although I was laughing out loud reading it on my own.
On the other hand, while I usually enjoy Erik Craddock’s Stone Rabbit books, Stone Rabbit # 4: Superhero Stampede struck me as too chaotic. In this volume, Stone Rabbit and his friends are transported into a comic-book world in which everyone has super powers and must face off against an array of super villains. It’s funny, but it’s funnier for superhero readers than for the average reader who may not understand what is being parodied. Craddock generally does a good job of laying out his story using just two or three panels per page, but this time it was harder to follow and a bit too heavy on the girls-are-icky for my tastes.
Eva:I’ve been caught up in the Breaking Down Banana Fish round table over at Manga Bookshelf this week, so my non-Banana Fish graphic novel reading has been limited. But when I saw volume one of Chi’s Sweet Home come into the library, I grabbed it. Holy cow, but this book is cute. The color pages, flipped format, and easy vocabulary all make the book attractive to kids, but the swell story and general sweet schmoopiness has kept me turning the pages. I can’t believe how much I’m looking forward to volume two.
Kate: Most of the books I’ve been reading this week are aimed at older teens. I just finished Tracy White’s How I Made It To Eighteen: A Mostly True Story and thought it was understated yet honest—just the kind of book that would be meaningful to a high school student who’s struggling with feelings of hopelessness or anxiety. In it, White remembers what it was like to be a seventeen-year-old hospitalized for acute depression, drug abuse, and bulimia. Though the subject matter sounds grim, White tells a compelling story, free of big dramatic moments or false revelations; the tone is matter-of-fact and sometimes quite funny. (White does a great job of channeling her sardonic, seventeen-year-old self in the voice-overs and dialogue.) I had a few minor quibbles with the way the book was structured, but on the whole, I thought it was a great example of a “graphic” memoir.
On a lighter note, I also finished the third issue of Kill Shakespeare, which is rapidly becoming one of my great guilty pleasures of the summer. The plot thickens in this issue, with new allies joining forces with Richard III and more characters introduced, most notably Falstaff, who tries to warn Hamlet about the dangers of hanging around Iago, and the Macbeths, who had been lurking in the shadows in issues one and two. If I were a high school English teacher, I’d be thinking about ways to integrate Kill Shakespeare into my lesson plans for Macbeth, Hamlet, or King Lear, as I think the comic could stimulate some great discussion about characters (e.g., comparing Hamlet with his new incarnation in the comic, and discussing whether the authors were true to the original) and pastiche (after all, the Bard appropriated plots and characters from other sources). Plus it’s a lot of fun.
Last but not least, I started Megan Kelso’s latest book, Artichoke Tales. I’m not very far into the story, but so far I’m loving Kelso’s artwork—it’s very clean and easy to read, yet it’s surprisingly detailed. I also love the book’s soft green color palette, which infuses the artwork with a really pleasing, organic quality. When I was at ALA, the sales rep for Fantagraphics pitched Artichoke Tales to me as a great book for teens, I think because it’s a coming-of-age story with fantasy elements. I’m not sure if I agree with that assessment—it’s much too early for me to gauge whether the story would appeal to young adults—but it seems like it could be a good fit for readers in the sixteen-to-eighteen age bracket.
Lori: I just started reading the first volume of Paradise Kiss for the Movable Manga Feast this month. I was surprised by how quickly I got pulled into the story. I opened it to just check out the first chapter and ended up reading 5! The characters are immediately appealing and seem well developed. The story is still developing, but I’m really liking what I’m reading so far. I’ve never been interested in fashion, but this title could quickly change that.
Esther: I just finished reading Alison Dare, Little Miss
Adventures, which has been reissued by Tundra books. I have an older edition on my library shelf, but it’s mostly a shelf sitter. Now that I finally read it, I know I can talk it up and find the right audience for the book. I liked the mix of friendship, adventure, family drama that was all part of the the first volume. The artwork was fun. I do tend to love color, but the simple black & white ink drawings give it a wonderful feel. I’m glad they reissued this one.
Robin: I just zoomed through (in one night, staying up too late to read it) Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel. I know we’re set to discuss this title for an upcoming GC4K Book Club, but I just had to chime in now about how engaging and entertaining this title is. TenNapel has a number of things going for him: wonderful pacing, a strong sense of what is both icky and hilarious, and a witty way with dialogue. On top of that, his stories zero in on matters of the heart and the soul with a delicate touch—there’s no lecturing or preaching here, but there is a spiritual thread among the mummy jokes. TenNapel usually works in black and white, but this time around the art is in rich color. The journey to Ghostoplis, the city the dead inhabit after their departure from life, is charming, imaginative, and perfect for older kids and young teens.