Welcome to another edition of The Reading Pile, in which your Good Comics for Kids bloggers rummage around their night tables and reveal what they have been reading lately. Feel free to add your own recent reading in the comments section.
Brigid Alverson: My nieces wanted some Halloween stories, so I picked up Jill Thompson’s Scary Godmother. This is a beautiful oversize book that collects four of Thompson’s previously published stories. The first story is about six-year-old Hannah Marie going trick-or-treating with the big kids for the first time. The big kids decide to bring her to a deserted house and give her a good scare so she will go home and leave them alone, but instead, Hannah Marie meets the Scary Godmother and a whole posse of friendly monsters and turns the tables on the mean kids. There may be a few scary moments for little kids, but Scary Godmother and her friends are cheerful and reassuring, and their message is that monsters are really very nice, once you get to know them.
Kate Dacey: I just started re-reading Kazuo Umezu’s Scary Book, an anthology of short horror stories. Readers familiar with Cat-Eyed Boy and The Drifting Classroom may find these stories tame, but for my money, they’re as good as Umezu’s better-known work, albeit not as flamboyantly weird. The very first story in the collection, for example, focuses on a vain little girl who becomes so obsessed with her reflection that it takes on a life of its own. Granted, “The Mirror” isn’t predicated on the most original idea, but Umezu’s doll-like character designs and lugubrious, Victorian backgrounds make the story extra creepy. I’m not really sure why this series didn’t catch on with readers, but it’s still easy to find, and at three volumes, isn’t a wallet-buster.
And speaking of horror, one of the books I picked up at New York Comic-Con was The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read! It’s a beautifully designed book that falls somewhere between a short story anthology and a history of pre-code comics. The book is organized thematically, exploring a variety of common storylines found in titles like Dark Mysteries and Tomb of Terror. Read in tandem with David Hadju’s The Ten-Cent Plague, it helps contemporary readers understand why comics were such a convenient scapegoat for juvenile delinquency in the 1950s. I could see certain teens digging the stories and the covers (dozens of which are reprinted in full color), though the essays won’t be very meaningful to them unless they have a firm command of mid-century American history.
Last but not least is Cinderella, a straightforward telling of the classic fairy tale illustrated by POP, a Japanese artist. The anime-influenced illustrations are certainly attractive, as is the book’s pastel color scheme. With so many other versions of Cinderella on the market, however, it’s hard to see the rationale behind this book; there’s nothing particularly distinctive about the text or artwork, aside from the art’s obvious roots in anime and manga.
I got a little lackadaisical about reading comics, and have been reading
more prose. But..
I did finish Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography, by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon—which I thought was superbly done. I know most know the Anne Frank story, but the artwork was quite appealing and reminded me of the photos I was familiar with. Also, there were snapshots of the history, what was going on at that time, that really added to the book. I know that I’ll be offering this to my students. (Unfortunately, I spilled coffee on my review copy, so I’ll have to just buy the multiples for our library!) But I know this will appeal to many of our students. And like the 9/11 Commission Report—adapted by the same author/artist team—it takes the history and makes it accessible to a whole new audience.
Also, I had grabbed a bunch of comics at Comic Con, especially from the Archie table. I loved the new <a href="http://archiecomics.stores.yahoo.net/liwiarmasu.html">Life With Archie Magazine: The Married Life. I read the 2nd and 3rd issues. Each issues gives a glimpse of how it could be had he married either Betty or Veronica. I did wonder who this would appeal to, simply because Teens and Tweens aren’t necessarily interested in reading about married life. It feels like this is something that’s geared more to my age group—young(ish) adults who grew up with Archie (they were my first comics!) who are already thinking about marriage and families if they aren’t already in that mode yet. But the copies did go out, so I’ll see what the kids think of it after they read it.
Mike Pawuk: I’ve been reading The Amulet of Samarkand, the adaptation of the novel by Jonathan Stroud and Andrew Donkin with art by Lee Sullivan. It’s published by Disney-Hyperion Books and adapts the tale of a 12-year-old boy magician-in-training who in a fit of anger decides to one-up a pompous older magician and summons a feisty 5,000 year-old djinni named Bartimaeus to assist him in stealing a magical amulet. Little does the boy wizard and the single-minded djinni realize is that there’s more to this amulet than meets the eye, and their very lives are in danger if the amulet falls into the wrong hands once again. Maybe it wasn’t my cup of tea—I found the story entertaining, but it took me a good few days to be engrossed in it. Perhaps I’d rather just have a Harry Potter novel as a graphic novel. Where’s my Sabriel graphic novel, too, Garth Nix?
I’ve also just started the adaptation of the first Percy Jackson book—The Lightning Thief. I’m really enjoying this adaptation. Sure, there are some things left out for pacing, but so far so good. The adaptation of Rick Riordan’s novel is by Robert Venditti with art by Attila Futaki. Fans of the series will love this book very much.
Lastly, I thought some Halloween Babymouse was in order, so I read the Monster Mash story, which features Babymouse trying to find the perfect Halloween costume, gettong into more and more trouble when planning a Halloween party, and discovering that you should always follow your heart and give into peer pressure. Cute, funny, and enjoyable; once again, Jennifer and Matthew Holm have created another fun adventure for our favorite mouse.