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Review: Big Nate, Foxtrot, and Lio (AMP Kids)

About a year and a half ago, I was walking through the exhibit hall at Book Expo America and noticed a publisher I wasn’t all that familiar with and a title that had just become the hottest thing in my middle school library. I’m talking about Andrews McMeel Publishing. The series was Big Nate, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid read-alike by Lincoln Peirce that was circulating faster than a spinning tire.

As it turned out, I hadn’t realized that Big Nate was an existing comic strip and the series was a takeoff from that character. So in addition to buying all the Big Nate books by HarperCollins, I started to buy the comic strip reprints published by Andrews McMeel.

So I was pleasantly surprised when a couple of months ago I received a press release saying that they were creating a kids’ line called Ampkids. The Big Nate titles are obviously first in the line, but in addition there is a Foxtrot for kids edition and Liō: There’s a Monster in My Socks.

Format: Most of the comic strip compilations I’ve read have a bunch of strips on one page. It’s a busy look but possibly intimidating for a young reader. The layouts in these books are mostly four panels on a page. The fonts are large and clear, very unlike the Sunday comics and unlike most of the comic strip compilations I’ve read, and there’s a lot of white space on the page. The format is inviting to the young and/or reluctant reader.

Content:Each of these titles, while very different, was equally hilarious. I will say that when I am reading a comic strip compilation, some of the jokes become repetitive. After all, this is a year or more worth of comic strips put together. But I don’t believe this is unique to the AMP Kids titles. Big Nate is by far my favorite, because it really speaks to the middle school/middle grade age—which is the age group I’ve been working with for most of my career. Next on my list is Foxtrot. Of course, I’ve heard of Foxtrot, but I never actually immersed myself in the strip, and I just loved these characters. While I’m not well versed in the original strip, it’s obvious that the kid-oriented strips were pulled for this collection. And Liō: There’s a Monster in my Closet is so bizarre, I know that this will fall apart by the end of the school year, because the boys will love this title.

These titles have been out for a while, and not too many titles have been added to the line. I’m looking forward to seeing what else will come our way. This is a great way to reinvent and remarket existing material for an emerging audience.

Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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