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Snowed In

If you walked around NYC today, you’d actually start to believe that spring is around the corner. Except for the mounds of snow still piled high along the curbs and the snow they’re predicting for Wednesday.  The East Coast has been slammed with quite a bit of snow.  Washington D.C. and the areas surrounding it had so much snow in February that they actually shut down the federal government for a few days! And in NYC public schools closed for snow twice in one month which made last Friday the 4th snow day in 7 years!  (As you can tell, NYC Public Schools don’t shut down too often for snow.)

Friday, while I was hunkered down indoors, watching the snow pile up on my windows sill, I started to think this weather is great for curling up with a good book or comic. I turned to my GC4K friends and asked them to share the comics they’d like to read if they were trapped indoors.  (And while I called this a Snow Themed list originally, this list is great for being trapped indoors for a variety of reasons. Tropical rainstorm, hurricane, or any other ‘natural disaster.’)

Snow: My suggestion for a day or days trapped inside is a long manga series, like Rurouni Kenshin or Bleach. Or, better yet, reading the graphic novels you’ve bought or checked out of the library, but haven’t read yet. (Not that I would ever do that. ha!) Another option is to have a mini-graphic novel book club. The whole family reads a graphic novel or novels together and discusses.

Brigid: I think a day like this is perfect for old-fashioned books, like the sort of story where two or three kids are whisked away to another world (preferably through an old mansion) and have to make their way back. I would pick The Elsewhere Chronicles or Amulet.

Or, for pure escapist reading, edition of NBM’s Classics Illustrated Edition of Tom Sawyer or Treasure Island. Their Nancy Drew books, illustrated by Sho Murase, are great as well.

Robin: For a snow day, I agree with Brigid in that I want to get lost in a world, and like Snow I enjoy titles that are long on character development and plot.

So, for those points, I too would recommend some of the longer manga series, including (but not limited to) fan favorites like Fruits Basket or Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, or the more complex series like Kaja and Phil Foglio’s Girl Genius series.  With titles like CLAMP’s alternate reality and the Foglio’s steampunk adventures, reading them all in one go helps you keep track!

I also think of snow days as a time to revisit old favorites as well as re-reading more detailed, visual titles like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and the Flight anthologies.

The down time (provided you still have power) also allows me time to catch up on favorite webcomics.  I always like to go and see the latest comics from Kate Beaton at Hark A Vagrant (although some of those are more teen or adult oriented than others).  I’ve been drawn in to The Dreamer, too — the time travel and revolutionary romance totally hooked me.  It’s also a great time to revisit the charming, oddball comic Minus, full of magical realism and a wonderfully quirky sense of humor and wonder.

Eva: Believe it or not, I’m in danger of being snowed in as I write this. (Esther: Really?  It really must be an El Nino year!) Being snowed in goes against everything I believe in; I’m much more accustomed to being rained in.  On those days I want something that’s long enough to last a few hours and compelling enough to keep me reading from cover to cover.

Some books that fit the bill are the Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics, compiled by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, and Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume, by Jeff Smith.

For the kids I know, comics are comics are comics, be they stories or strips.  So for those long winter days I’d also recommend some of the collections of great comic strips that have come out in the past few years.  The Little Lulu collections from Dark Horse, a stack of Lucky Lukes from Cinebook, and the ever-popular Calvin and Hobbes will keep the entire family chuckling quietly instead of tormenting each other out of boredom.  (Esther:  While searching for links I found google books has a whole bunch of Calvin & Hobbes Collections online!)

Katherine: I second the recommendation for comic-strip anthologies: kids love ’em, and will re-read them just to memorize the punchlines. Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield remain perennially popular with younger readers, though I’d also add The Complete Peanuts (Fantagraphics) to the list of perfect snow-day material. The earliest volumes will probably appeal more to adults than kids, as they reveal more about Charles Schulz’s development as a cartoonist and a storyteller than they do about Snoopy, Charlie Brown, et al. The volumes from the mid-1960s onward, however, feature the gang that younger readers know from the numerous TV specials, newspaper strips, and products, and would be a great way to occupy an eight or ten-year-old for a few hours on a snowy day.

Fantagraphics is also re-issuing the entire Dennis the Menace collection, giving it the same deluxe presentation as "Peanuts." "Dennis" hasn’t aged quite as well as "Peanuts," but his penchant for mischief has enduring appeal. To date, Fantagraphics has released six volumes of Dennis’ antics.

Claire and Lucinda, my six-year-old cousins, have been asking their parents to read them Rapunzel’s Revenge, Fashion Kitty, and Jellaby. They’ve been generally enthusiastic about the Toon Books, with the three Benny and Penny stories topping their list of favorites. Right now, however, nothing can touch Amelia Rules — it’s the series they ask for the most, and the series whose volumes they practically know by heart.

For older readers, I’d highly recommend manga that are about four to ten volumes in length — roughly an afternoon’s worth of reading. Some of my favorites in this category include Kaoru Mori’s Emma (CMX, 10 volumes) and its companion volume Shirley (CMX, 1 volume), a Victorian costume drama that should appeal to girls who loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s books; Fumi Yoshinaga’s Flower of Life (DMP, 4 volumes), a comedy about a high-school manga club; Rumiko Takahashi’s Mermaid Saga (VIZ, 4 volumes), an episodic horror series about two humans who became immortal after eating a mermaid’s flesh; and Setona Mitzushiro’s After School Nightmare (Go! Comi, 10 volumes), a unique psychological horror story about a teen who attends a dream seminar at his high school. Snow days are also a great way to get started on longer series, too. I’ve been taking advantage of the bad weather to re-read the beginning of One Piece (VIZ), which was much funnier than I remembered, and to re-read the first three volumes of Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You (VIZ), another series that I liked much better the second time around.

Esther:  These are great suggestions. It sort of makes me wish for another day to be stranded inside.  Originally, I was thinking of snow titles in the literal sense and so Mouseguard: Winter 1152 came to mind.  But it fits in with Brigid’s idea of escaping into another world (of sorts).  I also thought of volume 4 of the Miki Falls series, Winter.  But it’s actually a great manga series to reread. There’s romance and adventure and it goes through all the seasons.  Snow’s mini graphic novel book club made me think of a “create your own comic” activity. There are lots of websites that allow you to create your own online comic, like the Read Write Think Comic’s Creator. Or you can use a word processer to print out various templates. 

And while I like to catch up on what I have lying around the house, (Like Snow, I never borrow books from the library and let them pile up!)  I do like to re-read old favorites. In this case, I think I’d have to go with the Runaways series. I’m partial to the beginning of the series. Or I’d re-read the Baby-Sitter’s Club Series published by graphix.

Personally, I think there are a lot of great suggestions here. I’m almost hoping for another snow day. But not until I have a chance to buy new boots. 

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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