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Good Comics for Kids 2010 Summer Reading List

In some parts of the country, school is already out. In others, the countdown is getting closer and closer and summer vacation is just around the corner.  (4 more days for me!) But at this time of year, educators are not only concerned about budget cuts and potential layoffs, they’re also worried about the “summer slide.”  That their students will stop reading over summer vacation and all learning will cease.  As I talk to our 6th and 7th grade students about the importance of summer reading, I see how they roll their eyes and groan.  But when they hear that it’s okay to read a magazine, newspaper or comic, suddenly, the groans abate, and more attention is paid.

Last year, our 2009 Summer reading list was well received and so my colleagues at GC4K, Brigid, Robin, Katherine,  Lori, Eva, and I, decided it was time to create a new one, because there’s nothing worse than recycling lists over and over again.  So here’s an updated list with some old and new titles that you don’t want to miss this summer.  Take it with you to the beach, pool, or wherever you go on vacation.  Just as long as you find something enjoyable to read.

Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker, by Geoffrey Hayes (TOON BOOKS, 1 volume)
Geoffrey Hayes’ brother-and-sister duo are back in another adventure, this time revolving around a visit from their cousin Bo, who’s notorious for breaking every toy he plays with. Like the other titles in this series — Benny and Penny in The Big No-No, Benny and Penny in Just Pretend — Hayes takes a familiar childhood problem and dramatizes it with humor and sensitivity, honoring the intensity of his young characters’ feelings while showing his readers how to resolve a similar conflict. Appealing art and an accessible script make The Toy Breaker a great choice for beginning readers. –Katherine Dacey

Chi’s Sweet Home, by Konata Konami (Vertical, Inc.; volume one due in stores June 29, 2010)
The heroine of this all-ages title is Chi, a young kitten who gets separated from her litter while visiting a park. Tearful and scared, Chi is rescued by a little boy who lives in a nearby apartment building. There’s just one problem: the complex doesn’t allow pets! With its engaging story, crisp artwork, colorful images, and flipped pages, Chi’s Sweet Home is a great series for first-time manga readers, though youngsters may find their older siblings (and parents) borrowing Chi, too, as the story is cute without being saccharine. –Katherine Dacey

Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye: vol. 1, Hamster and Cheese, by Colleen A.F. Venable and Stephanie Yue (Graphic Universe)
Who doesn’t love pet shop hijinks? The animals in this wacky pet shop are cute as can be; too bad the owner has mislabeled them all. But they have an even bigger problem: Someone keeps stealing the owner’s sandwich, and he suspects the koalas—er, hamsters. One eager-beaver hamster drafts the reluctant guinea pig, Lady Sasspants, into investigating the crime, with hilarious results. The mystery itself doesn’t amount to much, but the animals have more personality than smarts, making this a fun read for the kids on the older end of this age range. –Brigid Alverson

Lunch Lady, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Imagine if the lunch lady at your school was really a secret agent! That’s the idea behind this lively series in which three third-graders tag along as their Lunch Lady and her sidekick fight off a variety of villains using modified food products such as banana boomerangs, taco night-vision goggles, and S’mores throwing stars. The simple layout and color scheme make these lively stories quick to read and easy to follow, but the stories are witty enough for more sophisticated readers to enjoy. –Brigid Alverson

Squirelly Gray, by James Kochalka (Top Shelf, 1 volume)
Told with a mixture of cartoon panels and rhyming couplets, James Kochalka’s story focuses on Squirrelly Gray, a young rodent who begins wiggling his front teeth out of bordeom. (In a nice touch, Squirelly Gray’s world is monochromatic and dull in the opening pages.) When his teeth finally fall out, his life becomes considerably more interesting — though not in ways he expected. Kochalka’s simple illustrations and humorous script make this cautionary tale fun for little ones to read out loud with adults. –Katherine Dacey

There’s a Wolf at the Door, by R.W. Alley and Zoe Alley (Roaring Brook Press, 1 volume)
The husband-and-wife time of R.W. and Zoe Alley team up to tell five famous fairy tales from the wolf’s point of view, from “The Three Little Pigs” to “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” The artwork is lovely — no surprise, since R.W. Alley is a veteran picture-book illustrator — and the script has enough slapstick to amuse young readers and enough wit to engage their parents. Better still, the book’s oversized trim makes this graphic novel a great choice for bedtime storytelling, as it’s just the right size for two people to share. –Katherine Dacey

Zig and Wikki in Somthing Ate My Homework, by Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler (TOON BOOKS, 1 volume)
Aliens Zig and Wikki get lost on their way to grandmother’s house, only to end up on Earth instead. Tasked with finding a new class pet for their school, the two begin sizing up a variety of possible specimens, from bugs to raccoons. Like the rest of the TOON BOOK series, Zig and Wikki boasts beautiful art, simple layouts, and text that challenges but doesn’t overwhelm beginning readers. As an added bonus, author Nadja Spiegelman has woven interesting facts about the natural world into the text, elevating the story from humorous romp to sly ecology lesson. –Katherine Dacey

TWEENS (9 – 12)

The Adventures of TinTin by Herge (Little Brown, 8 volumes)

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting my brother and found myself reading TinTin aloud to my 7-year-old nephew.  He would read parts of it on his own, but he’s only in first grade and most of the text was a bit over his head. But he loved the adventures and stories.  I’ve also noticed that in the Brooklyn Public Library this title circulates heavily. TinTin is a reporter who gets into many adventures. He’s joined by many supporting characters – his dog, Captain Haddock and others. The adventures vary from volume to volume, but will delight readers.  –Esther Keller

Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean, by Sarah Stewart Taylor and Ben Towle (1 volume)
This slim volume confines itself to the six days Amelia Earhart spent in Trepassey, Newfoundland, waiting to embark on her first Atlantic crossing, yet it encompasses not only Earhart’s career but the way her flights changed the world. The story is told through the eyes of a young girl who dreams becoming a reporter someday, and the book shows not only what Earhart herself accomplished but also how she inspired other women. –Brigid Alverson

Banana Sunday, by Root Nibot and Colleen Coover (Oni Press, 1 volume)
Teenager Kirby Steinberg lands a thankless babysitting gig: her scientist father puts her in charge of three talking apes, all of whom attend high school with her. As one might expect from the set-up, comedy and hijinks ensue, but scriptwriter Root Nibot also uses the set-up to explore the difficulties of being a human teenager. The entertaining script gives each ape a distinctive personality, while Colleen Coover’s crisp, stylish art adds to the story’s considerable charm. N.B. The content is appropriate for readers as young as eight or nine, but the sophistication of the writing makes this a borderline tween/teen title. –Katherine Dacey

Chiggers, by Hope Larson (Aladdin Press, 1 volume)
In this charming coming-of-age story, Abby, a young teen, returns to her favorite camp, only to find Rose, her best friend from the previous summer, too busy with her new counselor-in-training duties to spend time together. Abby’s quest to find new friends and fit in with her bunkmates travels a familiar road, but Hope Larson’s bold, stylish art and funny, truthful script address common rites of passage — first crushes, friends who turn out to be enemies — without preaching or condescension. A great book for a tween who’s nervous about going to overnight camp. –Katherine Dacey

Fashion Kitty; Fashion Kitty versus the Fashion Queen; Fashion Kitty and the Unlikely Hero, by Cherise Meracle Harper (Hyperion)
Don’t let the sparkly covers fool you: Fashion Kitty is a smart send-up of superhero comics that respects young girls’ interest in clothing without talking down to them or imparting a consumerist message. The story revolves around Kiki Kittie, a stylish young cat who gains superpowers after a stack of fashion magazines fall on her head. Though her ostensible power is helping the sartorially challenged, what she really does is encourage her classmates to express their individuality through clothing, building their self-esteem and confidence in the process. In a nice touch, Kiki wrestles with many of the same issues as Peter Parker and his super-powered brethren, from coping with her new-found fame to maintaining her secret identity. Great scripts and cute artwork complete the package. –Katherine Dacey

Graphic Universe (Lerner Publishing, 27 volumes) Young readers who want to delve more into mythology will enjoy the wide array of titles available in this series.  From Egyptian Mythology (a great tie in to the new Rick Riordan book), to Japanese Mythology, young readers can explore a wide array of myths and legends in a fun and accessible format. –Esther Keller

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers written by Chris Eliopoulos; art by Ig Guara; Marvel Comics
The pets of several superheroes are band together to find the Infinity Gems before supervillain Thanos. The straight-forward quest story is easy to follow and the interaction of the animals with each other is fun and full of comedic moments while injecting just enough drama to keep it from being a straight out comedy. Great reading for kids and adults. –Lori Henderson

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152; Mouse Guard: Winter 1152, by David Petersen (Archaia Studios Press)
David Petersen’s critically acclaimed fantasy follows the adventures of an elite rodent patrol tasked with protecting the Mouse Territories from harm, whether the danger be traitors or hungry predators. The artwork is the star attraction here; Petersen’s beautiful, detailed images of forest animals and their Hobbit-like homes gives the series a Tolkein-esque vibe that carries the day when the plots meander. Archaia Studios Press just launched a new Mouse Guard series this spring; called Legends of the Guard, it features brand-new stories by Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumrin), Alex Sheikman (Robotika), and Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl). –Katherine Dacey

The Olympians by George O’Connor. (First Second. 2 volumes)

Due to the Percy Jackson phenomenon, Greek Mythology is all the rage. So reading the first 2 volumes of the Olympian series, Zeus and Athena, readers

can get the origin stories for our very first super heroes.  –Esther Keller

Polly and the Pirates, by Ted Naifeh (Oni Press, 1 volume)
Imagine if Sarah Crewe turned out to be a pirate queen instead of a little princess: that’s the basic idea behind Ted Naifeh’s charming, girl-positive  comic about a prissy boarding school student who finds her true destiny on the high seas. The script yields plenty of laughs, especially as Polly tries to adapt to the pirates’ rough-and-tumble world, but what really makes this story work are the thoughtful details, from the characters’ evocative names (how do “Pampelmousse” and “Dr. Filbert R. Swoon” grab you?) to the

elaborate houseboats on which much of the action takes place. A fun romp that should appeal to Courtney Crumrin fans. –Katherine Dacey

Resistance, Book 1, by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis (First Second, ongoing)
This story, set in France during World War II, is a well-done adventure story about children bringing their Jewish friend to Paris to rejoin his parents. The children are plucky and resourceful, but the book is not simplistic; the creators show the attitudes of the time and don’t brush off the real dangers that the youngsters face. –Brigid Alverson

Sand Land, by Akira Toriyama (VIZ Media, 1 volume)
A hybrid Western/sci-fi tale, Sand Land takes place on a distant planet where warfare, drought, and a wicked king have transformed the landscape into a desert. Though Sand Land features enough slapstick humor and cartoon combat to make a ten-year-old boy’s heart sing, what makes the story shine are the wonderful and weird details, from the inventive character and machine designs to the goofy plot twists. –Katherine Dacey

Smile, by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic, 1 volume)
A memoir which tells the author’s experience during middle school, framed by the story of a terrible accident where she trips and falls, knocking out her 2 front teeth.This one kept going out in my library by the virtue of the cover.  Something about the smiley face and the braces just appealed to my students. But it didn’t disappoint. No one regretted taking it out!  I even had a waiting list… without telling anyone anything about the book.   –Esther Keller

Stormbreaker, Point Blank, & Skeleton Key (Alex Rider series) by Antony Johnston

This comic, which adapts the popular Alex Rider series became immensely popular in my library this year.  These 3 titles tell the adventures of Alex Rider, who’s been forced to spy for MI-6 even though he’s only 14-years-old.  The stories are full of adventure, action, espionage, and is a surefire hit for boys.  It might also lead them to the prose novels which are even better and have 4 more volumes in the series. –Esther Keller

Twin Spica, by Kou Yaginuma (Vertical, Inc., 2 volumes, ongoing)
Fifteen-year-old Asumi has dreamed of becoming an astronaut since she was a little girl, but her small stature and a tragic childhood event may prevent her from taking her rightful place at the Tokyo Space Academy. Told with a mixture of magic and realism, Twin Spica is a lovely coming-of-age story about the resilience of the human heart. Kou Yaginuma’s clean, expressive artwork is a perfect complement to the main narrative, creating a believable future in which the familiar and the ultra-modern mesh seamlessly. A must for stargazers, sci-fi enthusiasts, and day dreamers of all ages. –Katherine Dacey


Bayou, by Jeremy Love (Zuda Comics, 1 volume, ongoing)

Southern Gothic meets Alice in Wonderland in this dark fantasy about a sharecropper falsely accused of killing a young white girl. Only eight-year Lee Wagstaff knows the identity of the true culprit: a malicious ogre. Desperate to save her father from the gathering lynch mob, Lee follows the ogre into the neighboring swamp, where she discovers a topsy-turvy version of the Jim Crow South beneath the water’s surface, one populated by talking animals, fierce golliwogs, and a strong but gentle spirit named Bayou. Creator Jeremy Love handles the subject of discrimination with incredible delicacy, using elements of horror and magical realism to suggest the violence and injustice of the Depression-era South. Beautiful artwork and a fierce, memorable heroine make Bayou an especially compelling read. –Katherine Dacey

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites
, by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson (Dark Horse, 1 volume; will be released on June 23, 2010)
Talking cats and dogs might seem like kiddie fare, but Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson put their chatty house pets through slightly different paces: Pugs, Ace, Jack, Whitey, Red, and the Orphan are supernatural crime-fighters who investigate the grisly goings-on in the sleepy town of Burden Hill. Offering a terrific mixture of humor, horror, and pathos, the seven stories in this anthology should appeal to a wide variety of teens, from animal lovers to scary movie buffs. –Katherine Dacey

Blue Beetle by Kieth Giffen (DC Comics) 5 volumes

Teenage Jaime Reyes is the new host for the Blue Beetle scarab. Being a teen and  a superhero is no easy feat! One of the great appeals to me, (aside from the fun and adventurous stories) and  is that Jaime is a Hispanic teen. Superheroes aren’t the most diverse bunch and Blue Beetle is one of the few. –Esther Keller

Booth, by C.C. Colbert and Tanitoc (First Second, one volume)
This book is a great reminder that history can be brought to life by studying the lives of the people who made it. Colbert, who is herself a historian, paints a richly detailed portrait of John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Abraham Lincoln, showing his personal and professional life, his dedication to the Confederacy (in the face of his family’s opposition), and the path that led him to Ford’s Theater and an act that changed history.–Brigid Alverson

Itazura na Kiss, by Kauru Tada (DMP, 2 volumes, ongoing)
When the class klutz falls for the class brain, you’d expect there to be a lot of clumsy advances and disdainful ignoring. But when the two are forced to live in the same house, things turn crazy the way they only do in manga. What’s surprising is that this isn’t a cliché-fest at all; it’s sweet and funny and delightful and readers won’t be able to wait for the next installment. Rated T, this book will be fine for tweens, too, in most communities.  –Eva Volin

Kill Shakespeare, Story by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col, Art by Andy Belanger (IDW Publishing, 3 issues, ongoing)
If your teen has been grumbling about Hamlet, Macbeth, or Julius Caesar, hand him the first issue of Kill Shakespeare, a rollicking adventure that borrows characters and plotlines from Shakespeare’s most famous plays to tell a brand-new story. The rub? The Bard’s own characters are turning against him, and want to steal the magic quill that’s the source of his creativity. Dynamic art, break-neck pacing, and clever use of the Bard’s own words make this series fun and educational. –Katherine Dacey

Mercury, by Hope Larson (Simon and Schuster, 1 volume)
Hope Larson deftly interweaves two stories in this book, a 19th-century tale of love, gold, and betrayal and a contemporary story about a high-school girl adjusting to profound changes in her life. She wraps both strands together in the end with the resolution of an ancient mystery. Great escape reading for a summer afternoon. –Brigid Alverson

Natsume’s Book of Friends, by Yuki Midorikawa (VIZ Media, 3 volumes, ongoing)
For as long as he can remember, Natsume has been able to see things other people can’t — namely, ghosts and demons. When he moves to his late grandmother’s hometown, he learns that she, too, was capable of interacting with the spirit world, a gift she used to make demons do her bidding. Now that Nastume has possession of Reiko’s so-called Book of Friends (a kind of Rolodex for the spirit world), all of his grandmother’s old enemies come back to reclaim their names — and possibly his life! If the stories sometimes have a “demon of the week” feeling to them, Yuki Midorikawa does a good job of using each new conflict to deepen our understanding who Natsume is and why he wants to free Reiko’s “friends.” A thoughtful mixture of Japanese folklore, horror, and coming-of-age drama. –Katherine Dacey

Neko Ramen, by Kenji Sonishi (TOKYOPOP, 1 volume, ongoing)
This goofy manga revolves around a talking cat who runs a noodle shop. Taisho is always scheming ways to improve his business, from unappetizing specials to unappealing giveaways, never quite grasping his real selling point: he’s a house pet who can cook! The presentation is similar to an American-style newspaper strip (each “story” is arranged in four vertical panels), with a few longer interludes describing Taisho’s kittenhood. A great script and simple yet effective artwork make this a fun choice for killing time on a long car ride or waiting at the airport. –Katherine Dacey

One Piece by Eiichiro Oda; Viz Media
This manga follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his crew of pirates as they travel the seas, searching for the legendary One Piece, that will make him the King of the Pirates. Their adventures are full of action, and Luffy and his crew are great characters that it’s hard not to like. Luffy’s deep-seeded belief in friendship makes for some great story and trouble for his crew. There are 50 volumes available, but Viz has been releasing 3-in-1 volumes at a reasonable price that makes this a great title to fill a summer afternoon. –Lori Henderson

The Return of King Doug, by Greg Erb, Jason Oremland, and Wook-jin Clark (Oni Press, 1 volume)
Nothing in Doug Peterson’s life is going right: he’s divorced, can’t hold a job, and can barely provide for his son. Little does he realize that his adult failures stem from

a decision he made when he was eight years old: to run away rather than fight alongside the people of Valdonia, a magical kingdom lying at the bottom of his parents’ backyard well. Greg Erb and Jason Oremland have a great time skewering one of young adult fiction’s most enduring tropes: the ordinary kid who discovers he’s the savior of a far-away place. Though the tone remains light and humorous throughout, Erb and Oremland’s script also makes some good points about the importance of loyalty, follow-through, and honoring one’s promises. –Katherine Dacey

Scott Pilgrim, by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Oni Press, 6 volumes)
If you’ve been the movies recently, you’ve probably seen the trailer for the big-screen adaptation of Scott Pilgrim, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s wildly popular series about a twenty-something slacker who falls head-over-heels for a girl named Ramona Flowers. Unfortunately for Scott, Ramona comes with some serious baggage: seven ex-boyfriends who’ve banded together to form their own version of the Legion of Doom. Scott then faces a choice: give up on the girl of his dreams, or fight for the right to be her boyfriend. Filled with video-game style combat (think Donkey Ko

ng, not Grand Theft Audio), indie-music jokes, and lots of shout-outs to Hong Kong martial arts movies, this cheerful, fast-paced series uses action and humor to show us how Scott Pilgrim gets it together and gets the girl. –Katherine Dacey

Sidescrollers, by Matt Loux (Oni Press, 1 volume)
It feels appropriate that this title is sitting right next to Scott Pilgrim as these two have a similar allure.  Before Matt Loux turned his sharp energy to creating boys adventures stories in Salt Water Taffy, he unleashed this slacker comedy adventure for older teens.  Like the best buddy comedies, Sidescrollers careens through taking jocks down a peg, bizarre dream sequences, epic battles between a cat of pure evil and a hero cat, champion goofing around, and wild antics all in pursuit of getting the girl.  Loux’s stylized art suits the humor perfectly.  This title always makes me laugh, and it should be a great fit for those Scott Pilgrim fans who wonder what else might be out there in a similar vein. –Robin Brenner

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.


  1. It is great for families and kids that you compile these reading lists with cool reviews. Summer is such a perfect time for kids to read non-school required books…explore different topics or discover short stories, comic books, biographies, poetry… Also, some kids might try writing themselves. They could start by keeping a journal or finding correspondants online or by snailmail. Nurturing the love/fun of reading & writing is one of the greatest gifts a child can receive. Lorna d’Entremont

  2. Thanks for this, but it’s a shameful oversight that you do not credit Trade Loeffler as the wonderful illustrator of “Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework.”

  3. Jonathan Hunt Brigid Alverson says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, Mike—I fixed it. I am a huge fan of Trade’s work!


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