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Three Fun Summer Reads

It’s the dog days of summer, time for light reading that you can pick up and put down again. These three spring releases from Andrews McMeel feature some of the most popular characters in comics, and since they are basically compilations of newspaper strips in a nicer format, the story arcs are short and easily digestible—great for bringing along on a camping trip or a day at the pool.

Unicorn Bowling: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure
By Dana Simpson
Andrews McMeel Publishing, $9.99
Ages 7-12

Like most of the other Phoebe books, this is a collection of short strips, not a graphic novel. That’s a nice format, as it allows creator Dana Simpson to take Phoebe and her supremely self-confident unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils through the seasons in a series of short story arcs: Phoebe and Marigold go bowling, play games, and conspire to change the weather. Simpson takes on some serious subjects with a light touch, as when a classmate makes a mean video about the way Phoebe dresses; Phoebe tells Marigold how she feels and Marigold gives her a very sweet pep talk. In one of the longer sequences, Phoebe joins Marigold at unicorn camp, which turns into a delightful story about being the one who is different. Phoebe feels very real, and Marigold is totally over the top, so the books manage to be both grounded and magical. 

Big Nate: Payback Time!
By Lincoln Peirce
Andrews McMeel Publishing, $9.99
Ages 7-12

Big Nate is a sixth-grader with a big ego and an irrepressible personality. He has an earnest logic that is all his own, and his friends and his single dad tolerate him with good humor. In this volume, Nate gleefully announces he is allergic to his teacher (spoiler: it’s actually her perfume), coaches a newbie on how to do detention right, and agitates for a student lounge in his school (he’s successful, but the principal appoints his arch-enemy, Gina, to do the décor), among other adventures. 

The Mutts Summer Diaries
By Patrick McDonnell
Andrews McMeel Publishing, $9.99
Ages 7-12

Despite the age rating, there’s a lot for adults to enjoy in this book. Possibly more than the kids, actually. McDonnell’s art has a deft, old-school look reminiscent of classic cartoons such as Krazy Kat, and some of his splash pages are beautiful to look at but don’t have a lot of content. Like the other “diaries” books, The Mutts Summer Diariesfeatures one gag strip per page with a lined-paper background. Some of the comics are in a vertical format but most are horizontal, so the reader must constantly turn the book, which is awkward. The concept is simple, and the humor is gentle. It’s simply a book about a dog, a cat, and sometimes some people or other animals enjoying the summer in the yard and at the beach. The cat doesn’t like the water; the dog makes his eyes big and cute to get out of trouble, and sea creatures at the beach all have personalities of their own. A couple of strips are laugh-out-loud funny (especially the ones with the mussel in the body-building contest) while others will simply make you smile. All in all, it’s a charming, not terribly demanding book of gag comics that makes for easy reading on a hot day.

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Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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