Graphic Novel Friday: 'Toons for the Kids

Every Friday, Omnivoracious will turn the spotlight on one or more graphic novels, with future installments also including news, relevant links, and interviews. You can let me know who or what you'd like to see featured by commenting on this post.

Last week, a reader asked for more information on manga and anime. We're going to restrict ourselves to books in this column, but in terms of manga, anyone who wants to learn more might consider referring to the interview with and guest column by Robin Brenner at Bookslut (she also has a great website).

Little Lit TOON Books for Younger Readers

The classy Little Lit gang has come up with something new, TOON Books, which they describe as "the first high-quality comics designed for children ages four and up. Each book in the collection is just right for reading to the youngest but, perhaps most remarkable, this is the first collection ever designed to offer newly-emerging readers comics they can read themselves. Each TOON Book has been vetted by educators to ensure that the language and the narratives will nurture young minds."

The first volumes in this hardcover series are Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons by Agnes Rosenstiehl, Benny and Penny in "Just Pretend" by Geoffrey Hayes, and Otto's Orange Day by Frank Cammuso and Jay Lynch. Silly Lilly is the least kinetic of the three, using a deliberately flat style and even tone to provide a primer on the four seasons. Benny and Penny, on the other hand, features two bickering mice who fight over the reality of a pirate ship. Otto's Orange Day uses exaggeration and good-natured banter to establish its mood. All three are note-perfect for what they're doing.


Two for Kids and Adults

Julian Rodriguez: Episode One, Trash Crisis on Earth by Alexander Stadler and Dungeon Monstres: Vol. 1: The Crying Giant by Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim, John-John Mazan, and Jean-Christophe Menu fall into two categories of illustrated narratives suitable for both adults and children. Stadler's lively, clever tale of an extraterrestrial genius trapped in the body of an eight-year-old boy is the kind of story that adults will enjoy reading to their kids. Reminding me in tone of Nickelodeon's Invader Zim, although not as dark, Julian Rodriguez uses a simple line-drawing style combined with spot color throughout to create his witty and dynamic narrative.

The latest Sfar/Trondheim Dungeon, on the other hand, is the kind of story that adults will pick up whether they have kids or not, but the kids will enjoy the heck out of it as well. This volume contains two stories by guest artists, which may diminish the appeal, especially since the beloved characters of previous volumes only have cameos. Still, despite the lesser nature of these adventures, it's worth your time and money, especially if you've already become hooked on the series.

Fantastical Craziness

The Super Scary Monster Show (featuring Little Gloomy) by Landry Walker and Eric Jones delivers on its promise, with a bevy of wonderful creepy-funny monsters, and adventure galore. It includes takes on the classic Universal Monsters and, in addition to the human girl who lives amongst these creatures, Carl Cthulhu, who just happens to love bunnies. I have to say that the drawings of Carl, with a kind of squidular head, are particularly wonderful. It's snappy, savvy fun.

The ubiquitous Kazu Kibuishi has launched a new anthology series as a companion to Flight. This one, Flight Explorer, is aimed at children, and features the same marvelous fantastical approach to comics, albeit for a younger audience. You'll find a lot of favorites here, including work by Kean Soo, who created Jellaby. Cute, clever, and timely, Flight Explorer is genuinely kid-friendly, like the TOON books, and provides yet another outlet for imaginative, sometimes surreal comic creators.

Programming note: Graphic Novel Friday will be taking a break next week and returning on May 30.

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