By Stefania Rudd. Do you have little ones in your life who are drawn to the world of comics through movies, cartoons, and video games, but you’re not sure what to start them with, or even know what’s appropriate?

We got you! Books For Babes aims to provide info on what books kids will enjoy, but can also be entertaining for adults. One can never start too early — or too late — in building a solid comic book foundation.

Ages 4-7

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Strawberry Shortcake #3
IDW/$3.99
Written by Georgia Ball and Kristen Gudsnuk.
Art by Amy Mebberson and Nico Peña.    

Strawberry Shortcake #3 gives us two stories pertaining to the difficulty of making a big decision, and one on how to remain an individual within a family. Although the writing can be above the reading level for this age, I think this issue would make a great storytime selection, and can certainly be a dialogue starter with your child.

In Georgia Ball and Amy Mebberson’s first story “The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of,” Strawberry has to make a decision to grow her business with a new oven. She doesn’t want to feel pressured, but she needs time to think about what is best for her and her business. She gets the answer in a dream, and knows that success can mean different things to different people.  Next, sibling rivalry rearing its head in Kristen Gudsnuck and Nico Peña’s story “Yes to the Dress”. Sour Grapes refuses the new dress Raspberry makes for her since it is too similar to her twin sister Sweet Grape’s dress made by Strawberry. After a tantrum, Strawberry finds out the real reason Sour Grapes is upset and helps her through it. The artwork for both stories is cute and colorful, and both flow into the other seamlessly despite a different feel. Another great issue from this adorable new series.           

Ages 8-11

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Study Hall of Justice (DC Comics: Secret Hero Society Vol. 1)
Scholastic, 2016
Written by Derek Fridolfs.
Art by Dustin Nguyen.

The creative team behind Li’l Gotham team up once again to bring us a new book with a tween Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and Diana Prince solving a mystery at their school, the Ducard Academy. Why have all these extraordinary children been brought together in one place?  Who is behind it all? Study Hall of Justice imagines a middle school full of familiar heroes and villains of the DC universe, allowing them the interactions you’d expect in everyday kid scenarios like gym class and study hall. Bruce is the narrator and the story is driven from his perspective through journal entries, group texts, and secret meetings. He is also the new kid at school, and finds a kindred “good guy” spirit within Clark and Diana, which makes it very easy for them to work on this case together.

Study Hall of Justice is an incredibly fun book, and Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen present the story wonderfully, especially for this age group. I loved the creative layouts throughout the book: while some pages are made up of traditional comic panels, others are laid out as group texts, or have the look of school administrators’ confidential reports about each of our heroes. Even though school’s out for the summer, I think kids will enjoy going back to the halls of learning for this tale.      

Ages 12-15

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Adventure Time: Ice King #6
kaboom! /$3.99
Created by Pendleton Ward.
Written by Pranas Naujokaitis.
Art by Natalie Andrewson.

With this issue, this six-part Ice King adventure concludes, after months of following every twist and turn like a trip down a twisty waterpark slide. (Anyone else got summer on the brain? It is that time of year, so…Oops! I digress, apologies.) Anyway, as it turns out, the Ice King’s new friends–the cool-kid wizard gang Dark Moon Esbats, chosen over his old friends–were just using him! What jerks…well, not all of them. Turns out the ring leader Lazertron was pretty much using all of them to defeat Dark Magistar Templi Marble, who had a few surprises of his own revealed.

Pranas Naujokaitis handled this story with great care and thought. Even through occasional silliness, it stayed true to the Adventure Time way with a lot of heart. The main themes of true friendship and how far one would go to save a friend resonate well, whether it’s Ice King saving Gunter, or the Giuseppe crew bringing Ice King back into the fold. It also focused on doing what’s right and helping someone out, with the turnaround behavior of Alistair, one of the cool wizards. Natalie Andrewson’s artwork throughout the series was cute and had a soft, dreamy, but very bright quality to it. Overall a great conclusion to a great story that many teens and kids can relate to.      

Ages 16+

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Lois Lane: Double Down
Switch Press, 2016
Written by Gwenda Bond.

In the second young adult novel about the iconic DC character, we continue where Fallout left off exploring the teenage life of Lois Lane, and her ability to get mixed up not only in potentially dangerous cases but sorting out her feelings for SmallvilleGuy. In Double Down Lois is a bit more settled in her new life in Metropolis, and for once is forming more than surface-level friendships. While reporting a story for the Daily Planet’s student-run offshoot newspaper The Scoop, she discovers her new best friend Maddy’s twin sister Melody collapsed in the wrong part of town. She knows something is amiss, and does due diligence finding out what: when she starts digging she finds a whole lot of corruption, blackmail, and a creepy mad scientist. With the help of her friends and her fearless wit, Lois solves the case and restores order.

Gwenda Bond is doing a fantastic job personalizing and creating a world for Lois outside of what we may know of her already. In Double Down she allows Lois to be the smart, perceptive teen that I think many teens (and adults) wish others could see. I very much enjoy the novel’s many layers. We have the main storyline that could easily be the book itself, but then a secondary storyline with SmallvilleGuy and TheInventor (another mysterious Strange Skies message board participant—which if it is who I think it is, then omigod, omigod, omigod!) working on another case that gets resolved, but not quite. Maybe this means there will be a third book in this series (fingers crossed). I would certainly add Lois Lane: Double Down to your summer reading list: it’s a perfect afternoon pool-time read. Oh! And I was lucky enough to interview Gwenda Bond about this series. You can check it out here.               

Throwback Issues
(Where we discuss the classics that everyone should read.)

Bluffton

Bluffton: My Summers with Buster
Candlewick Press, 2013
By Matt Phelan.

In Matt Phelan’s lovely graphic novel Bluffton: My Summers with Buster, a small town in Michigan becomes a summertime home to vaudevillian actors beginning in 1908. We’re introduced to Henry, a local boy who dreams of stardom, and is envious of the lifestyle those in the Actors’ Colony live (especially that of a boy his own age named Buster Keaton, who he befriends).

The story follows Henry and his summer-friendship (and sometimes rivalry) with Buster, allowing us a glimpse of life during the turn of the last century. Rooted in history, Phelan personalizes the story with everyman (or everyboy) Henry, then connecting him to a major silent film star during his formative years. Phelan also paints a picture, literally, as the artwork in beautiful watercolors, combining nicely with the storytelling for a softer, antique feel. Despite two hundred and twenty-three pages it ends up a quick read, as dialogue and narration captions are short, and the artwork is allowed to show instead of tell much of the story. Bluffton is a great selection for mid-elementary school readers and up, and why not make a thing of it and watch a Buster Keaton film afterward? Nothing is better in summer than cooling off watching a movie.

That’s it for this week! Has Books For Babes helped you out at all? We want to know! Feel free to send feedback our way in the comments section below.

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