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.
DC Super Heroes: My First Dictionary
Downtown Bookworks, 2014
Written by Michael Robin.
Downtown Bookworks has released quite a few DC Comics-related books for young readers (focusing on the learning of opposites, shapes, and friendship, just to name a few) but My First Dictionary is squarely aimed at helping little ones strengthen their vocabulary. The work of forty-eight artists fill over a hundred pages with colorful illustrations spanning DC’s decades of superhero history. The focus is both on the words and the DC characters (over 500 of them!) most popular within its target audience of preschool and kindergarten-aged children.
I enjoyed that the first few pages instruct the reader on how to use the dictionary: the defined word is shown in blue, and then used in a sentence (with the word again in green for it to stand out), an arrow points out the word if it’s in the artwork. For example, the entry for the word “hat” has an arrow pointing to Harley Quinn’s hat. At the end of the book some additional pages go over numbers (1-10), family relationships (no mention of Batman’s parents, or lack thereof… whew!), modes of transportation, and basic body parts. Overall, another great addition for a younger child’s library of resource books, and a great way to continue an early introduction to these iconic characters.
First Second Books/$16.99
Written and illustrated by Ben Hatke.
In Little Robot, Ben Hatke focuses more on the “graphic” part of graphic novel: there is minimal use of words, other than the unnamed five-year-old human protagonist’s very short sentences, and the sound effects made by her new robot friend. When out exploring, she discovers the little robot and activates him by curiously pushing a button on his head. The next few days are spent bonding and discovering the world around them while learning from each other. Their comfort is fleeting, though, as another menacing robot has escaped from the nearby factory to retrieve the child’s new friend. However, with her wits (and wrench) she is able to save him, and the day.
In a book that relies heavily on artwork and its storytelling, Hatke’s art is fantastic, and ensures the story’s visuals don’t require much verbiage. There’s a certain sweetness to the characters’ expressions, and the actions that show how full of love and compassion their friendship is. The panels have no lined borders, giving a soft effect to the pages that makes the narrative flow in a way that is very easy on the eyes. Even though Little Robot is targeted towards this age group and younger, it’s an enjoyable read for any age.
Written by Hope Larson.
Art by Rafael Albuquerque, colors by Dave McCaig, and lettering by Deron Bennett.
We’ve only just hit the second chapter of Batgirl‘s “Beyond Burnside” arc, and golly, is this story moving fast. Backpacking from Japan to Singapore, Babs is figuring out if Fruit Bat’s advice (“You can’t see the future when the past is standing in your way“) will play into the bigger picture of her time in Asia. With quick pacing, but plenty of time for introspection, this issue does a great job at keeping us engaged. Read my full review here.
SuperMutant Magic Academy
Drawn and Quarterly, 2015
Written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.
Winner of the 2016 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17), SuperMutant Magic Academy started out as a webcomic in 2010 by Jillian Tamaki (This One Summer) and continued through 2014. This award-winning book is an anthology that includes the webcomic in its entirety, plus a new storyline that concludes our time with the teens of SuperMutant Magic Academy. At 274 pages, this book is a hearty read; however, the beautiful nature of comics means you can either read it quickly or slowly savor it, panel by panel.
Tamaki shows that despite their supernatural abilities–even if they can make their acne disappear with a wand–they’re still teens with real, awkward, painful, silly problems. It’s about figuring it all out, and relying on your friends to help you through the waters of adolescence.
That’s what I appreciated most about this book. It feels very real. Like when Wendy is consoling Trixie after she gets dumped, and Wendy gives her heartfelt advice before somewhat negating it by saying she thought he was gay. Or how when Marsha comes out to Wendy in order to reveal her crush on her, Wendy mistakes what she is saying as though she’s asking to borrow shampoo. While it all concludes with inevitability (prom and the graduation from the Academy), I really enjoyed the epilogue, mostly in how it let us know where our cast of characters ultimately end up in life. The artwork varies depending on when it was drawn, and is mainly in black and white, some strips having a spot color here and there to emphasize the main point. A great book to read on the school bus this fall.
(Where we discuss the classics that everyone should read.)
Put the Book Back on the Shelf: A Belle & Sebastian Anthology
Image Comics, 2006
Written by Various.
Art by Various.
Put the Book Back on the Shelf: A Belle & Sebastian Anthology has thirty-seven writers and artists teaming up to create this beautiful collection, taking the music and lyrics from one of my favorite bands and creating stories and images based on their songs. How often while listening to a song do you think about the characters in them? Or what happens to them before or after the song? In this anthology we find out about a few, alongside artistic interpretations of the lyrics themselves.
Since there are so many contributors to this book, each song’s artwork is very different, from the cartoonish look Tom Hart gives “Me and the Major”; to the painterly feel of Kako’s “Dog on Wheels”; to the realistic, nearly-photographic “Lazy Line Painter Jane” by Lauren McCubbin. The stories that are inspired by the songs also vary from subject to subject. I especially enjoyed Joey Weiser’s “Lega Man” and “If She Wants Me” written by Ande Parks and illustrated by Chris Samnee. Both stories show the book’s range, from cutesy and silly to serious and heartfelt.
I was gifted this book by another music-loving friend who thought I’d get a kick out of having some of my favorite songs come to life through stories and art. (It was a good choice.) I think this is a great book for any Belle & Sebastian fan, or any music lover who wants to see songs visualized beyond their own mind’s eye.
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.