By Stefania RuddDo 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

Darth Vader and Son; Vader’s Little Princess; Goodnight Darth Vader; Darth Vader and Friends; Star Wars: Jedi Academy (series)
Chronicle Books, 2012-2015
Written and illustrated by Jeffrey Brown.

Chances are, if you’ve had a baby within the last 5 years and ever gave any inkling you were a Star Wars fan, you’ve probably received one of Jeffrey Brown’s books. Or you may have given one to your Star Wars-loving friends, because it’s never too early to start creating a fan. These board books are perfect for little ones who are just learning to read, and will provide laughter and appeal for the adults in their lives.

Most of these books are page-long vignettes of Darth Vader’s relationship with his children, if he had been an active and present father. Imagine Vader taking Luke trick-or-treating (Darth Vader and Son), or having a dad moment when he catches Leia and Han kissing (Vader’s Little Princess)?  Maybe he needs to put the rowdy twins to bed, but they want a story (Goodnight Vader)?  How about some of the original trilogy material in easy to digest pages (Darth Vader and Friends)? Star Wars: Jedi Academy (a series of 3 books) is recommended for the older end of this age group – possibly even a little older. They’re graphic novels centered on Roan Novachez and his adventures navigating his new school, very much in thevein of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Overall, Brown writes and draws clever and fun books for Star Wars fans of all ages.

Ages 8-11

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Jellaby, Volume 1
Hyperion Books for Children, 2008
Written and illustrated by Kean Soo.

Ten-year-old Portia is the overly smart but quiet kid in school, just trying her best to stay out of the way. One night she investigates a noise outside, only to discover a giant but gentle monster. She takes him home and solidifies their friendship with a tuna sandwich. We follow her for the next week as she does her best to take care of him and keep him secret, until fellow classmate Jason sees him. Portia is forced to include Jason in trying to find out where Jellaby (the monster’s newly given name) came from, and how to get him back home.

Jellaby, Volume 1 is the first chapter of a sweet and thoughtful story. Kean Soo writes fun and age-appropriate dialogue, and draws panels large enough to provide clear artwork and lettering.  The shades of purple (with the bright exceptions of Jason’s orange shirt and bits of red on Jellaby and Portia) give the art a soft, but vivid feel. If you want to make this gift a complete set you can get the second book, Jellaby: Monster in the City, so your child can move on to the next part of the story as soon as possible.

Ages 12-15

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Freshman: Tales of 9th Grade Obsessions, Revelations, and Other Nonsense
Zest Books, 2011
Written and illustrated by Corinne Mucha.

Annie is about to start her freshman year of high school, and her older brother’s warning–that who you are in high school will dictate who you will be the rest of your life–has her all sorts of freaked out. Her BFF, Richie, does his best to tell her otherwise, but the year’s series of mishaps and successes during the year make Annie pretty sure it’s true. Freshman starts in the Fall on the first day of school, and follows Annie and her friends through the Spring semester to the end of the school year, and wraps up – of course – at the Freshman Dance.

Corinne Mucha does a fantastic job of bringing out those high school feelings with authenticity and humor. The dialogue throughout is natural and conversational, allowing the book to be a quick read. The artwork is cartoonish and the use of the green colors and shading make it easy on the eyes. For us adults, we can recall those first crushes and figuring out what paths we wanted to take. For teens reading this book, they may find a kindred spirit in Annie as they are currently trying to navigate the complicated hallways of high school.

Ages 16+

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Batman: Year One (Deluxe Edition)
DC Comics, 2007
Written by Frank Miller.
Art by David Mazzucchelli.
Colors by Richard Lewis.

As a teen I would often use my school breaks to catch up on the classics. And honestly, there is no better classic in the world of comics than Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One. It is a familiar one, as we’ve seen variations of it adapted many times (most famously with Christopher Nolan’s 2005 film, Batman Begins). We get the origin of Bruce Wayne as Batman, the development of Detective (eventually Commissioner) Jim Gordon, and even Selina Kyle becoming Catwoman for good measure. It follows these characters for a year, starting in January and ending in December, and the way it’s organized lends nicely for the overall feel of the book.     

The original story of Batman: Year One was a story arc within issues #404 through #407 of the Batman comic in 1987, and the book I’m suggesting for your teen (and also for you, if you don’t already have it on your bookshelf) is the deluxe edition that came out in 2007. Everything is packaged together nicely, with a visual afterword by artist David Mazzucchelli filled with sketches, scripts, and concept art, plus a 1988 letter from Miller. There isn’t much else I can add to what is already out there on the interwebs about this book. Miller’s writing, Mazzucchelli’s artwork, and Richard Lewis’s coloring meld together to create something that has become incredibly iconic. This should be required reading.

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

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Rapunzel’s Revenge
Bloomsbury, 2008
Written by Shannon and Dean Hale.
Illustrated by Nathan Hale.

I always love a retelling of a familiar story, and in Rapunzel’s Revenge we get just that, with a few other fairytale characters mixed in. Shannon and Dean Hale take our heroine and place her in the Wild West: the villain is Rapunzel’s mother (or rather kidnapper) Gothel, also the tyrant ruler of the land Rapunzel has grown up in. When Rapunzel starts asking too many questions and discovers her birth mother in a mining camp beyond the wall, Gothel locks Rapunzel away. However, instead of a prince coming to save her, Rapunzel saves herself with her long and lovely locks. Years of being left to rot in a tower (or a tree in this case) has made Rapunzel feel not so kindly about her “mother”, and she decides to seek revenge on Gothel, and freedom for her real mother. Along the way she befriends Jack (of Beanstalk fame) and together they comb the land righting wrongs and building up disdain for Gothel. When they finally make it back to the villa for the annual ball honoring the old hag, it all goes down and Punzie (as Jack calls her) saves the day.

Wife and husband duo Shannon and Dean Hale have crafted a fantastic story from a fairytale we all have a familiarity with. Even though this will be difficult for younger kids to read on their own, it’d make a great book for story time. Older kids and adults can easily read this on their own: at 144 pages and broken up into four parts, it’s easy to read in one sitting or over the span of a few days. Nathan Hale (no relation to the authors) brings their words alive with his well done and colorful illustrations, contrasting for flashbacks and playing with the lettering to differentiate between narration and speech. Overall, a great book for the whole family to enjoy.

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