We Ladies have shared some of our favorite comics series with you, and there have been some solid reads listed. However, all of the books we’ve raved about have very adult themes and content. In one sense, that’ s great – there’s definitely been a perception over the years that comics are juvenile or immature, and the books we’ve written about represent a reaction and a refutation of that. But just because comics aren’t only for kids doesn’t’ mean that they can’t be also for kids. So here’s a round up of some of my favorite comics that are great for kids and kids at heart.
Tiny Titans: What were the Teen Titans like before they were teens? According to Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani’s Tiny Titans, they go to Sidekick Elementary, have a pet club, and protect their playground from the Fearsome Five. Basically, they have adventures just like adult superheroes – only smaller.
What’s so great about it?: The art, for starters. Baltazar’s characters are simple and super cute, with big heads, dot eyes, and sweet smiles. They look childlike and fun and very appealing. In addition, the humor is the right speed for your average six year-old; think pratfalls, puns, and penguins with rocket packs.
How about for grown-ups?: If you know these characters in the standard DC universe, these books are an extra treat (why IS Speedy called that, anyway?) Whether it’s a showdown between the [Hall] Monitor and the Anti-Monitor, or Lunchlady Darkseid initiating a “Finals Crisis,” there are plenty of goofy in-jokes to enjoy.
Best age: 4 and up
Castle Waiting: What happens after “happily ever after?” That’s the question Linda Medley asks and tries to answer with these stories, set in a fairy-tale world that’s not quite the one Walt Disney imagined. Oh, sure, the titular castle appears to be that of Sleeping Beauty, but she’s long gone by the time the story begins. Instead it’s being overseen by a stork-like butler named Rackham (named for the famous fairy-tale illustrator Arthur Rackham) and inhabited by a colorful cast of characters, from horse-headed knight named Chess to Sister Peace, a bearded nun. Into this group comes Jain, a pregnant young woman on the run from her unpleasant husband and looking for refuge. Things begin to get interesting when Jain’s baby isn’t quite what folks are expecting…
What’s so great about it? Is it cheating to say the art again? Castle Waiting is drawn in a very, very different style than Tiny Titans, but what they have in common is their appropriateness to their subject matter. While Baltazar’s art is cartoony and colorful and fun, Medley’s is flat-out gorgeous, black ink on heavy paper that is an homage to, but never an imitation of, Arthur Rackham’s work on classic fairy tales. Medley also presents compelling characters, each of whom have secrets to uncover. There’s a strong undercurrent of feminism running throughout the book, but it’s handled so subtly and deftly that kids won’t notice anything other than a ripping yarn.
How about for grown-ups?: If you like Fables, you’ll probably love this book. Though Medley’s take on fairy tales is very different than Willingham’s, the concept of knowing what happens to beloved characters after you close the book is there and strongly, and the themes will resonate with adult readers possibly even more strongly than for kids. While appropriate for younger readers, this is not a children’s book per se – just one I think kids, particularly those who like fairy tales and myths, would enjoy.
Best age: 12 and up. Medley’s prose is a bit advanced for younger readers, and some of the themes might not be appropriate for the littlest tykes. There’s no sex and not too much violence, but Lady Jain escapes her husband specifically because he’s hurting her and is noticeably bruised in her initial scenes.
Amulet: Kazu Kibuishi’s story begins with the tragic death of a father, and quickly moves on to magic talismans, secret worlds, monsters, robots, and missing moms. And that’s just the first installment! Emma and her brother Navin must save their mother from the Elf King with the help of some friendly robots and a magical amulet – but is everything what it seems to be?
What’s so great about it? Despite some of the heavy themes mentioned above, this is a fast-paced book that will appeal to any kid who loves adventure. Amulet is filled with some of the greatest hits of children’s literature, from a secret world under the stairs to the magical jewelry in the title, yet it somehow feels fresh and new. In part this is because it doesn’t talk down to kids – those scary or dark moments in the book are a sign that Kibuishi feels like his audience can handle the subject matter. The art in this book is almost what you’d get if you blended the previous two – the characters are cute and cuddly, but the backgrounds are lush and richly realized – the final page is simply stunning.
How about for grown-ups?: This book reminded me quite a bit of Locke and Key, minus the gory deaths. If you enjoy an action-packed mystery with supernatural elements, this is the book for you. Don’t be fooled by the adorable bunny – there’s plenty of thrills and surprises even for us jaded adults.
Best age: 8 and up. The aforementioned dark and scary bits would be overwhelming for younger readers.
That’s just a few of my favorite books for kids, but there are many more great ones out there – you may see this theme again. What are you reading that’s great for younger fans?