As Smalerie mentioned in her reviews, a friend of mine works at Papercutz and generously sent us some review copies of books. Papercutz is super cool, in my personal opinion, because they’re focused on printing all ages comics. While I can enjoy grim ‘n gritty adult themes and mature humor, I think that it’s important to also make comics that are great for everyone and anyone to read. Papercutz also provides teacher guides to some of its titles, a resource I’d love to see them grow. Reading comics should always be fun, but if it can also be a way to learn, all the better! So what did I choose to read?
Dance Class: African Folk Fever
I’ll admit that I thought I knew what this book would be about based solely on this cover – the young ballerina, surround by her peers engaged in African Folk dance, the dirty, dreadlocked drummer smiling vaguely in the corner, the look of confusion on the ballerina’s face – I was sure that this would be a long-form comic in which our ballet-star would be put off by her friends’ new obsession, and probably someone would learn a lesson about tolerance and differences by the end of the story.
WRONG, I was wrong! What they say about judging books by their covers must be true, because NONE of my predictions were right. There IS some African Folk dance, and some ballet, but there’s no real conflict between the two – the young ladies who form the central characters of the book – Alia, Julie, and Lucie -seem to love any and all dance equally. Additionally, Dance Class is not a graphic novel in the truest sense – it’s a collection of connected short-form tales about a group of teens at a dance studio. It reminded me of Archie or Caspar – humorous stories that are a bit longer than a 3 panel newspaper strip but never go beyond a few pages.
Thanks to the format, this is a quick read. The jokes are a bit corny, but cute, and the art is clean and easy to follow. I particularly like that the cast is racially and body-type diverse, although the curviest girl IS on a diet. While this is realistic for the dance world and is played for laughs, it still bums me out a tad. The cast also features male dancers, which was a pleasant surprise.
Overall, this book will mostly appeal to readers who have an interest in dance – many of the jokes are focused around the trials and tribulations of dancers – but if your kiddo really loves humor comics, they’d probably dig it, too!
Recommended age: 8-12
You might like it if: You had dreams of being a tap sensation; Archie Andrews was your dream crush
Power Rangers: The Terrible Toys
AUTHOR: Stefan Petrucha
ARTIST: Paulo Henrique
Now this book I went into with no particular expectations. By the time Power Rangers came out, in 1993, I was a sophomore in high school, and the show didn’t really capture my attention (which was reserved for Neil Gaiman comics and Monty Python reruns, thank you very much). So I had no particular nostalgia attached to these characters and wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book. Imagine my delight, then, to find the story accessible and rather charming. Like most Power Rangers stories, from what I can tell, The Terrible Toys involves a plot by monsters from the netherworld (Nighloks, to the initiated) trying to break into our world, since it is generally nicer than their dank pit. In this case, the tricksy monsters play against type and instead of sending something big and menacing, they sneak in thousands of tiny, carbon copy monsters in the guise of action figures. When the tiny terrors wreak havoc in town (increasing their numbers exponentially for a quick and handy math lesson), the Power Rangers must stop them.
What I liked about the story is that, while there’s plenty of martial arts battles and fighting stances, the kids have to ultimately use their brains to defeat the monsters. Additionally, the teeny Nighloks themselves get some pretty snappy dialogue, and the two girls on the team, while not the focus of this installment, do get to be part of the action and disperse a fair number of monsters. The art is competent, with some extremely strange and original monster designs.
Recommended age: 7-10
You might like it if: You’re a monster lover, a budding mathematician, or a kung-fu fan
Ernest & Rebecca: Grandpa Bug
AUTHOR: Guillaume Bianco
ARTIST: Antonello Dalena
Rebecca is your typical 6 and half year old in many ways – she loves to run around outside, she’s not a big fan of her parents’ divorce, and she can be a pain to her big sister, Coralie. She also happens to have a best friend who is a giant germ named Ernest.
This charming book is the third in a series of Ernest and Rebecca stories, so I’ll admit I don’t totally know HOW Rebecca came to have an oversize germ for a (possibly imaginary, possibly not) friend, but the whole back-story wasn’t really necessary – there’s a small recap to get you up to speed on who everyone is (adorably drawn by “Rebecca” herself) that does a fine job of orienting a new reader. In any case, it turns out that Ernest doesn’t have a big role to play in this story – most of the plot revolves around the fact that he’s gone missing during Rebecca’s vacation to her grandparents’ farm. Rebecca is distraught at first, but learns to make her own fun, befriending (most) of the neighboring children, exploring the woods, and learning some lessons along the way.
It must be noted that Rebecca needs these lessons – one of the things I enjoyed about this story is that she is no sticky sweet angel. Rebecca is a bit bratty and temperamental at times. However, she’s also no nightmare child who gets away with murder – she acts like a real kid would, and is punished appropriately when it’s warranted. The art is rounded and cute, and the characters have extremely expressive faces. Compared to the Power Rangers, this is a quieter, gentler story, but overall I think that gives it a bit more universality.
Recommended age: 6-10
You might like it if: You’re an adventurous kid, or the imaginary friend of one
What all-ages books have you read and enjoyed? We’re always looking for new books – tell us about ’em in the comments!
FTC Full Disclosure: I received free copies of these books from Papercutz. I was not compensated with money or a sweet samurai sword to write this review.