Monsters and Chefs: Two Great All Ages Reads

Way back in October, I attended MICE - the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo. Started in 2010 to provide area artists with a place to exhibit their work away from the noise and expense of larger conventions, MICE has gotten bigger each year, attracting independent comics folks from all over the country. That's a lucky thing for those of us excited to find new stories and art.

I picked up lots of super books there, but two in particular stand out. Check 'em out: The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo by Drew Weing

First up is a book I'd actually read already, when it was serialized online. The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo is the story of Charles, a young boy who moved with his mother and father to Echo City - a very different place from where he's grown up. Charles is a budding journalist and kids rights activist, and initially he's totally unhappy about the move. However, he gets a lead on the story of a lifetime - monsters are real, and living in Echo City. Unfortunately for Charles, it's a story he won't be able to tell - when his first run in with some trolls lands him in trouble, he needs to be rescued by the titular Margo Maloo, monster mediator. Margo solves mysteries for kids and monsters alike, acting as a go-between for the two factions. She swears Charles to secrecy, but also reluctantly allows him access to the biggest adventure of his life.

I absolutely adore this book. Weing does a phenomenal job of taking the classic kid lit mystery crew and updating them for the modern era. Like Harriet the Spy, Charles has a notebook and lists - but he uses them to update his blog. Margo is the mysterious and dashing hero, a young lady with no time for nonsense, monster-ism, or gender norms. The cast is diverse and they feel like real kids, if real kids had to contend with lonely ghosts and missing troll babies. As an added pleasure, Weing's character design and visual storytelling are top-notch.

I'm eagerly awaiting more storylines! Best suited to kids 10 and up for solo reading, although I think it could be a great read aloud with younger kids.

Rutabaga, The Adventure Chef by Eric Colossal

I'm a sucker for any intersection of comics and food, so when this title caught my eye, it was pretty much a done deal that I'd purchase both volumes. Rutabaga is a plucky little chef who sets off with his sidekick/cooking cauldron, Pot, to explore the world in search of the rarest and most exotic ingredients. Like all of the best chefs, Rutabaga loves to eat, so he's usually preparing these dishes for himself.

Since his world is a sword and sorcery, Dungeons and Dragons sort of place, however, these culinary gems often lead Rutabaga straight into danger, and like most of the best chefs, Rutabaga is a lousy swordsman. Luckily, his skills in the kitchen (or campfire) are everything they're cracked up to be, and they are just what he needs to get him out of a scrape, whether by pleasing a monster with a dish, repaying fellow adventurers for saving him, or feeding his enemies into a stupor. His battle cry is "Let's get cooking!" which is a sentiment I can get behind

The stories are light, silly fun, with the kind of goofy humor that will appeal to most kids. The art is simple but effective, and allow for the extreme emotions in the characters that are key to making the jokes land. There are even some modified recipes at the back of each book, with real ingredients subbed in for the magical ones. This is great for your 8 and up crowd.

As always, if you have other book suggestions - let me know about them in comments!