Thursday, July 31, 2008

Graphic Novels for the Youngest Readers

Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus and the editor of the Little Lit anthologies of graphic stories (scary, strange, folklore and fairy tales), has now teamed up with editorial director Francoise Mouly (who is also his wife, and a New Yorker art editor) to bring us Toon Books, "a groundbreaking collection of early readers in comics form." (Review copies compliments of the publisher.)

by Geoffrey Hayes (April, 2008)

by Agnes Rosenstiehl (April, 2008)

by Jay Lynch and Frank Cammuso (April, 2008)

by Eleanor Davis (August, 2008)

by Jay Lynch and Dean Haspiel (September, 2008)

by Art Spiegelman, October, 2008)

I'm still thinking about all of the filters we use when we read. My "teacher filter" is a bit weak when it comes to books for the very youngest readers. I handed these to Franki and she had no problem with the predictable text, the limited vocabulary (in Benny and Penny, Silly Lilly, and Jack and the Box), and the simplistic story lines (Silly Lilly and Jack and the Box). She talked about all the support a beginning or struggling reader would get from the pictures. She pointed out how important it would be for young readers to find an appropriate entry point into the world of graphic novels, and for the struggling older reader to be able to read socially accepted books (graphic novels) at his/her level.

There is an interesting (extensive) conversation (with some occasional brick-throwing and foul language -- makes me glad to inhabit this more polite corner of the blogosphere) about what makes a comic appropriate for young readers at Comics Should Be Good. Toon Books aren't reviewed, but are mentioned in the discussion in the comments. Joe Rice, author of the blog, also filters comics/graphic novels with Teacher Eyes. He wants them to be appropriate for kids, real kids, not "some mythical ideal child from some golden age; the child some parents want to believe they’ll have, an innocent, spritely thing filled with sweetness and wonder." He looks for appropriate "page density," and good design. One of his cardinal rules is "Don’t talk down to the kids. And don’t pretend you were ever this simplistic either." I don't think he would like Toon Books.

Have you seen them? What do you think? Here are some reviews I found (let me know if I missed yours or one you know about):

The first three reviewed at Comics Worth Reading.
All six reviewed at Book Addiction.
Otto's Orange Day received a mixed review at Good Comics for Kids.
David Elzey at Excelsior File was disappointed in them.


  1. You have been nominated. (I know probably more than once...)

  2. I read one or two of them to my 5yr old. She was delighted. Thanks for reminding me, I need to add them to her Xmas list.

  3. Katie,

    I want you to see these in person and get your expert take on how they would work in a primary classroom.

  4. I think they look rather good too--I shall look for them, and try them on my resident target audience!


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