The recommendations in this post also appear on my Brave Writer Retreat Resources page, which includes books and materials mentioned in my other talks at the Retreat (Tidal Homeschooling and Read-Alouds).
The following comics and graphic novels are recommendations from my “Comics Make You Smart” talk, presented at the Brave Writer Retreat in July, 2016.
Part of this talk was broadcast on Periscope—you can view it here. Note: For now, what follows is simply a booklist—no mini-reviews. I’ll add those as time permits. I promised the retreat attendees I’d put together a post of all the comics I mentioned in my talk, so here it is for easy reference. Commentary to come later!
Gotham Adventures by Scott Peterson (my brilliant hubby)—Batman comics aimed at young readers. These came out monthly in the ’90s and are now available in digital editions. (The books at this link that say “by Ty Templeton” were edited by Scott; the others were written by him.)
December already! Impossible.
I’ve been trying to catch up my GoodReads log, but with all these graphic novels I’m reading for Cybils, it’s hard to keep it up to date. November’s list is too long to recreate here, but I’ll call out a few of my favorite reads from the month.
(Links go to GoodReads.)
I keep calling this Trollville by accident because of the (perfectly delicious) subtitle: “Yet another troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl.” Middle-grade graphic novel published by Amulet Books. Enchanted Beanie and me. Mirka wants to fight monsters but gets entangled with a foul-tempered talking pig instead. Her sometimes comical, often hair-raising adventures occur in the context of a full, tradition-centered home life. I love books that mingle the small, gritty challenges of daily life with grand, fantastic adventures—but maybe you already knew that about me?
This is the gift to give your 8-12-year-old nephew or niece if you want the Coolest Uncle Ever award. Or Coolest Aunt. Whichever. An aging superhero announces that he is holding auditions for a new sidekick. His pets, who miss his company, decide to try out. His pets? Are a dog, a hamster, and a lizard. That’s right. The hamster is trying out for the superhero sidekick gig. It’s equal parts heartwarming and hilarious. And the art just knocked—my—socks—off.
This book is really special. It’s a memoir in words and pictures. Allen Say recounts the story of his life with poignant candor. At age twelve, he goes to Tokyo to live alone (!) in order to attend a good school. His tiny one-room apartment has everything young Allen needs: solitude and a desk he can draw at. In a move full of gumption, he approaches a renowned cartoonist and asks to train under him. Amazing story. Beanie’s read it at least three times now.
I read some other excellent books this month and maybe I’ll do a part two of this post, but the days do roll away from me.
The other day I was sharing some thoughts on Twitter about storytelling and layout problems I see in many (but by no means ALL) of the graphic novels coming out of book publishing houses lately, and Raina Telgemeier (Smile) chimed in with a link to an essay that had a profound affect on her development as an artist. Here’s our conversation, with the essay link at the bottom. The essay is called “How to Read Nancy” by Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik, and it’s fascinating. The authors take a close, critical look at the old Nancy comic strip by Ernie Bushmiller. Yes, really! It’s some of the best analysis of visual design principles I’ve ever read.
Dear book publishers branching into graphic novels: Thrilled, but your ballooning & storytelling mistakes are KILLING me.
Wouldn’t that be the author/artist’s mistake first?
Yes but it’s the editor’s job to hire good pencillers, correct clumsy storytelling.
First Second, Random House, Scholastic are doing graphic novels well. Sometimes lettering/ballooning could be better but hey, so could Big 2’s [Marvel & DC]
I’m talking about readability here, not plot. Visual storytelling, ballooning, lettering. Layouts, camera angles, the way a page flows.
Am seeing books from other publishers which make what seem to me rookie mistakes. Confusing layouts & ballooning, stacking panels on left, etc.
Just reading your thoughts on GNs. I agree, confusing balloon/panel layout is a real problem! Especially for kids’ books.
Yes, in kids’ graphic novels, good ballooning/layout even more important. Should lead eye, not perplex. YOUR layouts rock, btw!
Have read several dozen kids’/YA graphic novels for Cybils this month, dozens to go by end of year. At least 1/2 make panel layout mistakes.
I think many GN artists are following film storytelling technique rather than good comics technique. Also too much fancy lettering.
I’m seeing some stellar graphic novels this year, mind you. Some that make you feel lucky to be alive & reading in 2011.
When I’m laying out pages, I start with the panels/boxes. Lettering & balloons come next—before the drawings!
Mark Newgarden wrote a terrific article called How To Read Nancy with the bare bones of comics principles… http://t.co/rflMWCFF [link opens a PDF]
I read it as a teenager and have applied the logic to my work ever since.
Specifically, how to lead the reader’s eye thru a comic, to arrive at the punchline/end of the page exactly as artist intends.
This explains a lot about why Raina’s work is so terrific.
(I am champing at the bit for her upcoming middle-grade graphic novel, Drama, about a school drama club, aka MY PEOPLE.)
Enjoy the “Nancy” essay.
P.S. Raina is the only other person I know whose husband proposed to her in a comic book. Read it and melt. 🙂
Again, these are books I haven’t read yet (except one)—I saw them at the con and they piqued my interest. The TBR pile moans.
Series by James Owen: The Chronicles of Imaginarium Geographica (I saw these last year too. Gorgeously designed fantasy series with an appealing premise, something about a map of all the imaginary worlds ever written about…
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (they had a very cool one-of-a-kind handbound metal edition at the publisher’s table)
Hungry Tiger Press. This is the publisher of Eric Shanower’s beautifully illustrated new editions of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. Eric won two Eisners this year for his edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (a Marvel Comics project). Hungry Tiger publishes reprints of old Oz stories and other Baum work, including two books about The Flying Girl, “intrepid girl aviator Orissa Kane.” Baum was one of my favorite authors as a child—we still have my collection of Oz books—and I couldn’t resist bringing The Flying Girl home with me for a test flight.
Tigerbuttah by Becky and Frank of Tiny Kitten Teeth fame. My friend Sarah showed me a copy, and the art and title made me swoon. I hunted for the booth but this was late in the day on Sunday and we had a curry date with our pal Jock, so I gave up the search. The book was adorable—it’s made after the fashion of a Golden Book with many cunning details.
Buzzboy by John Gallagher. Had the pleasure of meeting John at the kidlit gathering and am looking forward to reading his comic about “what happens when the sidekicks take over.”
Nerds: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Ethan Beavers. Wonderful art & a fun premise—the nerds are kids who use technology to “upgrade” their weaknesses into superpowers. More about this (and all of the above) after I’ve had a chance to read.
More on SDCC 2010:
A few photos
Photos of supercool steampunk wheelchair
Awesome sketch drawn for me by the incredible Fiona Staples
What I did at SDCC
Rick Riordan panel
LOST Encyclopedia Panel
Epic fantasy panel
Books that caught my eye (part 1)
July 30, 2009 @ 7:34 pm | Filed under: Comics
(Note: this is one of those uberlinky posts that takes forever to write. I’m going to eschew linking for now, for the most part, and add them later when I have time.)
There were two Graphic Novels for Kids panels on Sunday at San Diego Comic-Con 2009. I attended the first panel in its entirety, but I had to leave about 15 minutes into the afternoon session. The baby was feeling chatty again.
Both panels—the parts I attended—were excellent. Terrific lineups of writers and artists. I must have added a dozen new titles to my TBR pile, at least. I took scribbly notes while attempting to keep the pen out of the baby’s grasp—note-taking is tricky when you’re standing in the back of the room, bouncing an infant in a sling to keep him happy, trying not to poke the tip of your pen through the folded paper you’re balancing on your hand because you decided at the last minute that your beloved notebook was one object too many for a shoulder already overtaxed with convention survival supplies and a 21-pound six-month-old.
You’ll have to forgive, then, the sketchiness of my notes in some instances. I think my best bet here is to list the panelists and their books along with any remarks I happened to jot down, rather than making any attempt to chronicle the Q and A in order. Fair enough? Of the books I’m about to list, I have only read Jennifer Holm’s Babymouse series and David Petersen’s Mouse Guard: Fall 1152. I wholeheartedly recommend the former for young readers and the latter for all ages. And I’d venture to say that even non-fantasy-fans and non-comics-fans will be blown away by Petersen’s gorgeous full-color artwork. (Edited to add: David Petersen was on the second panel, which I’ll talk about in a subsequent post.)
All righty, then. My notes:
Comics and Graphic Novels for Kids Panel #1, SDCC 2009
First: a hearty note of appreciation for the work of the moderator, Robin Brenner of NoFlyingNoTights.com and author of Understanding Manga and Anime. Her questions were insightful and her handout was packed with information. (I’d love to see it online!) Fabulous resource and it’s clear Brenner knows the topic well.
Gene Yang, author and illustrator of American Born Chinese (winner of Eisner and Printz Awards—the Eisner is the most prestigious award in comics, says the proud wife of an Eisner nominee) and writer of The Eternal Smile, illustrated by Derek Kirk Kim, who was also on the panel. (Many of my readers may also recognize Gene as the creator of The Rosary Comic Book, published by Pauline Books and Media, about which Gene wrote: “I’ve always struggled with how to incorporate my faith into my comics in an authentic way. One Lent, I decided to do a comic adaptation of the Rosary Prayer, rather than giving up chocolate or soda. The Rosary Comic Book is the result.)
—Is a teacher, has young children, started writing comics because of dearth of kid-appropriate comic books in stores. Mentioned reading a Batman comic (years ago) in which the villain disguised himself with the skin of a victim’s face, found that image terribly disturbing, it lingered, was not at all appropriate for children.
—During discussion of the responsibility of writing for kids, told funny story (at Derek Kirk Kim’s urging) about a reader who tracked him down by calling the school where he works & left scolding message about a grammatical error in one of his books, and actually asked him to call back to discuss the matter. He didn’t return the call, of course.
Derek Kirk Kim, author and illustrator of Same Difference and Other Stories (won Eisner and Harvey), a graphic novel (not for kids). As mentioned above, he illustrated The Eternal Smile, a collection of fantastical stories (fantastical, not necessarily fantasy).
Jennifer Holm, author of the Babymouse books (illustrated by her brother, Matthew Holm), and Newbery Honor-winning author of Our Only May Amelia.
—Grew up the only girl with four brothers, comics were everywhere, but she didn’t connect with Wonder Woman and other female superheroes who seemed nothing like her. Babymouse springs from her desire to create a comic book character other young girls can relate to. (It tickled me to see Jenni up there on the panel, the only female surrounded by half a dozen men, talking about growing up with a pack of brothers.)
—Went with traditional children’s book publisher rather than comics publisher for Babymouse because the book publishers know how to get books into schools and libraries. Comic book shops are not places frequented by mothers of small children (as she knows from experience, as the mother of small children).
—Fun connection: during conversation before the panel began, we discovered a mutual affection for Ginee Seo, who was Jenni’s editor at one point, and my boss for a short while years earlier. (“For a short while” because then Jane was born!)
Gene Yang and Jennifer Holm.
Eric Wright, author and illustrator of Frankie Pickle (illustrated chapter book series for young kids), My Dead Girlfriend (teen graphic novel), and Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (comic book adaptation). Former animator at Disney, Warner Bros., Cartoon Network.
—Eric spoke earnestly about the need for kid-appropriate comics and graphic novels. (A drum I’ve been pounding for years.) Described becoming a father, having to shield his child’s eyes in the comic shops.
—Told a great story about a library(?) signing for very young children. One child in the autograph line seemed a good bit older than the rest, turned out to be a first-grader who’d skipped school for the event. The boy’s mother told Eric, “Meeting you was more important to him than going to school.”
Jennifer Holm, Jarrett K. Krosoczka, Eric Wright, and Chris Schweitzer.
Lewis Trondheim, French comics superstar. Spoke about differences in France, where all ages read comics and prose with equal enthusiasm. Funny, wry; I wish I’d taken better notes about his contributions to the discussion. Blame my infant son.
Jarrett K. Krosoczka, prolific children’s book writer and illustrator (Punk Farm, Bubble Bath Pirates, Annie Was Warned, and many others) and writer/illustrator of a graphic novel series called Lunch Lady, which I am eager to check out.
Chris Schweizer, author and illustrator of The Crogan Adventures, teen graphic novels about “an honest sailor who, through unfortunate circumstance, finds himself thrust into a life of piracy” (description taken from the author’s website). You pretty much always have me at “finds himself thrust into a life of piracy,” so I can’t wait to take a look at Crogan.
Jarrett K. Krosoczka, Eric Wright, Chris Schweitzer, and Derek Kirk Kim.
I’ll have to write about the second panel in another post—this one is bursting at the seams as it is. But there are a lot of promising prospects for the TBR pile here. If you check any of them out, or your kids do, I would love to hear what you and they think!
Group photo with moderator Robin Brenner. That’s Lewis Trondheim on the left. I loved that Gene and Jennifer had their families with them, and I absolutely adore this photo of Jennifer with her two beautiful children making a rush for mommy during the photo shoot. I can’t begin to count the number of times I have found myself in exactly the same position, with one child clinging to my neck and the another on my back threatening to topple all three of us over. Just fills your heart with warmth, doesn’t it?
Post #2 on this subject is here—more graphic novel authors and titles.