Graphic Novels Are Not Just for Kids, But Here Are 3 from Zest and Koyama that Are
As tragic as it is, we only have 150 spots for reviews in each issue of the print edition of Foreword Reviews. 150! I could take all those review slots and use them up on awesome comics and graphic novels, but I’m not allowed (not least of which because I don’t actually pick what goes in each issue). Luckily they gave me this blog, so I can gush away about the fabulous comics you should be reading. While I spend a lot of time educating people on the fact that comics aren’t just for kids, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t great comics for kids. So today I’m going to talk about three great releases from Koyama Press and Zest Books.
If you’re into indie comics, you’ve probably heard of Koyama Press. They’re an awesome and innovative Canadian press that doesn’t actually do a lot of children’s stuff, but the stuff they have done is delectable. Zest Books should be on the radar of anyone who even knows a young adult. They are the only press I know of dedicated to YA Nonfiction that young adults will actually want to read. (I mean, come on, with titles like Don’t Sit On the Baby: The Ultimate Guide to Sane, Skilled, and Safe Babysitting, how can you not?).
A Cat Named Tim: And Other Stories (Koyama Press) by John Martz
When I was a very little girl, I was absolutely besotted with the Richard Scarry books. I couldn’t tell you exactly why I was obsessed with them—something about the busyness of the page, the sense of movement conveyed, the room for my imagination to go wild. A Cat Named Tim shares that ineffable quality. Gorgeous two-page spreads, spaced out between more traditional comics paneling, throw out the standard left-to-right, top-to-bottom reading mode as characters move up, down, and around a page. Also reminiscent of Richard Scarry, the stories are populated by anthropomorphized animals and very few words. A gentle humor pervades the pages: Connie has almost finished blowing up a balloon when she inhales instead of exhales and goes floating up to the ceiling; Mr. and Mrs. Hamhock sit on a bus bench for a whole year before wondering if they’ve left the oven on at home (they have). This colorful book is destined to be a hit with imaginative little ones (ages 3+).
Cat Dad, King of the Goblins (Koyama Press) by Britt Wilson
You know what’s so great about kids’ comics? You can have a child-sized talking frog alongside real human kids, a dad who’s been transformed into a cat, and a herb garden inside the linen closet, and no one even bats an eye. Luey, her friend Phil, and her sister, Miri, venture into Mom’s off-limits herb garden inside the linen closet while chasing Cat Dad. Of course, “herb garden” is a bit of a misnomer. More accurate might be “massive forest jungle and labyrinthine cave system.” Once there, they are abducted by goblins and must rescue Cat Dad and escape. Though Wilson’s art style is very different, there’s an essence to the book that feels very Hayao Miyazaki inspired. Why do I love this comic so? Female POC main characters (plus Phil, who happens to be a frog). An insanely creative story line. Very accurate cat behavior. Brilliant color dichotomies. Generally completely hilarious. Go get it, read it with your kid, love it, report back (ages 6+).
Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir (Zest Books) by Liz Prince
The only thing that would make this better would be if Tomboy somehow referenced cats in the title, to match my running theme. Otherwise it’s pretty perfect. In this heartfelt memoir, Liz Prince details what it was like growing up as a tomboy, never conforming to society’s expectations of what a girl “should be.” Tomboy follows Prince from her decision at age four to eschew all things “girly” through those painfully awkward middle school years to her realization as a young adult that she could be a girl on her own terms. While Prince doesn’t shy away from the teasing and bullying she endured, this is by no means a depressing story. Simple line drawings are used to perfectly portray various characters’ expressions, which ratchets up the humor level, as in the scene where Prince and her fellow sixth-grade girls are forced to sit through the standard issue puberty video. Tomboy is a coming-of-age story anyone can relate to and a great big middle finger to society’s gender roles. It should be required reading for everyone (ages 14+).
Allyce Amidon is the associate editor at Foreword Reviews, where she blogs about comics and graphic novels. You can follow her on Twitter @allyce_amidon