Recommendations for the Younger Set
I’ve spent lots and lots of time lately talking about superheroes, superhero comics, superhero movies, etc—which is a little bit odd, since superhero comics are by no means my favorite genre in the world of comics. So today I’m going to tell you guys about more great comics for kids—specifically elementary and middle school readers.
First up, Princeless, by Jeremy Whitley, M. Goodwin and Jung-Ha Kim. I’d been meaning to check this out for a while and a recent signing at Chapel Hill Comics gave me a chance to pick up the first collection and chat with author Whitley. This one is right up my alley, and hopefully other people’s alleys as well, about a young princess who is locked into a tower very much against her will to wait for a prince to rescue (and marry) her. Well, she’s not having any of that, and convinces her dragon guard to accompany her on a quest to rescue her similarly trapped sisters. By now, you all know that I love a well-written heroine, and Adrienne is basically the best. Boys should like this too—Adrienne has a twin brother who looks like he’ll be more prominent in future issues, plus there’s adventuring, comedy, and dragons to be had—so what’s not to like?
In a similar vein for slightly older readers, there’s Rapunzel’s Revenge and its sequel Calamity Jack, about Rapunzel joining forces with Jack (of the Beanstalk) to defeat the witch and otherwise fight on the side of good. These have a great Old West setting and Rapunzel uses her hair as a lasso to great effect. Author Shannon Hale has written a whole series of YA novels based in a fairy-tale world (and the adult series Austenland, soon to be a major motion picture), and is very comfortable with these characters. I love both of these books and recommend them highly.
Also in the fantasy vein but aimed more directly at boys is local author Ursula Vernon’s Dragonbreath series, which currently has 6 volumes. Dragonbreath is about one Danny Dragon who attends a school for reptiles with his best friend Wendell (an iguana). These books are fairly silly but no less enjoyable for that. Entertaining for grownups as well as their intended audience! Publisher Penguin is currently running a draw your own comic contest to win a set of the Dragonbreath books with entries due in July—see here for details.
And for a book more firmly set in the real world, there’s The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis, about a trio of inventors/scientists trying to stop a criminal mastermind from robbing a museum. The art in this is amazingly detailed and the story is pretty funny—I keep waiting for a sequel to be published but have no idea if one is in the works. I hope there is—I’d love to revisit these characters.
And finally, two awesome books coming this fall to watch out for—Raina Telgemeier’s Drama and Hope Larson’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. Telgemeier, of course, is the author of Smile, one of the best-beloved comics out there right now, and Drama is actually a step up, story-wise. It’s about a girl and her friends working to put on the middle school play—and there’s lots of boy drama, friend drama, and drama-related drama. Telegemeier’s art is as adorable as ever, but her storytelling is also really strong—she nails middle school emotions and relationships. It’s going to be a huge hit. As for a Wrinkle in Time, I haven’t seen anything but the cover yet, but I like Larson’s art a lot and have faith in her abilities. Author Madeline L’Engle apparently never allowed an illustrated version to be published, so this is kind of a rarity.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time, so the graphic novel will be part of the celebration. I’m looking forward to it, and hope you all are too.