Every time I go to the library with my daughter I scope out the kid’s graphic novel section which sits adjacent to the computers and play tables she loves to frequent. I walked away the other day with a pretty solid haul, all of which happen to be written and drawn by influential comic book professionals.
Written and drawn by James Kochalka, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza is a fun comic book story about an alien and his talking backpack. Our hero gets what seems like a wrong number phone call ordering a pizza, but decides its his duty to actually make it happen, so he sets out on a wacky journey that introduces him to a new friend and a gigantic magic robot. It’s very much in the fun, crazy, surreal vein of other Kochalka works like Dragon Puncher and Johnny Boo when it comes to both artwork and story.
The 110 page book from First Second is a fun romp that might remind you of Adventure Time or something in that vein. As usual, I read these things before seeing if my three year old daughter is interested and I think I’m going to skip this one for now with her. There is a tiny bit of cartoon violence in there that and some talk of death — both of which are in Adventure Time, now that I think about it — but there’s a crazy twist at the end that I really don’t think she’d get right now. Maybe next year.
Two more quick things about Kochalka. First, if you do read this book, pass it to your kid and she or he digs it, make sure to check out his other books before passing them along. I mentioned Johnny Boo and Dragon Puncher above which are both kids books, but he also does adult work like Magic Boy, his journal comic American Elf and (hopefully) obviously SuperF*ckers that you might not want to pass along just yet. Secondly, American Elf fully inspired me to start doing Photo Diary back in 2011.
Up next we have Jeff Smith’s adorable Little Mouse Gets Ready which won the Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor according to a shiny sticker on the copy I borrowed. This is an offering from Toon Books aimed at kids my daughter’s age as it shows a young mouse getting ready to go play in the barn with his mom, brothers and sisters.
I’m embarrassed to say that I still haven’t finished Smith’s amazing epic comic book series Bone, but I’ve read enough to know that this 31 page storybook for kids fits perfectly in with the visual style established in his other work. You get a pretty good idea of it from the cover image above which features bold lines, warm colors and delightful characters.
I did read this one with my daughter and she told me she liked it, but she hasn’t become obsessed with it like some other books. Though, to be fair, she hasn’t been obsessed about any books for a while, partially because she’s been skipping naps, falling asleep on the couch and thus not having her normal “Books and Bed Time” routine.
Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti happens to be another offering from the Toon line, this time Toon Graphics. I first heard about this combination of prose and pictures back in September when I wrote about the book getting optioned for a movie over on Spinoff Online. I’ve read Gaiman’s more grown-up books like Good Omens, Neverwhere, American Gods, the short story collection Smoke and Mirrors and the incredible Vertigo comic book series Sandman. I was pretty excited because he is a writer who deals with fables in all manor of ways and I was curious to see what he would do with the Grimm brothers tale.
And I’ve got to say, it wasn’t much. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid telling of this story about a pair of siblings whose parents ditch them in the woods and they eventually discover a mean old woman in the woods with an edible house who has nefarious designs for them. But, there wasn’t as much Neil Gaiman-ness in there as I had hoped. However, Mattotti’s artwork really does bring something new to this story. His deep black brush strokes fill each two page spread with the kind of darkness and shadows that you want to pour over to see if anything spooky pops out.
Because of the scarier elements of this book — which doesn’t clean up the violence from the original, but also doesn’t revel in it — I will also hold off on reading this one to my daughter. Heck, it almost gave me nightmares, who knows what she’d think?!
All-in-all this was a fun reading experience for me, even if it didn’t necessarily net much in the way of kiddo reading time offerings. Still, I love the idea that these people whose comic work I love so much are making things in various formats that I can share with my kids at various times and hopefully show them the quality of the work that these people do while laying the groundwork for future suggestions.