Summer’s here! Well, it’s mostly already over, but I intended to write this a few weeks ago. As a big fan of summer storytelling conventions and all-ages comics, I figured I’d put together this list of five all-ages comics that anyone from grown-ups to kids can enjoy while the weather’s still warm.
All five are set in those hazy, lazy months and deal with one of the major elements of the season that will be familiar to pop culture obsessed folks like myself ranging from camp and road trips to family reunions and filling those days with something to do! If you’re interested, just click the title links or see about requesting them from your local library!
Lumberjanes Volume 1: Beware The Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters and Brooke Allen (BOOM! Studios)
Whether you actually went to camp or just love watching movies about other people going there, it’s a part of summer for many. In the case of April, Jo, Mal, Molly and Ripley, they adore their summerly stays at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp For Hardcore Lady-Types!
Beyond the usual campfire stories and hikes, though, these young women find themselves dealing with tree-eyed foxes, river monsters, secret tunnels, talking statues, yetis, possessed boy campers and a mysterious golden bow and arrow set! And that’s all just in the first volume, of which there are many. If you’re looking for a nice mix of rad ladies, wild adventures and mysteries, get on the Lumberjanes train!
I personally love this book because it offers so many great female characters for all kids to enjoy and relate to. It’s also just super fun, which is a key component for any and all summer reading in my humble opinion. If your kid likes camp or shows like Disney’s Bunk’d or Cartoon Network’s new show Summer Camp Island. Oh, and if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can read the first volume for free!
World-renowned and best-selling cartoonist Raina Telgemeier carried on the autobiographical sequential account of her youth in Smile and carried it on into Sisters, a good, old-fashioned road trip story. This one features Raina, her sister, brother and mother traveling a full week to a family reunion and back. That might sound somewhat mundane, but it’s actually chock full of reflections on the complicated relationship shared between siblings, concerns about parental bonds and that age-old concern of fitting in with cousins you rarely see.
The way Telgemeier ties together all of the threads woven together in a way that not only creates fear and excitement, but also a wonderful cathartic ending! Chances are, if you’re even remotely into all-ages sequential storytelling, you’re already familiar with Telgemeier’s work, but I just recently dove in and I can’t recommend these books more for kids at or around the junior high/high school levels.
Salt Water Taffy: The Seaside Adventures of Jack And Benny Volume 1: The Legend Of Old Salty by Matthew Loux (Oni Press)
Another great American hallmark of summer for many parents involves packing up your kids and moving to or visiting a place that was important to you as a kid. For Mr. Putnam, that place is Chowder Bay, Maine and his boys Jack and Benny aren’t super excited to stay in a big old house so their dad can write his next book.
Luckily for them, what the house lacks in TVs, the town makes up for in wacky characters and intrigue ranging from taffy-stealing lobsters to giant lobsters and old sailors looking to hunt down giant lobsters! And that’s just the begging. Loux made four other volumes in the Salt Water Taffy story that continue on the boys’ epic summer vacation. There are five total books in this series, which I’m currently making my way through, and I love how action-packed and fun they are while also offering a few lessons and good ideas along the way. They’re also fairly short, so it feels like you can tackle the whole series in a relatively short period of time. Keep your eyes peeled for a post about the series on the whole in the next week or two!
Unfortunately, while some kids head off to summer camp or tiny ocean towns for the summer, others have to stick around home and find ways to entertain themselves. Luckily for Ana, Emily, Turnip and Stucky — the stars of Aaron Renier’s Spiral-Bound — they all found new activities to keep them busy ranging from sculpting camp and a secret newspaper to local government conspiracies and legendary monsters!
At its heart, all the kids in this story — I think they’re supposed to be around high school age, but it’s hard to tell — find ways to follow and embrace their dreams and talents, which is an important lesson for anybody. It’s also got a series of secret tunnels that open up into wild places secret agent-style like an old clay pot and an abandoned fountain that make me smile every time I think about them, thanks it part to my longstanding love of Get Smart. I’m also a huge fan of the book design which makes it look like the whole thing was drawn in the kinds of notebooks I’ve carried around for what seems like my whole life!
Cartoonist Chad Sell got together with some of his comic-making friends to build The Cardboard Kingdom, a collection of stories revolving around a group of neighborhood kids who create characters for themselves and go on epic adventures in and around the box-born environs they build. Some see themselves as super heroes, scientific wonders and monsters while others chronicle the adventures, build weapons and make tiny cities.
While entertaining with stories about making friends and being yourself, they also get into more serious territory like divorce and other parental issues. More importantly, the denizens of the Kingdom include Jack who crossplays as The Sorceress, Miguel and his growing crush on princes, burgeoning businesswoman Alice and so many others. Representation is as important to the book as are adventure and fun, which makes it an important read for all ages.