I am excited to be taking a comics advising course this semester with Professor Carol Tilley of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. For this course, I am reading through various types of comics — comic strips, superhero comics, graphic novels, manga etc. — in a systematic, if a bit rushed, way. This post is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts in which I share some of my favorite comics for kids with you.
If you are the parent of an elementary school student, you are likely aware that comics and books with cartoon illustrations are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. I am thinking of Elephant & Piggie books, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, the Pokemon series and more.
For children who enjoy reading comics, this is an exciting time to be a young reader. There are many more wonderful comics being published these days than there were even five years ago. There are comics being published in a variety of genres, from realistic fiction to action adventure to memoir to fantasy. There are comics being published in a variety of forms, from comic strips to comic books to graphic novels to web comics.
If you are lucky enough to live near a library with an up-to-date comics collection, I hope my posts will help you navigate the 741.5 section of your library. If, on the other hand, the 741.5 section of your library is sparsely populate, my posts may suggest titles for you to purchase or request via interlibrary loan.
Please, chime in and share your favorite comic strips for kids in the comments below.
Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: “Race to Death Valley” by Floyd Gottfredson. Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comic strips are predominantly adaptations of Mickey Mouse animated cartoons. Like the animated cartoons, these comics are full of fast-paced — frenetic even — action and absurd humor. Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: “Race to Death Valley” is the first in a series of recently published anthologies of Mickey Mouse comic strips. Ages 6+
Garfield at Large by Jim Davis. The Garfield comic strips are popular with kids largely because the humor is simple enough for kids to understand. (After all, nothing ruins a good joke more than having to ask an adult to explain the joke to you.) Most of the jokes in Garfield revolve around the fact that Garfield is lazy and has an insatiable appetite. Garfield also spends a good amount of time subverting his owner Jon’s authority. Ages 6+
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. A step up in sophistication, Calvin and Hobbes appeals to many of the same kids who enjoy Garfield. Like Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes incorporates quite a bit of physical humor and features a main character — Calvin — who is constantly getting in trouble. The Calvin and Hobbes comics are exceptionally well drawn and full of wisdom that kids will appreciate on an entirely new level as they grow older. Ages 7+
Mutts. by Patrick McDonnell. The Mutts. comic strips feature a friendship between a dog named Earl and a cat named Mooch. Mutts. is slower paced than Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes and may appeal to a different set of readers. To understand the humor in the Mutts. comic strips, kids must know a little bit about dogs and cats (for example, that cats impulsively climb trees and that dogs are loyal to their owners). Mutts. is an excellent choice for animal lovers and for kids who enjoy friendship stories. Ages 7+
It’s a Big World, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz. As with sitcoms, the Peanuts comic strips become fun once readers become familiar with the Peanuts cast of characters: Charlie, Sally, Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, Snoopy and the gang. The Peanuts strips feature characters that readers will be able to relate to. The humor is fun and clever. You could introduce kids to the Peanuts characters via one of the classic Charlie Brown holiday television specials. Ages 8+
We squandered a rich opportunity… More than 95% of kids in this country read comics on a regular basis.
-Prof. Carol Tilley, from her TED talk “Kids Need Comic Books” when speaking of the crackdown on kids’ comic book reading in the 1950s