CLOSE
Original image
Art Baltazar/DC Comics

10 More Great Kids' Comics for Early Readers

Original image
Art Baltazar/DC Comics

Earlier this year, we created a list of 10 great comics and graphic novels for early readers. Narrowing down that initial list was so difficult, we decided to give you 10 more. Once again, we're focusing on graphic novels that are appropriate for readers aged 5-8 (grades K-2), but we've also added a few that are great for more confident and advanced readers.

1. SUPERMAN FAMILY ADVENTURES

If you loved Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani’s Tiny Titans (which was included in our first early readers list), you’ll also enjoy their more recent series which focuses on Superman and his extended family of supporting characters like Supergirl, Superboy, Jimmy Olsen, and all the super-pets (Krypto the super dog, Beppo the super-monkey, etc.). The two big superhero publishers, Marvel and DC, do not make a lot of comics for readers under 13, but this is Baltazar and Aureliani's speciality. Kids and parents alike can get into their super-cute art style and playful stories that riff on classic Superman lore.

Difficulty: Ages 6 and up. These books are pretty easy reads, though it sometimes requires a healthy knowledge of Superman's history to get all the jokes.

Content: Unlike today’s regular superhero comics, the super-heroism here is pretty harmless and fun. Superman may punch a robot or two, but that’s about as violent as it gets.

Where to Start: There are nine volumes of books in this series and you can easily start at any of them. Volume 1 is a fine place to begin, but if your kid likes animals, you may want to jump straight to the Super-pets volume.

Buy it here.

2. GLORKIAN WARRIOR

Cartoonist James Kochalka is well-known by indie comics fans for his influential diary webcomic American Elf, and kids comic fans will know him for his SpongeBob Freestyle Funnies comics. Glorkian Warrior is a three-volume comic series based on a character he created for an iOS app game. It’s an incredibly silly story about the not-so bright Glorkian Warrior and his little companion Super Backpack. There are jokes about eyeballs, butts, and grandmas, showing that Kochalka knows exactly how to make a little kid giggle uncontrollably.

Difficulty: Ages 5 and up. This is an easy and fun read for most new readers. It may not be the most challenging book, but kids will read it again and again for its humor.

Content: A good amount of butt and fart jokes here, but it's all just silly fun.

Where to Start: There are two volumes of Glorkian Warrior available so far. My own kids seemed to get their heartiest laughs from volume 2, Glorkian Warrior Eats Adventure Pie, but the first volume, Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, is where it all starts.

Buy it here.

3. FLOP TO THE TOP

Husband and wife cartoonists Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing collaborate on both the writing and art for this wonderful new edition to Toon Books’ library of graphic novels for young readers. Wanda is a young girl who is obsessed with becoming famous. One day, her selfie becomes an Internet sensation, but it is because of her droopy-faced dog, not her. Wanda ends up learning a valuable lesson about what’s really important in life.

Difficulty: Ages 5 and up. This is a nice transitional option from picture books to graphic novels thanks to the style of the artwork that makes it look like a classic Golden Book—albeit one with a plot that hinges on social media.

Content: There’s a great message here, and it features a cute dog and a hilarious concept that parents and kids will appreciate.

Where to Start: This is a single-volume graphic novel, but it’s worth checking out other books in Toon Books’ library.

Buy it here.

4. ODD DUCK

Cecil Castelluci and Sara Varon’s charming story about a duck named Theodora and her odd neighbor Chad teaches an important lesson about appreciating your friends for their uniqueness. Varon (who has a number of other kids' graphic novels to her name) has a wonderfully pleasant drawing style that uses fun little descriptions and word balloons to lead young readers' eyes across the page much like individual comic book panels.

Difficulty: Ages 6 and up. This is another one that reads like a picture book-comic hybrid.

Content: There’s nothing anyone could object to here. Just a sweet little story about individualism.

Where to Start: This is also a single volume graphic novel.

Buy it here.

5. MONSTER ON THE HILL

In Rob Harrell’s Monster on the Hill, villagers treat the local monsters that terrorize them as beloved tourist attractions. One town, however, has an embarrassingly pathetic monster named Rayburn who just can’t seem to scare anyone. A young boy and an old scientist take it upon themselves to help mopey Rayburn rediscover himself and learn how to be a monster again.

Difficulty: Ages 6 and up. This is a little wordier than some of the others and clocks in at nearly 200 pages. Also, some of the characters' dialogue is written in faux-cockney with improper spelling that might throw some kids off.

Content: Although there are monsters and some of them are supposed to be scary, Harrell draws it all in a fun and colorful way.

Where to Start: This is the first volume in a proposed series, but so far it's the only one to have been released.

Buy it here.

[The following five choices are for young readers who might be ready to explore above their age range.]

6. YOTSUBA

There’s a whole world of Japanese manga for young readers to explore, although finding quality, age-appropriate material can be challenging. Plus, keep in mind that manga must be read back-to-front and right-to-left, so you may want to wait until your early reader has enough confidence before you blow their minds with a whole new reading style. Most kids will get a kick out of the challenge, though.

One great manga option is the popular Yotsuba series about a 5-year-old girl and her single dad who move to a new neighborhood and befriend a trio of sisters who live next door. Everything is a brand new experience for little Yotsuba as she goes around discovering stuff like playground swings and fishing with the verve of an alien exploring a new planet.

Difficulty: Ages 6 and up. However, keep in mind the reading orientation of Japanese manga will throw off some kids.

Content: 5-year-old Yotsuba is given a lot of freedom by her hands-off dad to wander on her own, which can make helicopter parents like myself sweat. There are definitely some cultural differences to take into account for Western readers, and some American readers have been a little weirded out that this series was originally published in a Japanese men’s magazine. That said, it’s all very innocent and kids will love it.

Where to Start: There are a number of volumes in this series, but Volume 1 will give you a proper introduction to the characters.

Buy it here.

7. BONE

If comics had their own Harry Potter, it would be Jeff Smith’s Bone series. This epic adventure about a little bone-shaped guy named Fone Bone and his two cousins is full of magic, strange creatures, and a lovable hero. Originally self-published in black-and-white, it became so popular when Scholastic began reprinting it in the early 2000s that they built a whole new graphic novel publishing line around it. Bone is truly one of the greatest comics ever made and it has massive all-ages appeal.

Difficulty: The reading level on this one is technically 11 and up, but younger readers should be able to enjoy the early volumes with a little effort.

Content: Like Harry Potter, this gets a little darker in the later volumes. Even though the artwork is very cartoony, the rat creatures (the bad guys of this book) can be creepy and some of the action and the stakes involved can get intense.

Where to Start: There are nine volumes to this saga as well as multiple editions that break up and package the same big story in different formats, including two separate complete editions (one in black and white and one in color). Start with Bone Vol.1: Out from Boneville, which is an affordable, 144-page book (in color).

Buy it here.

8. SISTERS

Raina Telgemeier is the most popular graphic novelist among “tween-age” girls right now thanks to her smash hit Smile and her run adapting the Baby-Sitters Club novels. Her books are so good that younger readers like my own daughters devour them despite the fact that they're mostly about high-school drama.

Her newest book Sisters may be the most age-appropriate of her body of work for early readers. It’s a memoir about her relationship with her younger sister, focusing on an eventful road trip she took one summer with her family. Readers with siblings will see themselves in all the squabbling and will enjoy the sense of humor with which Telgemeier talks about herself and her childhood.

Difficulty: Ages 8 and up—not too far from the early reader age group, really.

Content: In addition to the realistic portrayal of sibling fighting, there is some marital tension between the parents that is mostly hinted at but made more overt at the end. Also, a number of family pets end up dying (but to comedic effect).

Where to Start: This is a single graphic novel, but it's a good gateway to Telgemeier’s work. If your young reader likes this, they will probably love Smile.

Buy it here.

9. EL DEAFO

Cece Bell’s memoir about growing up deaf is funny, heartwarming, and remarkably relatable. Winner of 2015’s prestigious Newbery Honor, El Deafo is an informative look at what it's like to live with a disability. What makes it great is Bell’s likability and strength, and the way she turns her hearing loss into a “superpower”, making her a true role model for kids with disabilities.

Difficulty: Ages 8 and up. Once again, not too far from our target reading age. My own daughter was obsessed with this book at age 5 when she was just making her first attempts at learning how to read. However, at nearly 250 pages, it is a long book.

Content: There’s a little bit about crushing on boys but nothing that parents will find offensive.

Where to Start: This is one complete graphic novel.

Buy it here.

10. SECRET CODERS

Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes have created a new graphic novel series called Secret Coders that aims to teach the basics of computer programming through an engaging story set in a Harry Potter-ish academy full of odd mysteries. Yang is the award-winning author of graphic novels like American Born Chinese and is currently the writer for DC’s Superman. He also used to teach computer science and recently wrote an article for us on how to encourage your kids to learn computer programming.

Difficulty: Ages 8 and up. The most difficult part of this may not be the reading, but grasping the binary logic.

Content: The main character, Hopper, experiences some mother-daughter tension that boils over at one point.

Where to Start: This is the first in a new multi-volume series. Volume 1 hit stores this past September.

Buy it here.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
iStock
arrow
technology
Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
Original image
iStock

Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES