Art Baltazar/DC Comics
Art Baltazar/DC Comics

10 More Great Kids' Comics for Early Readers

Art Baltazar/DC Comics
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.

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iStock
Bad Moods Might Make You More Productive
iStock
iStock

Being in a bad mood at work might not be such a bad thing. New research shows that foul moods can lead to better executive function—the mental processing that handles skills like focus, self-control, creative thinking, mental flexibility, and working memory. But the benefit might hinge on how you go through emotions.

As part of the study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, a pair of psychologists at the University of Waterloo in Canada subjected more than 90 undergraduate students to a battery of tests designed to measure their working memory and inhibition control, two areas of executive function. They also gave the students several questionnaires designed to measure their emotional reactivity and mood over the previous week.

They found that some people who were in slightly bad moods performed significantly better on the working memory and inhibition tasks, but the benefit depended on how the person experienced emotion. Specifically, being in a bit of a bad mood seemed to boost the performance of participants with high emotional reactivity, meaning that they’re sensitive, have intense reactions to situations, and hold on to their feelings for a long time. People with low emotional reactivity performed worse on the tasks when in a bad mood, though.

“Our results show that there are some people for whom a bad mood may actually hone the kind of thinking skills that are important for everyday life,” one of the study’s co-authors, psychology professor Tara McAuley, said in a press statement. Why people with bigger emotional responses experience this boost but people with less-intense emotions don’t is an open question. One hypothesis is that people who have high emotional reactivity are already used to experiencing intense emotions, so they aren’t as fazed by their bad moods. However, more research is necessary to tease out those factors.

[h/t Big Think]

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.

2. PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.

4. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.

8. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.

10. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.

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