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
dszc/iStock
arrow
Lists
25 Things You Should Know About Tucson
Original image
dszc/iStock

The west is still wild in Tucson. Surrounded by breathtaking mountains, Arizona’s second-largest city attracts artists, astronomers, outdoorsy types and at least one rare cat. Read on for more Tucson trivia.

1) Some of the earliest evidence of corn cultivation in North America comes from Pima County, Arizona, where Tucson is located. Archaeologists have recovered kernels estimated to be 4000 years old within 60 miles of the city.

2) Towering above the downtown area is an iconic mountain called Sentinel Peak. Look at it from a distance and you may notice that the base is darker than the summit. The native Tohono O’odham people called this landmark Ts-iuk-shan—which is a corruption of their word for “black base.” Spaniards later turned Ts-iuk-shan into Tucson.

3) On March 20, 1880, a passenger train rolled into Tucson for the first time. Mayor R.N. Leatherwood sent out telegrams to dignitaries to publicize the occasion, writing to Pope Leo XIII that the railroad now linked "this ancient and honorable pueblo" with the rest of the Christian world. Newspapers began calling Tucson “the A. and H. Pueblo,” which gradually shrunk to its current nickname, “the Old Pueblo.”

4) If you’re a stargazer, Tucson is one of the best spots in the U.S. for astronomy. In 1972, Pima County enacted a “dark sky” code to regulate the brightness and number of outdoor bulbs in an effort to help local observatories like one at Kitt Peak. Now Tucson suffers from far less light pollution than most cities do, allowing stars and planets to shine through the darkness.

5) Above Broadway Boulevard, you can walk through the belly of a giant metal snake. A covered bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, this serpentine structure is designed to look like a diamondback rattlesnake, whose gaping jaw and fangs form the entrance.

6) By day, it looks like a big plastic doughnut. But after sundown, the solar-powered Desert O sculpture lights up in an array of vibrant colors. The ring, owned by the city of Tucson, is 6 feet in diameter and uses LED lights to create a brilliant display with a different color combo for every night of the week.

7) In 1970, then-mayor Jim Corbett called Tucson's East Speedway Boulevard the "ugliest street in America." At the time, it was enveloped by garish billboards that obscured the city's beautiful vistas. Then Life magazine ran a two-page photo of the forest of road signs and advertisements. The embarrassing spotlight led to Tucson's sign code, passed in the 1980s, which gradually limited billboards and tacky signage.

8) According to Guinness World Records, Davis-Monthan Airforce Base in Tucson has the largest aircraft repair shop and storage facility on Earth. Covering 2600 acres, it could house 4200 aircraft and 40 aerospace vehicles at one time, while still leaving room for 350,000 production tools.

9) In 2013, a new species of scorpion was discovered in the Santa Catalina Mountains, which are visible from downtown Tucson. Biologist Rob Bryson Jr. discovered the species in the Santa Catalinas' "sky islands"—isolated mountaintop habitats known for their biodiversity.

10) Cyclists should consider dropping by on the last Saturday before Thanksgiving for El Tour de Tucson, Arizona's largest and longest-running cycling event. The series of races attracts more than 9000 bike enthusiasts per year and usually raises about $2 million for local charities.

11) Hugo O’Conor, an Irish colonel in the Spanish army, is regarded by some as the founder of Tucson. Although a Spanish mission had been operating in present-day Tucson since 1692, and Native American communities before that, O’Conor arranged to have a military base for Spain's army set up on the site in 1775, resulting in a population boom for the city. O'Conor's red hair and courage in battle gave him the nickname “The Red Captain.”

12) The United States Handball Association Hall of Fame is located on North Tucson Boulevard.

13) Five years after peace was declared in the Mexican-American War, the U.S. bought the lower third of Arizona, which included Tucson, from Mexico. The $10 million transaction, known as the Gadsden Purchase, was finalized in 1854 and added a 30,000-square-mile territory to the United States. The expansion allowed Gadsden, a railroad promoter, to build a transcontinental railroad through the new territory.

14) One of the largest rock shows in the country, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show attracts around 50,000 people annually. In addition to hosting gemstone scholars and dealers, the annual convention has exhibited the most dazzling rocks in existence—like the Hope diamond, lunar rocks collected by NASA astronauts, and the eye-popping Logan sapphire.

15) The Arizona State University Sun Devils and the University of Arizona Wildcats have a longstanding rivalry that dates back to their first meeting in 1889. Each year, the teams compete for the Territorial Cup, the oldest rivalry trophy in college football. The Wildcats play regular home games in their 56,000-seat stadium in midtown Tucson.

16) Speaking of the University of Arizona, it was founded in 1891—21 years before Arizona achieved statehood.

17) Tucson's world-class culinary scene was recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2015 as a “Capital of Gastronomy.” Only 18 cities around the world have been given this title, and no other American city has cracked the list yet. Jonathan Mabry, a historic preservation officer in Tucson, filed the application for the city. “There are more heritage foods grown within 100 miles of Tucson than any other city in North America,” he told Smithsonian.com.

18) The Fourth Avenue Underpass doubles as a one-of-a-kind photo gallery. Roughly 7000 tiles bearing black and white portraits of 21st-century Tucsonans line the walls.

19) Four national flags have flown over the Old Pueblo. Spain ruled Tucson and the rest of Mexico until 1821. Then Mexico itself took over, but sold Tucson and much more territory to the United States in 1854 (see #13). When the Civil War broke out, the city joined the Confederacy and flew the Confederate flag from February to June 1862. Then Union forces, bearing the American flag, took the city back

20) Tucson is the oldest incorporated city in Arizona (and has been since incorporating in 1877).

21) For a few weeks in 1933, radio listeners in Tucson could enjoy a local show hosted by a very young Ray Bradbury. At age 12, he landed a gig at KGAR reciting comic strips on the air every Saturday night. “My pay was free tickets to see King Kong, Murders in the Wax Museum, and The Mummy,” he later reminisced. “You can’t do any better than that.”

22) El Charro Café is the oldest Mexican restaurant in the U.S. continuously operated by the same family. It may also be the birthplace of the chimichanga. As the legend goes, they were invented by Monica Flin, who established El Charro in 1922. She once flipped a burrito right into the fryer, splattering oil everywhere. Since kids were within earshot, she resisted the urge to curse and yelled “chimichanga,” a slang word that means thingamajig, instead.

23) The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures is truly larger than life. A gallery of scale models, it boasts more than 300 tiny room boxes and houses. Some examples predate the Revolutionary War.

24) Downtown, a street known as Calle Carlos Arruza honors one of the greatest bullfighters in history, Mexican-born Carlos Arruza, whose nickname was El Ciclon (The Cyclone). According to historian David Leighton, Calle Carlos Arruza is one of the very few streets—possibly the only street—in the U.S. named after a bullfighter.

25) Only two non-captive jaguars, the largest cats in the New World, are known to reside within the U.S. One of them, nicknamed El Jefe, is a Tucson celebrity. Discovered in 2011, he can be found stalking the Santa Rita Mountains 25 miles south of the city. Jaguars are a near-threatened species: biologists estimate that about 15,000 are left in the wild.

Original image
Columbia/TriStar
arrow
#TBT
The Night the Brat Pack Was Born
Original image
Columbia/TriStar

If Emilio Estevez had opted to pay for his movie ticket, the Brat Pack might never have been born. It was spring 1985, and Estevez—then the 23-year-old co-star of St. Elmo’s Fire—was being profiled in New York Magazine. The angle was that Estevez had just signed a deal to write, direct, and star in his own feature, That Was Then... This is Now, an opportunity that was rarely afforded to young Hollywood talent. Estevez was two years younger than Orson Welles was when he performed similar duties for 1941’s Citizen Kane.

That youthful exuberance was on display as New York writer David Blum followed Estevez in and around Los Angeles for several days gathering material for the story. With Blum in tow, Estevez decided that he wanted to catch a screening of Ladyhawke, a fantasy film starring Matthew Broderick. For reasons not made entirely clear, he preferred not to have to pay for a ticket. According to Blum, Estevez called the theater and politely asked for free admission before entering an 8 p.m. screening.

It's likely Estevez was just having a little fun with his celebrity. But to Blum, it was indicative of a mischievous, slightly grating sense of entitlement. Blum’s assessment was that Estevez was acting “bratty,” an impression he felt was reinforced when he witnessed a gathering of other young actors at LA’s Hard Rock Cafe for the same story.

What was supposed to be a modest profile of Estevez turned into a cover story declaration: Hollywood’s “Brat Pack” was here, and they had decided to forego the earnest acting study preferred by their predecessors to spend their nights partying instead.

The day the story hit newsstands, Blum received a call from Estevez. “You’ve ruined my life,” he said.

The June 1985 cover of New York magazine
New York, Google Books

Blum’s label had its roots in the Rat Pack of the 1960s, so named for the carousing boys' club led by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. Whether it was accurate or not, the performers developed reputations for squeezing every last drink, perk, and joke they could out of their celebrity well into middle age.

That dynamic was on Blum’s mind when New York dispatched him to cover Estevez. After he arrived in California, Blum took note of the fact that a tight cluster of actors seemed to have formed a group, both on- and off-screen. Estevez was close friends with Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise, and all of them appeared in 1983’s The Outsiders; Lowe and Estevez were co-starring in St. Elmo’s Fire, a coming-of-age drama that also featured Andrew McCarthy and Judd Nelson; Estevez and Nelson gained a lot of attention for 1984’s The Breakfast Club.

To Blum, Estevez was more than just a multi-hyphenate; he appeared to be the nucleus of a group that spent a lot of time working and playing together. And in fairness to Blum, Estevez didn’t dissuade the writer from that take: Fearing he was coming off as too serious in the profile, Estevez asked Lowe and Nelson to hang out with him at Los Angeles’s Hard Rock Cafe so Blum could see the actor's lighter side.

Nelson would later recall that he felt uneasy around Blum. “Why is this guy having dinner with us?” he asked Estevez. Lowe, meanwhile, was busy flirting with women approaching their table. The group later went to a "punk rock" club, with a Playboy Playmate tagging along.

As celebrity hedonism goes, it was a tame evening. But Blum walked away with the idea that Estevez was the unofficial president of an exclusive club—attractive actors who were soaking up success while idling late into the night.

Blum returned to New York with a different angle for his editors. He wanted to capture this “Brat Pack,” a “roving band” of performers “on the prowl” for good times. Although the magazine had just run a cover story about a teenage gang dubbed “the wolf pack” and feared repetition, they agreed.

As far as Estevez and the others were concerned, Blum was busy executing a piece on Estevez’s ambitions as a writer and director. When Estevez, Nelson, and Lowe appeared on the cover—taken from a publicity still for St. Elmo’s Fire—with his newly-coined phrase, they were horrified.

Blum began getting calls from angry publicists from each of the actors mentioned in the article—and there had been a lot of them. In addition to Estevez, the de facto leader, and lieutenants Lowe and Nelson, Blum had dubbed go-to John Hughes geek Anthony Michael Hall the “mascot”; Timothy Hutton was said to be on the verge of excommunication for his film “bombs”; Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, and Matt Dillon were also mentioned.

To the actors, the effect was devastating. Independent of how they spent their free time, all of them were pursuing serious careers as performers, with producers, directors, and casting agents mindful of their portrayal in the media. Being a Brat Packer was synonymous with being listless, or not taking their craft seriously.

Nelson recalled the blowback was immediate: Managers told him to stop socializing with his friends for fear he’d be stigmatized as unreliable. “These were people I worked with, who I really liked as people, funny, smart, committed to the work,” he said in 2013. “I mean, no one was professionally irresponsible. And after that article, not only [were] we strongly encouraged not to work with each other again, and for the most part we haven’t, but it was insinuated we might not want to be hanging out with these people.”

Universal Pictures

Some of the actors went on The Phil Donahue Show to criticize the profile, asserting that their remarks to Blum had been off-the-record. (Blum denied this.) Lowe told the media that Blum had “burned bridges” and that he was “no Hunter S. Thompson.” Andrew McCarthy called Blum a “lazy … journalist” and found the idea of an actor “tribe” absurd—he had never even met Anthony Michael Hall.

Unfortunately, the name stuck. “Brat Pack” was infectious—a catch-all for the kind of young performer emerging in the ‘80s who could be seen in multiple ensemble movies. While Blum would later express regret over the label, it’s never quite left the public consciousness. In 2005, Universal released a DVD boxed set—The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and Sixteen Candles—as The Brat Pack Collection.

Nelson, Estevez, and Lowe never again appeared in a movie together. “Personally, the biggest disappointment about it is that ‘Brat Pack’ will somehow figure in my obituary at [the] hands of every lazy and unoriginal journalist,” Estevez told a reporter in 2011. “Warning: My ghost will come back and haunt them.”

Nelson was slightly less forgiving. In a 2013 podcast, he chastised Blum for his mischaracterization of the group of young actors. “I would have been better served following my gut feeling and knocking him unconscious.”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios