Kid-Friendly Comic Books

You may remember my lament over the death of a truly excellent new comic that I posted here some time ago (A PSA About Comics).  Well, since then I’ve been spending a lot more money at my local comic shop on monthly issues and trades – and enjoying the heck out of following books from month to month.  There’s a slew of excellent titles on the shelf right now, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites that I’m reading right now.  In this post I’ll be talking about titles that are 100% kid-friendly (some of which I’ve already pre-ordered for my J Graphic Novel collection!).

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Abigail and the Snowman by Roger Langridge, published by Boom!Studios

Abigail and the Snowman is a charming short-run comic (it’s at 3 out of 4 issues, with the fourth one due out this month) about Abigail, a young girl who lives with her dad, and the relationship she develops with Claude, a yeti on the run from a secret government organization.  It’s a book that deals with issues real kids face – Abigail and her father struggle with money, Abigail struggles with making friends because they move so often, etc. – but couched in a sweet, fantastical story as Abigail helps Claude find his real home.  Recommended for ages 6-8, but really, everyone’s going to enjoy this one.

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Feathers by Jorge Corona, published by Archaia

Feathers is a steampunky adventure that’s also a short-run (six issues, two of which are currently available) about a young boy named Poe who runs around at night with goggles on and is covered in feathers.  In contrast to Poe is Bianca, a wealthy girl from the privileged part of the city, who runs into Poe while running away from her controlling family.  So far, Feathers is a fun Victorian romp with a message about classism and judging books by their covers, but it has the promise of developing into a bigger fantasy story full of prophecy and adventure.  Ages 8-10, and anyone who enjoys a good steam engine in their fiction.

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Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brendan Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl, published by DC

I’m really excited to see DC exploring the city of Gotham outside of Batfamily stories (for adult readers who are also horror fans, I can’t recommend Gotham by Midnight highly enough), and also developing stories inside Gotham that are accessible to younger readers (the new Batgirl of Burnside is another example of this).  While Gotham Academy doesn’t escape the shadow of the Bat completely, it doesn’t need to – nor should it.  Rather, it shows us what goes on in a different environment that’s still effected by the hero and villain mythology Gotham encourages.  Olive Silverlock, Maps Mizoguchi, and their supporting cast of characters are students at Gotham Academy, a prestigious prep school – while the boarding school setup could invite a lot of cliches and tired tropes, GA embraces them and moves on, developing its characters past their archetypes and giving its heroine, Olive, a remarkable amount of room for her own development past “self-exiled loner.”  Lots of great female characters and a wonderfully diverse cast make this book a great tween read.

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Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Carolyn Nowak, published by Boom!Studios

I don’t know that it’s possible for me to say enough good things about Lumberjanes.  Set in a girl scout-type camp, where the campers hunt supernatural creatures, solve ancient prophecies, and eventually save the world from tricky mythological figures, Lumberjanes still finds room to show you the amazing friendships between the core cast of five, their fellow campers, the camp counselors, and so on.  This truly is a book that trumpets “Friendship to the Max!” while celebrating hardcore ladytypes of all creeds and ages.  Personally, my favorite scene is when Ripley, the spritely and energetic clown of the group, ends up riding a velociraptor into camp – a velociraptor she eventually befriends and shares a tearful goodbye with. Recommended for all ages.

Monster High Party!

I’ve been able to assist in a lot of programs at the library, but yesterday was pretty special – yesterday, I had the chance to put on a program that I’d planned, developed, and got to execute pretty much all by myself.  We’ve done a few theme party events for kids (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, My Little Pony, Transformers), so I asked my manager if we could put on a Monster High party.  Not only did she say yes, but she gave me my own budget and left the whole thing totally in my hands.

I’m a HUGE Monster High fan.  Ever since the doll line debuted in 2011, I’ve been a pretty avid collector; I love the message of the dolls, that it’s ok not to be perfect and that the things you might see as flaws make you who you are, and I love the character designs and the individuality of each monster.  And I know our library has a pretty big MH fanbase – the DVDs and books circulate regularly, and I’ve had chats with little girls about their favorite dolls while helping them find materials.  So it seemed like a great fit for our programming.

When planning the event, I came up with a couple of different stations I could set up that could all operate simultaneously – we usually give these kind of events an hour or an hour and a half, and treat them as drop-ins where people can come and go as they want to.  I planned for Ghoulia Yelps’ Scary Smart Trivia Contest, Frankie Stein’s Freaky Fabulous Mask Making, Draculaura’s Diary Decoration, Clawdeen Wolf’s Special Doll Giveaway (generously supplied by my manager), and Cleo de Nile’s Nail Art Salon.  I had a budget of $50, most of which got spent at Party City (a GREAT resource for branded items in bulk), and bought the following supplies:

– Mini comp notebooks from Staples and stickers for the diary decoration
– A PDF of monster masks from Etsy
– Ghoulia eye glasses, some rubber bracelets, pencils and bookmarks for prizes
– MH nail art decals
– A couple of MH table cloths for decoration

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Ghoulfriends hard at work making masks and decorating diaries

I planned for thirty kids, which felt high, but I didn’t want to run into any issues with supplies, and everything I got could be used for prizes or supplies in future events if we had leftovers.

IMAG0495We did a giveaway for Roller Maze Ghoulia and Jinafire Long (Clawdeen is there for atmosphere)

I ended up with ten girls, but we had a lot of fun! Funnily enough, the most popular thing at the party was the movie I had playing (I showed Frights, Camera, Action!), but the mask and diary decoration were also a lot of fun.  The big flop was the trivia – even though I’d tried to make the questions fairly easy, they ended up being beyond my group.  (I was talking to a mom during the program, and I mentioned I’d made sure all the answers came from the doll packaging so it wouldn’t be dependent on the kids seeing the webisodes or anything – and she laughed and said “But the kids don’t read the packaging, they throw it away!” D’oh!)

IMAG0497A happy monster with her own Vandala Dubloons doll

Winter programming is typically hard to get high attendance for at our library, so I was happy with my turnout – and, my manager has already agreed to host another monster party in October, with a heavier emphasis on costumes and facepainting.  I admit, I didn’t end up using the nail decals because I’d never used them before and I chickened out – although we easily used up our hour without that activity.

Comics and Things

I haven’t updated in a while because things at the library have been super busy, and I’ve been right in the middle of the action.  Things I’ve been doing with my time:

– I started a comic-book based discussion group for the teens, and the first meeting went well.  I learned some stuff that will improve our meetings going forward, like to have more targeted questions prepared to keep us on track.  I also want to start incorporating video clips into our discussions, because I think comparing the way heroes are handled in cartoons, movies, and comics has a lot of potential for exploration.

We got a lot of the “If X fought Y, who would win?” conversation out of the way, which was good – I want to see if we can get into meatier discussion topics, and I think that will be easier with that kind of groundwork already laid.

– I made a booklist brochure for the graphic novel sections, basically promoting the crap out of it because I’m ordering a lot of new things that are really exciting (to me, anyway).  I want to make sure the section gets used, and unfortunately, most of our teens aren’t always the most…literate, I guess.  So my thought was, if I highlighted some topics and genres of interest (romance, sports, horror, etc.) it would make the section as a whole more accessible.

– Summer reading starts soon, and every librarian knows that can be a HUGE amount of work.  I’ve been trying to make myself an indispensable employee by volunteering for everything, and it’s paying off in a huge way – our public relations manager asked if I would help her put together a community scavenger hunt (which is going great, I put together a prototype passport and we have six businesses already who are interested in helping us out).  I’ve been keeping things on track getting the supplementary materials together and just generally have my hands in everything.  It’s a great feeling be such a big part of things.

Robot Storytime

The head of youth services at my library has been letting me put together mini displays on some free counter space – I set one up for Chinese New Year, and I’m both pleased and surprised with how well the display has been used! I’ve mentioned here before that my theory is you can never have too many displays, because people will use what they can see, and I think this has been proof positive of that. My next one, which will go up beginning next week, will be on the Winter Olympics (we’ve already got a bunch of great stuff out for Black History Month and Valentine’s Day).

I don’t have anything new to report on my storytime, because I haven’t had one in a couple of weeks – it’s been way too cold! I don’t blame parents for not wanting to bring their babies out into this awful, awful weather, but I’m a little sad that I haven’t seen my kids in a while. I will say that this week was my theme week in the storytime schedule, and my robot books have been going over very well. There are some SUPER cute ones I found in our collection. Some of my favorites:

Doug Unplugged
D
an Yaccarino

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A pretty fabulous story about a little boy robot who decides to “unplug” from his usual information download and go out into the world to learn by experience. Dan Yaccarino includes some great, unconventional illustrations that follow Doug around the city, and the simple color palette makes the bright yellow Doug really pop out.

Boy + Bot
Ame Dyckman

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Reminiscent of a simplified Iron Giant. Boy + Bot tells the story of two friends who don’t quite understand how the other one works – when Bot powers down, Boy thinks he’s sick but can’t make him better. When Bot powers back up and Boy is asleep, he doesn’t know how to fix Boy! The mix of simplicity and sweetness make this friendship fable a great readaloud for most ages, and the humor takes it to the next level of quality.

Robot Zot!
Jon Scieszka

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Who DOESN’T love a wannabe robot overlord? The repetition and fairly simple word choice make this more sophisticated story accessible to younger kids – this story is FUNNY, you guys. Robot Zot plans to conquer Earth, even though…he is only three inches tall. Watching him wreak havoc on the suburban kitchen he lands in is hilarious, but even better is when he falls in love with a pink princess cell phone and decides he’d rather be a hero.

Page to Screen Book Club

Have you voted in the Sweet Sixteen YA Book poll? It closes tomorrow so get your votes in!

One of my fellow librarians runs a Page-to-Screen book club for kids, where each month people can read a book and then come to the library for a special screening of the film adaptation of the book. In theory, the screenings include snacks, discussion, talking about the book and the movie and comparing/contrasting them. In practice, she hardly ever gets attendees to the screenings. And when she does, many of them haven’t read the book and are pretty much only there to enjoy the snacks she provides.

One of the tasks I’ve taken on at the library has been a lot of the advertising – I make flyers for all the youth services programs and make sure they get posted on the different electronic displays in the library and ensure that there are plenty for people to take on our various displays. As a result, I’ve started taking notice of what flyers attract attention, which displays show the most use, what people take notice of. So as the other librarian started setting out her film schedule for next year, we brainstormed some ways to get more people to not only come to the shows, but read the books and participate in the discussions.

Here’s what we came up with:

– First, we agreed the event would probably need to be rescheduled. Currently, it takes place on a Wednesday evening every month. This is problematic because our tween librarian has craft programs that happen every Wednesday from 3:30-4:30; there’s a lot of cross-over in the intended audiences for the two programs, so kids are either faced with leaving the craft early or coming in to the movie late. And since many of them attend the craft every week…

– Like I said, I’ve been able to see what displays get used – and the answer is, anything that’s on display has a higher chance of circulating. I’m working on a small proposal to put together a display for every month with copies of the book set aside and a copy of the advertising flyer out in the center of everything, so it’s easily accessible and very visible.

– The big change she’s making is rotating the target age group. Currently, it’s sort of fluid what age group the books are for, and there are tons of great picture books that have been adapted to films that would make good family events. So starting in January, she’s going to be rotating a picture book, grade school level book, and middle school level book, so the audience for every month is more defined (which is not to say that tweens couldn’t come to Meet the Robinsons! But having a target audience makes things easier to advertise).

Have you guys had a regular program that needed an attendance boost? How did you go about attracting more attendees?

Reading: Divergent by Veronica Roth. The first time I tried to read this book I put it down about fifty pages in – as a tattooed and pierced lady, I was a little impatient with the characterization of body mod as shorthand for “dangerous and edgy.” I picked it back up for two reasons: I want to have read it before the movie comes out, and I had the end of the trilogy completely spoiled for me, which actually made me MORE interested to see how Roth gets to that ending.

Watching: Can I tell you how much I loved Frozen? Because I really loved Frozen, you guys. My full review is up now, go check it out. I also saw Desolation of Smaug, which was MUCH better than An Unexpected Journey. I haven’t reviewed it yet because I saw a very late show and I’d like to see it again, so I know I was conscious for the whole thing.

Halloween Storytime Party – And A Small PSA

The library hosts their Halloween storytime party every year on the Friday before Halloween, so that there’s no conflict with other events the village puts on that take place on the actual holiday. Which means we had our party this past Friday.

It was…a bit like running a marathon.  A super fun, adorably costumed marathon.

Our storytimes generally follow the same loose structure: two books mixed in with various songs and rhymes, including an opener and a closer.  At least one of those songs is a shaker song so the kids can get up and dance.  Our Halloween storytime was no different, only this time we had ALL our regulars (usually they’re spread out among the daily storytimes), totaling 35 kids and 33 adults. These are kids and parents who know the score and who are generally well behaved – all of which apparently goes out the window when you add a holiday and costumes.

We danced to Monster Mash, did a monster-fied version of the Hokey Pokey (You put your claws in, you put your claws out…), and our shaker song was Witch Doctor, which was a definite hit.  The books read were:

We’re Off to Find the Witch’s House, Richard Krieb
Go Away, Big Green Monster, Ed Emberly (One of my personal favorites)

After storytime the kids did a bit of trick-or-treating around the adult area, for treats like pin wheels and bubbles, before coming downstairs for fruit and veggies (and also tiny cupcakes, because c’mon, it’s Halloween). Overall, people were happy, it was fun, everyone had a good time.

Except for one little thing, really.

I tend to think that parents should take a bigger role in helping librarians get their children settled for storytime; encouraging them to sit down, listen to the story, participate, etc. For the most part, the parents I’ve been meeting have done so.

For the most part.

There are ALWAYS one or two (or, in the case of the Halloween party, more) that don’t even seem to be paying attention. We had a couple of kids dressed as superheroes who were racing laps around the room, seemingly recreating a hero-chasing-villain scene, while a librarian was reading her book to the crowd – where were the parents?

I haven’t experienced this in my storytime, because the oldest kid who comes to mine is just under two. The parents who bring their babies to my storytime are always ready to engage, because babies can’t really do that without adult guidance and encouragement. But I’ve observed it in others – the parent, babysitter or guardian who leaves their child at the front of the room and moves to the back, spends the whole time on their phone, and checks out for the whole storytime. I get that it can feel a little silly to full commit as an adult to doing a fingerplay or dancing the hokey pokey, but you know what? The experience is better for everyone if they do. It helps model good behavior for the kid, it helps the kids get a better handle on what the activities are, and it makes for a more focused environment all around.

What I want to say to those distracted guardians/parents/babysitters: If you’re going to be there with your child, be there. Help us out a bit and play a little!