Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Comics for Fun and Learning

A few weeks ago, Z and I went to the library and ended up with an early reader level comic book.  He loved it so much that I looked for more this last time we went and found that the first one is part of a great series called Toon Books. From their website --
We are thrilled to introduce our new collection of TOON Books from the Little Lit Library. TOON Books represent a whole new approach to books for emerging readers—a rethinking as radical as the first time Theodor Geisel put a hat on a cat.

TOON Books are the first high-quality comics designed for children ages four and up. Each book in the collection is just right for reading to the youngest child but perhaps more remarkable: this is the first collection ever designed to offer newly-emerging readers comics they can read themselves. Each TOON book has been vetted by educators to ensure that the language and the narratives will nurture young minds. Our books feature original stories and characters created by veteran children’s book authors, renowned cartoonists and new talents, all applying their extraordinary skills to fascinate young children with clearly told tales that will welcome them to the magic of reading.

At the K-1 level, we ended up with Jack and the Box by renowned artist Art Spiegelman.  Jack is a little bunny whose parents give him a box as a gift.  He's startled when a it turns out to be a jack-in-the-box.  This is no ordinary Jack, though ... it's Zack, a wacky, sproingy clown who takes things literally and likes to cause trouble.  It's a bit reminiscent of The Cat in the Hat except without the Cat's oblivious good nature.  Jack has to learn to watch what he says because Zack just might make the worst of it!  By the end, though, everything is okay and back to normal.

Z liked the art on this one but I'm not sure he really connected with the story.  We'll try it again another day!

From the Grade 1-2 set, we got Benny and Penny in Just Pretend by Geoffrey Hayes.  I saw this book last year when I volunteered in the school library but I never really read it.  Benny and Penny are mouse siblings -- Benny is the older brother and Penny the younger sister.  Benny is out having a fun day playing pretend pirates but Penny disrupts his game.  So Benny offers to play hide and seek with Penny but really takes off, leaving her alone for a long time.  Eventually, he feels guilty, goes and finds her and sees what value she brings when they play together.

Z liked this one but, since he is an only child, I don't think that he really understood why Benny was being mean to Penny.  This would be a fantastic choice for warring siblings though -- both the older and the younger.  There are lessons about playing together, not being a pest and not using mean words to each other.  The text is very simple in this one and the drawings are detailed and interesting on their own.

Finally, the one that started it all for us (and happens to be at the Grade 2-3 level) is Otto's Orange Day by Frank Cammuso & Jay Lynch.  Z loves this one!  Otto's favorite color is orange (as is Z's).  He colors things orange, sings songs about orange and plays with orange toys.  One day, he gets a package from a distant aunt and inside is a small lamp.  Otto rubs the lamp and out comes the genie -- offering only one wish to Otto.  He thinks about wishing for something orange but goes one better -- wishing that everything could be orange!  At first he loves it but then he realizes that not everything is better when it's orange and even the color loses some of its lustre when everything else is the same.

Z thought this was a hilarious idea!  I wonder if he had thought about everything being orange before this.  This one is a bit longer and is broken into three small "chapters" but since it's a comic, it's really not too taxing for younger kids.  The artwork is amazing in this one and I have a feeling that it's going to be a fight to take it back to the library.  I may end up having to buy Z a copy of his own!

I honestly did not ever consider getting Z to read comics but these have great stories just like most picture books and I think they do a great job of keeping his attention with the multiple scenes per page.  We aren't going to go to an all comic reading plan but we can definitely put them into the rotation!

Enjoying pictures that are worth at least a few words,
K and Z

Support our site and buy Jack and the Box, Benny and Penny: Just Pretend and Otto's Orange Day on Amazon or find them at your local library. We borrowed all of these from the library.


  1. so proud of z for reading well above his reading level! the last one sounds really great, actually. i wonder how the world would look if everything was light gray (my favorite color)... (:

  2. How cool! We'll have to look for these when we go to the library!

  3. Lena - He can read at a very high level of vocabulary but now we are working on comprehension. These books are actually great because there's a visual representation of what's happening with the characters. You get to see their expressions with their words! Today we went back through Benny and Penny and just talked about feelings and stuff. It was a good exercise.
    And my favorite color (charcoal gray) wouldn't work very well either ...

    Jenners - I think your little guy will like these!