It’s hard to tell from where I’m sitting today (Pittsburgh, mildly overcast, all of my windows open) but it’s that time of year when we start thinking about how we’re going to spend the chilly days of late fall and the downright cold days of winter. (Well, some of us anyway. That’s what I get for liking discrete seasons.) One of my favorite parts of that prep is taking a peek at the graphic novels for kiddos around the ages of my own spawn (8/10) and my nephews (6/2) and figuring out which will keep them from swinging on the bannisters and screaming “Attica!” at two in the morning in a year that has already kept them imprisoned far more than is healthy or tolerable for anyone.
Here are some I thought looked particularly enjoyable:
For the Minis
Max Meow: Cat Crusader by John Gallagher
This adorable graphic novel follows the adventures of intrepid podcaster Max Meow as he wanders Kittypopolis in search of stories. No one knows he’s also The Cat Crusader, the city’s own superhero who saves the citizens from giant, angry burgers and confused robots. But Max isn’t alone! This book is full of women doing science, space meatballs, mini-golf, and most excellent puns!
Fans can even learn to draw The Cat Crusader from easy, illustrated instructions at the back of the book so they can continue the team’s adventures beyond the confines of the back cover. Yay for another relatively mess free activity!
Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song
Norma and Belly love pancakes. Pancakes are the absolute best way to start the day. Always. Nothing else could possibly be better. Not burned pancakes though. No, those are pretty horrible. The good news is there’s a new food truck parked under Norma and Belly’s tree and whatever they’re making smells delicious. Something called “donuts”…
But how are Norma and Belly going to get their paws on this untried treat?
Problem solving and team work! Something the littles are just starting to ease into from parallel play and a skill they’ll need to build in the coming years. No reason not to start early with a cute-as-can-be anthropomorphic caper!
Amulet #1-8 by Kazu Kibuishi
This is like Locke & Key for kids, but I…actually liked the art in Amulet more than I liked the art in the grown up version, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to stick with this one going forward.
After Emily and Navin’s father dies in an accident, they move into their great-grandfather’s creepy old house. At first, they think it’s just normal weird. And then their mother is kidnapped by a tentacle monster. Determined to rescue her, the kids follow the creature into a magical world where they go on a fantastic journey.
My daughter absconded with the entire box the moment it arrived and I had to pry it out of her room to make sure I had the right covers to write this, so…mission accomplished, Mr. Kibuishi. My only caveat: there is a family death early in the first book and the second parent disappears toward the end of the same volume. That may upset some kids more than usual in this trash fire timeline so make sure you’re available for reassurance should they need it or consider reading that first book together.
Doodleville by Chad Sell
Drew loves to draw and she loves that her doodles come to life. Her parents, her art teacher, and her friends feel a bit differently—not because they don’t like Drew’s doodles, but because the doodles tend to get into mischief when they sally forth from the sketchbook.
One day, though, one of Drew’s drawings does fails to stop at harmless pranks; it picks up on her emotions and becomes a manifestation of her hurt, fear, and anxiety and tears through not only her doodles and their home, but her friends’ art projects as well. What can Drew do to fix the mess? How can she make it up to her friends? What if they don’t want to be her friends anymore? Each worry only makes the monster stronger and more difficult to defeat.
Until the very friends Drew is so worried about remind her that sometimes, creativity is a team effort…
7 Good Reasons Not to Grow Up by Jimmy Gownley (11/10/20)
Who would you be if you could be anyone? What would you do if everyone found out what that person was hiding?
What would you do if you could do anything? Would you take what you wanted or would you make the world better for others?
If you could stay a kid forever, would you?
Personally, I wouldn’t want to repeat my childhood for Jeff Bezos’s entire bank account and, alas, growing up is sort of inevitable. The twist in Gownley’s smart, über sassy, and cheekily knowing graphic novel is that he knows it, too, which is why, as his main character Kirby Finn tries to convince his friends not to grow up, he—and they—are inching toward adulthood anyway. It’s a rough journey for everyone, fictional and actual kids alike, but 7 Good Reasons Not to Grow Up is here to remind the real kids on the cusp that the wonderful surprises (reunions, first kisses, new adventures) make the bumps worth it.
Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable and Stephane Yue (1/5/21)
Katie really wants to go to sleep away camp with her friends, but alas, it’s not in the budget unless she can figure out how to earn the money herself. Catsitting is easy right? Pour out the food, make sure no one has gotten out, a couple of scritches, no problem.
Except Katie’s upstairs neighbor has 217 cats and is always needs Katie to mind her hoard when the local supervillain is out committing crimes. Is Madeline the culprit? How are the cats involved? Why is it taking her best friend so long to write back from camp, and who is this boy she keeps going on about when she does?
I had the chance to listen to Colleen and Stephanie chat about Katie a bit during a Random House Graphics online event in August and I can’t wait to get a look at the finished book—especially all of the cats and their individual personalities.
Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds and Danica Novgodoroff
Will’s brother Shawn has been shot and killed. That mean’s it’s Will’s turn to follow the rules Shawn taught him:
1: Don’t cry.
2: Don’t snitch.
3: Get revenge.
A tense, terse, affecting adaptation of Reynolds’s novel by the same name, Long Way Down is the story of a single life condensed down into a 60 second elevator journey that will determine Will’s entire future. So much can happen in a minute. In a minute, your father can be alive and then dead. Your uncle. The first girl you kissed. Your brother. You.
Decisions that seem small can shatter worlds or put them back together. It all depends on the choices you make in a moment.
Novgodoroff’s watercolors are a gorgeous, urgent addition to Reynolds’s story and dialogue, a perfect choice to augment a book every young adult, and every parent, should read.
Enough to keep you busy for a while? Don’t worry, I’m already on the hunt for more. If you have any recommendations, give me a shout out on Twitter @BookRiot.