Tiny Ladies Doing Shit: Comics and Graphic Novels for Kids
Tiny bitches doing shit is my favorite genre. I’m growing myself two tiny bitches right now, and I’m like BEHOLD all the shit you can do. But whenever I ask people for book recs featuring strong female protagonists, they’re always like, Oooh, Harriet the Spy! A Little Princess! I want my girls to know they can do more than skulk around writing down mean gossip, or suffer graciously until their benevolent benefactor tracks them down.
(I do like The Secret Garden’s Mary Lennox for being an unapologetic assbag, but her narrative is quickly subsumed in the Miraculous Healing and Mystical Powers of two dudes.)
(Also, there’s great doings a’transpiring in YA but my oldest daughter has been four for precisely ever.)
Comics and graphic novels seem to be picking up the slack that traditional print media is putting down, PLUS the format acts as a bridge between picture books and chapter books. Here are some graphic novels to read to your tiny bitches, and ALSO your tiny dudes, who you need to be raising in a soup of equal-opportunity shit-doing.
The Harriet Hamsterbone books are my faaaaavorite. A twist on Sleeping Beauty, Harriet has a curse put on her at birth, which make her invincible because the curse has to keep her alive until her 12th birthday, when it will take effect. She spends that invincibility by like moat-diving out of her tower and battling ogres until they agree to become vegetarians. When the curse takes effect, it somehow reverses and sends the entire castle to sleep, and she has to go on a quest to find a prince to kiss all 117 inhabitants. Also, she has a riding quail named Mumphrey, whom I love.
Zita the Spacegirl is ALSO my favorite. Zita ends up in space after she and a friend Press A Mysterious Button, and then her friend is taken and she has to go rescue him, acquiring friends along the way. Loyalty, bravery, resourcefulness, SPACE.
SPEAKING OF SPACE. Space Dumplins just kills it for tiny bitches and poop jokes. Violet goes on a quest to find her missing dad, who volunteered for a secret mission and then disappeared, and there’s lots of great stuff around class, e.g. Violet’s mom’s efforts to citizenize them so that they can accrue the benefits of said citizenship (e.g. warmth) vs her dad’s fear that she’ll end up palling around with a bunch of elitists, and also SPACE RESCUE MISSION. Like Zita before her (or after her – looking up publishing dates isn’t my jam), Violet draws many disparate characters around her towards a common goal. Also there’s some good space whale poop jokes.
Good enough for Ron, good enough for me.
Little Robot has almost no words, which makes it terrible for a bedtime readaloud but EXCELLENT for just sort of foisting on your kids. A little girl with a mechanical bent (girls in STEM, A++) finds a stray baby robot, teaches it how to walk, what cats are, etc. A big, mean, corporate robot comes to reclaim him; adventures ensue.
The sisters in Princeless aren’t all tiny, but they are fierce, and they are all about rescuing their OWN asses, and there’s a PIRATE PRINCESS WITH HER OWN SPIN-OFF STORIES.
I feel like enough has been said about Ms Marvel by this point that I should be able to just gently remind you that Ms Marvel is a thing. Can the same be said for Squirrel Girl? You guys, Squirrel Girl is so funny. My kid gets like 10% of the jokes but she does not care because HAHAHAHA THAT GIRL IS A SQUIRREL. Plus she has a body type not often seen in comics, and I am deeply invested in seeing a wider variety of body shapes represented! All bodies are great and are capable of kicking ass! What I love in particular about Ms Marvel and Squirrel Girl is that they feed into my kid’s desire for adventure and conflict and some punching, but without any gore or really overt violence. Wham! KaPOW! Also, Squirrel Girl solves more than a few intergalactic attacks with empathy and I am here for this message.
Gonna cuddle the villainy RIGHT OUT OF YOU.
SPEAKING OF JOKES NO ONE GETS, I keep reading Phoebe and Her Unicorn (and sundries) to my kid and she has this bemused look on her face the whole time and I am just WEEEEEEPING with laughter because Phoebe and her unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, are the Calvin-and-Hobbes-but-with-a-girl-and-her-unicorn that I never knew I needed.
Giants Beware and Dragons Beware are THE BESSSSST I realize that I’m strongly advocating for everything on this list to the point where superlatives mean nothing anymore but some truly amazing shit is happening in comics right now. Claudette is bold and scrappy and brave and scared and a good friend and a terrible friend. She and her brother (who wants to go into sword-making but also pastry-making and open a Swords and Sweets shop) and her best friend Marie (who, ok, long digression here, but Marie’s life-long ambition is to become a princess, which, I have fucking had it with the tomgirl’s bimbo sidekick, but Marie’s ambition is never treated as silly and she’s given a full character arc of like initiative and action and so forth) go on various quests.
Tell me about other places in which tiny bitches are doing shit, I am EAGER for your recs.