Kids, books, and a love of reading: Part Two of two

by DaniGirl on December 14, 2008 · 4 comments

in Books, Reviews, promotions and giveaways

In part one of this mini-series on helping your kids to fall in love with books, I talked about a new website full of book suggestions. This post is about a great set of new books that I was offered for review in mid-November. Not just any books, but graphic novels comic books for beginning readers.

I might have mentioned before, we come by a love of comic books honestly in our home. Beloved studied illustration formally before moving on to an animation program, and our basement is crammed to the rafters (literally!) with the paltry remains of his once-legendary comic book collection, largely skewed to the 1980s superhero genre. And at the tender age of six, Tristan is already creating his own comic books. So when the nice people from TOON Books sent me a pitch offering me a couple of free high-end hardcover comic books for beginning readers, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough.

Here’s the pitch that hooked me:

Since the early days of comics, parents and teachers have experienced a challenge: Kids, even reluctant readers, love comics, but are comics good for them?

With TOON Books, the solution has arrived. Authored by illustrious cartoonists and children book artists, edited with the highest literary standards, and thoughtfully making use of a controlled vocabulary, the new books are perfect for emerging readers ages four and up. The series, developed by Francoise Mouly (Art Editor of The New Yorker) with Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman (MAUS) as Advisor, builds on a tradition of excellence in children’s literature: young readers will fall in love with these books and return to them over and over again. The luxuriously produced hardcovers are gifts that they’ll treasure for years to come.

They sent us three books: Jack and the Box, Mo and Jo, and Stinky. The very first night, Tristan read the entire Jack and the Box book from cover to cover out loud to Beloved and Simon. That’s 30-odd pages, and he’s only in Grade One. I was so impressed! And it’s not an overly simplistic book either. That’s what I liked about these books, that they’re accessible without being condescending. Beloved and Tristan took turns reading the next two books out loud over the subsequent nights.

The same week we received and devoured our TOON books, Art Spiegelman was interviewed on my favourite radio program, CBC’s Q. There’s an article about the books, and you can listen to his interview from the CBC site. (Gah, the link to the interview from the CBC article doesn’t work. If you’re determined, and it is worth it, go to http://www.cbc.ca/q/pastepisodes.html and scroll down to December 2 to download the podcast of the episode.) It’s really quite fascinating, the philosophy behind reclaiming the comic book genre for beginning readers. I was particularly intrigued by the discussion about how Jack and the Box is even a bit on the scary side, from a child’s point of view, and how they attributed kids with a level of sophistication and cognizance that a lot of beginning-reader books simply do not. They also talk about how comic books add a nuance in expression and interaction that regular picture books do not. Even if you don’t get the books, which I highly recommend, the interview makes for some thoughtful discussion.

Am I raving a bit? It’s genuine. I honestly love these books, and can’t wait to go out and add some more to our collection.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Barbara December 15, 2008 at 8:00 am

These sound great for boys. It seems most fiction is geared to girls. But do you think girls would enjoy them as much? (Not that you have any girls in your house, eh?)

2 Loukia December 15, 2008 at 11:27 am

My kids are only 11 months old, and 3 1/2 years old, however – I’m an avid reader, and so is my 3 year old. He has a library full of books that we buy all the time – and read – all the time. He can now pick out words (my 3 year old – not my 11 month old!) and read a book on his own, “Trucks” by Byron somebody – I forgot his last name now! His interest in books began when he was 8 months old, and he would sit and listen and look as I read to him. It’s safe to say I have a hard time going to Chapters and finding a book he doesn’t already own – and I’m not talking about any Dora or Diego books, either… I love that he loves me to read to him, I love that he wants to learn and I love that we can share his love of reading together. It’s so important!

3 Mad Hatter December 16, 2008 at 8:54 am

Art Spiegelman is a/THE giant in the field. I haven’t got my hands on these yet (they are on order) but I an super-excited about them.

Did you ever see the Little Lit books of a few years back?
http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/search?keywords=little%20lit&pageSize=10

They were another Spiegelman project and involved just about every great in the comic/graphic novel/illustration world.

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