Sometimes I complain that I have to read thirty books so that I can write some booklist, or fifty books because I'm on an award panel, or a hundred books for some committee... but from now on, I think I'll shut up.
Because I am pretty sure Snow Wildsmith and Scott Robins, who both write for SLJ's Good Comics for Kids blog, read 850 books in order to write this excellent compendium of, er, good comics for kids. Eight Hundred and FIFTY graphic novels, manga series, picture books, and beginning readers. Some with Smurfs in them.
The book (full title: A Parent's Guide to the Best Kids' Comics: Choosing Titles Your Children Will Love) works like this: one hundred comics are reviewed, each with a list of titles if it's a series, awards if any, and educational tie-ins. If the comic includes anything, and I mean anything, that a parent might object to - e.g. potty humor, name-calling, cartoon violence - it is noted. Another 750 books are represented in the "if you like this, then try" lists that the authors have compiled for each featured title. Those lists include capsule reviews of each recommended title. Whew!
Each review also features a full-page excerpt, making this book not only a resource for parents, educators, and librarians, but potentially for kids too. I totally see a kid leafing through, ignoring the reviews, and sampling the comics.
The reviews are separated into color-coded grade level sections: PreK-1; 2-3; 4-5, and 6-8. Thank you, you guys! If one more comics publisher tells me a title is "all ages" I am going to just walk away in disgust. Oh, wait, I already do that. Sorry, guy in the IDW booth at BEA. But when you tell me a graphic novel is "all ages" what you are really saying is "We never thought about kids, but there's no screwing in it, so sure, kids could read it." That would be a valid answer. "All ages" is bullshit. Only Meanwhile is all ages.
Another neat feature of the reviews in Kids' Comics is a bold black bar on the left-hand page edge (kind of where your thumb goes) that notes the genre the title would fall into: fantasy, humor, wordless, science fiction, etc. Some of these get amusingly lengthy - the marvelous Rapunzel's Revenge is described as "Adventure - Fantasy - Romance."
Further resources are found in the back, and a list of all the comics with their publication info, including every ISBN, every artist, every writer who ever worked on each title.
This book represents a colossal amount of work. I read a ton of comics, I really do. School Library Journal must send me a dozen a year to review. I've read 80% of the books in this book. But even I found titles here that I have never read and/or know nothing about. Robins and Wildsmith write knowledgeably about the art as well as the content of each book, and those thoughtful "What's next" lists reveal their depth of understanding about what it is kids appreciate in the books that they love.
Beautifully designed and gorgeously printed, this is - as they say - a resource that no library that serves children should be without.
There's an interview with the authors on the Good Comics for Kids blog.
Gina Ruiz reviews the book on Amoxcalli.