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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Jon Scieszka

Classic Children’s Comics

by Vicki Palmquist

“No one I knew ever picked up Archie or Lulu or Dennis the Menace because it was Required Reading. We read comics because we wanted to see what was going to happen. We wanted to take that unexpected turn.” — Jon Scieszka

Toon Treasury of Classic Children's ComicsWhen I was in high school, I went on a hunt to find as many old comics as I could, learning about the history, the controversy, the artists, and the love affair that swooped up so many kids and showed them that good stories exist in many forms.

If you’d like to share classic comics with your kids or your students, you’re in luck. Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly, those folks behind Toon Books, sought out the fun, wacky, and adventuresome stories that will have them turning the pages for their next comics encounter. Spiegelman and Mouly aimed for funny and they found it—bullseye—in The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics (Abrams ComicArts, 2009).

You’ll find comics that may be familiar to you such as Little Lulu, Pogo, Dennis the Menace, Heckle and Jeckle, and the Little Archies (not the teenage version, but the young kids). You’ll read stories and find characters that I believe will be new to you as well.

Toon Treasury

I particularly enjoyed Gerald McBoing Boing in “Boing Boing” by Theodore Seuss Geisel and P.D. Eastman. The graphic line, the colors, the poetry, the story … I won’t ruin the ending but it’s comforting to know that there’s a place for everyone in this world.

In Melvin Monster “Mice Business” by John Stanley, a family of monsters has a mouse problem. This is theater of the absurd. Your children (and you) will howl over the antics of Mummy and Baddy and their son, Melvin.

Little Lulu Five BabiesIn Little Lulu “Five Little Babies” by John Stanley and Irving Tripp, the boys trick Lulu into looking foolish but she gets the best of them in a clever and ironic way.

Believe it or not, in Uncle Scrooge “Tralla La” by Carl Barks, this high-energy story lets us in on the secrets of capitalism and utopia.

Did you know that Walt Kelly of Pogo fame also did a series of comics called Fairy Tale Parade? “Prince Robin and the Dwarfs” is fast-paced, exciting, and funny … and also a ripping good yarn. I particularly enjoyed studying his Map of the Fairy Tale Lands.

I don’t know if you can say these are favorites when I’ve listed so many of them, but “Captain Marvel in the Land of Surrealism” by C.C. Beck and Pete Constanza is a true high point of the Treasury. When I started this article I was going to say that there are no superheroes in this collection but they included Captain Marvel in a story that will have you questioning reality. (And there’s a story about Supermouse, too.)

These six stories are just a fraction of what’s available in The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics. There’s at least one story that will tickle every reader’s funny bone and I’m willing to bet you’ll have a hard time keeping your own favorites to a list of six.

Map of the Fairy Tale Lands

How lucky kids are today to have such ready access to a book that collects the best of an era when comics were new and experimental and, in the case of this Treasury, appropriate for childhood.

As Mr. Spiegelman and Ms. Mouly write in their introduction, “But as parents we’ve desperately wanted to keep our kids safe on the ever-shrinking island of childhood, protected from the dangers of, say, Internet porn and the horrors of the nightly news, while still preparing them for the Real World. As evidenced in so many of our selected stories, adults can act very childishly, kids can be remarkably clear-eyed, and the battle between the rational and the irrational is more like a dance.”

I’m glad to have been invited to that dance. I’ll pull this tome (it’s 1-1/4” thick) down from the shelves when I need a book to lighten the mood. Thanks to my good friend Amy who knew this would be a cherished birthday present.

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A Trip to the Art Museum

by Vicki Palmquist

Arlo's Artrageous Adventure!  

Arlo’s Artrageous Adventure!

David LaRochelle
Sterling Children’s Books, 2013

When Arlo’s grandmother drags him to the art museum, he can’t imagine how he’ll be interested. Something odd catches his eye and he soon realizes the paintings have things to say that surprise and delight him—and the reader. Fun and quirky, with illustrations that will make you smile and flaps to lift that will reveal nuances in much the same way you discover something new in a painting each time you look at it … this is a good choice to prepare a child for a trip to the museum.

Art Dog  

Art Dog

Thacher Hurd
HarperCollins, 1996

When the moon is full, Arthur Dog, security guard at the Dogopolis Museum of Art becomes Art Dog, a masked artist painting masterpieces. When an art heist occurs, Arthur must find the true criminals. Your readers will have fun recognizing the works of Pablo Poodle, Henri Mutisse, and Vincent Van Dog.

Behind the Museum Door  

Behind the Museum Door:
Poems to Celebrate the Wonder of Museums

Lee Bennett Hopkins, ed.
illus by Stacey Dressen-McQueen
Harry N. Abrams, 2007

An ideal read-aloud to prepare for a  class trip, this collection of poetry will be useful when discussing art and artists. The poems are energetic and informative while Dressen-McQueen’s illustrations do an admiral job of visually representing each poem.

Chasing Vermeer  

Chasing Vermeer

Blue Balliett
Scholastic, 2004

Petra and Calder, 11-year-olds, become friends when they team up to solve the theft of a Vermeer painting which was en route to a museum in Chicago, where they live. The thief leaves clues in the newspaper and our clever duo work hard to solve the puzzles and mysteries that result. Your readers will learn about art while playing detective.

Dog's Night  

Dog’s Night

Meredith Hooper
illus by Alan Curless
Frances Lincoln, 2006

With a setting at London’s National Gallery, this is a tale of that one night a year when the dogs in the museum’s paintings are set free to come to life and play. A good way to introduce young people to fine art.

Eddie Red Undercover  

Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile

Marcia Wells, illus by Marcos Calo
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013

Edmund, an 11-year-old boy with a photographic memory and a talent for drawing, is hired by the NYPD to help them look for thieves planning a major art heist. Filled with humor, interesting characters, and a lot of clues to a satisfying mystery.

Framed  

Framed

Frank Cottrell Boyce
HarperCollins, 2006

When Dylan’s father leaves because their business, Snowdonia Oasis Auto Marvel, is faltering, Dylan’s family tries to improve their circumstances. At the same time, paintings from the National Gallery are being moved to storage near Dylan’s Welsh town. Filled with art history and colorful, charismatic characters, this book is sure to hook readers.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler  

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

E.L. Konigsburg
Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 1970

A classic in which Claudia plans carefully for a week’s stay in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to break the monotony of her life. She invites her younger brother, James, because he has money. A new sculpture in the museum is possibly a marble angel created by Michelangelo, but no one knows for certain. Claudia and James are determined to help solve the mystery.

 

Going to the Getty  

Going to the Getty

Vivian Walsh
illus by J. Otto Seibold
J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997

The creators of Olive, the Other Reindeer have created a picture book that introduces young visitors to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, including artwork, gardens, and behind-the-scenes work spaces.

Katie and the Sunflowers  

Katie and the Sunflowers

James Mayhew
Orchard Books, 2001

When Katie visits the museum, it’s an adventure indeed! She finds she can reach into the paintings, such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, while other paintings come to life. There are a number of Katie books in which she learns more about fine art, but this particular title features Gaugin and Cezanne, the Post-Impressionists. Back matter helps elucidate more information in a friendly way.

Masterpiece  

Masterpiece

Elise Broach
illus by Kelly Murphy
Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt, 2008

An excellent mystery weaving together the world of art and the world of art theft. Marvin is a beetle who lives under the sink in James’ apartment. Marvin has a marvelous talent for drawing in miniature. So marvelous that his drawings become a media sensation … for which James receives the credit. Art forgery is required but the friendship between Marvin and James, neither of whom can speak to the other, is tested.

Matthew's Dream  

Matthew’s Dream

Leo Lionni
Random House, 1995

When Matthew the mouse goes on a field trip to the art museum with his class, he is overcome with the beauty and power of the artwork hanging there. Inspired, he returns to his dusty and uninspired attic and creates art with things he’s never recognized as having beauty, creating paintings “filled with the shapes and colors of joy.”

Mrs Brown on Exhibit  

Mrs. Brown on Exhibit and Other Museum Poems

Susan Katz
illus R.W. Alley
Simon & Schuster, 2002

A book of poetry is written in the children’s own voices about their exuberant teacher, Mrs. Brown. She loves field trips to art exhibits and other exotic museums. A good book to show the breadth of collections encompassed by museums.

Museum  

Museum

Susan Verde
illus by Peter H. Reynolds
Harry N. Abrams, 2013

On a visit to the museum, a young girl reacts with differing emotions to each painting she sees, expressing herself with movement and sound and facial expressions. Drawn in a cartoon style, this book will help kids move beyond that feeling of reverence that museums sometimes inspire to examine the works for a personal connection.

Museum ABC  

Museum ABC

New York Metropolitan Museum of Art
Little Brown, 2002

An alphabet book introducing children to the collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, including Roy Lichtenstein’s Red Apple and Degas’ ballerinas. It works well as a discussion starter about art and as a guide to the museum’s treasures.

Museum Book  

Museum Book: a Guide to Strange and Wonderful Collections

Jan Mark
illus Richard Holland
Chronicle Books, 2007

There are anecdotes, historical facts, and invitations galore in this book to look at museums from different perspectives. Top-notch.

Museum Trip  

Museum Trip

Barbara Lehmann
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006

When a boy gets separated from his class on a field trip to a museum, wondrous things happen when he stops to tie his shoe and gets separated from his class. He goes on an adventure that will have readers asking, “Is that real?” Well, look for clues in the illustrations. It’s a wordless book, so your children will have an opportunity to tell the story in their own way.

Norman the doorman  

Norman the Doorman

Don Freeman
Penguin, 1959

In a book that has not aged, a dormouse is a doorman at the Majestic Museum of Art. He leads tours of small creatures to marvel in the paintings and sculptures stored in the museum’s basement. Inspired by a competition, Norman creates his own entry out of mousetraps set to catch him by the Museum guard. Filled with puns both verbal and visual, this is a must-have for your collection.

Seen Art?  

Seen Art?

Jon Scieszka
illus by Lane Smith
Viking Books, 2005

In a quirky play on words, the narrator is looking for his friend Art, but he’s directed to the Museum of Modern Art by a lady who thinks he’s looking for … art. While continuing to look for his friend, he encounters paintings by Van Gogh, Lichtenstein, Matisse, Klee, and more. A humorous way to approach fine art.

Shape Game  

Shape Game

Anthony Browne
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2003

In an inspirational, autobiographical picture book, Anthony Browne shares his family’s visit to the Tate Museum in London that changed his way of looking at art. He examines actual paintings hanging in the Tate in a manner that encourages the reader to look more intentionally at art. The Shape Game is a family tradition, one that Anthony’s mother shares with him on the way home from the museum.

Speeding Down the Spiral  

Speeding Down the Spiral: an Artful Adventure

Deborah Goodman Davis
illus by Sophy Naess
Life in Print, 2012

A somewhat longer picture book that frames a look at artwork in the Guggenheim Museum in New York City with a visit by a bored girl, her father, and her baby brother in a stroller. When the stroller gets away from her and heads down the spiral, a group of people give chase … and look at the artwork along the way!

Squeaking of Art  

Squeaking of Art: the Mice Go to the Museum

Monica Wellington
Dutton, 2000

Using reproductions that look somewhat like the original works of art, this book teaches the vocabulary and concepts that are so helpful when one visits a museum.

Under the Egg  

Under the Egg

Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Dial Books, 2014

In this novel, 13-year-old Theo inherits a painting after her grandfather dies unexpectedly. Isolated by poverty and the lack of a responsible adult, Theo gains friends as she attempts to figure out if the painting is one of Raphael’s and why her grandfather had it. It’s a charming book with a riveting mystery and fast-paced action.

Visiting the Art Museum  

Visiting the Art Museum

Laurene Krasny Brown
illus by Marc Brown
Dutton, 1986

When a young family goes to a museum, there is a great deal of complaining and expectations of boredom. Instead they are drawn in by work ranging from Renoir, Pollack, Cezanne, Picasso, and Warhol. Reproductions by Marc Brown of those famous paintings make this book accessible by younger and older children.

You Can't Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum  

You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum

Jacqueline P. Weitzman
illus by Robin Preiss Glasser
Dial Books, 1998

When a young girl and her grandmother visit the museum, the guard tells them she can’t take her yellow balloon in with her. He ties it to a railing. The two museum visitors view works of wart while the yellow balloon is untied by a pigeon to float through and explore New York City, often in parallel adventures.

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Books Plus: The Goods by McSweeney’s

The Goods by McSweeney’s: Games and Activities for Big Kids, Little Kids, and Medium-Size Kids edited by Mac Barnett and Brian McMullen featuring Adam Rex, Jon Scieszka, and more Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick Press, 2013 For your holiday gift-giving consideration … An oversized book filled with every imaginable distraction, this should be […]

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