Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

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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.


Lisa Bullard: My Superpower

When I do school vis­its, the stu­dents treat me like a super­hero. The time with them is exhil­a­rat­ing, and it would take a much more hard­ened heart than mine to resist the curios­i­ty and imag­i­na­tion these young peo­ple exhib­it. But my class­room days also leave me bone-deep exhaust­ed. One after­noon, mid­way through a week­long res­i­den­cy, I lay down in my front yard when I arrived back home, too tired to tack­le the Mount Ever­est that had replaced my front steps.

orange starThat’s one of the rea­sons I stand in awe of class­room teach­ers. The degree of patience and endurance that they require to show up day after day for an entire school year astounds me. I also have a secret the­o­ry that edu­ca­tion majors are trained in super-human blad­der con­trol. For my part, I need to stay ful­ly hydrat­ed to sur­vive school vis­it days—which means I devel­op an ear­ly aware­ness of the restroom lay­out for any school I vis­it. That’s how I got to be par­tic­u­lar­ly friend­ly with one young writer who I’ll call Jake. In his par­tic­u­lar school, there was a handy fac­ul­ty restroom just off of the nurse’s office. Between class­es I’d duck in, and more often than not find Jake sit­ting on the nurse’s bed.

Hey, Mrs. Writer Lady,” he’d invari­ably greet me, and we’d exchange pleas­antries and chat about the activ­i­ties I had planned for his class­room that day.

After sev­er­al more restroom vis­its, I became wor­ried about Jake. The lit­tle guy seemed to spend a good part of his school day in the nurse’s office, and I imag­ined an array of chron­ic dis­eases that might be the cul­prit. I final­ly caught a rare moment where the nurse was present but Jake was not, and under­stand­ing that she couldn’t reveal con­fi­den­tial med­ical infor­ma­tion, I told her of my con­cern for Jake’s health. She laughed, wav­ing a hand.

gr_ZapJake’s not sick,” she said. “They just stash the sent-to-the-prin­ci­pal stu­dents in here when the prin­ci­pal is away.” In oth­er words, Jake was That Kid: the one who spends a good part of his edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence get­ting into trou­ble, dis­rupt­ing oth­er stu­dents, and being sent to the principal’s office. Yet this side of his nature was com­plete­ly for­eign to me—when I worked with his class, he was enthu­si­as­tic and engaged, cheer­ful­ly cre­at­ing a high­ly imag­i­na­tive piece about a polar bear who McGuyver-ed bub­blegum to solve his story’s con­flict.

Jake was my first hands-on evi­dence of some­thing I’ve observed time and again dur­ing my class­room vis­its: sto­ries can have the pow­er to reach That Kid in a way that few oth­er things can. I’ve now had many teach­ers seek me out after class to tell me about That Kid in their class­room: how, to the teacher’s great sur­prise, That Kid was able to focus, to behave, to show enthu­si­asm, for my sto­ry-writ­ing activ­i­ty in a way That Kid sel­dom can for oth­er class­room activ­i­ties. Sto­ries cer­tain­ly aren’t the mag­ic fix for every strug­gling kid, but I now believe strong­ly that they can some­times work won­ders for That Kid.

blue starMost super­heroes need a super­pow­er: mine is sto­ries. I work real­ly hard to make my school vis­its fun (hence the need for all that hydra­tion!). But the truth is, I’m not an enter­tain­er by nature—I’m a writer who spends most of my work days alone with imag­i­nary char­ac­ters and a cat. So the cred­it for the abil­i­ty to reach some of those hard­est-to-reach kids should right­ful­ly go to the pow­er of sto­ry rather than to me. That means that any class­room that allows time for plea­sure read­ing and cre­ative writ­ing can tap into that pow­er, too.

You just need to stock up on good books, sharp pen­cils, and not-emp­ty-for-long note­books, and Kapow! Zap! Boom! It will be super­hero time in your class­room (or liv­ing room) before you know it.



Bookstorm: The Shadow Hero


In this Bookstorm™:

Shadow HeroShadow Hero

writ­ten by Gene Luen Yang
illus­trat­ed by Son­ny Liew
First Sec­ond, 2014

As we become a cul­ture adapt­ed to screens, visu­als, and mov­ing pic­tures, we grow more accus­tomed to the sto­ry­telling form of the graph­ic nov­el. For some, their com­fort with this com­bi­na­tion of visu­als and text telling a sto­ry sat­is­fies a crav­ing to “see” the sto­ry while they’re read­ing. For oth­ers, the lack of descrip­tive detail and mea­sured, lin­ear momen­tum through the sto­ry feels like a bar­ri­er to under­stand­ing. With the vari­ety of graph­ic nov­els avail­able and the inven­tive ways in which they’re assem­bled, we encour­age you to keep try­ing. Find a sto­ry that intrigues you and per­se­vere … we believe you’ll grow accus­tomed to this form. In time, you’ll add graph­ic nov­els to the depth of offer­ings you eager­ly rec­om­mend to stu­dents, patrons, and friends.

We select­ed Shad­ow Hero for our fea­tured book this month because the super­hero has been present in comics since the ear­ly 1900s and cur­rent films and tele­vi­sion have reawak­ened an inter­est among chil­dren that we believe can eas­i­ly trans­port them into read­ing. Yang and Liew have giv­en a back sto­ry to a super­hero, The Green Tur­tle, orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed by tal­ent­ed com­ic book artist (and fine artist) Chu Fook Hing in the 1940s. There’s plen­ty of action, humor, mys­tery, and sus­pense in this new book … all the right ingre­di­ents for the best read­ing.

In each Book­storm™, we offer a bib­li­og­ra­phy of books that have close ties to the the fea­tured book. For Shad­ow Hero, you’ll find books for a vari­ety of tastes, inter­ests, and read­ing abil­i­ties. Shad­ow Hero will be com­fort­ably read by ages 10 through adult. We’ve includ­ed pic­ture books, nov­els, and non­fic­tion for the pletho­ra of pur­pos­es you might have.

Graph­ic Nov­els About Super­heroes. With the pop­u­lar­i­ty of The Avengers and X-Men, Iron Man and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there are a num­ber of graph­ic nov­els about super­heroes avail­able for dif­fer­ent ages. Some have mature con­tent. Many are acces­si­ble for younger read­ers. Whether or not they’re wear­ing capes, super­heroes are appeal­ing because of the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Graph­ic Nov­els About Mythol­o­gy. The Green Tur­tle is a part of Chi­nese mythol­o­gy. We hear a lot about Greek and Roman mythol­o­gy, but there are com­pelling myths around the world. Graph­ic nov­els make those tra­di­tions and sto­ries avail­able to read­ers who might have trou­ble with straight text.

Fic­tion about Super­heroes. Longer texts, with­out illus­tra­tions, often hold as much attrac­tion for com­ic book read­ers if the sto­ries are engag­ing. And there are pic­ture books that are just right for the read­ers who are too young for graph­ic nov­els but have the inter­est.

Com­ic Books, Non­fic­tion. Whether it’s learn­ing how two boys came to invent Super­man, the super­hero from Kryp­ton, or exam­in­ing info­graph­ics and sta­tis­tics, or lis­ten­ing to a pod­cast with Gene Luen Yang on pub­lic radio about his inspi­ra­tion, The Green Tur­tle, there’s a lot of research and learn­ing to be done with super­heroes.

Draw­ing. For those kinet­ic and visu­al learn­ers, telling a sto­ry through draw­ing, pop­u­lat­ing a page with char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and set­ting and voice is a way to use com­ic book art for devel­op­ing writ­ing skills.

Chi­nese His­to­ry. There are many, many books, some of them quite schol­ar­ly, about Chi­nese his­to­ry. We’ve select­ed just two, both of which are also visu­al his­to­ries.

Chi­nese Art. Chi­na is such a large coun­try, with a civ­i­liza­tion that is thou­sands of years old, that these books orga­nize the infor­ma­tion in order to present the diver­si­ty of arts in a way that makes sense.

Chi­nese Immi­gra­tion. There are fine books about the immi­gra­tion of Chi­nese and Asian Pacif­ic peo­ple to Amer­i­ca, the Gold­en Moun­tain. We’ve select­ed a few, from pic­ture books to nov­els to mem­oir. 

Chi­nese Food. Read­ers learn a great deal about dif­fer­ent cul­tures from the food they eat, their tra­di­tions for prepar­ing food, and the ways they share it with their com­mu­ni­ty. We’ve found cook­books for both learn­ing and eat­ing, for adults and for chil­dren.

Chi­nese Geog­ra­phy. It always helps to have a good map to rein­force the visu­al knowl­edge of a coun­try. You’ll find sug­ges­tions for maps, down­loads, pho­tos, and facts about this large coun­try in Asia.

Tech­niques for using each book:



My New Hero

I am a fan of super­hero comics. After read­ing about talk­ing ducks, pre­co­cious teens at Riverdale High, and an equal­ly pre­co­cious rich kid, I want­ed some­thing with a real sto­ry, not a sit­u­a­tion. I wasn’t allowed to buy com­ic books, so I had to rely on the kind­ness of cousins. What­ev­er I could scrounge up […]