Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Children and Comics

Do you have children who....
  • are reluctant readers? 
  • refuse to pick up a book?
  • have to be threatened, bribed or forced to read?
I was reading an interesting report about "The Decline of Reading in America" and they have a interesting section on the use of comics that I thought you might enjoy. Click Here to Read Some of the things that stood out to me:

1) Desmond Tutu suggests that if his parents had not allowed him to read comics that "I might not have developed this deep love for reading and for English " (Tutu 2004)
2) Evidence comes from the case histories mentioned (in the article) as well as the finding that readers gradually expand their reading interests as they read more (LaBrant 1958).
3) Middle school boys who read comic books read more in general than boys who did not read comics, read more books, and enjoyed reading more (Ujiie and Krashen, 1996)

I will admit I have heard that comics are great for reluntant readers and that kids who read them often have a better reading comprehension then kids don't read books or even those that do read - I can't help but wonder if that is because they are taking visual clues from the artwork in the book, reading "small chunks" of text and having to remember what happens from story to story instead of just reading one story and never revisiting it again?

What do you think?

Today I have 2 reviews for graphic novels that would fit within the Comic Books genre. They are for early to late teens and even adults will like them too. 

Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer
Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer

by Trina Robbins
Published by Graphic Universe, a division
of Lerner Publishing Group
Age: 13+ (mature themes)
Purchase on Amazon for $7.95
(ebook/library bound is also available)

About the book:
In 1938, Lily Renée Wilheim is a 14-year-old Jewish girl living in Vienna. Her days are filled with art and ballet. Then the Nazis march into Austria, and Lily's life is shattered overnight. Suddenly, her own country is no longer safe for her or her family. To survive, Lily leaves her parents behind and travels alone to England.

Escaping the Nazis is only the start of Lily's journey. She must escape many more times--from servitude, hardship, and danger. Will she find a way to have her own sort of revenge on the Nazis? Follow the story of a brave girl who becomes an artist of heroes and a true pioneer in comic books.

My thoughts:
Based on the true story of 14 year old Lily Renee who is from a wealthy Austrian family who also happen to be Jewish. When Hitler and the Nazi's invade Austria the Austrian's made plans to send their children from the country to England for safety and Lily is one of those children. The book starts with her experience of living in a city torn apart by hatred and the persecution of the Jews. She tells of being banned from school, the attack on the Jews during the "The Night of the Broken Glass" (Kristallnacht), the marking of the merchants stores, the Nazi's stealing their belongings and forcing them to house another couple because they "had plenty of room". 

After going to England you read about Lily's experience with her host family and the treatment she received from the government and her eventual reunion with her mother. This is a very fascinating first hand account of her life. Lily ends up as one of the first female comic book writers. She is respected by her peers and helped create many of The Fighting Femmes, a comic book line that showed women in strong roles fighting against crime and even the Nazi's.

I strongly encourage kids and adults to consider adding this book to your home library and schools. The value of the historical lessons and seeing it from the eyes of kid's your own kid's age is priceless and the history sections, glossary and the photo's in the back make World War II and the Nazi's real to your children.

About the author:
Trina Robbins has been writing comics and books for over thirty years. She lives in San Francisco, and loves cats and vintage clothing. If you would like to know more about her, read some of the interviews listed on her blog. Click here

The Crystal Prince
by Jeanette Clinger Hurley
Illustrated by BC Hailes
Age: 13+ (violence)
Purchase HERE for $16.95

About the book:
Escape into a world of spellbinding adventure, a world where kindness is king, a world where faith and imagination separate life from death, a world where love is the key that unlocks both mystery and magic… Escape into... 

My Thoughts:
Crystal Prince is the story of a boy kidnapped by troll like  creatures who are envious of the easy life they think that the citizens of Celestria have. The boy is Xabian, the much loved son of King Xarius and at his 12th Birthday Party the little prince is kidnapped and taken away leaving the citizens of the city to mourn his loss.

The moral of the story is to "Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You" and you see the little prince using that principal as he grows up around the trolls who treat him badly and you also see the consequences the trolls pay for being greedy, mean and cruel. The idea behind the story is an interesting one and I saw parallels to the bible story Cain and Abel. 

At only 70 pages, this is a very very quick read, perfect for kids 10+.. Some of the pages only have a paragraph or two and there are full size color drawings on each page spread. There is some violence and the pictures in the book are very detailed and beautiful. Depending on your kids (younger ones especially) you may want to pre-read the book if you think the pictures might be too scary. I don't know if I would label this a true comic book as it isn't split up into segments and it is a complete book - but the pictures are very similar to comics and much of the story is seen through the pictures too.

My only disappointments with this book is that there were several words that were misspelled and also the length of the book. I would of liked to see more in depth characterization of the characters but then that is also the charm of a good comic - using your imagination.

Learn more:

The author:
World class singer, songwriter and now story teller Jeanette Clinger Hurley today announced the release of her enchanted children’s book, The Crystal Prince, Love Is the Only Way, published by Outskirts Press. Through this charming fantasy Hurley brings children, parents and families the message that love is the way to everlasting happiness and that we all depend on each other to see that through. 


  1. Great post! I've always been a big comic book fan. :)

    I'm stopping by from Stumble Tumble Tuesday! :) My post is: http://www.contest-corner.com/beautiful-moon-photos/

  2. That's an interesting take on how to handle a reluctant reader. I would have never thought to try comics.

    I'm stopping by from STT and would love you to stop by and check out MY POST .

    Have a great week!
    Jamie @ www.mamamommymom.com

  3. Great article about reading. I am all about ways to promote reading.

  4. stumbled you, stumble me back

  5. I hadn't thought about it but I bet my 7 yo would love some comic books!

  6. This book looks amazing. My co-author, Stephanie, does a historical fiction unit with her 5th graders. I will tell her about this one! I am sure her students would enjoy it!


  7. I hopped over from "A not so moody monday" blog hop and I follow you on GFC! I love your blog and hope you can stop by to check mine out sometime and follow back!

    @ http://magicallifeofmamas.blogspot.com/

    - Sarah Kay

  8. The Crystal Prince sounds interesting. Sorry to hear about the misspellings- but the short book will probably appeal to many reluctant readers. Great review!