We read a lot of comics and graphic novels at our house. A LOT. Other parents keep asking me to recommend good comics for kids, so I thought a series of blog posts was in order. (Actually, I thought ONE post was in order, but then I realized I had at least 80 books to recommend. So, series!)
The “all ages” label in the comics world is often misleading. Books get labeled “all ages” but they’re completely unworkable for reading aloud with most three and four year olds. So here’s a set of happy, fun comics and comic/picture book blends appropriate for even the youngest kiddos. They’re all good books, with high quality art and engaging stories. Older ones will find plenty to enjoy here too. I’d hand almost any of these to my ten year old nephew as well as a three year old.
The Adventures of Polo by Régis Faller. A wordless comic about a little dog who leaves his house (in a tree in the middle of the ocean) and a grand adventure. The way off his island is by tightrope, which then turns into a staircase, and then a slide, which drops him onto a cloud, which he rides to his friend’s house which is also on a cloud… if you’re getting a Harold and the Purple Crayon vibe here, you’re not wrong, it’s the same kind of magical wonderland kind of story. Polo visits all kinds of islands and then eventually ends up on the moon before arriving back home where all his new friends can now come to visit. Very fun stuff!
Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas by Philippe Coudray. Each page is one cartoon, with a visual gag playing off the short dialogue. It’s more like reading cartoons in the newspaper than reading a story. Go slow with younger children, because they’ll need time to process the visuals and combine them with the wordplay. Once they start to catch on, it’s a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, the next volume we read, Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking, contains some pages where one character hurts another on purpose to make the joke work. A big departure from this one, and no thanks.
Comic Adventures of Boots by Satoshi Kitamura. We LOVE Satoshi Kitamura. This book of comic stories about Boots the cat is at times surreal, and very often funny. Please watch 20-30 cats try to make a pyramid to get treats off the roof of a building and tell me you aren’t chuckling a little, at least in your mind.
C-Man and I would buy this one for our own collection. Satoshi Kitamura’s art is extremely expressive. I had no idea that cartoon cat faces could convey so many different emotions.
Hello Kitty: Here We Go! with stories and art by Jacob Chabot, Jorge Monlongo, and Susie Ghahremani. I would never have ordered this if Boy Detective didn’t love Hello Kitty with a passion, or if I’d realized it would be wordless. Wordless comics are hard. You can’t just read what’s on the page in a stupor at 8pm. You have to look at it and be creative and discuss. How it was supposed to have words when Hello Kitty has no mouth, I don’t know. So I immediately handed it to the kid with a gentle “get this away from me or look at it with Grandma” message.
Then he suckered me into looking at it with him one morning before school. You know what? It’s really cute and funny. I was surprised by how much expression they manage with this little stylized cat. Also, there were kitty ninjas. (All they do is look menacing.) I had a good time, and I would buy another one for him.
Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye, written by Colleen AF Venable and illustrated by Stephanie Yue. A bookworm guinea pig named Sasspants and her best friend, a mouse named Hamisher who wants to be a dragon, live in a pet shop where the owner can’t remember what to label the cages… and there’s always a mystery afoot. The fish are all named Steve. The chinchillas have a pet mouse they carry around like a tiny dog, and they dress him up. Trust me on this one. There are five books in this series, and they are all hysterical. If we buy this for Boy Detective, I’m going to end up stealing it. Often. We may need a rule about who gets which books on which days.
The Hole by Øyvind Torseter, translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson. That white dot in the center of the book cover? That’s an actual hole. It goes all the way through the book. The main character moves into a new apartment only to discover a hole. As he’s trying to figure out what it is, the hole moves! He makes a phone call for help, which results in a request to catch the hole and bring it across town. This book has very little dialogue, but tons of visual interest, and the hole is used shockingly well on every page. So glad this showed up at our local library!
Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith. I could not figure out the point of this book… until we got to the joke at the end. Then I laughed, and Boy Detective at four years old thought it was hilarious. For those familiar with Bone, this is the same Jeff Smith, doing something light and fun.
Long Tail Kitty by Lark Pien. I was familiar with Lark Pien through some of her previous work in comics, as well as the picture book Mr. Elephanter, so we checked out Long Tail Kitty from the library. The first chapter serves as a bit of introduction and prologue, before the chapters which include wacky fun as Long Tail Kitty: gets a bee sting (and meets some cranky flowers who like cookies), learns to ice skate, makes dinner with friends, and plays with visiting aliens. It’s great! Lots of laughter with this one. I should buy it and pretend my son asked me to. He’ll cover for me as long as I share it with him.
There may be one mention of someone needing to “wee” in this one, and I think someone mentions their “bum.” So depending on your kiddo’s propensity for repeating words ad nauseum, you may want to pre-screen it and see what you think.
Luke on the Loose by Harry Bliss. It’s a sweet, funny little story about a young child’s big adventure chasing pigeons through the city. We read this when Boy Detective was five, and I thought he might find the story too simple, but he paid a lot more attention to the pictures than I initially did and ended up laughing at all of Luke’s antics. I think I was also distracted by empathizing with Luke’s frantic parents! I especially loved finding this because children’s books are sadly lacking in diversity of characters, and kids’ comics even moreso!
Magic Trixie by Jill Thompson. We heart the Magic Trixie series! We read them with Boy Detective really young, maybe starting when he was three? This is another set I’d buy even if I did not live with a child.
Magic Trixie’s world is full of spells, adventure, and spooky-but-not-really monster stuff. Plus, grownups who love Trixie even when she’s made a bad decision. The first and third books deal with “I have a baby sister” drama, so I don’t always bust them out on families with multiple kids if I don’t know their kids’ rivalry/jealousy dynamics. The second one, Magic Trixie Sleeps Over, is great for Halloween. Which we observe all year at our house.
Max & Milo Go To Sleep! by Heather and Ethan Long. Poor Max. It’s not easy sharing a room with your energetic always-busy brother, especially at bedtime. The Longs have done a great job pairing Ethan’s cartoon art with a story “inspired by real family events” that Boy Detective cracks up over every time.
Maya Makes a Mess by Rutu Modan. Most kids LOVE a good story about a kid proving adults wrong, and this is a cute one. Maya’s parents implore her to use good table manners. After all, what if she got invited to dinner with the queen?! Well, that actually happens… and the results left Boy Detective cracking up and looking for all the funny details in the pictures of that night’s historic dinner.
Pippi Moves In, in which Ingrid Vang Nyman adapted Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi stories into comics at roughly the same time that the Pippi books were published. The comics are now being reprinted and they have held up just fine with the years. We got this when Boy Detective was five, and he loves jokes and funny stuff, so Pippi’s zany behavior and outlook on life were perfect for him. The followup volume, Pippi Fixes Everything, is waiting in our “to read” pile and I expect more of the same amusement.
Scary Godmother and the Boo Flu, also by Jill Thompson. There are quite a few different Scary Godmother books by Jill Thompson, as well as some produced when the character was under license to a large company. Stick with Jill’s. The one we started with was a big black and white compendium that took forever to get through, though Boy Detective was fine with that and stayed interested.
The Boo Flu is more accessible, and in color, focused on Scary Godmother’s friend Hannah. S.G. gets sick and little girl Hannah tries to take over her Halloween duties, only to realize that it’s a LOT of work. If your kiddo likes this one, you can look for more.
Sticky Burr: Adventures in Burrwood Forest, by John Lechner. I never thought I would read a story about anthropomorphized burrs. That’s why John Lechner has published books and I have not, he has way more imagination! Sticky Burr usually spends his time playing the ukulele and painting, but when trouble arises, he’s the one the other burrs look to for good ideas. This book combines graphic novel storytelling with pages describing life in the village, the forest, etc. Rich fictional world, cute talking burrs, what’s not to love? (One caution: there’s a mean-spirited burr who does spend a lot of time spewing negativity, but I still think this is fine for even little kids. It’s so funny how the jerk burr always loses and gets so frustrated.)
Stinky by Eleanor Davis. I did not want to bring this book home because of the title. Why would I want to read about stinky things?! C-Man and Boy Detective overruled me. I’m glad they did. It’s a nice little story about learning to overcome your fear of people who are different, and it doesn’t hit the readers repeatedly on the head with the lesson stick. If you don’t like toads, though, I’d give it a pass.
Tippy and the Night Parade by Lilli Carré. I love this little book! The art style is so unique. It feels vintage without feeling dated. And I love how Tippy explains how she could have ended up with a bedroom full of animals and a bird on her head… even though all she remembers is falling asleep! Boy Detective grabbed this out of the library shelf and read it before I woke up one morning, then brought it to me in the dark whispering “Mom, you HAVE to read this!”
Zoe and Robot: Let’s Pretend. This is fun to read aloud, especially if you’re willing to do a robot voice. Zoe’s friend Robot just can’t seem to get the hang of her pretend mountain-climbing expedition! What can she do? Just keep trying, Zoe, it’s all going to work out. After digging through the Austin Public Library catalog for awesome picture books about robots and coming up with very little that interested me, and NO female characters in sight, I really appreciated this one. Boy Detective is six right now and we just read this, but we could have read it when he was much younger. He’s read it to himself repeatedly and still is asking for someone to read it to him.
And that’s the list of good comics for kids! If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments – and thanks for sharing on social media or with friends!