Friday, May 5, 2017

Web Comics and Graphic Novels for Kids

by Susan Stephenson,

Have your kids discovered graphic novels and web comics yet? If not, there’s so much opportunity for fun ahead!

Graphic Novels

Graphic novels use sequential art to tell a story. That story can be fiction or non-fiction but by its nature is intensely visual, and kids need to learn to read images as well as words. The format of the book is more like a paperback or hardback book than the more magazine format of a comic. Here’s a more detailed explanation.

Graphic novels often appeal to children not yet enthused about reading. Because print is less than a standard novel, and because images help tell the story, a graphic novel can be less daunting to a reader. Of course, graphic novels also appeal to kids who are able readers but who love visuals. By combining the visual narrative with the textual narrative, readers engage in a very direct but highly sophisticated kind of reading.

The art work in both comics and in graphic novels is a rich source of satisfaction for those who enjoy them. Visual literacy is important to develop in kids, and this art work helps them learn about things like perspective, and use of art elements like size, colour, direction, line and shape. Readers must practise inferring while following the sequence of events and interpreting character’s thoughts, dialogue and non-verbals.

Check out some of the graphic novels and graphic picture books I’ve reviewed, listed below:

Web Comics and Web-based Comics

Web comics are becoming increasingly popular. Rather than necessarily reading a comic in print, these are comics available online. Some successful web comics go on to become available in print.  Many of these comics are suitable, in my opinion, for primary age school kids. 

NOTE: many web comics are definitely NOT aimed at children. Like always, parents and teachers should check out these sites for themselves and supervise children online. I have tried my best to bring you sites that are suitable for children/teens however, not only may our opinions differ, but things online can swiftly change.

School Spirit
It’s wonderful to find an Australian web comic, moreover one that Aussie school kids will relate to! Check out the archives from the start, grab a summary of the whole story, and read up on the comic’s beginnings. Talented creator, Daniel VanderWerff, also shares some intriguing and motivational teaching ideas.

MooseKid Comics
Do take a look at Moose Kid Comics. Colourful artwork, fun stories your kids will love. It does have what I would call "mild wind references.” I can’t imagine any but the terminally critical objecting though. Free to read online or download as a PDF. Also has free resources for kids.

Liz Climo Comics
She has lovely gentle understated humour and art work. I think the single comic panels on her blog would be excellent to share with primary+ kids. She has print books available for purchase. 

Cucumber Quest
I know other grown ups who read it too, so I think Cucumber Quest may have universal appeal. I hope to review Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom, soon.

The Secret in the Cellar
This is a Flash-based webcomic from the Smithsonian about an authentic forensic case - “a 17th Century body found in 2003 in Leavy Neck, part of the Lost Towns Project. Using graphics, photos, and online activities, the Webcomic unravels a mystery of historical, and scientific importance. Online sleuths can analyze artifacts and examine the skeleton for the tell-tale forensic clues that bring the deceased to life and establish the cause of death.”

The Owly novels by Andy Runton are available as e-books. (RRP: $Au10.99) But the short Owly comics are available online too, as downloadable PDFs. “Owly is a kind-hearted little owl who's always searching for new friends and adventure.”

The Fuzzy Princess
The Fuzzy Princess is a beguiling web comic and series of comic books by Charles Brubaker. Its described as "kid-friendly" and in my opinion it is. (I noticed one word "cra$" that I think would be standard in any playground in the world!) It's a lot of fun - "...about a cat princess (Katrina, or "Kat") who gets stranded on Earth and has to live with humans, moving in with a boy named Jackson. Kat's servants, Chiro the uptight, neurotic bat, and Kuma the artistic, hipster bear, are also in for a ride." I love the way Kat stands up to the human bullies and believe primary aged kids will enjoy it too. Here's the first episode.

Beaver and Steve
This comic is on hiatus, but you can read the archives.

What’s not to enjoy about having fun with reading AND grammar? Grammarman also has links to other great comics online, including classics like Archie.

Professor Garfield Toon Book Reader
Here you'll find lots of cute Toon Book comics to read, and in different languages - French, Chinese, Spanish, English and Russian. If you choose the Read to me option, you can hear the words - a fun way to practise your French! Aimed at young kids and have an easy reading level.

Calvin and Hobbes
A daily comic or click random and indulge in this excellent and universally appealing comic!

Daisy Owl
Lots of archives for kids to read.

Wizard of Id

Click daily/random or start from the beginning.

Gronk is a cute baby monster. Use arrows to move to next comic/most recent.

The Adventures of Sticky Burr
A cute burr must save the day. Read from the start.

Stone Soup
Find archives of Stone Soup, and heaps more online comics at Go Comics.

(At Funbrain, kids can read the book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid online, and it uses comic style illustrations. Might be a neat way to introduce kids to the books?)

General Comic Resources

If your kids are interested in becoming cartoonists, or even if they just like to dabble, they may enjoy The World is Made of Cheese - The Applied Cartooning Manifesto.

The Phoenix is a wonderful UK weekly story comic. You can read a digital copy here. They have lots of free resources to help young cartoonists. They also offer discounts to UK schools and libraries.

Find more useful and interesting resources at The Centre for Cartoon Studies. Why not help them sign up for the Comics Club newsletter? They can access blank comic pages and other resources to use as prompts for their own comics.

Comics in the Classroom Part 4 - How to Draw a Comic

At The Comic Book Project you can read comic books created by kids. This might be a great motivator!

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