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Parents: If you're unfamiliar with the breadth and depth of kids' comics these days, here's a list to get you started. First, a trio of widely acclaimed comics:
' 'Smile,” by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic/Graphix)
Ask any children's librarian and they'll tell you that 'Raina reigns.” 'Smile” is a memoir detailing the years-long dental drama that began when Telgemeier fell and broke her front teeth as a preteen. But it's the friendship story woven into the text that draws both boys and girls.Telgemeier has written two other memoirs, 'Sisters” and the recently published 'Guts.” In addition, she wrote and illustrated the first three 'Baby-Sitters Club” graphic novels and 'Drama,” a fictionalized version of her experiences in her middle school's drama club. The Beat, a comics blog, recently named her 'The Comics Industry Person of the Decade” for her role in creating the current boom in comics for kids.
' 'New Kid,” by Jerry Craft (Quill Tree)
This newly minted winner of the Newbery Medal is a novel about the experiences of an African American middle-schooler, Jordan Banks, as he moves to a private school. There, Jordan is one of the few students of color, and Craft deftly uses a mix of humor and drama to detail the micro- and macro-aggressions Jordan experiences as he tries to fit in and make friends.
' 'El Deafo,” by Cece Bell (Abrams)
Although the characters in this book are rabbits, 'El Deafo” is actually a memoir of Bell's experiences as she tried to cope with a major childhood hearing loss. Bell said she decided to use rabbits as visual metaphor to emphasize what it was like to be the kid with ears that didn't work. The result is a book that is a rare mix of poignant and laugh-out-loud funny.
And here are two new comics already winning accolades:
' 'Green Lantern: Legacy,” written by Minh Le and illustrated by Andie Tong (DC Comics)
Part of DC Comics' new effort to reach deeper into the kids market, 'Green Lantern: Legacy” tells the story of 12-year-old Tai Pham, who suddenly learns that his beloved grandmother was a Green Lantern, a member of an 'intergalactic peacekeeping force.” Tai is even more stunned to learn that, upon her death, he has been called to continue her mission. Le and Tong have created a thoughtful superhero story that gets young readers thinking about friendship, the uses of power and creativity, and the importance of community.
' 'Go with the Flow,” written by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann and illustrated by Williams (First Second)
Schneemann and Williams break barriers with this fictional friendship story centered on the subject of menstruation. In the book, four high school girls band together to persuade their school administration to make feminine hygiene products freely available in all of the girls' restrooms. As they struggle against a resistant principal, the girls also find themselves testing the bounds of friendship. The book concludes with a section for readers interested in further information on a topic that sometimes is hard to discuss.