Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"If I had a nickel..."

As the saying goes, "... for every time I heard someone say..."

In the comics' business, I get to hear every story about how "Mom threw away my comics when I was away at college" or some variation. The story-teller, almost despite how old they are, will then say something like "And I had ALL the first issues--- the very first appearances of Superman, X-Men, Spider-Man and Batman."

Considering the first issues of Superman and Batman were in 1939 and 1940, while Spider-Man and X-Men first issues were in '63, what I've realized is that the memories associated with the times surrounding the comics are probably more vivid than memories of the comics' themselves. The sweet innocence of childhood is remembered, mostly in the haze of lazy summer days, lounging around with nothing to do except vicariously live the lives of our favorite heroes. But the specific comics that were in hand at the time may be a detail only the most die-hard fans would remember. Most people who tell me this comment seem to be lamenting the value of what they think their old comics might be worth today, rather than missing some fun and important piece of their childhood. Our cherished memories are always worth more than gold...

I'd also love a nickel for every frustrating time I've heard a parent tell a younger child "I'll buy you comics when you learn to read!"

I've heard this one way too many times! The parent's voice is usually embarrassingly loud and often comes off as a put-down. I know from experience comics are a medium parents can enjoy with their younger kids while also using comics as a tool to help along pre-literates.

With that in mind, I want to pass along some recommendations of comics for parents to read with their younger kids. These feature some classic characters and some relatlvely easy vocabulary.

• BONE by Jeff Smith. There are nine volumes in this series in black & white. There's also the BONE "ONE" Volume, a massive edition with 1000+ pages of the complete BONE saga. Scholastic Books has also published the first two volumes "Out from Boneville" and "The Great Cow Race" in separate volumes in full color for the first time. BONE can best be described as "Looney Tunes meets Lord of the Rings." Filled with action, humor, suspense and a little romance---and characters kids and parents alike will love!

• Ultimate CASPER the FRIENDLY GHOST. Many parents were probably raised reading the old Harvey Comics line, featuring Wendy the Good Little Witch, the Ghostly Trio and other familiar characters. Simple stories and art---and lots of fun for early readers.

• Marge's LITTLE LULU. There are now several volumes available of these classic stories featuring the irrepressible LITTLE LULU, along with her supporting cast including Tubby, Alvin and Witch Hazel. I highly recommend these stories for read-aloud fun for kids and parents. Lots of laughs, lots of inventive stories and lots of memorable times await you when you share this series with new readers.

• OWLY. We now have two volumes of the mostly text-reduced (mostly silent) comics featuring this soon-to-be star in comics. OWLY and his friend Wormy are, to no one's surprise, an owl and a worm. Their adventures together are sweet and fun and gentle. With text-reduced comics, kids can learn reading skills by verbalizing the story they see flowing from panel to panel. As we live in a highly visual culture, this is a good skill to give to any new reader!

• We also have a good stock of very popular comics done for readers of all ages featuring characters from other media, including movies and cartoons--- SPIDER-MAN, TEEN TITANS, JUSTICE LEAGUE, FANTASTIC FOUR, POWERPUFF GIRLS, SCOOBY-DOO, BETTY & VERONICA, SABRINA, LOONEY TUNES.

(These recommendations would all make for some fun gifts this holiday season. Hint, hint.)

While the average age of comic book readers is now in the late 20s, there are still lots of titles to explore at Flying Colors for new and younger readers. For more info on the power of comics as a tool to teach younger readers, go to the "Education" page at

Parents: You give your children an amazing gift when *you* encourage their love of reading. Don't wait for them to learn how to read--- help teach them the love of reading by doing it with them.

I'd love to hear your comments!


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