Tech & Media

6 Great Canadian Comics For Kids

May 11, 2016

Comics are often celebrated as a great way to get reluctant readers into books, but they’re so much more than just an easier way to read. The combination of images and text in comics can completely change how kids experience stories. 

It’s a great time for comics. There are more comics for kids than ever before, in all kinds of genres and styles. The growing list includes some amazing Canadian cartoonists—here are six you may want to check out, whether it’s at a book store, comic shop, library or digitally.

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Comics for Beginning Readers

Three comics for beginning readers: A Cat Named Tim, Brobots and The Secret Of The Stone Frog

A Cat Named Tim by John Martz

What It’s About: This mostly-wordless series of short stories stars cats, ducks and delightful pig senior citizens. It’s a great way to experience the difference between picture books and comics.

Why Kids Will Love It: It’s funny, it’s cute and it’s full of inventive visual humour to excite little ones each time they see it—it’s a short read, but one they’ll want to revisit.

What Parents Should Know: Martz plays with the conventions of comics. He uses multiple pictures to show a sequence of events, so parents can help kids follow the action by tracing the storytelling path with their finger—for example, showing where a mouse falls out of a boat and where he climbs back in.

Brobots by J. Torres and Sean Dove

What It’s About: Brobots is a hilarious mash-up of android heroes and giant monsters by the prolific kid-comic writer J. Torres and the lone non-Canadian on this list, artist Sean Dove. The first volume, The Kaiju Kerfuffle makes its debut in May 2016 at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Why Kids Will Love It: The art is deceptively simple and the dialogue is short enough not to intimidate early readers (plus, it’s funny). It follows super-hero conventions of cartoons that kids will recognize: the good guys team up to defeat a bad guy. Plus, kids will get a kick out of a familiar fairy tale tie-in.

What Parents Should Know: There is a no-holds-barred battle that destroys much of a city, but the story is approached in non-violent way, so most kids won’t find it too scary.

The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra

What It’s About: This story about two siblings’ adventures in a dream landscape borrows bits from well-known stories like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Little Nemo in Slumberland. It’s rendered in jaw-droppingly gorgeous black and white pencils (there’s also a sequel called Windmill Dragons).

Why Kids Will Love It: Even if parents are more likely to appreciate the extremely detailed artwork style, kids will still love the visual designs of characters, from lion dandies and fish-like subway commuters to giant bunnies. They’ll also find comfort in the story of a brother and sister who stick together.

What Parents Should Know: This isn’t really a comic for young readers to tackle on their own (the publisher suggests grade 3 and up), but it can make for an ideal story to share with a grown-up. Everything turns out OK, though some scenes might be a little scary.

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Books for Older Readers

3 Canadian comics for older kids: The Dark Island, Awkward and The Nameless City

The Three Thieves series by Scott Chantler

What It’s About: When the final book is published this fall, this seven-part series will have told the story of Dessa—a girl who teams up with a troll and a giant to search for her long-lost brother while evading the royal guards who are chasing after her. The newest arrival is The Dark Island, but Tower of Treasure is where you want to begin.

Why Kids Will Love It: This is a high-fantasy epic—a series of book-length comics for kids to obsess over. There’s action, suspense, comedy and cliffhangers to propel readers forward.

What Parents Should Know: There are intense scenes throughout this series. In addition to battles and escapes, the story dips into Dessa’s unhappy past. Parents may want to prepare to explore stories about some difficult topics.

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

What It’s About: It’s Peppi’s first day at a new school. When she accidentally bumps into boy, everyone teases her getting so close to a nerd—so she pushes him away. Literally.  She learns he’s a member of the science club—sworn enemies of her new art club. 

The story's overall plot may be predictable, but there are lots of twists and turns along the way. The characters are likable and well-defined, the dialogue is natural and the art is perfect for the setting.

Why Kids Will Love It: Kids who like comics but aren’t into action will love this familiar slice-of-life story with recognizable characters, a diverse cast and plenty of drama. Many will also dig the exaggerated faces coming from the influence of manga (Japanese comics).

What Parents Should Know: There’s no violence or scary stuff directly on the page, but there are references to bullying and one of the secondary characters comes from an abusive household.

The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks

What It’s About: The first in a three-book series, this graphic novel is set in a colonized city inspired by 13th-century China. There’s a big socio-political backstory, but it focuses on the friendship between Kai (a boy from the ruling class) and Rat (a homeless girl).

Why Kids Will Love It: For older readers, this is a big, immersive tale that will be hard to put down. Beyond the action, there are numerous quieter scenes exploring relationships between kids and parents and friendships between people from different cultures.

What Parents Should Know: There are some intense action scenes and scary moments. On a deeper level, this story could also be a good springboard for discussions on bigger issues like world history and multiculturalism.

Have you or your kids read any of these comics? What others would you recommend?

Article Author Erik Missio
Erik Missio

Read more from Erik here.

Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock ‘n’ roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no hair and works in communications. He and his wife are the proud parents of a nine-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, both of whom are pretty great. He received his MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario.

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