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Best Bets for Comic Books for Kids

Dec 18, 2012

Comics make great gifts for kids, encouraging both literacy and art appreciation, and in some cases, that $10 book will become a treasured story a kid hangs on to well into adulthood.

So earlier this week, we decided to brave the cold and threat of toddler meltdown to make the hour-long trek from the suburbs to Toronto's Little Island Comics, to buy our daughter, L, a Christmas present. Little Island is quite possibly the continent's only shop targeting the preschool-middle-school set. (Their "parent" store around the corner, The Beguiling, carries stuff for older readers.)

Like I said, the plan was to buy L a Christmas present. My ulterior motive was to share my most sacred of rituals with her - the comic-store trip. This was going to be father-toddler bonding of the highest order, and I knew she would immediately fall in love with the store.

Or not.

When we walked in, she didn't seem blown away. L is in libraries and bookstores all the time, so it was a bit much to expect her to be impressed (I kept telling myself). She picked up an Owly stuffed toy, stared up at the Moomins art and riffled through a few Elephant and Piggie books - our 2.5-year-old was happy, but not excited.

But then she spotted it.In the centre of Little Island was a spinner rack, the kind you used to find in convenience stores. Infinitely tall for a toddler, the rack displayed dozens of thin, decades-old comics with bright colours, some featuring a familiar face from Daddy's library - Uncle Scrooge McDuck, the richest duck in the world. L just stared at this monstrosity, eyes wide in utter awe. She walked around the rack, started turning the frames and began pulling off comics. We let her pick two Duck books, bought her "real" gift and whisked her away for eggs Benedict.

During brunch, L demanded we let her "read." She flipped through each comic, studied each panel and dragged her pointer finger across Donald's dialogue, letting us know whenever she found an "L" or an "O" - her favourite letters.

As soon as we got home, L wanted me to read one of her comics, but not to her. We were supposed to read them side-by-side, she explained, and then tell each other about them. She said when we were done, we could go back to the store and get more comics. I'm down with this. Since I'm a bit obsessive when it comes to comics, I've already mentally made a reading list for L's next decade or so. (I can't wait for her to check out Luke Pearson's Hilda series.) However, many people aren't sure what comics to buy for kids - there's a lot available, and much of it isn't suitable for little ones.Fortunately, resources like A Parent's Guide to the Best Kids' Comics: Choosing Titles Your Children Will Love, co-authored by Toronto's Scott Robins, can help. Also, at the really good shops, the staff is trained to answer questions about important things like age-appropriateness. Andrew Woodrow-Butcher, Little Island's manager, says parents and grandparents frequently visit, looking for recommendations on what to buy their families. Here are some of his suggestions.

Preschoolers

Primary-schoolers

 Middle-schoolers

Erik Missio used to live in Toronto, have longish hair and write about rock 'n' roll. He now lives in the suburbs, has no-ish hair and edits technical articles. He and his wife are collaborating on a two-and-a-half-year-old girl who may already be smarter than both of them. He received his MA in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario.

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