Comics for the Common Core: TOON Books Encourage Kids to Read

An earlier version of this essay ran in the “Elkhart Truth” in September 2014. The “Luke on the Loose” storyline is a good fit for Father’s Day. Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find all of these books at the store.








As a comics devotee, I spend a lot of energy trying to convince people that comics aren’t just for kids—but of course many, many comics are intended for kids in the first place, even when adults enjoy them too. When done well, kids’ comics can strengthen young readers’ tools for interpreting both words and images, and help them develop reading and critical thinking skills crucial to navigating our visually complex society.

I usually review publications less than a year old, but in celebration of the recent creation of TOON Graphics, a new division of TOON books, I’m reviewing two of my preschool-age sons’ favorite books from TOON—practically their favorite books, period—“Luke On the Loose” (2008) and “Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking” (2011). Continue reading “Comics for the Common Core: TOON Books Encourage Kids to Read”

Draw for Your Life: Review of “Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor,” by Lynda Barry

I’ve been gradually re-posting my archived material from the Elkhart Truth’s defunct Community Blogs. This week I’m resurrecting this 2014 review of Lynda Barry’s “Syllabus” because my Goshen-area readers have a unique opportunity to see some original pages from this work between now and December 31 at the South Bend Museum of Art. Barry and a slew of other comics luminaries are part of the exhibit “Best American Comics Selections: 2014-2017,a showcase of work featured in the past three years of the anthology, which was added to Houghton Mifflin’s Best American series in 2006. You can also see original artwork from Chris Ware’s Building Stories,” which was the very first book I reviewed on this blog.

While you’re there, check out the related exhibit “The Funnies: Vintage Comics 1940s–1960s,” which features classic strips from Archie, Peanuts, and Dick Tracy—the original superhero—to Brenda Starr, whose creator Dale Messick was born in South Bend. For that exhibit, do be prepared for some challenging racial and gendered visual stereotyping, which was “normal” for the time, but can feel out of touch and even offensive now. It’s fascinating to meander through these exhibits side by side, and see how far the genre has come.

Stay tuned for a review of Gabrielle Bell’s “Everything Is Flammable” in two weeks. If you’re feeling impatient, here’s a video of teaser of her discussing her early work for The Paris Review. Enjoy!

Draw for Your Life: “Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor,” by Lynda Barry

Continue reading “Draw for Your Life: Review of “Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor,” by Lynda Barry”

Visceral Comics: Building Stories by Chris Ware, Part One

Originally published on September 2, 2013

At the end of my last post about “image” in comics, I began discussing this week’s book for review—”Building Stories” by Chris Ware—which is really a box of 14 small books, pamphlets, magazines and even what looks like a game board. Here’s an image of the whole shebang from Britain’s newspaper “The Telegraph”:

ware-pieces Continue reading “Visceral Comics: Building Stories by Chris Ware, Part One”