Friday, 29 August 2014

WOW! Let’s Celebrate; Comics, Graphic Novels and Magazines! Stew Magazine 3D Review; Fiction Author Interview with Nick Cross

Nick Cross is a writer of children's fiction, he was a winner of Undiscovered Voice's 2010, since the launch of the Stew Magazine earlier this year he has been a regular contributor.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

I didn’t really start reading “proper” books until my teens – it wasn’t that I didn’t want to read, more that I disliked the books that teachers and librarians were offering me. Instead, I became obsessed by the interactive Fighting Fantasy gamebooks created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. I must have collected about twenty-five of them, and would read and re-read them endlessly (which the format of course encouraged you to do).

If I was growing up nowadays, I suppose I might be labelled a reluctant reader and would probably play video games instead. I sometimes wonder if I would have become a writer without the bridge to literacy that the Fighting Fantasy books (and also comics) provided.

What was your favourite children’s magazine/comic/annual as a child?

I grew up with the classic IPC comics of the 1980s, like Buster, Wow and Whizzer & Chips. There was nothing more exciting than hearing them land on the doormat on a Saturday morning, and I generally devoured them in one sitting. My childhood was a bit of a grim time, so those comics provided a welcome ray of sunshine for me.

Whizzer and Chips was a particularly great concept: two rival comics that were literally bound together. The comics even encouraged you to take sides – were you a Whizz-Kid or a Chip-ite? The idea proved so influential that when I came to create a fanzine with my friend in the early Nineties, we instead made two rival fanzines and stapled them back-to-back.

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

It’s ironic that I didn’t read many children’s books as a child, because now I read almost nothing else! Picking a favourite is always really hard, though, because there are so many good ones. If I was to choose the book that had the most emotional effect on me, it would be Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr Seuss. I discovered that a couple of years ago – shortly after a bout of depression – and it really spoke to me.

Do you read comics/graphic novels as an adult? If so, which is your favourite?

If you were only asking about children’s comics, I would say The Phoenix, which is an excellent publication that my kids devour in much the same way I once read Whizzer and Chips. But, I also really enjoy comics for adults, and you can’t go wrong with the DC Vertigo titles. Just this week, I read the first volume of Federal Bureau of Physics, which has one of those brilliant “why didn’t I think of that?” concepts behind it. If I had to pick a favourite, though, I would choose Bill Willingham’s Fables series, a wonderfully subversive reimagining of fairy tale characters in the modern world.

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?

I think it’s all about the readers – their lack of cynicism encourages children’s writers to take risks and try new things without fear of mockery. So you get all kinds of crazy cross-genre hybrids and stories that don’t fit into prescribed categories, but are instead allowed to breathe and develop. As long as you can tell a really good story that holds onto the child reader, they will let you take them anywhere.

Why did you start writing for children?

I was enraged by the lack of imagination shown by the shortlisted entrants to a BBC website competition called “Are you the next JK Rowling?” back in 2003 (needless to say, I was not shortlisted!) The entries were all so cosy and conventional, and I felt compelled to demonstrate that there was so much more that children’s stories could do. I hope my Stew work is still pushing those boundaries now.

How do you get your ideas?

Ah, the classic question that sends writers screaming to the hills! Luckily, I have something I made earlier, two “behind the story” articles about my Stew stories Princess of Dirt and The Door Keeper.

What is your favourite aspect of writing for children?

Cheap jokes, exaggerated characters and outrageous slapstick are not only permitted, they are positively encouraged! Having said that, this is something that tends to come out in my longer novels, and I haven’t really indulged this side of my writing personality for Stew. Yet.

What are the challenges and benefits of writing to such a small word count?

All writers have to learn the importance of what you leave out of a story, but with only 700 words to play with, that need becomes particularly acute. One way to solve that is to present a vignette (part of a scene) instead of a complete story, but I find that approach unsatisfying. So instead, I challenge myself to produce something with a beginning, middle and (twist) ending, which means I have to edit ruthlessly and be very aware of the reader’s understanding so I don’t lose them. I think the name “Stew” is an apt metaphor, because the writing process becomes like reducing a sauce, boiling down the words until what remains is rich and full of meaning.

WOW! Let’s Celebrate; Comics, Graphic Novels and Magazines! Stew Magazine 3D Review; Editor Interview with Ali Fraser

Creator and editor of Stew Magazine Ali Fraser finds time to answer a few questions about children's books, magazines and of course making Stew.


What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

Without doubt, it was Anthony Buckeridge's series of books about Jennings and Derbyshire. The gentle, funny stories about two public school boarders captured a world very different from my own, one that seemed idyllic - no parents, but benevolent adults (the teachers) reassuringly there yet in the background, plus tuck shops and lots of scrapes and adventures.

What was your favourite children’s magazine/comic/annual as a child?

Look and Learn was pounced on the moment it came through the letterbox ( that is, if one of my teenage brothers hadn't got to it first, which I think is testament to the magazine's ability to be aimed at a pre-teen market, yet be interesting enough to appeal to older readers). I loved its mixture of articles and vivid illustrations. Friends would read comic strips, about Batman and so on, but for me those storylines were tediously improbable and relentlessly similar.

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

It's usually the last good one I've put down, but off the top of my head books I would recommend include Patrick Ness's The Knife of Never Letting Go and Wonder, by RJ Palacio.

Do you read comics/graphic novels as an adult? If so which is your favourite?

A graphic novel seems to me to be a contradiction of styles - a short-form way of storytelling stretched into a long-form shape, and as such they've never appealed to me. Obviously I look at comics and children's magazines for professional reasons but there's none I'd elbow my children out of the way to read.

What do you think is the purpose of comics/children’s magazines in today’s society?

Unless you're living in North Korea, I'm not sure they should have a purpose, which sounds a bit doctrinaire. Clearly they need to be entertaining, or children simply won't look at them, and it would be nice if they weren't patronising or shallow, which unfortunately many are.

Why did you choose to format Stew magazine the way you have?

I love printed matter and I think children do, too. The digital world has enriched and widened their options; I don't believe it's replaced more traditional media. Besides, I wanted to set myself a challenge in producing a physical magazine, which is so much more complex than creating an online title.

How did you decide which features will appear in each issue of Stew magazine?

It's quite arbitrary - I choose topics that interest me and that I think will interest older children. Often I'll run an idea by my daughter Ellie, who's 10; if it grabs her imagination, then I'm probably on the right lines.

How many people work on any one copy of The Stew Magazine, and for how long does it take to produce?

A number of very talented illustrators and writers contribute to each issue, and currently they generously offer their work for free. The number of subscriptions is increasing with each issue, and I hope to be able to pay fees before long. When that happens, these people who are supporting Stew in its early days will be the first to be offered paid commissions. At the moment, though, I'm the only person who works on the magazine. Ideally there would be an assistant editor - pages should always be seen by a second pair of eyes - and a commercial manager, who would explore and develop the numerous ways in which the magazine can grow. Though the magazine is only bi-monthly, it takes up all my time (I even dream about the things I haven't done for each issue).

Thursday, 28 August 2014

WOW! Let’s Celebrate; Comics, Graphic Novels and Magazines! Stew Magazine 3D Review; Illustrator Interview with Grace Sandford

Grace has a degree in Illustration from The University of Lincoln and is a working illustrator having worked for SkyHorse Publishing, Palmer Hargreaves, Paper and Apparel in addition to be one of the illustrators of Stew magazine.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

That's a really tough question! I loved loads of children's books. I remember loving Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Alan Ahlberg as a child. The detail in each spread was immense and as a child I loved being able to spot clues to the narrative in a busy scene, it makes you feel like you're helping tell the story!

What was your favourite children’s magazine/comic/annual as a child?

I used to love reading the Beano, however, I did not read that many comics or magazines as a child. (I would have loved to have read Stew magazine as a child!)

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

That's an even tougher question! This changes all the time. I think it will probably have to be The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The use of colour along with texture and collage is stunning and it takes a lot of hard work and creativity to make a deceptively simple story.

Do you read comics/graphic novels as an adult? If so which is your favourite?

I read a lot of manga as a teenage when manga became really popular in Western countries. I still read the Sailor Moon mangas from time to time.

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?

Children's books are a doorway into life for a child. You remember a huge amount from children's books as an adult and that influence is incredible. Children not only learn to read but they learn about friendships, morals and life issues in worlds that should totally exist!

Did you always want to be an illustrator?

I've always wanted a career in art. I didn't know what an illustrator necessarily was until I got a bit older. For a long time I wanted to be an animator for Disney.

How did you become an illustrator?

I've been drawing every day for as long as I can remember and I went to University to study Illustration. Understanding what path in Illustration I wanted to take, working really, really hard, and being nice to everyone has made me an illustrator. However, I only graduated a year ago and although i'm lucky to be doing this well so far, I have a long way to go in my career!

What is it like visualising other people’s characters?

It's wonderful and I prefer it to visualising my own! You can really feel the passion and love that's gone into writing characters.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

WOW! Let’s Celebrate; Comics, Graphic Novels and Magazines! Stew Magazine 3D Review; Non-Fiction Author Interview with Lisa Mann

Lisa Mann is children's write and a writer in residence at a school, she is also a contributor to Stew magazine writing non-fiction articles.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

I loved the Faraway Tree stories by Enid Blyton, I must have read those books dozens of times. The characters were so alive for me, it felt like they were my friends! I read Nineteen Eighty-Four as a teenager and it blew my mind.

What was your favourite children’s magazine/comic/annual as a child?

It was called Twinkle. My nanny bought it for me every week. I particularly loved a story about a little girl who ran a dolly hospital.

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

Okay, I’m going to cheat and split this question into categories... Favourite picture book is Penguin by Polly Dunbar because I share it with my six year old daughter and it makes us laugh so much. We know it by heart and recite it as we walk to school sometimes. My favourite book for middle grade is Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian because it’s not often that a book can make you properly cry. For older readers I love Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner, because it’s totally original on lots of levels. I also love Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, which isn’t actually written for children but it tells the story of an incredible child.

Do you read comics/graphic novels as an adult? If so which is your favourite?

I must confess that I don’t. I’m a novel girl (pun intended).

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?

Sheer scope of emotion and imagination. Everything is new through the eyes of a child/young adult, and therefore unique and exciting. Well written literature for children really gets this across.

Why did you start writing for children?

I started writing for children when I was about 4. I tried to write for adults when I was in my teens, but looking back, it was really YA stuff. Then I went back to writing adventures for kids. So I’ve never really stopped. One day, when I feel grown up, I might be able to write for adults.

How do you get your ideas?

My best writing comes out of the blue – a character, image, emotion, predicament – then a story grows from it, sometimes a whole book. My best writing isn’t forced, it takes me by surprise.

How much research do you do for the articles you write?

A lot. 90% of ‘article time’ is spent on research. We’ve got a great library in Norwich. Once I really know what I’m talking about, writing the article itself comes quickly.

What is your favourite aspect of writing for children?

Sharing with children. I’m lucky enough to work in a local school, teaching creative writing to Gifted and Talented children as a writer in residence. I cannot express enough how much joy I get out of it. They are fantastic kids, full of ideas, humour, insight, dedication. To join in with that is a real privilege.

What are the challenges and benefits of writing to such a small word count?

You write it, edit it, send it, see it in print. Writing a longer piece of fiction takes years, you have to go beyond patience and almost switch off from time. So it’s lovely to have instant gratification every once in a while.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

WOW! Let’s Celebrate; Comics, Graphic Novels and Magazines! Stew Magazine 3D Review; Review


Adult Review

Stew for Curious Kids, is a beautiful magazine which is feast for the eyes and mind. The articles are all well written and juxtaposed for exquisite illustrations, and for added plus there are no advertisements anywhere.

There is something here for all interests from short stories to evoke the imagination, or non-fiction articles to satisfy well a child with a curious mind, to activities. The news section and what’s n section had carefully considered content formatted in easily digestible chunks.

All good magazines should have the opportunity for readers to be involved, and Stew had a ‘Readers Pictures Gallery’, plus a ‘Books to Read’ feature, where children can send their book reviews for a chance of being featured and winning a book token.

All in all, Stew, is an exciting magazine, full of quality features all presented in beautiful format. Any child would be very happy to have this land on their door mat every other month.

Child Review By Bea (Aged 10)

The Stew is a great magazine which has some exciting articles which have some unusual answers to some unusual questions such as; have you ever wondered why orchestras have conductors? Or how dogs became our favourite pet? If not then read this latest magazine from Stew! But as well as these questions answers there are some, puzzles, reviews and, topical news and short stories!

My favourite page in this book is the page of…


This page is about a story of some dogs and information on dogs like; Help to hunt, animal graves, dog servants, powerful sniffers.

Friday, 22 August 2014

WOW! Let’s Celebrate; Comics, Graphic Novels and Magazines! Interveiw with Comic and Graphic Novelist and teacher Emily Haworth-Booth, plus TIP ON MAKING YOUR OWN COMIC!

Emily Haworth-Booth is a comics artist and educator who teaches courses on comics and graphic novels at The Prince's Drawing School in London and has run workshops for adults and children at venues including the Hay Festival, Saatchi Gallery, St George's Hospital and the National Art & Design Saturday Club. Emily won the Observer/Comica/Jonathan Cape Graphic Short Story Prize in 2013 and was runner-up in 2008. She has also performed stand-up comedy at many London venues and was a finalist in the 2007 Nivea Funny Women Awards. As a teenager she won the Young National Poetry Competition in 1998. Her comics have appeared in the Observer, Miss Vogue and on the Conversation website. Emily is represented by the literary agency Johnson & Alcock.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

I have always loved Beatrix Potter, and as a child one of my favourites was probably The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck, for the 'it's behind you' naiveté of its main character, whose self-diagnosed 'bad nerves' could have come straight out of a Jane Austen novel – and the contrasting wickedness of the sneaky, greedy fox. There's something so pleasing about Potter's description of him, through Jemima's innocent eyes, as a 'sandy-whiskered gentleman... sitting on a log reading the newspaper' - still one of my favourite lines in literature, and one that for some reason is always popping into my head at odd times.

Like everyone else I adored Roald Dahl and was lucky enough to be a child when he was still alive and writing. Matilda was published when I was 8! Can you imagine a more perfect age to experience the excitement of going to the bookshop and being one of the first people ever to read it?

What was your favourite children’s magazine/comic/annual as a child?

I don't think I was really into magazines or annuals as a child, but comics-wise I was obsessed with Tintin and definitely read as many of them as I could get my hands on!

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

As an adult, my favourite children's book is another Beatrix Potter – The Tale of Two Bad Mice. It's not only a delightful miniature, a beautifully painted voyage into the tiny, secret world of doll's houses and mouse marriages, but also a masterful and courageous investigation of difficult emotions: anger, disappointment, revenge and contrition. The absolute rage and frustration in the scene where Hunca Munca and Tom Thumb smash up the dolls' plaster ham is very funny but also deeply felt: it appeals to the part of me that sometimes wants to get really angry and smash something up, but can't because I'm too polite and worried about what people would think! In the same vein I imagine that it would really appeal to the child's inner anarchist, and the frustration of living in an adult world governed by absurd rules (especially, perhaps, in relation to eating).

I've also enjoyed discovering newer books - some favourites being Maira Kalman's 'Pete' series, Jessie Hartland's 'Bon Appétit – The Delicious Life of Julia Child', Shaun Tan's 'The Arrival' and 'Jane, the Fox and Me' by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault.

Do you read comics/graphic novels as an adult? If so which is your favourite?

Constantly! I teach a class on making comics and graphic novels so I use it as an excuse to buy far too many under the pretense that I have to keep up with what's going on. My favourites are probably Chris Ware's 'Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth', Marjane Satrapi's 'Persepolis', Daniel Clowes 'Ghost World' and Seth's 'It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken'. Sorry, it's too hard to just pick one!

What do you think makes comics and graphic novels books so inspirational?

There's something about the way you can play with time in a comic that I really love. You can stretch it out so you get these really slow sequences that can be incredibly poetic or suspenseful. Then you can add some quick, dramatic cuts like you might in a movie. In fact, sometimes I think making comics is so much fun because it's like getting to be the whole cast and crew of a movie – director, designer, writer, actors, wardrobe, lighting, special effects. And unlike movies, comics don't cost anything to make, as long as you have something to draw with, and something to draw on.

I also love that to make comics you don't have to be a brilliant writer, or a brilliant draw-er, but there's something about putting the two together that's magical. I love it when I have students who don't think they can write or draw very well, but suddenly realise that they've creating this amazing, compelling story just by combining the right elements in the right way at the right time.

Did you always want to be an comic maker/ graphic novelist?

When I was younger I was really into animals. I wanted to be a farmer, and then a professional horsewoman (by which I mean a woman who rides horses, not a woman who is a horse. Although I probably wouldn't have minded that either. I definitely do a mean impression of a horse's neigh). When I was older I started to get into art. I liked drawing at school, but I was really slow at it, and my art teacher told me that if I did GCSE Art I would be too slow to keep up with the class! So I dropped art, and focused on writing instead, mainly poems. When I left school, I realised I missed art, so came back to it and went to art school for a bit, but found it quite boring and silly. There was no drawing allowed, and you only got good marks if you stuck a bit of chewing gum in the middle of a white wall or made a weird video that nobody understood. So I went and studied English Literature instead, but I was always torn between my writing and my art. Then one day someone gave me a copy of a beautiful graphic novel (Chris Ware's 'Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth') and I realised you could make amazing work by combining words and pictures together! No longer would I have to choose between one and the other. That was a very happy day for me, and I have been messing around with words and pictures, speech balloons and thought bubbles ever since.

When writing and illustrating a comic/ graphic novel, does the story or the pictures come first?

For me they tend to come together, but I know from my experience in teaching that it's different for everyone, and I think that's because we all think and experience the world differently. I find it harder to write if I'm not drawing, and vice versa. Drawing pictures of a conversation, for example, rather than just writing down the conversation, opens me up to considering the non-verbal elements of that conversation. If we believe that communication is something like 93% body language, then for me it's crucial to give voice to that through my drawings. And I think a lot of comedy comes from the difference between what people are saying and how they look when they are saying it, so I love to play with that as well.

Sometimes, though, I'll draw a silent sequence that doesn't have words, or I might jot down a bit of dialogue or narration that I know I want to use but I'm not sure yet which pictures to put with it. The most important thing is to get everything down on the paper as it comes to you and not worry about doing things the 'right' way.

Then I ask for three or four tips for children who want to create their own comic.

1) Think in panels: they're the little boxes that make up comics. You can use as many as you want to tell your story. You can have panels that have just drawings in, or they can combine words and drawings together. 6 or 9 panels per page is often a good amount, but experiment and see what works for you.

2) Try all the different ways of using words in a comics: speech balloons, thought bubbles, captions (boxes at the top and bottom that narrate the action of the story, a bit like a voiceover in a movie), sound effects, and words that are inside the picture itself, like signposts or advertisement billboards.

3) Too many words in a panel can be overwhelming though, so make sure you leave your drawings some space to breathe. You could even try having some panels that just have drawings and no words. This can be good for a dramatic or a quiet moment in the story.

4) Experiment with close-ups, long-shots, and bird's-eye-views. Think about which one feels right for what is happening in your story at that moment. Close-ups, for example, can be used for showing the emotion on a character's face.

5) Try telling stories about your own life! Super-heroes are cool, but real life has so many awkward, strange, magical and ugly bits in it that are worth sharing. Think about a recent time when something good, bad, weird, unexpected or beautiful happened to you, and see if you can tell it in one page of comic panels.

6) Don't worry about getting it right or making it perfect! The voice in your head that say's it's got to come out perfect first time is the enemy of creativity and fun and should be ignored. Mess and mistakes are actually often the thing that makes an artist's work unique and interesting, and can lead to experimentation and brilliant new ideas

Emily run's courses in Comic book and graphic novel making, at The Prince's Drawing School:

Drawing the Graphic Novel 1 on Thursdays evenings in Shoreditch for more information about the course press here.  

Drawing Comics and Graphic Novels on Monday evenings in Oxford Street or more information press here.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

WOW! Let’s Celebrate; Comics, Graphic Novels and Magazines! Stoplight on The Phoenix

Comics are tricky, the choice offered by supermarkets is limited and unless you are lucky enough to have a local comic store with dedicated and enthusiastic staff, where do you start? Well we thought long and hard and decided to have a spot light on The Phoenix.

In earlier WOW features we have mentioned The Phoenix, and many of our interviewed professionals have raved about it too, and so here is our review. The Phoenix is the second comic brainchild of David Fickling, its forefather DFC (David Fickling Comic) closed due to company changes (all for the better as David Fickling is now an independent publishers) and soon afterwards The Phoenix rose, proud and loud.

The Phoenix is bursting with colour character and the passion of which it is created oozes out of each and every page. Each feature is well written with exquisite full colour artwork by talented and well know writers and illustrators. This comic does what comic should do, grab you with the cover and demand to be read, not play second fiddle to a plastic toy.

The stories inside the page are varied with something for everyone (not exclusively children) from the manic madness of Jamie’s 'Bunny Vs Monkey', which is my eight year old sons favourite to the Fantastical capers of 'Tales of Fayt' by Conrad Mason and David Wyatt, which is a kind of Dickenson adventure with mythical beasts which is a favourite of my ten year daughter. My favourite (and it’s another of my daughters favoured features) is 'Corpse Talk', which is a talk show with host Adam Murphy, only he doesn't have a fancy leather sofa but prefers to lean on the shovel that he’s uses to dig up a famous or infamous corpses to interview. It is a funny parody of talk shows, and is amusing and yet educational in a way that kids don’t know there learning something which is genius!

Each feature has a unique story and accompanying art work, from Bunny v’s Monkey’s highly stylised illustrations reminiscent of Powder Puff Girls to the art works that have a more Manga feel like 'Tamsin in the Deep' by Neil Cameron and Kate Brown. 

Each week there is a How To Draw section, where there is a step by step guide to drawing characters from the magazine. There is a Fan Fare section where you can send in your own art work for consideration to be included, plus there are completions, which are all based on Phoenix features and characters and the prizes are merchandise or books which are all Phoenix based. There is NO ADVERTISING and you are not paying to have the latest blockbuster promoted to you either, so there are no distractions from the quality sequential narrative storytelling.

Another plus about The Phoenix is that if you like a certain strip or feature they have a whole library of bind-up graphic novels, which will keep small people entertained for hours. 

Another Phoenix presentation is the recently published; ‘How to Make Awesome Comics by the Phoenix regular contributor Neil Cameron. The book is a hands on DIY guide to creating comics with exercises and activities. Here is a child perspective…

How to Make Awesome Comic  - Child Review by Bea aged 10

In How to Make Awesome Comic there is lots of AMSOME stuff and thing to do such as, guides to draw zombies, penguins, vampire and many more. It tells you how to make funny characters. My favourite guide is monkey. The author is always giving you ideas and tasks they have inspired me to make my own comic, Green Girl V’s Zombies!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

WOW! Let’s Celebrate; Comics, Graphic Novels and Magazines! Magazines Top Picks

For this post I wanted to do a best of ‘off the shelf’ magazines, and so scouted around all the supermarkets and newsagents around my local area, only to discover that I couldn't actually see what magazines were on offer as I couldn't see the titles beyond the plastic covering and ‘free gifts’.

However being a determined type of lass, I did find two. One isn’t actually a magazine, but a newspaper but it was the best of the options available, the other I picked up due to the wave of nostalgia that came over me when I spotted it.

Best of the Shelf Magazines

First News

I told you not strictly a magazine, but the newspaper designed specifically for children. In the format of a broadsheet, published weekly, First News brings new to children from around the world but delivering it in an appropriate and accessible way for children. It breaks news down into bike sized chunks, world news helpful set around a map of the world to help children understand where the events are taking place. First News doesn't shy away from the important issues, and brings them to children’s attention in suitable ways but it also brings feel-good stories too, which brings a lovely balance to every issue. It also boast regular features, a healthy book section with author interviews and book reviews by children, puzzles and competition, and a helping of features relating to popular movies and television series. However one of the real strengths of First News is that it is more than a paper having an web-site where you can become a member and read other news that not made the paper and submit your own stories and reviews for consideration, which if not printed may be published on-line.

National Geographic Kids

Here is my second off the shelf pick, and it was the nostalgia that made me look beyond the plastic free gifts that eclipsed the cover. The kids version of the National Geographic sticks to the brand iconic yellow rimmed cover, but isn’t just a child focused version of the original. It does have charming and fact based article about the world, history and animals, this current issue has an article about Orcas, but it has opted for a commercial element with articles about upcoming movies and shows.

Best Subscription Magazine

Some of the best magazines for children are ones that aren’t found on the shelves of supermarkets. These are more feature and content focused not relying on the current blockbuster or plastic toy to attract readers. Also they have the added bounce of not having adverting with them, which for parents is a real plus.

Aquila Magazine

Aquila is a subscription magazine for 8-12 year olds and features articles, puzzles and fun activities that will enrich their general knowledge. It also has a science focus, bring a new science based article with every issue. This magazine is very popular with a lot of boys that I know.

Stew Magazine

Stew Magazine was first published in January, and is a magazine for the curious child, and is aimed for 8-12 year olds. The beautifully designed magazine is published bi-monthly, and brings news, short stories and non-fiction articles all accompanied by exquisite illustrations. However forgive this brief review as (forgive the spoiler) come back next week to read a more in-depth look at this fantastic magazine.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

WOW! Let’s Celebrate; Comics, Graphic Novels and Magazines! Graphic Novels Top Picks

Continuing our summer of celebrations of all things comics, graphic novels and magazines here are a few Graphic Novel top picks…

So where to start with Graphic Novels? There are so many choices, an adaption of a classic books? A bind up of a favourite comic strip, of go all out and spin your head with Japanese Manga, and start reading from the back of the book? Well, here are a few suggestions, of graphic novels that may just inspire the children you know to read.

Small children…

The sequential narrative may not be the easiest to follow for very young children, plus the small writing may be tricky. However there are some great graphic novels out there which small children may enjoy, especially as a shared experience reading with an adult.

The Lazy friend, by Ronan Badel published by Gecko Press, is a fun and text free. It could be categorised as a wordless picture book or graphic novel, but either way it amusing tale of the adventures of the jungle animals, and especially lazy sloth, which is delivered entirely by illustration. It’s funny, and a manageable size, with each spread developing the story to the next level, making it easy for young children to follow, and giving them the scope for creating their own stories to accompany the images.

Toon Books is a publishers specialising in easy to read comics for children, and they publish thir titles in stages, so you can find the right graphic novel for your child, whether it by words free, word light or more advanced. HEARTS by Tereza Rowe features beautifully stylised illustrations using the familiar comic book ‘squares’ as it shows Penelope the Fox adventures as she tries to find her lost heart. The back of the book even includes a guide of how to read and enjoy comics with children.

When I was a child there were two books that I can recall as having been comic book like, both of which are still loved today. The first is by the fabulous Raymond Briggs and again is wordless it is of course The Snowman.

Young readers…

The second of the comic book/ graphic novel book I recollect as having loved as a child which is still loved by many Funnybones by husband and wife author and illustrator collaborators the Alan and Janet Ahlberg. Funnybones is the funny and slightly creepy tale of the two skeletons night out, which is charming and amusing but if things that go bump in the night is too much you can always try their equally funny Cops and Robbers.

Red Ted and the Lost Things by Michael Rosen and Joel Stewart should strike a cord with most children’s hearts. It’s the tale of Red Ted, who finds himself on shelf next to Crocodile and all the other ‘lost things’. Determined not to be forgotten Red Ted and his new friend Croc go on a journey, leaving the lost things and travelling through town on a gentle adventure to be reunited with red Ted’s child Stevie. 

Vern and Lettice by Sarah McIntyre and published as part of The David Fickling Library is an fun wacky read in the company of Vern the rabbit and his best friend Lettice the sheep as they have quirky mad-cap adventures. Great fun for children and adults alike.

When their ready for something more…

Graphic novels, for older children are plentiful. You can go action, you can go fantasy, well there is something for everyone. Here are just a few suggestions…

If you have child who is reluctant to read novels, but like action or just good story telling you can use graphic novels to ignite an interest by getting them reading adaptation of novels and hopefully this can encourage them to more on to reading the actual novels. 

With this in mind, I would consider picking up the excellent Graphic Novel version of Eoin Colfers Artemis Fowl. The book captures the action packed shenanigans as twelve year old master criminal Artemis kidnaps LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police) office and ELF Holly Short, with the view to barging her for Faerie gold. The illustrations are done Giovanni Rigano and colour work by the hand of Paulo Lamanna, and they fully capture the action and characters as the enraged technologically advanced Faeries lay siege to Fowl Manor, Artemis home. The format suits the story, making it even faster pace than the full throttle original, but has a frugal word count yet not compromising on the reading level with many challenging words and concepts. 


Another fully charged novel adaptation is of Anthony Horowitz’s Strombreaker, following the young (bond-esk) teen Alex Rider on his first mission after being recruited by MI6. Again, the story lends itself to the adaptation into graphic novel, with it’s camp baddies and full throttle action, and may encourage children to dip into the novels too.

Older readers will also be tempted to manga, this is usually helpful has age recommendations on the back cover (for any adults who may be nervous about the genre) telling you exactly what to expect in the story. There is Japanese and western produced manga, both of which have their own merits.

Although for the less action shoot-em-up children I would recommended looking at manga lists, as they do some really good gentler graphic novels. My eight year old son is practically partial to the western manga based on the best-selling Seeker series by Erin Hunter, which follows the trials and fortunes of bear cubs in the wilderness. Full of peril and adventures, with exquisite monochrome graphic, this is great for lovers of animal stories. 

Classic’s being copyright free seem to be making a healthy appearance in graphic novel format, so if your child is studying a classic, then how about letting them have a few moments of less heavy reading by reading the graphic novel. It is quite an interesting exercise, looking at what the essential plot points are, as the format will only allow the bare bones. Most libraries now have a well-stocked graphic novel section with a large amount of classic titles.

Young Adults, will find many graphic novels for them, and most won’t want recommendations from adults, however I have to mention my favourite 13+ Japanese Shōjo Manga; Gakuen Alice by Tachibana Higuchi. Manga for those who may not know means whimsical sketches’ and Shōjo Manga’s, are primarily created by women artists. 

Gauken Alice or Alice Academe is about Miikan a 10 year old girl who travels to Tokyo to the Alice Academe in search of her best friend Hotaru. When she arrives, Mikan finds that the Academe is a school for ‘gifted’ children who have superpowers called Alices.’ Mikan becomes enrolled as she too has a powerful alice, and soon discovers that the academe is much more sinister than it seems. The art work is beautiful; the depth of images created in monotone is amazing. For teens this is a great read.

So there we have it a few suggested Graphic Novel reads, and hopefully there is something there for everyone.