Get Kids Reading with 9 Graphic Novels

Graphic Novels Horizontal

Never underestimate the impact of a graphic novel. For a book design of limited text and simplified illustrations each poignant panel has the uncanny knack of expressing emotion, humour, visual thinking and sound effects with a single powerful punch. KERPOW!

Both my boys love graphic novels and unlike other books which they relegate to the bedtime reading zone, it’s not unusual for me to find them reading them on the stairs, under the stairs and even sitting in cardboard boxes. I once happened upon a somewhat unsuccessful attempt to read one on the trampoline!

Graphic novels seem to bring out hidden acting skills in them! They are one of the few books that they love to read out loud, repeat the funny parts (again…..and again!) and invent voices for the different characters. Somehow they become more involved with graphic novels so rather than it being a solitary reading affair it becomes an active interaction between both boys. So if you haven’t tried one before, it might just be the switch that you’re looking for to spark the difference between a reluctant reader and a relentless reader.

Once again they have been rated out of 10 by my two boys currently aged 8 and 6. The first rating from my eldest.

Apocalypse Bow Wow by James Proimos lll (author) & James Proimos Jr (Illustrator); Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 2015. RATING: 10/10 – 6/10.

A quick read but none-the-less enjoyable and the perfect introduction to graphic novels. Sometimes the satisfaction of completing a quick read is exactly what children need to fuel their interest towards the next book. When Brownie and Apollo’s hunger sets in and their humans haven’t returned to feed them it can only mean one thing, the world has ended! So we follow the two brave dogs as they venture out into the big world beyond the front door in search of their dinner.

CLICK TO BUY Apocalypse Bow Wow

Tom Gates, A Tiny Bit Lucky by Liz Pichon (author & illustrator); Publisher: Scholastic Children’s Books Ed. 2015. RATING: 10/10 – 3/10.

Of course we could have picked from a number a Liz Pichon’s Tom Gates books but this was voted one of our favourites. The amusing illustrations compliment the dry humour of Tom Gates and his diary-like candid comments of the things you might be thinking but wouldn’t want to say out loud!

CLICK TO BUY A Tiny Bit Lucky (Tom Gates)

Stormbreaker, the graphic novel. Original story by Anthony Horowitz (author) & adapted by Antony Johnston. Kanako & Yuzuro Yuzuru (illustrators); Publisher: Walker 2012. RATING: 8/10 – recommend for age 8+ so not read with youngest.

This one was recommended by our librarian as my eldest has previously read and loved some of the other Anthony Horowitz novels. The graphic version of Stormbreaker instantly took precedence over the full length novel. Graphic novels can act as a simplified format for younger children to absorb a lot of information at one time. The story of Alex Rider, school boy turned super spy being recruited for life and death missions successfully plays on its Bond like appeal for children.

CLICK TO BUY Stormbreaker: The Graphic Novel (Alex Rider) by Horowitz, Anthony, Johnston, Antony (August 2, 2012) Paperback

The 13-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths (author) & Terry Denton (illustrator);  Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books 2015. RATING: 9/10 – 5/10.

The story writing duo Terry and Andy live in the most epic treehouse you could ever imagine. They have a secret underground laboratory, a bowling alley, a swimming pool and so much more, including a very handy vegetable vapouriser for any stray sprouts they may come across. We follow the two friends through their crazy, hilarious adventures to save their treehouse from destruction. Split into chapters with black and white illustrations throughout.

CLICK TO BUY The 13-Storey Treehouse (The Treehouse Books)

Jedi Academy, Return of the Padawan by Jeffrey Brown (author/illustrator); Publisher: Scholastic Children’s Books, Scholastic Ltd 2014. RATING: 9/10 – 6/10.

We’re introduced to the character Roan Novachez who is endeavouring to learn how to be a powerful Jedi but it turns out it’s the mishaps he encounters which endear him to us. Between seeing him arrive at the Academy embarrassingly early, laughing at his many disastrous attempts to conquer the flight simulator without destroying it, and watching him try to earn some kudos mixing with Cyrus and Cronah on the dark side only to end up almost ruining his already slim chances of love with Gaiana, Roan is a character any child can relate to.


The Phoenix Presents Evil Emperor Penguin by Laura Ellen Anderson (author/illustrator); Publisher: David Fickling Books 2015. RATING: 10/10 – 10/10.

My youngest chose this himself at the school book fair before half term and adores it. So much so, although it’s currently beyond his own reading capabilities he made sure he gave it his best try! The full colour illustrations and witty side comments make it a fun, entertaining read with a wide age appeal so I often find it living in either of the boys rooms. The sarcastic Evil Emperor Penguin has set his sights on taking over the world but the good intentions of his cute and cuddly accomplices Eugene and the multi-tasking knitting squid, Number 8, prove more of a hindrance than a help.

CLICK TO BUY Evil Emperor Penguin: Book 1 (The Phoenix Presents)

Spider Moon by Kate Brown (author/illustrator); Publisher: David Fickling Books (Division of Random House Children’s Publishers UK) Ed. 2010. RATING: 6/10 – recommend for age 8+ so not read with my youngest.

Having a girl as the central character makes a refreshing change for a graphic novel and I enjoyed reading the added extras at the back about how the illustrations were put together. A large, hardback book with just the right mix of destiny, power, heroism and impending disaster to keep us guessing until the end.

CLICK TO BUY The Spider Moon: Book 1 (DFC Library)

Good Dog, Bad Dog by Dave Shelton (author/illustrator); Publisher: David Fickling Books (Division of Random House Children’s Publishers UK) Ed. 2013. RATING: 9/10 – recommend for age 8+ so not read with my youngest.

A little more serious than some of the other graphic novels mentioned but it still maintains that familiar tongue in cheek approach we love about our comic heroes. The imaginative, full colour illustrations and engaging story line make this book especially attractive to any already avid comic readers out there but beware, even with very good eyesight I found the font type a touch on the small size.

CLICK TO BUY DFC Library: Good Dog, Bad Dog

Super Animal Adventure Squad by James Turner (author/illustrator); Publisher: David Fickling Books (Division of Random House Children’s Publishers UK) Ed. 2013. RATING: 10/10 – 8/10.

Although overall a longer read than some of the other graphic novels mentioned, the light-hearted humour in this one makes it suitable for a mixed age range. It was addictive. We couldn’t stop reading until we found out how the Animal Adventure Squad prevented the teatime of doom. It was one of those stories that I just couldn’t help myself end each page with that nationally accepted exclamation of impending doom! You know the one! I just don’t know how to translate it into text! Somehow “D – d – derrr…” doesn’t quite convey the same dramatic effect I’m looking for!

CLICK TO BUY DFC Library: Super Animal Adventure Squad

Reading a graphic novel is a bubble talking, often messy super sleuth experience unlike any standard novel. So be prepared to make strange noises and sarcastic comments when delving into the dastardly world of superheroes!

Source: Personal or library copies.


NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Children’s Activity Books for Holiday Travel

Once again the summer holidays are rushing towards us and some of you may even have already broken up. Where did that year go? If you’re like me this is when I start to frantically search for things to keep my boys out of summer time mischief in the hope that the holidays will be a pleasure for all of us and not a seemingly endless nightmare. So this week I’ve reviewed some fantastic children’s activity books currently on the market which are ideal to explore at home on a rainy day or tuck into the holiday suitcase to take the boredom out of travelling.

Eye BendersClive Gifford (author) & Professor Anil Seth (author). Publisher: Ivy Press (28 Oct. 2013).

This is an intriguing book for any curious child (or adult!) which illustrates clever examples of the power of illusion for the reader to test out themselves. This book generated repeated “WOW’s” and “EPIC” from my boys and kept them occupied for hours! They were totally absorbed in it.

CLICK TO BUY Eye Benders: The Science of Seeing & Believing

Infographics for Kids Activity Book – Susan Martineau (author) & Vicky Barker (illustrator). Publisher: b small publishing (1 Apr. 2015).

Infographics are fast becoming a popular informative design technique. This is a fantastic book for the visual thinker. Designed as an introduction for children on how simple, colourful pictorial images can be used as a useful memory aid for instructions and information. It is original, informative and fun with activities about people and the world around us as well as explaining how to read an infographic and how to make your own.

CLICK TO BUY Infographics for Kids

The Super Book for Superheroes – Jason Ford (author). Publisher: Laurence King (23 Sept. 2013).

Enter this book and “all you need are some pencils and pens and your very own super power……. ………your IMAGINATION! “

You can’t get a better quote than that! (Taken from the above book by Jason Ford).

This is an ideal book to help your child come up with the next best Superhero. It encourages character development; from designing their super powers and outfits to their sidekicks, secret hideouts and impressive gadgets with step by step drawing instructions, drawing prompts, pop-out masks and stickers too.

CLICK TO BUY The Super Book for Super-Heroes

How to be the Best Bubble Writer in the World Ever!  – Linda Scott (author). Publisher: Laurence King; Act Csm ed. (31 May 2011).

This is an earlier version of Linda Scott’s latest activity books “My Monster Bubble Writer Book” (published May 2013) and “My Amazing Bubble Writer Stationery Kit” (published Oct 2013) but in my opinion it’s still worth a mention in this line up. It teaches the children to experiment with typefaces taking inspiration from animals, monsters and even facial features giving a whole new meaning to creative writing! It shows how to take something seemingly mundane and simple and transform it into something new and more exciting. Creativity at its best!

CLICK TO BUY How to Be the Best Bubblewriter in the World, Ever!

Amazing Minecraft Activity Book – Gameplay Publishing; Minecraft Library (authors). Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform; Act Csm ed. (13 Jan. 2015).

This is what you would expect from an activity book with the much loved dot-to-dots, word searches, spot the difference, crosswords and mazes and plenty of pictures to colour too – of course all with that all important Minecraft theme. Hard to resist for those mad about Minecraft!

CLICK TO BUY Amazing Minecraft Activity Book: Volume 1

Scratch and Sketch Solar System – Heather Zschock (author). Publisher: Peter Pauper Press; Spi ed. (1 Feb. 2006).

This book is packed with written information about the planets, space shuttles, asteroids, comets and constellations within our solar system. Each page has a scratch out picture to reveal and a space to draw your own ideas at the end. A super book for budding astronauts or astronomers.

CLICK TO BUY Solar System Scratch and Sketch: An Art Activity Book for Inquisitive Artists and Astronauts of All Ages (Scratch & Sketch)

Holiday Pocket Puzzle Book – Alex Frith (author) & Peter Allen (illustrator). Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd (1 Jun. 2013).

Pocket sized is always a help when packing space is limited! The blurb on the back of this little book says “mazes, picture puzzles, wordsearches, number problems and much, much, more.” The key here is the “much, much, more” part! It gets the children to follow clues, break codes, to consider perspective and consequences. It is very well thought out with something suitable for all ages.

CLICK TO BUY Holiday Pocket Puzzle Book (Pocket Puzzle Books)

Write and Draw Your Own Comics – Louie Stowell (author), Jess Bradley (illustrator), Neill Cameron (illustrator), Freya Harrison (illustrator), Laura Howell (illustrator), Adam Larkum (illustrator) & Igor Sinkovek (illustrator). Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd (1 Oct. 2014).

Graphic art and comic design is a specialised skill as it combines so many aspects of story creation. From making up characters, drawing them in action mode, showing how to incorporate speech bubbles and sound effects, pulling together the plot, highlighting good vs. bad and exciting adventure, this book has it all. Follow this book’s creative and clear instructions and you will be well on your way to becoming a comic artist. This could be the ideal book to encourage reluctant creative writers.

CLICK TO BUY Write and Draw Your Own Comics

Paper Play – Lydia Crook (author). Publisher: Ivy Press (7 May 2013).

My two boys love origami and cutting and sticking paper shapes onto their masterpieces so armed with scissors, pens and glue sticks this book made the perfect addition to their craft box. It got them ripping, tearing, folding, scrunching, spinning, layering, snipping. They made paper dolls, tricks, planes, bookmarks and towns. A piece of paper can be so much more if you want it to be.

CLICK TO BUY Paper Play: Roll it. Rip it. Fold it. Snip it!

Maps Activity Book – Aleksandra Mizielinska (author) & Daniel Mizielinski (author). Publisher: Big Picture Press (1 Jul. 2014).

This is not like the school geography lessons I remember! This is far more engaging with interesting facts and inventive ideas to draw and colour, from the animals, population, places, food and landscape of different countries to designing your own flag or creating a map of an imaginary country. By making learning interactive the facts become so much easier to remember.

CLICK TO BUY Maps Activity Book

I’d be hard pushed to name my favourite from this varied selection so hopefully there’s something here for everyone.

Source: Own collection.


NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

10 Book Themed Fundraising Ideas

Book Fundraising Ideas Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

It’s that time of year again when I see the red noses appearing and the Comic Relief adverts starting to pop up as the momentum builds to prepare us for the big fundraiser. David Walliams’ new picture book “The Queen’s Orang-utan” (illustrated by Tony Ross) was published today in aid of Comic Relief and once again reviews promise his story will not disappoint. Many people would have been involved at various stages or production in giving their time to compose this book with the aim of helping to raise awareness and funds to make hundreds of people’s lives better.

Raising money for charity is not an easy task though. It’s always difficult to ask people to hand over their hard earned cash and usually it boils down to asking the same few people every time so there comes a point when applying a little imagination to encourage people to give is required. If you want to help raise some money for your school or a charity close to your heart here are ten fundraising ideas which involve books. It’s time for a laugh so put on your funny face and enjoy some simple fun and light-hearted fundraising activities.

Second hand book sale: Ask family, teachers, neighbours and friends to donate any unwanted or outgrown books. Set up a stall and charge a £1 or 50p per book depending on the condition. Many second hand bookstores will give you a nominal bulk price for any of the books you don’t sell. All profits to be donated to charity.

Sponsored bookathon: Choose a charity such as Red Nose Day. Set a challenge, for example to read as many pages as possible in 1 hour.  Each child is sponsored per page read so it is a challenge all ages and abilities can participate in. Hand out copies of sponsor forms and arrange place and time. Conduct the big read as a group activity or individually. Advise a date when sponsor money is to be collected and handed in.

Make a school poetry book: This will need a little extra pre-planning. Ask the children to write a poem. Either set a topic or leave it optional. Vary the length according to the age group. Get book printed with each child’s poem and sell to parents and friends of school for charity. Some publishers publish individual school print runs. The children and their parents will love seeing their work in print.

Open mic poetry session: Ideal for budding poets and writers in the school who can sign up to recite their poems or short stories to other pupils. Sell tickets for a small fee which goes to charity.

Book auction: This requires the donation of books which have an immediate appeal to people such as new, in demand books from publishers or bookshops, classic collectable books in good condition, sets of popular books, attractive displayable books or unusual books to sell to the highest bidder as a charity donation.

Play book bingo: Sell tickets for an afternoon of book bingo. Make up bingo sheets of popular children’s books with small prizes for each winner. All profits donated to charity.

Raffle a book cake: Ask a local cake maker or a talented parent to donate a cake in the shape of a book or popular book theme and sell raffle tickets for charity.

Dress up as your favourite book character: Pupils pay a fee to be allowed to come to school dressed as their favourite character in a book. Any money collected goes to charity. For ideas visit my new Pinterest board where I’ve put together a selection of my favourite pins for DIY Book Character Costumes. Some are quick, some are easy others may require some skill!

Make and sell bookmarks: Set up a handcrafted bookmark stall. Get the children to make different bookmarks to sell to other pupils, teachers and parents. For fun bookmarks visit my Pinterest board displaying some great finds in how to make Children’s homemade bookmarks.

Host a book quiz: This could either be a team quiz or mastermind style quiz on a chosen book. I’ll be pinning some children’s book quiz lists to my Pinterest boards soon so if this idea could work for you please check back later.

I’d love to know if any of you have been involved in book related fundraising events so please share how they went, what worked, what didn’t work and any other ideas you came up with.

Bring Back Real Comics!


Image courtesy of Pixomar at

I buy comics for my boys (although the term commercial magazines would be more accurate) because I believe a variety of reading material maintains their interest. However of late I have found an increasing tendency for them to purely go for the one which has (in their eyes) the biggest and best free toy attached to it! Well I can tell you it is not free, I am definitely paying for it in the £4-5 price tag and often the content barely gets a look in! My point being where have the days gone when kids want the comic because they like the characters and are full of anticipation as to what is going to happen in the next episode of world saving adventures? Sadly I have since resorted to buying my boys these comics purely at times when I feel the need to keep them quiet for 15 minutes, on a long journey, during that rare family pub lunch or waiting for hours in the dentist or doctor’s waiting room. In times like these I see it as an absolute necessity for my sanity but it also highlights the fact I am no longer buying the comics for them but for me!

I’m not saying bring back “The Dandy” or bring back “Jackie”, I’m saying surely there is a market for a comic with new contemporary characters and inspiring adventures to captivate our little ones’ imaginations? Sadly it would seem not. Go into any supermarket, post office or newsagent and the mere lack of traditional comics on their shelves speaks volumes. This is certainly evident in the UK but why is this? Are the publishers no longer interested because it is such a costly and lengthy process to make a traditional comic with less profit at the end of it compared to that of commercial magazines? Or are the publishers no longer interested because our children today are no longer interested? There needs to be a demand to meet the supply but if there’s no supply how can there be a demand? Well it doesn’t take much web trawling to find there’s actually a thriving community of comic lovers and enormous conventions going on in the world of comics round the UK. For a start the London Super Comic Convention and the Birmingham Comics Festival are both set for 2015 and only recently the renowned graphics novelist Dave Gibbons was announced as the UK’s first comics laureate. So who is reading these comics and where do they get them from? “The Beano” is definitely still being published commercially so next time you go to your local supermarket or newsagent take a look. You might have to take all the other magazines off the shelves first but it will be buried in there somewhere despite the related toys generally being more visible than the comic itself. My guess is that The Beano or publications like this tend to be subscribed to by mail order now; which generally means you need to know of their existence in the first place and that they are probably largely read by adults not children, the adults that enjoyed them as young children. So maybe now it’s developed into more of a niche market for the loyal hard core comic fans. I see nothing wrong with that per se but what about the comic’s longevity? How are the next generation ever going find out if they are interested in them? How are our children ever going to have access to a true variety of reading literature if the only things thrust in front of their eyes are mainstream TV characters and merchandise? It’s true, what kid would buy a comic full of unknown characters over a spinning top honouring their coolest TV hero?

Much to my delight I found a brilliant website (link below) called Moose Kid Comics. It is packed full of totally original characters with new adventures, professional illustrations and an understanding of children’s humour today. Interestingly it was set up, not by a publisher but a comic artist called Jamie Smart who recognised the plight of the comic in the UK. His mission statement is well worth a read. His message is loud and clear, don’t re-hash, re-create for the modern market. Although they have plans to distribute printed copies in schools, hospitals and charities, at the moment it is in the form of a free (yes FREE!) digital download because as Jamie Smart puts it “attempting to release it onto the shelves against the existing competition would be too big a task for us”. Unfortunately to me, reading from a computer is never going to give the same feeling that leafing through a printed comic does where the characters jump out from the pages. Maybe it’s because it takes very little physical effort to scroll through the screen opposed to holding and turning a printed page but somehow with a digital version I feel more of an onlooker than a participant and less involved in the stories. The experience just doesn’t do the comic justice. Of course I could always print it out myself but my colour printer drinks ink cartridges at the best of times so with 36 colour pages to print, I’d rather not! So here’s hoping it’s just a temporary stop gap to make people aware of its existence but how do the creators of such original content get the attention of children today? Maybe Moose Kid Comics will find a way? I’d like to think so. What are your thoughts on comics today? I’ve downloaded the first issue of Moose Kid Comics for my 7 year old boy and he loves the content and illustrations. For him it even proved quite a novelty to have to read it from the computer screen. Some stories are better than others apparently but the ones he likes have got him talking and laughing about them with me – and that’s what reading is all about!

 Moose Kid Comics