N. very much likes the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series even though he thinks the drawings are lame. I am not a fan. I don't like the boy characters. I think there is a strange disconnect between the books' reading level and the content-maturity level; the text is at 2-3rd grade reading level but tells the stories of middle-schoolers, which don't seem especially appropriate for my naive 8-year-old. I feel about these books the way I think my mom felt about my childhood reading of The Babysitters Club series or Beverly Cleary's The Luckiest Girl, which I remember her dismissing as "drivel." I don't like Wimpy Kid, but of course my standards are entirely different from my son's, so I bite my tongue and buy him used copies so he can read and reread them as he loves to do.
N. loves Calvin and Hobbes, which I also enjoyed as a kid. Even though I know Calvin is funny, philosophically interesting, and rich in challenging vocabulary, I was a bit uncomfortable with my son's absorption in Calvin. I don't want his sense of self to be limited to a conventional model of masculinity (see this), and I cringed when I heard him fashioning smart-aleck remarks and then explaining that he "was just trying to talk like Calvin." However enjoyable the books, I don't particularly want to live with Calvin! In addition, I worry that Calvin and Hobbes is appealing because it consists of short vignettes rather than a long developing narrative. While N. reads some narrative fiction cover to cover (such as Harry Potter 1-3 [twice!], and the Clementine books), he reads many chapter books halfway and then abandons them. (My list of books he's completed this year as a third-grader is here and last year's list is here.) His reading habits continue to be not entirely linear. I believe this shouldn't bother me, but it does. Anyway, recognizing that my worries are absurd (long narratives are not inherently better than short narratives, and multiple books about Calvin must constitute some kind of long narrative anyway, and of course I must trust my son's strong sense of self and respect his right to try on personae such as Calvin's), I got him a bunch of Calvin and Hobbes books for Christmas to add to his well-worn collection, and he was thrilled.
Also for Christmas, I got N. a Tintin book: The Secret of the Unicorn. I've never read any of the Tintin comics, but I knew they were beloved classics and that they had long narrative arcs and beautiful drawings. N. loved it, reading through Unicorn practically in one sitting. I got one copy in English and one in the original French and he has enjoyed comparing them and adding fun French vocabulary to his small repertoire. I didn't realize I was introducing him to Tintin in the middle of the series and he begged for the next book, Red Rackham's Treasure. Our library didn't have it and I was having trouble differentiating online between the large format editions I wanted and the smaller anthologies I didn't so my sister kindly went to The Strand in New York and hunted up a couple volumes on either side of Unicorn. They arrived on Saturday and as you can see in the photo above, N. sat right down on the front stoop next to the mailbox and began reading. He sat there for at least an hour soaking up the book in the sun, and has since read all 4 books my sister sent. All through the weekend I've heard him giggling to himself as he reads.
I'm hoping to get more Tintin books for him, and I am considering introducing Asterix next. I'd love to hear your suggestions for comics or graphic novels along these lines that N. might like and that aren't too mature for an 8-year-old. He prefers the older-fashioned drawing style used to create Tintin or Calvin rather than the newer manga- or animé-influenced style of many graphic novels, and he prefers to comic to scary violence.
|[The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac, illustrated by Quentin Blake]|