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No Capes Required: Comics Embrace All Literary Genres!

When I was young, I loved comics. Whether it was the X-Men, Batman or Deadpool, I couldn’t get enough of the emersion and escapism that comics offered. As I’ve grown older I’ve begun branching out from the superhero comics of my youth, and my love and respect for the art form has only intensified.

It may come as a surprise that the world of comics has so much more to offer than spandex-clad muscle men and swooning damsels in distress. Luckily for us there are comics out there to suit just about every taste in literature: there are westerns, science fiction, fantasy and noir detective-style comics. And let’s not forget comics with romance, horror, or comics that have good endings and bad. Comics that are weird. Comics that are queer. Comics that are funny. Comics that are cute. And pretty much everything in between.

Here are 20 of my favorite “no cape” comics – some are stand-alone, many are part of a series – for those of you looking for some alternatives to Marvel and DC. If you haven’t picked up a comic in a while, one of these titles may be the perfect place to get reacquainted. If you think you “aren’t into comics” – I guarantee that at least one of these will change your mind.

 

Graphic novels for people looking for an alternative to superhero comics

Blacksad written by Juan Diaz Canales ; ilustrated by Juanjo Guarnido
Daytripper / by Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá ; with coloring by Dave Stewart ; lettering by Sean Konot
Duncan the wonder dog by Adam Hines
East of West. Volume 1 / Jonathan Hickman, writer ; Nick Dragotta, artist ; Frank Martin, colors ; Rus Wooton, letters
Fables: Legends in Exile written by Bill Willingham ; illustrated by Lan Medina

 

Blacksad written by Juan Diaz Canales ; ilustrated by Juanjo Guarnido

AMAZON RATING: 4.7 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 4.34 stars

Private investigator John Blacksad is up to his feline ears in mystery and intrigue, digging up the backstories behind murders, child abductions, and nuclear secrets during the 1950s Red Scare in the United States. Also available as an eComic.

 

Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon

AMAZON RATING: 4.7 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 4.3 stars

Presents key moments in the life of Brás de Oliva Domingos, a Brazilian writer and sometime journalist, and the son of a prominent author, as if each episode would turn out to be the day in which he was about to die. Also available as an eComic.

 

Duncan the Wonder Dog written and illustrated by Adam Hines

AMAZON RATING: 4.4 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 4 stars

What if animals could talk? Would some of them form a militant group in reaction to how humans treat them? Would humans treat them different?

 

East of West written by Jonathan Hickman ; illustrated by Nick Dragotta

AMAZON RATING: 4.1 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 3.92 stars

This is the world. It is not the one we wanted, but it is the one we deserved. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse roam the Earth, signaling the End Times for humanity, and our best hope for life, lies in DEATH! Also available as an eComic.

 

Fables: Legends in Exile written by Bill Willingham ; illustrated by Lan Medina

AMAZON RATING: 4.4 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 3.98 stars

Who killed Rose Red? In Fabletown, where fairy tale legends live alongside regular New Yorkers, the question is all anyone can talk about. But only the Big Bad Wolf can actually solve the case – and, along with Rose’s sister Snow White, keep the Fabletown community from coming apart at the seams. Also available as an eComic.

 

Hellboy by Mike Mignola
Joe the Barbarian" by Grant Morrison (Author), Sean Murphy (Illustrator)
King City by Brandon Graham
Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill
Monstress: Volume One - Awakening

 

Hellboy by Mike Mignola  (Author/ Illustrator), Various (Illustrator)

AMAZON RATING: 4.6 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 4.12 stars

When strangeness threatens to engulf the world, a strange man will come to save it. Sent to investigate a mystery with supernatural overtones, Hellboy discovers the secrets of his own origins, and his link to the Nazi occultists who promised Hitler a final solution in the form of a demonic avatar. Also available as an eComic.

 

Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison  (Author), Sean Murphy (Illustrator)

AMAZON RATING: 4.2 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 3.77 stars

Joe is an imaginative young kid of 11 who happens to suffer from type 1 diabetes. Without supervision and insulin, he can easily slip into a delirious, dissociative state that presages coma and death. One fateful day, his condition causes him to believe he has entered a vivid fantasy world in which he is the lost savior — a fantastic land based on the layout and contents of his home.

 

King City by Brandon Graham (Author/ Illustrator)

AMAZON RATING: 4.6 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 3.99 stars

Joe is a catmaster, trained to use his cat as any tool or weapon. His best friend, Pete, falls in love with an alien he’s forced to sell into green slavery, while his ex, Anna, watches her Xombie War veteran boyfriend turn into the drug he’s addicted to. King City, an underbelly of a town run by spy gangs and dark dark magic with mystery down every alleyway.

 

Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill  (Author),‎ Gabriel Rodriguez (Artist)

AMAZON RATING: 4.5 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 4.16 stars

“Locke & Key” tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them, and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all! Also available as an eComic.

 

Monstress by Marjorie Liu (Author), Sana Takeda (Artist)

AMAZON RATING: 4.5 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 3.97 stars

Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art
deco-inflected steampunk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both.

 

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Pretty Deadly: Volume one - The shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Tales from outer suburbia by Shaun Tan

 

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (Author, Illustrator)

AMAZON RATING: 4.7 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 4.19 stars

Lord Blackheart, a villain with a vendetta, and his sidekick, Nimona, an impulsive young shapeshifter, must prove to the kingdom that Sir Goldenloin and the Institution of Law
Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are. Also available in Audio and eAudio.

 

Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Author), Emma Rios (Artist), Jordie Bellair (Artist)

AMAZON RATING: 4.1 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 3.82

As Sissy, a girl with a crow head-dress and two different colored eyes, and Fox, a blind old man, travel a fanciful Old West world, they are pursued by Death who seeks Sissy for reasons unknown. Also available as an eComic.

 

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Fiona Staples (Artist)

AMAZON RATING: 4.7 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 4.23

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in a sexy, subversive drama for adults. Also available as an eComic.

 

Sandman by Neil Gaiman (Author), Sam Kieth (Illustrator), Mike Dringenberg (Illustrator)

AMAZON RATING: 4.4 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 4.28 stars

After his seventy-year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman. Also available as an eComic.

 

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (Author, Illustrator)

AMAZON RATING: 4.7 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 4.33 stars

An exchange student who’s really an alien, a secret room that becomes the perfect place for a quick escape, a typical tale of grandfatherly exaggeration that is actually even more bizarre than he says… These are the odd details of everyday life that grow and take on an incredible life of their own in tales and illustrations that Shaun Tan’s many fans will love.

 

Through the woods : stories by Emily Carroll
The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way
WE3 : the deluxe edition by Grant Morrison
The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan

 

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (Author, Illustrator)

AMAZON RATING: 4.5 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 3.91 stars

Journey through the woods in this sinister, compellingly spooky collection that features four brand-new stories and one phenomenally popular tale in print for the first time. These are fairy tales gone seriously wrong, where you can travel to. Also available in eBook.

 

The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way  (Author), Gabriel Ba (Illustrator)

AMAZON RATING: 4.4 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 3.96 stars

In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-seven extraordinary children were spontaneously born to women who’d previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, “To save the world.” Also available as an eComic.

 

We3 by Grant Morrison  (Author), Frank Quitely  (Illustrator)

Writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely deliver the emotional journey of WE3 – three house pets weaponized for lethal combat by the government – as they search for “home” and ward off the shadowy agency that created them. Also available as an eComic.

 

The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple (Author, Illustrator)

AMAZON RATING: 3.7 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 3.28 stars

In a demented future where humanity is oppressed by the evil Shadowsmen, only a gang of ruthless and powerful children called the Wrenchies can hope to stand against them.

 

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Pia Guerra (Illustrator), Jose Marzan Jr. (Illustrator)

AMAZON RATING: 4.2 stars

GOODREADS RATING: 4.11 stars

Yorick Brown and his pet male monkey learn just how valuable they are when they set out across the planet in search of one specific girl in the wake of a strange plague that has killed every man, boy, and mammal with a Y chromosome–except for them. Also available as an eComic.


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Building Great Learners Starts With Reading

“Too early” has no place in the formula when it comes to gauging the right time to begin nurturing children’s interest in reading. While introducing her daughter Aria to the wonder of words, Renee O’Brien found out how quickly that awareness and appreciation of books and language can be ignited.

O’Brien had heard about the Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s Ready to Read program and decided not long after the birth of her first child to get some advice on preparing Aria to be a lifelong reader.

“I wanted to make sure she has the tools she needs in life to be a good reader, and a good learner,” O’Brien said. “So I went to the library, talked to the people there and got the information on what to do. I found out that even at a very young age, it is important to read to her and let her hear a variety of words.”

Ready to Read stresses how critical the years before kindergarten are for the development of children’s reading ability, and how the language and word skills a child is exposed to during that time period will play a significant role in how successful that child will be in school, and in life. The program promotes five activities that parents can do with their children to greatly improve their success: talking, singing, reading, writing and playing.

Talk Sing Read Write Play

Ready to Read encourages parents and childcare providers to frequently talk with children in order to help them learn new words and to stimulate brain development. Singing improves a child’s capability to understand sounds within words, while reading together helps children become skilled readers. Parents are also urged to write out words to give children an understanding of letters and how they form sounds. Time for play is likewise important, as this is one of the main ways that children learn about the world.

O’Brien and her husband Kevin started introducing Aria to books when she was just four months old, and followed a plan that included frequently talking, singing and reading to her while she was in her high chair.

“At first, she paid no attention to us,” O’Brien said, “but they encouraged us to keep doing it.”

Then, somewhat magically and whimsically, Aria’s eyes lit up and the pathway for the 17-month-old to become a lifelong reader was wide open.

“Now, over the past three months she has been so interested in books,” O’Brien said. “Her doctor is very impressed with her development. She brings us the books and says: ‘read, read.’ She loves the books with pictures and words like ball and banana and gets excited when we read to her.”

Since its inception in April 2014, the Ready to Read program has provided more than 4,000 parents and childcare providers with free kits and training. In 2017, the program reached more than 6,000 parents and children. 600 families received in-depth training and a free preschool or kindergarten resource kit while another 800 received tools and tips such as the Busy Book and Kindergarten Skill Rings.

Ready to Read helped 4000 parents and 10000 children

Planting the Seed to Read

Statistics show that when they enter kindergarten, nearly two-thirds of area students do not have the fundamental skills needed to learn how to read and write. With $2 million in support from donors, the Library’s “Planting a Seed to Read” campaign was developed to address this deficiency. It is part of the Library’s overall Early Literacy Campaign which has the ambitious goal of improving the essential literacy skills of every child in the community.

“We know that in Lucas County, a lot of children are not arriving at school ready to learn and read, and that’s a big concern,” said Nancy Eames, youth services coordinator at the Library.

“One of the ways we address that is to show parents how to teach their children so those children are ready to read when they start school. Most kids won’t start reading until they are five or six, but they need a good foundation in place well before that age.”

She added that with locations in every corner of the community, the Library is able to offer support to families and get children started on building a foundation in reading.

“Parents are children’s first teachers, so their role is very important,” Eames said. “We want them talking to their children, which helps build vocabulary. Engaging in conversations that expand their world knowledge is also very valuable. Children can gain a lot when parents sing to them, since singing slows down the words and lets the child hear the syllables.”

Eames said that parents should continually expand on what they are saying so children hear a wide variety of words. When they start to read, children will more easily recognize words they have heard before.

“What we all need to do is put down our devices, and help kids build vocabulary,” Eames said. “Vocabulary is a skill we build throughout our entire lives, and the earlier we start, the more successful we will be.”

Intensive Storytimes Make Learning Fun

The Library’s “Intensive Storytimes” program is on the same mission – to increase children’s interest in books and reading, while strengthening their pre-literacy skills. Intensive Storytimes were first introduced in the fall of 2013 to eight Toledo Public Schools (TPS) Kindergarten classes and today, now serves about 40 TPS Kindergarten classes and 600 to 700 students annually.

The program also introduces students to their neighborhood Library, through the work of children’s librarians who visit the schools to present traditional storytime elements, such as reading books aloud, teaching rhyming words and singing with the children. These are facets of the dialogic reading technique which has been shown to hasten the development of early literacy aptitude, including oral language skills.

A librarian reading during Storytime

A Teacher Approved Approach

Fadia Olrich has been teaching Kindergarten for eight years, and she said her Riverside Elementary students are very excited when Children’s Librarian Maria Royuela-Tomas makes her regular visits to the classroom. Olrich said the librarians in the program work with teachers and develop themes for each week, often linking them to topics covered during the rest of the school day.

“Maria always has props or puppet shows or something that ties into the story and keeps the kids engaged the whole time,” Olrich said. “She focuses on vocabulary and character identification and my kids are always eager to participate – their hands are in the air to ask or answer questions.”

Olrich said the Intensive StoryTimes program is critically important for her students, many of whom have not been introduced to books before attending Kindergarten.

“A lot of my students aren’t even exposed to reading before they arrive here. Some had no idea what a library is, and they can’t believe it’s a place where you can go and get books,” she said. “So this program is very beneficial.”

Jim Funk, manager of institutional and community initiatives at the Library, said the goal of the Intensive StoryTimes program and the overall early literacy efforts is to have children properly prepared to learn.

“At first, we only worked with adults on improving literacy, but we realized working with children is the key to a better life for them, and for society,” he said. “The task is daunting, since so many of the children come to school not sufficiently prepared to read, but we aspire to do anything we can to help.”

The response to those efforts has been overwhelmingly positive.

All of the TPS teachers surveyed concluded that Intensive StoryTimes exposed their students to experiences that increased their pre-literacy skills. The teachers were also unanimous in their opinion that Intensive StoryTimes amplified the interest in reading in their classrooms, and helped the students build reading skills. The teachers all wanted Intensive StoryTimes to return to their classrooms.

“That’s very gratifying, because there are many different types of intervention underway, but the fact that teachers want our program back every year is a real testimony to its effectiveness,” Funk said.

A father reading to his son

Get In on the Early Literacy Action

Parents and childcare providers who have more questions or would like to request a free training may call 419.259.5253 or email readytoread@toledolibrary.org.

To support the Library’s Early Literacy Campaign, contact the Library Legacy Foundation at 419.259.5123 or email kathy.selking@toledolibrary.org.

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Take the 101 Picture Book Challenge

The 101 Picture Book Challenge is here! We’ve chosen 101 Picture Books and we want you to read them, too! The Challenge is for anyone at any age. Librarians chose the list which includes classics, new titles and everything in between.

How Do You Take the 101 Picture Book Challenge?

To get started, register online. You can track your progress online or if you prefer a paper log booklet, pick one up at your neighborhood Library. The books are organized into categories but you can read the books in any order and at your own pace. When you read all 101 titles, you earn a free picture book (while supplies last).

Favorite Book on the 101 Picture Book Challenge List

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

My favorite book on the list is “Bark, George,” written and illustrated by Jules Feiffer. The book is hilarious and has been a favorite for years! I absolutely love sharing this book with kids – probably because I get to ‘moo,’ ‘meow’ and ‘bark’ with glee. Published in the late ’90s, this beloved new classic is a perfect title for the challenge.

Also available in Read-Along Audio [Book on CD]DVDeAudio and eVideo.

Reading Beyond The 101 Picture Book List

If you like the humor in “Bark, George” by Jules Feiffer , you may also like …

Petra by Marianna Coppo - picture book

Petra” by Marianna Coppo

A little rock who believes she is a mountain has her perspective changed by a series of movements, including a dog playing fetch, a bird’s nest, a pond, and a little girl.

A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker - picture book

A Visitor for Bear” by Bonny Becker

Bear is quite sure he doesn’t like visitors. He even has a sign. So when a mouse taps on his door one day, Bear tells him to leave. But when Bear goes to the cupboard to get a bowl, there is the mouse — small and gray and bright-eyed. In this slapstick tale that begs to be read aloud, all Bear wants is to eat his breakfast in peace, but the mouse — who keeps popping up in the most unexpected places — just won’t go away!

It’s a Tiger by David LaRochelle - picture book

It’s a Tiger” by David LaRochelle

Kids and parents alike will rejoice in this lively read-aloud picture book, as the main character runs into (and away from) a tiger over and over again as the plot gets sillier and sillier.

Also available in Audio [Book on CD] and eBook.

Marigold Bakes a Cake by Mike Malbrough - picture book

Marigold Bakes a Cake” by Mike Malbrough

Marigold the cat likes everything just so, but when he sets out to bake a perfect cake one Monday, he is interrupted by one finch, two pigeons and three loons.


This is the latest in a series of blog posts exploring some of the things we love about these books.

Looking for reading, listening and viewing suggestions beyond the 101 Picture Book Challenge? We can help! Just visit us online and fill out a short form. That’s all it takes to receive personalized recommendations from our knowledgeable staff.

Originally posted by Toledo Lucas County Public Library blogger Cindy V. at ToledoLibrary.org/blog/take-the-101-picture-book-challenge-today.

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