Friday, June 21, 2013

#ReadItMD13 Comics and Magazines Week - "Can comics change your child, and the world for the better?"

Azzi In Between by Sarah Garland (Frances Lincoln Children's Books). Deep, thought provoking, vital.
We've delved into the world of comics and children's magazines for our #ReadItMD13 Theme Week this week, and often dealt with the light-hearted and knockabout world of children's comics. But there is a more serious side to comics that parents and children don't often expect to be there.

The visual impact of a story laid out in comic strip format often feels more cinematic and immediate than in other forms of written and illustrated media. As the emphasis is on dialogue and character, and often seeing through the eyes of the central characters, it's a powerful medium to use to deliver the most important messages of our times.

In the header, you can see the fantastic "Azzi In Between" - a children's book by Sarah Garland that deals with a tough and sensitive issue - that of the plight of millions of refugees around the world, forced to flee their countries for numerous reasons. We meet the strong character Azzi, in some respects an ordinary little girl placed in the most extraordinary circumstances purely because of where she was born.

Approved by Amnesty International, Azzi In Between raises awareness in children (and adults) in an impactive and direct way, triggers further discussion and investigation into what happens when war, famine or oppression affect people's lives.

Sarah's child-friendly artwork and the story's curve between Azzi's initial fairly normal life, and what happens when war arrives on the doorstep, is compelling and gritty stuff but produced in a way that children will understand and digest, and best of all, raise their own questions about long after you've turned the last page.

It's easy to see why this book is held in such high regard and it's not the only comic or children's book that's out there doing this. There are more than you'd imagine.

A Child's Garden by Michael Foreman (Walker Books)
In "A Child's Garden", which we recently borrowed from our excellent local library, the message of hope is beautifully woven into a story that begins with dark and fairly disturbing imagery. A young boy lives in a shattered landscape and an ever-present barbed wire fence reminds him that the world he once knew, a world without boundaries where people were free to roam and enjoy the countryside, has now changed as war arrives and land is divided.

Seeing a tiny scrap of greenery within the shattered landscape, the boy endeavours to nurture and grow the plant - until eventually it turns into a strong vine that envelopes the fence, covering it with leaves and flowers.

Soldiers destroy the vine, tossing it carelessly into a ditch. But soon the vine's seeds, scattered by the soldiers' thoughtless actions, start to grow again and a girl on the other side of the fence soon follows the boy's actions, watering the vine once again until it grows, and springs up on both sides, creating a beautiful garden for children to play in.

The message of hope is subtle but utterly beautifully delivered. At home this is a book that raised more questions than it answered, and proved the point that children's books and of course comics have impact, their messages do sink in, and best of all they stay as the comics and books are demanded and read again and again.

There are just two examples of brilliant comics and books that do this so well. If you have any more, we would dearly love to hear about them so please leave a comment below or tweet us @readitdaddy and we'll add them to this article.

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