Friday, January 17, 2020

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 17th January 2019: "The Cure for a Crime (A Double Detectives Medical Mystery)" by Roopa Farooki (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

It's fair to say that we have a very tough choice on our hands when it comes to middle grade fiction, separating out the also-rans from the truly stunning books that we know are going to be a huge hit with C.

When it comes to detective fiction our work is doubly difficult - it feels like there are SO MANY wannabe detectives running around in middle grade, all solving crimes, righting wrongs, and generally doing so in a fairly similar (some might even say tedious) way.

SO it's good to report that "The Cure for a Crime" by Roopa Farooki punts all those notions of 'sameyness' into the reeds, setting up a fantastic first book in what we truly hope becomes a hugely successful series, featuring twins Ali and Tulip.

Their mum is a successful surgeon, and both the twins have picked up loads of her knowledge of first aid, medicine and anatomy, becoming familiar with the hospital environment and the daily struggles and triumphs around making people better and saving lives.

But something's amiss. Their normally sharp-eyed sharp-witted mum seems to be suffering from a mysterious illness that is making her sleepy and forgetful. Mum's new boyfriend is instantly placed under suspicion, and it's up to the twins and their awesome Gran to get to the bottom of this tricky case, using all the medical knowledge and skills at their disposal (plus a good dose of wisdom from Gran too!)

Roopa's storytelling is slick, fast paced and completely engrossing (C read this through twice and was totally hooked on it, which in itself is unusual given the number of books she has on her review stack at any given time). Praise in itself for a superb novel that bucks the trend for 'boring' middle grade detective fiction, giving it a vital life-saving shot in the arm (and dang, you could almost put that on the back of the book, right?)

Sum this book up in a sentence: A truly brilliant slice of awesomeness, a detective tale that feels instantly engaging and original, with a brilliant pair of characters and a compelling first case which we hope becomes a huge series for Roopa.

"The Cure for a Crime" by Roopa Farooki is out now, published by OUP / Oxford Children's Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week: Week Ending 17th January 2020: "A Giant Dose of Gross" by Andy Seed and Claire Almon (QED)

Our fantastic non-fiction Picture Book of the Week comes from an author who doesn't mind getting his hands dirty when it comes to some truly gross things, and a talented illustrator who managed to turn us a little green around the gills as we read through this one.

"A Giant Dose of Gross" by Andy Seed and Claire Almon shines the spotlight on animals that you normally don't see in more prim and proper natural history books. Those animals who look pretty grim, have some of the most disgusting habits, and use some pretty stomach-churning ways of staying alive.

Not one to be read over breakfast (as C discovered as she leafed through this one while enjoying a healthy bowl of porridge), Andy and Claire dig through the more unsavoury side of the animal kingdom, uncovering a plethora of farters, pukers, slimers, bleeders, ploppers and piddlers.

From puking vultures and farting goats to stinky opossums who pretend to be dead, this book gathers them all together in a fascinating volume for those of us who don't mind uncovering nature's less salubrious side. 



Kids (particularly boys) will absolutely adore reading - and repeating to their horrified parents - all the grim facts on offer in this fantastic book.



Sum this book up in a sentence: A fascinating glimpse at the seedier (pun intended) side of the animal kingdom, and some truly grim, gross and yet strangely adorable creatures who use every means necessary to survive. 

"A Giant Dose of Gross" by Andy Seed and Claire Almon is out now, published by QED (kindly supplied for review). 
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Thursday, January 16, 2020

That ol' "Book to Screen" thing raises its ugly (and beautiful) head again - This Week's #ReadItTorial

Oh Mrs Coulter... (sigh)

When the winter months arrive, the incumbents of ReadItDaddy Towers find themselves snuggling up on the sofa together to watch a bit of seasonal telly. There's usually something we agree we can watch together (though most of the time I find myself needing to disappear whenever stuff like "Strictly Come Dancing" comes on).

But before Christmas we were treated to the latest round of dramatisations from the BBC, adapting classic books for screen with varying degrees of success.

I've long loved "War of the Worlds" by H.G Wells - and still believe that the closest anyone's ever come to adapting it for the screen was a fantastic animated version that (unfortunately) arrived in the same year as Tom Cruise's truly awful blockbuster. Completely overshadowed, it's all but disappeared, but if you hunt around enough you'll find it on DVD.

The BBC had been trumpeting their new version for a long time, taking the story away from modern times, back to the Victorian era depicted in the original novel (hooray!) with a stellar cast (hooray!) and what looked to be a fairly decent effects budget (hooray!)

Then it arrived as a three parter. Straight away there was a problem. Initially it looked to be pretty faithful but then it started hopping around in the story's timeline, effectively jumping from the moments before the Martian invasion, to the aftermath of a world devastated by the war machines. As the episodes unfolded, this continued until the whole thing became an unwatchable mess, spending more time shoe-staring than actually dealing with the themes the book did so well to convey, that we may think we're top of the pecking order but when we're confronted by an apocalypse, we go to pieces when our technology (and capability for destroying things) fails us (kinda topical but...nah, just nah).

Hot on its coat-tails, into 2020 now and "Dracula" was also adapted by Messrs Moffat and Gatiss - upgrading the influential character, modernising him, camping him up (though - let's face it - Dracula has ALWAYS been pretty damned camp, even in the original novel) and producing another three episode drama that fired a scattergun at a beloved classic, annoying and delighting viewers in equal measure (I watched the first episode which was OK, dipped into the second which just completely slid over my eyeballs making no impact whatsoever - I bailed on the third).

YET for all these so-so adaptations, the BBC and HBO had us utterly gripped with "His Dark Materials" - Splicing together parts of Philip Pullman's first two novels in this series, playing between Lyra's escapades in Alt-Oxford and the frozen north, and a more modern-day setting for the second book.

Though there were scenes that we felt were badly handled and poorly realised (still cannot forgive 'em for essentially stuffing up one of the most important scenes in the first book, where a poor abducted urchin is separated from his Daemon and is found hugging a dead fish in a freezing hut), and a lot of criticism was levelled at the fact that the show obviously couldn't afford to budget for Daemons for every character. But the performances were stellar, with Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson and James McAvoy acting their socks off to good effect, leaving us dangling on a cliffhanger and wanting the next series to hurry up and get here.

Elsewhere with more grown-up fare, Netflix's adaptation of "The Witcher" also boasts super-high production quality, and somehow manages to take the fairly toothy and 'not for the faint hearted' books (and for that matter a good dose of what made the games pretty special) and turn them into an amazing series. You see, it can be done - even with material that you'd swear was completely unfilmable.

Picture book wise, there was also a truly wonderful adaptation of "The Tiger Who Came to Tea" on over Christmas, perfectly honouring the memory of Judith Kerr's most well-known and celebrated book, in fact I don't think this got nearly enough love and plaudits on my timeline on Twitter. It really was wonderfully done.

Which is more than can be said for the BBC's version of "The Snail and the Whale" - For goodness sake give Magic Light something more decent to work with than stale Julia Donaldson books, PLEASE!

Adapting books isn't always easy - but sometimes, with the sheer amount of truly amazing stuff out there in kidlit (particularly in picture books) I'm left wondering why it always seems to be the 'safe' choices that make the leap from page, to script, to screen. We've said it in previous ReadItTorials and we'll say it again - there are many, many more authors out there whose works would make the perfect Christmas (or ANY time of year) movie or series. Give these folk a shot - and more importantly INVOLVE them in the project. No one wants to watch some producer / director's 'unique vision' for a story that stands up very well without any additional creative muddling.
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Out Today - "Fearless - How to be your true confident self" by Liam Hackett and Mike Perry (Scholastic)

Parents don't have all the answers. That's something both my wife and I have been brutally honest about with our daughter as she grows up, and though we can impart wisdom based on our own experiences, sometimes kids need a little bit more than that - they need to hear from other kids, and some sage advice from experts to help them find their way in an increasing mental and physical minefield as they rapidly approach their teens.

"Fearless" by Liam Hackett, with illustrations by Mike Perry is bang on the nail for my daughter's age group. Liam - founder of the "Ditch the Label" organisation, supporting anti-bullying strategies and working with kids and teens, has curated a fantastic book filled with a ton of advice on a huge range of subjects, mostly dealing with how stereotypes creep into young people's lives at an increasingly early age, and sometimes in the rush to conform or fit in, they lose a little bit of their own identities in the process.

Here then is a book that helps them claw some of that back with tons of amazing anecdotes and case studies from kids like my daughter, ordinary kids who may be dealing with extraordinary situations in work, at home and in their social lives.

Each chapter deals with a particular worry or fear kids might have, from the fear of being yourself, fear of failure, fear of not fitting in or expressing yourself - with plenty of amazing advice from Liam and his team of experts, as well as real life cases - many of which (sadly) my daughter has already encountered as she enters the next phase of her life.

The book is extremely strong on advice surrounding bullying in particular, in whatever form it takes from physical and emotional intimidation through to cyber-bullying and peer pressure, dealt with and discussed in a level-headed and mature way to ensure children do not feel alone in dealing with this nastiness, and giving them plenty of help and advice on who to turn to, and what to do.

This is absolutely superb stuff, it does the things it needs to do without talking down to kids or treating them like they were born yesterday.

"Fearless" by Liam Hackett and Mike Perry is out today, published by Scholastic (kindly supplied for review).
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"The End of Something Wonderful: A Practical Guide to a Backyard Funeral" by Stephanie V.W Lucianovic and George Ermos (Sterling Kids)

Now and again a children's book comes along that makes you think "Well, that's a new one on me!"

So far I can't recall ever seeing a children's picture book that takes such a quirky, charming and original look at a subject that we go to great pains to avoid.

Death.

In "The End of Something Wonderful" by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic and George Ermos, a fairly tricky subject is injected with a dose of slightly macabre (some might even say inappropriate) humour to help kids over the loss of a beloved pet.

So far we've managed to avoid this particular part of C's formative growing up, mostly because we don't have any pets or haven't had any. But what happens when a child's best furry (scaly, swimmy, or perhaps even tortoise-shelled) buddy dies?

It's time for a funeral - a right royal send off for the poor little critter. But how, and where do you even start with something like that?


We probably sound a bit down on this, but quite the contrary, and perhaps we find it funnier because we are petless. But it has a dark sense of humour running through the story, something that is sadly missing from children's books. Stephanie's text coupled with George's fantastic illustrations make this a real departure from the staid and boring, and dare we say rather 'safe' choices often made for subject matter when it comes to children's stories.


Sum this book up in a sentence: A quirky, charming if somewhat irreverent look at the loss of a beloved pet, and what to do next, brilliantly realised by an extremely talented pair of creatives.

"The End of Something Wonderful: A Practical Guide to a Backyard Funeral" by Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic and George Ermos is out now, published by Sterling Kids (kindly supplied for review). 
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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

"Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shuing helped unlock the secrets of the Atom (People Who Shaped Our World)" by Teresa Robeson and Rebecca Huang (Sterling Kids)

To most people, the name Wu Chien Shiung is completely unknown, but in "Queen of Physics" by Teresa Robeson and Rebecca Huang, it's time to raise the profile of this astonishingly accomplished physicist, rightly placing her name amongst other more well known and easily recognised figures such as Oppenheimer and Fermi.

When Wu Chien Shiung was born in China 100 years ago, girls did not attend school; no one considered them as smart as boys. 

But her parents felt differently. Naming their daughter Courageous Hero, they encouraged her love of learning and science. 

This engaging biography follows Wu Chien Shiung as she battles sexism at home and racism in the United States to become what Newsweek magazine called the Queen of Physics for her work on how atoms split. 

Wu Chien Shuing became the first woman hired as an instructor by Princeton University, the first woman elected President of the American Physical Society, the first scientist to have an asteroid named after her when she was still alive, and many other honours.






Sum this book up in a sentence: This book offers a fascinating glimpse at Wu Chien Shuing's life, and is a hugely positive and inspirational piece of work, showing that girls can achieve whatever they want to once the obstacles of prejudice and sexism are removed (as they should be!)

"Queen of Physics" by Teresa Robeson and Rebecca Huang is out now, published by Sterling (kindly supplied for review). 
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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Two awesome new activity books to kick off the new year from Button Books

We do love anything that involves masses and masses of stickers. There's definitely something soothing about sticker books but in two new releases from Button Books there's more to the activities within than just stickers.

Let's kick off by taking a closer look at "The Magical Underwater Activity Book" by Mia Underwood.

With a superb underwater theme, chock full of mermaids, mer-cats (did you know there was such a thing? You do now!) and a whole host of familiar and unfamiliar sea creatures, this is perfect for kids who love to imagine what life is like under the waves.

There are plenty of awesome brain-taxing challenges such as word searches, mazes and papercraft.

Perfect for busy little kids, "The Magical Underwater Activity Book" by Mia Underwood is out now, published by Button Books. 

Also out now, the awesome "Roman Adventure Activity Book" by Jen Alliston, for kids who like a bit of history.

There are more stickers (over 100 to be precise) plus a whol host of Roman-themed makes and puzzles, activities and jokes perfect for kids who are covering the Roman Empire in lessons at school.

Kids will learn tons about Roman times while they're tackling all the fun things to do in the book, with brilliant characterful illustrations showing the type of people who lived in Ancient Rome and what they got up to!

"Roman Adventure Activity Book" is also out now, published by Button Books (kindly supplied for review). 
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Monday, January 13, 2020

"Twelve Days of Kindness" by Cori Brooke and Fiona Burrows (New Frontier Publishing)

Stories that help children fit in and also demonstrate kindness are much needed right now, in our modern world where it feels like an uphill struggle to help kids develop tolerance, understanding and explore friendships with others.

In "Twelve Days of Kindness" by Cori Brooke, Fiona Burrows, Holly realises that the new girl in her class is struggling to make friends.

With the help of their football coach Holly and Nabila come up with a plan.

Can their school football team bring them together, and expand their friendship group?

As the two friends bond over a common interest, the story beautifully explores how kids can learn the moral at the heart of the story, and even pay it forward in their own lives, at school and at home. The story is gentle but nicely written, with kid-friendly illustrations helping to put the message across effectively.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A great little book for helping kids understand how to make friends outside their own social / cultural circles, and how tolerance, kindness and friendship can make a huge difference when new folk feel uncomfortable and like a fish out of water.

"Twelve Days of Kindness" by Cori Brooke and Fiona Burrows is out now, published by New Frontier Publishing (kindly supplied for review).  
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Friday, January 10, 2020

ReaditDaddy's YA / Adult Graphic Novel of the Week - Week Ending 10th January 2020: "Third World War (Crisis)" by Pat Mills, Carlos Ezquerra, D'Israeli and Angela Kincaid (Rebellion Publishing)

This one's strictly for our YA / Grown Up Readers, sliding into our YA / Adult Graphic Novel of the Week slot with all the temerity and bombast of a well-loved song.

In fact that's the power of comics - that sometimes you re-read something you read as a miscreant youth and it takes you back to the very time, the very era you first read it in.

I read this as a relative youngster, perhaps not as young as the main protagonists (or should that be antagonists?) in "Third World War" by Pat Mills, Carlos Ezquerra, D'Israeli and Angela Kincaid. But young enough to entirely 'get' where this comic was coming from. Created by arguably one of the most important comic writers in Brit-com history and illustrated by a truly iconic comic artist, there was no way on paper that this could fail.

Hailed as a new flagship for intelligent comic readers, Crisis launched in 1988 and caught me on the hop as the sort of disgruntled wage-slave 20 year old unhappy with the way the world was going at the time (Reader: He didn't change, even into his 50s).

In fact that's the rub - the stuff depicted in this comic 30 years ago really hasn't changed much - and the story's streak of malevolent anger feels perhaps even more relevant now than it did back then, and as the young adults drafted into a multinational peace organisation soon find, the machinations of large corporations carving up the natural resources of poorer countries for their own gain hasn't seemingly altered one iota in the here and now of 2020.

The story is mainly told from the perspective of Eve, a girl balancing her strong moral compass against the demands of the peace corps she's 'drafted' into, finding that at every turn her worst fears are realised, and the "third world" is being vastly exploited by the evil multinational known as Multifoods, responsible for pushing sugary junk on the world's consumers, and carving up vast tracts of South America for gain and profit while displacing / policing the indigenous people there.


The young characters in the story, Eve, Paul, Gary, Trish and Ivan, all felt believable in a way that hadn't been tackled in comics for me up to that point. These were folk who I could readily spot amongst friends and acquaintances at the time and characters that were drawn from the disaffected youth fed up to the back teeth with a decade of the Tory government at the time (yeah, about that "not much has changed but we live underwater" thing).

While I was mainlining music by The The, Depeche Mode, Warren Zevon etc, I was also reading this comic and (largely) ignoring "New Statesman" (the other launch story in Crisis - which felt like it was catering for the US market rather than us) in favour of Third World War.

Paul, Ivan, Eve, Gary and Trish - In the firing line for Multifoods Peace Volunteer Force


It's surprising how well this has held up, and it's also surprising just how pissed off I still am at the way it draws to a close, leaving things hanging in an almost painful way, though obviously you can draw your own conclusions as to how things would've spun out if Crisis hadn't folded after three all-too-short years, ruling out a return for this strip.

As it stands though it's still one heck of a timely piece of work, read now amongst a world now paying the piper for what was going on 30 years ago as the climate crisis bares its teeth and bites hard, wreaking havoc around the world, and poorer countries still find themselves exploited by huge multinationals like the fictional Multifoods, adopting far more nefarious practices than just sending a bunch of conscript kids into hot zones. Spellbinding, important and thoroughly absorbing stuff.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A mind-crushingly timely slice of chaos 30 years ahead of its time, ringing a 5-bell alarm about what multinationals were doing to the planet, the effects of which we're still feeling today.

"Third World War (Crisis)" by Pat Mills, Carlos Ezquerra, D'Israeli and Angela Kincaid is out now, published by Rebellion (kindly supplied in digital format for review). 
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ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week Ending 10th January 2020: "The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Ships & Battles" by Landry Walker (Abrams)

We're unapologetic Star Wars nerds here at ReadItDaddy Towers and now we're all caught up with the latest blockbuster movie "The Rise of Skywalker" it's time to dip into a book of the week par excellence, particularly if you love cool concept art and gorgeous vehicle designs.

"The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Ships & Battles" by Landry Walker draws together an enviable collection of material from right across the Star Wars cinematic and TV universes (though it's not quite up to date enough to encompass the glorious "The Mandalorian" show on Disney Plus).

That said, this is a fantastic guide to all the amazing ships and climactic battles that have been such a huge part of turning Star Wars into such a cultural phenomenon.

From the earliest movies, and some of the groundbreaking designs that turned wide eyed little kids like me into real fans back in the 1970s, bang up to date with the latest trilogy (and yeah the prequels are in here too, bless 'em) there's just about everything you'll need to know about X-Wings, Tie Fighters, the mighty Millennium Falcon, those romping stomping AT-ATs and many, many more iconic ships and vehicles.


Unusually, the book also has 'lift the flap' sections that show the evolution of certain designs from concept to finished models or CGI renders.


Though the books (rightly) celebrate the amazing work of concept artist Ralph McQuarrie (the late designer and concept artist who is often credited with creating the distinct look and feel of Star Wars), I was delighted to also find Joe Johnston's original and far more industrial designs for ships and vehicles being beautifully showcased in this fantastic book, alongside Doug Chiang's concept work too. Very much hoping that we get to see more books in the series (particularly if there are any planned titles about costumes, scenery and stuff like that).

For process nerds and concept art fans in general this is an essential tome, detailing and showing the way movie designs evolve, with some truly fantastic anecdotes and stories from those closest to the movies, and the directors (George Lucas of course, Irving Kershner, Ron Howard, JJ Abrams etc.) who brought those visions to life on screen.

Sum this book up in a sentence: Brilliant for a range of ages, even old Star Wars geeks like me, this is absolutely unmissable stuff.

"The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Ships and Battles" by Landry Walker is out now, published by Abrams (kindly supplied for review). 
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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Our first ReadItTorial of 2020 - "The Big Book Cull - Or parting is such sweet sorrow" #ReadItTorial2020

Despite the grand sounding name, "ReadItDaddy Towers" isn't the capacious book-filled mansion you'd probably picture.

In fact we are constantly fighting a (mostly losing) battle against a flood of books - not just the stuff we get sent for review, but our own personal books (yes, amazing isn't it, book bloggers actually buy books as well, who'd have thunk it!)

Now, this isn't some braggy post celebrating the fact that we have a lot of books. It wasn't always that way, and as a kid from a tough working-class upbringing who was once in the position of only getting books that were either donated free from libraries or schools, or hand-me-downs and books scavenged from jumble sales, I can honestly tell you that getting rid of books even now feels like a painful sting.

Before Christmas we had a massive book cull, probably the biggest to date. We had several reasons for doing so (other than the fact that our book-cases now visibly 'bow' under the weight of the 'keepers').

We had got to a point where C's bookcases in her room were filled with books that we all loved, but never read any more. Taking some Marie Kondo-style advice, we thought it was best to donate these to worthy causes, let other kids have a chance to love them as much as we had over the years.

And so the great book cull began.

I almost needed tranquillisers as the first piles began to form. My wife is far more merciless than me, and has absolutely no qualms about putting books into the 'donate' pile that I wouldn't dream of getting rid of. Books that we'd kept and loved since C was a tiny baby. Many books we'd read to her at bedtimes again and again. Books by authors we've loved and still love. Even some books that were signed or annotated. Nothing was spared. I basically sat in a semi-curled up ball rocking on my haunches and let Mrs ReadIt get on with it.

Two musings emerged from this exercise:

1) Never ever EVER trust a book blogger / instagrammer / influencer who shows you photos of their shelves looking utterly pristine, beautifully organised, regimentally colour-sorted and even sorted by author / genre / publisher. These folk are not normal. They are the blogging equivalent of those folk who constantly take photos of their meal when out to dinner. They are some sort of alien android, sent to this earth to torment more chaotically minded folk like us. I am utterly convinced of this.

2) The whole exercise took days. This wasn't because of the actual business of removing books from shelves and creating donation piles. It was mostly from me sighing heavily, clutching each of the former 'keepers' to my chest, cherishing the memories that these books invoked just by a glance at the covers, and of course reading them one last time.

So now our bookcases are a tiny bit emptier but once again they're slowly filling up (I mean book tokens and christmas money = more books, right? And you're duty-bound to keep books you've shelled out your own hard-earned cash on, also right?)

Even though we ended up with a donation pile way in excess of around 300-400 books, we still don't seem to have clawed back that much space (though for the first time in a long while our books are no longer 'double stacked' two layers deep, and new titles slide into the meagre number of gaps fairly easily without having to be hammered home with a lump hammer, which is nice!)

All the culled books went to charitable causes. Some were sold in aid of local charities, but the majority were donated freely to folk who find themselves in the position I was once in, unable to afford gorgeous books or just having a small selection of secondhand books at home.

After ten years of book blogging we know just how vital books are in a child's life so being able to pay it forward in even a fairly small way feels damned good and satisfying, even if the pain of book culling is almost too much to bear for book obsessives like us.

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Out Today! "Unlocking the Universe" by Stephen and Lucy Hawking (Puffin Books)

It's a little-known fact that the late Professor Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy Hawking wrote a series of fantastic children's books with an inquisitive character named George delving into the mysteries of science, time and space.

We're also delighted to find that "Unlocking the Universe" by Stephen and Lucy is finally finding its way into print in a new hardbacked edition from Puffin, out today and absolutely crammed with astonishing information about our humble planet, and the Universe beyond.

Perfectly pitched at inquisitive kids who love science, the book engages their curiosity, posing big questions such as "What would it have been like to walk on our ancient earth, four and a half billion years ago?" (the answer, quite hot as it was almost a fluid lava-filled landscape with very little life to speak of). 

How would you cope if robots took over the world and enslaved humanity? 

What does it really feel like to walk on the surface of the moon?

Following perfectly on from the "George" books and pulling all the non-fiction elements of those stories together in one volume, this is a brilliantly presented and quite weighty tome that's absolutely spot on for kids like my daughter, who see science as magic and want to know more about our world and the cosmos. 

The effects of global warming on our planet are examined in great detail here

The book has been updated with tons of new content covering global warming, conspiracy theories, the rise of artificial intelligence and tons more. 

If you've got book tokens hanging around from Christmas, this might be the perfect non-fiction title to kick off 2020 with. 



Sum this book up in a sentence: A glorious scientific gaze at our world, and the universe beyond in a fact-filled volume that will keep curious kids occupied for ages. 

"Unlocking the Universe" by Professor Stephen Hawking and Lucy Hawking is out today, published by Puffin (kindly supplied for review). 
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"The Caveman Next Door" by Tom Tinn-Disbury (New Frontier Publishing)

A hilarious fish out of water tale, meet "The Caveman Next Door" by Tom Tinn-Disbury!

Ogg is, of course, a caveman and is trying to fit into the modern world. 

But when everything is new, different and completely unfathomable you're going to need some help to fit in. 

Ogg is always getting things wrong, so he turns to his neighbour Penny to help him out. 

Between them they start to explore what the modern world has to offer, and though Ogg still misses some of the things he finds familiar and comfortable, he slowly begins to adjust to life as a thoroughly modern cave-dude!

Sum this book up in a sentence: Fun characters, brill illustrations and a story that trips along nicely as Penny and Ogg begin to become firm friends. 

"The Caveman Next Door" by Tom Tinn-Disbury is out now, published by New Frontier Publishing (kindly supplied for review)

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25 Comics and Graphic Novels to keep your kids reading comics - Part 2: Tween, Teen and YA Recommendations

Following on from Part One of our huge round-up of cool comics for kids, we're concentrating on the older end of our two part article, this time with a huge selection of comics and graphic novels to entertain your tweens, teens and young adult readers. Keeping kids reading as they mosey on through their teenage years is super-tough. There are so many more distractions and other things that they want to focus their spare time and attention on, and with national figures suggesting that kids in general - particularly teens - have far less free time away from school / study duties than ever before, it's sometimes difficult to keep 'em interested and engaged with reading for pleasure.

This article represented a tougher challenge anyway, not just because of the vast difference in experience and maturity between the ages of 11 and 19 (and beyond), but also because quite often the comics and graphic novels featured here are definitely not something you'd be happy for a Tween to read, but may be slightly less grumpy to let your 15 year olds loose on.

So bear with, bear with! Please don't berate me on Twitter if you don't agree with the categorisation of anything that appears in this list, it's merely a guide, a radar boost, and a roundup of stuff we (well, mostly I) have enjoyed from the last decade of catching up with comics.

There are so many, many more I could've included but I've tried to make this a fairly eclectic (read: bonkers) list comprising new stuff and classics in equal meaure.

Note that if I think a particular title contains excessive violence, sexual content or swearing, I'll do my best to flag this next to the title of the comic / graphic novel in question, but read this article with the assumption that you need a fairly thick skin and a level of maturity to read any of these.

Enough yakking! Let's kick off then with our selection of 25 awesome comics and graphic novels with some for Tweens, Teens and YA (with a rough guideline age recommendation of 11 up, and some titles flagged for mature content - is that enough advisories? Hope so!).

1) Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro (Kodansha Comics) (Violence, Nudity, Swearing)

Yukito Kishiro's timeless cyberpunk classic definitely deserves a mention in this roundup, purely because it's a technically dazzling slice of cybernetic science fiction that barely pauses for breath. With the original volumes now reprinted and presented in classy hardcover editions, there's never been a better time to discover the story of android Alita, rescued from the scrap pile by Dr Ido and restored to her former glory as a death-dealing protagonist of the Panzer Kunst fighting style.

The main story arc shift gears effortlessly from almost pinocchio-like 'fish-out-of-water' stuff as Ido and Alita form a strong bond, through to uber-violent confrontations with insane warrior androids who want to watch the world burn, and in particular would very much like to see the lofty sky city of Zalem (which hovers, sentinel like, above the scrap-heap world Alita finds herself in) come tumbling down.

Kishiro's artwork is stupendous, with the tightest ink work, fantastic designs and thoroughly absorbing characters that are trademarks of the series. Though there's about three different story arcs and a series based on Mars too, the classics begin with the above Volume one as a good starting point. (bonus: these often crop up on ComiXology fairly cheap, and if you read them digitally you might not completely mess your brain up trying to decode classic manga "right to left, bottom to top" strip formats you'll find in these).

2) Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet (Drawn and Quarterly) (Infant mortality, Violence, grisly bits)

Definitely do not be lulled into a false sense of security by the cover of this book, it's definitely NOT the sort of thing you want to share with your little ones, in fact I've not even let my 11 year old daughter anywhere near it yet so definitely bear this in mind before jumping in.

"Beautiful Darkness" by Vehlmann and Kerascoet seems to offer up a cutesy-pie fairytale world at first glimpse, before that world comes crashing down amidst the story's chosen backdrop - the dead body of a little girl lost in the woods, and her gradual decomposition as the main story progresses.

At first reading you'd be mistaken in thinking that the book deals with a fairly vapid fairytale, a young beautiful maiden named Aurora vies for the attention of a vainglorious prince, eventually shunned by this complete dolt (who does get his comeuppance in a rather grisly way).

The story descends into a "Lord of the Flies-like" struggle for survival as the cute characters soon realise that their resources (and in most cases, their intelligence) are limited, and the seemingly innocuous woodland creatures they share a home with are nothing less than base, bloodthirsty animals acting on their own survival instincts.

Aurora's transformation from whimsical girly-girl to outright revenge-seeker during this story is never anything less than compelling, and the finale is both cheered for and horrific in equal measure. I guarantee you'll never have seen anything like this before, it's a work of warped genius.

3) Tamsin and the Deep / Dark by Neill Cameron and Kate Brown (Phoenix / David Fickling Books) 

No warnings on this one, so it's pretty safe for your tweens / pre-teens, though does deal with a goodly dose of dark celtic magic. There is swearing in here, but it's dealt with in an extremely clever way - and bear in mind that this strip did go out originally in kids comic "The Phoenix" so I'll stick with my 'no real warnings here' thing.

"Tamsin and the Deep" and "Tamsin and the Dark" both chronicle young Tamsin's fairly ordinary life, annoying older brother, and daydreamy existence in a fairly boring and ordinary Cornish village. But all that is set to change as Tamsin discovers that legendary monsters are real, and she may be the only person on the planet powerful enough to live up to the legacy of Arthur and Merlin, and keep the world safe from dark forces intent on crushing the barrier between our world and theirs.

It's sublime stuff, perfectly observed and pitched to feel contemporary, but dipping into celtic legend and magic enough to keep you guessing and on the back foot as Tamsin's character evolves, and she begins to realise that her role as The Last Pellar isn't something to be undertaken lightly.

Dark, gripping and utterly fan-flipping-tastic stuff.

4) 2000AD (Rebellion Publishing, various artists and authors, plenty of violence and swearing (if you know what "Drokk" means)


As a surly kid, I remember buying the very first issue of 2000AD way back on the 26th Feb 1977, mostly because my usual comic of the time (Krazy Comic - remember that?) wasn't in stock at our local newsagents and I had 10p burning a hole in my pocket. The first issue - complete with plastic space spinner - was absolutely stunning and ended up with me being totally hooked for the next 13 years. Not really sure what happened in the 90s but rediscovering this comic as a grown-up, and reacquainting myself with the likes of Judge Dredd and all the other fantastic strips that feature in the modern 2000AD has been a real trip over the last year and a bit.

Jumping back in, I'm thrilled to see that the comic is every bit as classy, relevant and downright reeking of quality as it always has been (and those Kingsley boys know a thing or two about preserving the legacy of awesome Brit comics, acquiring a ton of amazing IPs such as Misty, Scream and others).

But here you'll find a hectic mix of fantasy and sci fi, horror and downright surrealism to match anything you might have imagined or heard about this hugely influential comic. Still awesome, still packed with thrill power, and still absolutely essential.

5)  "My Favourite Thing is Monsters" by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics) (Violence, Sex, Swearing)

It just took one look at the cover of this book to make me leap in and buy it, rendered in the most amazing biro-art style I've ever seen - and paying homage to the sort of "Monster of the Week" B-movies that Universal Studios used to churn out.

It's actually the story of 10 year old Karen Reyes whose truly monstrous appearance belies a curiosity and intelligence way beyond her years.

When a tenant in her building dies under mysterious circumstances, Karen decides to play detective and investigate, and soon uncovers that Anka (the deceased classy lady she once befriended) had a horrific and trouble past, set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany.

Karen finds out more about Anka through tapes she recorded while alive, and soon the plot becomes even more complicated as Karen's own brother is seemingly not quite as innocent as he appears - nor is Anka's husband.

Come for those amazing visuals and exquisite details - there's nothing else quite like this out there in comics - and stay for a thoroughly absorbing and multi-layered plot that dances between allegory and growing pains as Karen becomes more aware of her world, and the darkness that tinges it at every step. We're currently on the edge of our seats waiting for Volume 2 (which is hopefully arriving in September this year) but can fully see why these take Emil so long to complete, they're gorgeous stories.

6) Spider-Man: Spiderverse by Christos Gage, Dan Slott, Olivier Coipel, Michael Costa (Mild Violence and icky bits)

Arguably one of the most groundbreaking titles to hit Spidey-dom, and part of the inspiration for the stupendous Oscar-winning "Into the Spider-Verse" movie, this whopping great big collected volume gathers together the silken threads of multiple Spider-Man characters and story arcs into one delicious multi-hued edition.

Someone's hunting Spider-Men and Spider-Women (and for that matter, Spider-Pigs!) across different parallel realities, and the spiderfolk that are left have gathered together to try and stop the nefarious Inheritors - super powerful beings that see the Spiders as nothing but a tasty snack.

There's a huge collection of creatives who contributed to this series, yet it's a fantastically coherent piece of work. Though the movie went off on its own path of dealing with the idea of multiple Marvel universes all inhabited by different versions of well-known heroes, this book does more to solidify that idea into something completely unmissable and essential for any would-be comic collector.

7) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley (DC Comics) (Violence, Sex, Swearing)


I have a real love-hate relationship with Frank Miller's stuff but there's no denying that "The Dark Knight Returns" rode the wave of comic coolness when it dropped like a bomb back in 1986. Back then I was still completely obsessed with 2000AD, and Batman comics were in a huge slump. This graphic novel changed everything though, not only making Batman darker and grittier than he'd ever been before, but showing even more of his frailties and flaws, his more human (and fallible) side, something comics always seemed to steer well away from with well-established superhero types.

Of course this graphic novel opened the floodgates for decades of 'gritty, dark' comics, with virtually every comic creative taking a long hard look at their own characters to see where they could perform the same trick.

Subsequent Miller outings with the Bat haven't quite lit the fire as brilliantly as this did, and it was obviously hugely influential on the later darker tone of Christopher Nolan's movie treatments of Batman. Don't shiv, pick it up!

8) Paper Girls by Bryan K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson (Image Comics) (Violence, Swearing)

Sure, Netflix's "Stranger Things" might have made 80s retro 'cool' again, but this comic goes one step further, hopping across different timelines to weave a fantastic story of four 12 year old  papergirls drawn into a cataclysmic fight for survival.

Erin, Mackenzie, KJ and Tiffany set out on their paper route in Stony Stream as usual - but as Halloween draws to a close, the world changes around them - and they realise that the shady characters mooching around the neighbourhood aren't just bored teens in costume.

When they discover a strange machine in a basement, the real trouble begins - and soon the four girls are forced to dig into their own inner strength just to stay alive, and examine the true meaning of friendship as they often end up shoulder to shoulder, facing off against a world - and enemies - both familiar and unfamiliar.

The storyline timehops effortlessly, even going back to the very origins of paperboys and girls as the four try to make sense of the messed-up machinations of a nefarious set of foes who keep dicking with time.

There are so many brilliant moments in this comic series, ranging from the all-too-familiar feelings around your last days of childhood, and the horror of finding out what sort of adult you'll grow up to be (yeah, I think I'd be pretty horrified if I'd seen my future self at the tender age of 12) make this one of the most original and dazzling titles I've seen in the last decade. Completely unmissable and essential stuff.

9) Crowded by Chris Sebela, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt (Image Comics) (Violence, Sex, Swearing, Zero-Hour Gig Economies)

Without a doubt, my favourite comic of 2019, now taking a bit of a break before it picks up again this year - but giving you ten solid volumes of near-futuristic craziness that you definitely need to get in on before they turn it into a movie (Rebel Wilson is attached as creative / star for a movie treatment, make of that what you will!)

Charlie Ellison is an ordinary everyday lowlife, flitting from app-driven job to app-driven job in a world framed as 'ten minutes into the future' but increasingly looking, sounding and feeling very much like our own.

Some might describe Charlie as annoying, but annoying enough to become the subject of a REAPR campaign? REAPR is an app-driven crowd-funded assassination scheme, and Charlie finds herself hunted by just about everyone on the planet.

In desperation she turns to Vita, the lowest-rated bodyguard on the DFend app - and the two strike up an unlikely alliance as Charlie's bounty begins to hit six figures. Will the duo survive and perhaps find a quiet moment for more than just a strained friendship?

Crowded is a work of genius, in fact it's one of those comics that uses such an effective core idea that you'll wonder why no one thought of it sooner. Charlie is funny, annoying, sexy and vulnerable all at the same time while Vita is focused and super-smooth, deadly and skilled - but like all teflon-coated bad-asses she has a heart of gold tucked under that stylish yellow biker jacket. You'll not find a cooler comic series to get into on the ground floor so grab up those first 10 volumes and see what the fuss is about!

10) Motor Crush by Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr and Cameron Stuart (Image Comics) (Violence, Sex, Swearing, Drug Use)


Did you spend way too much of your misspent youth playing Road Rash on the Sega Megadrive? Ever wondered what it'd be like if someone based a comic around motorcycle combat, sexy badasses and a strange drug that heightens the senses and reaction times?

Motor Crush (like most of Image Comics' catalogue) is just effortlessly cool. Domino Swift is the lead character, by day she's a competitor on the superfast world motorcycle racing league. By night she can't resist the lure of illegal street races, often fuelled by an addictive drug known as Crush.

Domino's past catches up with her as she begins to find fame in her legit day job, and her night-time illegal activities have greater implications for her home, her friends and her surrogate family.

Frenetically paced and brilliantly sexy (mostly thanks to Babs Tarr's incredible characters and drool-worthy sense of fashion), the series has gone from strength to strength and shows no sign of slowing down for stop signals.

11) Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image comics) (You name it, it's in here and I'm warning you about it. Violence, alien ballsacks, TV headed robots boning, the list is endless)



Honestly, I will quit with the Image Comics love-in but had to squeeze this one in, simply because there has never been anything quite like it in comics, and I doubt there ever will be.

"Saga" is the sort of science fiction that flatly refuses to be pigeonholed, but in essence uses a theme that feels instantly familiar. Two warring worlds, a pointless conflict, and a bond between two lonely soldiers on either side that turns into something truly epoch-making.

It's extremely difficult to sum this comic up, suffice to say that it's sexy, deviant-baiting, grossly disturbing and heartwarming all at one and the same time as main characters Marko and Alana fall in love and become parents while being relentlessly pursued across the galaxy by deadly foes.

The only frame of reference I could possibly compare "Saga" to is a mix between a grown-up version of Farscape (that wonky old sci-fi show) and Lexx (in fact the earliest episodes of Lexx are very close in tone and feel to Saga at times, I wonder if they were an influence on Brian K. Vaughan when he was creating this).

Fiona Staples seems to be able to literally illustrate any scene (I mean once you've seen a sexy arachnic assassin making sweet love to a chunky bald lance wielding homicidal maniac you've pretty much only seen the tip of the iceberg of the sort of stuff you'll find in this comic series). Though taking a break, we're promised it'll be back sometime later this year. Don't expect a decent movie treatment though, I doubt hollywood would be capable of making anything this cool stand up on screen.

12) Hark, A Vagrant! and Step Aside, Pops! by Kate Beaton (Jonathan Cape) (Swearing, Sex references)

 No one should be allowed to be as funny as Kate Beaton, it's not really good for the nation's health to laugh until you sincerely feel like you've hurt something inside.

So imagine Horrible Histories if it was written by a Canadian girl who swears like a docker, and treats literary characters with the lack of respect they so richly deserve. Kate effortlessly flits between comic strips about historic characters, pop culture, and derpy teens with ease, producing strips that are probably not safe to read in polite company, if that polite company is alarmed by loud guffaws and laugh-crying.

No subject is sacred as Kate lays waste to Superman & Lois Lane, Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, Napoleon, Lord Byron and countless others. Worth picking up both "Hark! A Vagrant!" and "Step Aside, Pops!" just for the utterly sublime book cover stuff that comes later on in each.

Not difficult to see how she adapts so well to writing for kids (See "King Baby" and "The Princess and the Pony" - both of which are utterly awesome picture books) with such a brilliant and subversive observational eye for gut-busting humour!

13) The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanac by Nicholas Gurewitch(Violence, Sex, Swearing)

I can't remember how I found the web comic version of The Perry Bible Fellowship but dipping into the weird collection of irreverent one-shot panels and strips tickles the darker corners of my humour for sure.

There have been a couple of collected editions printed, encompassing most of the strips but this whopping great big almanac tenth anniversary edition is arriving on the 20th of January so it seems like a good opportunity to mention it here.

Imagine Gary Larson's sweetly innocent (by comparison) Far Side gone bad, left at the back of the fridge, or hanging out with the wrong crowd at the Mall and you'll get a flavour of the sort of humour you'll find in here.

Gurewitch is the sort of person you feel slightly guilty for finding funny when in polite company, but will read later on while laughing your tailbone off. Like Kate Beaton's strips, Gurewitch spares nothing, no-one, with his steely wit and gaze. "Today is my birthday" is one example of his genius, with a happy-go-lucky character leaping out of bed to celebrate their birthday while death in the second panel silently moves one more bead along an abacus. Dark, subversive and wickedly funny.

14) Porcelain by Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose (Improper Books) (Violence, Swearing). 

I'm not sure if there's such a genre as "Bone China Punk" but this book could've been invented purely to coin that phrase. "Porcelain" by Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose is a superb darkly gothic and highly original tale of a young orphan who is taken under the protective wing of an alchemical genius with a dark secret - the power to bring porcelain figures and animals to life.

"Child" enjoys her amazing life at first, wanting for nothing, but when the dark secrets of his alchemical process for imbuing life to the lifeless is revealed, he must pay the ultimate price.

This first volume ushers in a series where we follow Child's life as she grows up and (mild spoilers) assumes the porcelain maker's mantle, and becomes a rebellious force, resisting the army's attempts to procure a porcelain army to send into battle.

Brilliantly written with art to die for, it deserves a huge amount more attention than it gets, and is worthy of inclusion in our hot list.

15) Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (Image Comics) (Violence, Nudity)

Another amazing comic series, collected into glorious volumes and completely unmissable, "Monstress" by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda takes place in an alternate post-industrialised world where magic is more prevalent than machine.

A young girl discovers that she possesses a psychic link to a dark and violent monster, and finds herself drawn to doing its bidding amidst the backdrop of a world shattered by war.

Witches and magic are frowned upon, even outlawed, but the girl and her miscreant band of followers embark on an epic quest to discover the true nature of her powers, and perhaps her own origins.

With a touch of The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth about it at times, yet completely and utterly original, this is one of the most beautifully illustrated comics you'll ever see with Takeda's artwork nothing short of luxurious, worthy of framing and sticking in any art gallery you care to mention. It twists and turns plot-wise like a curved dagger, but spares time for moments of heartfelt sensitivity. Just eye-poppingly amazing stuff!

16) The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Dark Horse Comics) (Violence, Swearing)

Another comic that's spawned a hit Netflix show, Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba's "The Umbrella Academy" is far more fantastical, surreal and essential in its original comic form.

Kicking off with a colossal battle involving an animated Eiffel Tower, seemingly brought to life to wreak havoc on Paris, the tale chronicles the fate of seven orphans all born on the same day at the same time across the world, all but one seemingly imbued with a mystical power of their own.

The orphans are collected together by a seemingly benevolent benefactor, Sir Reginald Hargreaves, to become a superpowered force for good.

Klaus, Allison, Vanya, Diego, Luther, Ben, and Number Five are trained to work together as an elite team of superheroes and assassins, but each child has their own flaws - which come to light as the graphic novel digs its treads into the snow and starts to gain traction.

The seventh child, Vanya, is told throughout her early life that though she was born on the same day as the other kids, she has no special powers at all. Something that later on in the graphic novel leads to her discovering quite the opposite (trying not to spoil things too much but Sir Reginald turns out to be a terrible, terrible liar and an absolutely appalling father figure). 

Inventive, gripping, sometimes funny but always thoroughly original, it's blisteringly brilliant whether you're familiar with the TV treatment or not, and new volumes are well under way. 

17) Conspiracy of Ravens by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Sally Jane Thompson (Dark Horse Comics)

 No warnings on this one so it's super-fine for your 11 plus kids, in fact it's good for a range of ages but the darker spookier themes present make it worthy of inclusion in this half of our roundup. 

"Conspiracy of Ravens" by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Sally Jane Thompson begins with a tragic death, a mysterious inheritance of a strange house, and one girl's realisation that she's destined for a life far less than ordinary - as the holder of a mysterious amulet that invokes magical powers at her behest. 

Soon young Anne also discovers that other girls have been drawn to spooky Ravenhall, and that dark forces are making plans to usurp Anne and her compatriots, to steal their powers and plunge the world into eternal darkness. 

This has all the spooky hallmarks of a brilliant mystery novel that fools you into thinking it's almost Enid Blyton-esque until it drops you into a darkly delicious, gothic and beautifully rendered graphic novel. Very much hoping to see more of in 2020. 

18) Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (DC Comics) (Violence, Nudity, Drug Use, Sex, Swearing)

Just like "The Dark Knight Returns", Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' absolutely essential "Watchmen" is something I've personally lost count of buying several times (note to anyone reading this, NEVER lend your copies of your most treasured graphic novels to folk who never return them promptly!)

If any one title in the last four decades could be called groundbreaking it's this, coming along at a time when comic superheroes were stale two-dimensional cardboard cutouts, mere shadows of their former selves - and the comics industry was in danger of collapsing in on itself. Trust Alan Moore to come along and reinvent superheroes into something virtually unrecognisable at the time. Flawed, fragile, egotistical, maniacal, downright dangerous - far from the visions of Superman, Batman and others at the time. 

"Watchmen" is now considered a classic of course, and still piques readers interests decades on from its original 1986 release (1986 was definitely a hell of a year for comics, no?) as new generations of fans discover the original graphic novel, its countless offshoots and the brilliantly well-received TV treatment. Here though is the original peerless version, not even sure you could legitimately call yourself a comic fan if you haven't owned this, or at least read it. 

19) On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (Avery Hill) (Violence, Sex, Swearing)

Tillie Walden  is one of the most important talents working in modern comics - and effortlessly demonstrates why she was one of the youngest ever Eisner Award nominees with this sprawling science fiction space epic that - for someone so young - could almost be a piece of career defining work (but we're pleased to say that we predict Tillie is only just getting into her stride!)

"On a Sunbeam" at first feels like one of those comics you're going to need to read through a dozen or so times before you're going to understand its layers and nuances.

Yet the themes it explores are familiar, heart-wrenching, joyful, sad and relatable all at the same time, covering a lot of ground - and in a comic with 544 pages, plenty of space to go into great depth in the way the story unfolds.

This is the story of a young girl named Mia, and her chronicle begins as she embarks as a crew member of the Spacecraft Aktis. Its mission: to repair ancient buildings in monuments tucked into the dark cloak of space. Mia's attention wanders, and her memory constantly floats back to a time when she was a pupil at a space-going boarding school (and if "Space-going boarding school" isn't the phrase that hooks you into buying this, there's really no hope for you) and her closeness and eventual love and infatuation with a fellow pupil.

Tillie's gift isn't just that she produces some of the most incredible artwork you'll ever see in comics, but also that she can effortlessly describe the human condition, and in particular matters of the heart, with such razor-sharp surgical clarity that her stories become breathtaking snapshots of what it feels like growing up and beginning to work out who you really are. Essential for teens, absolutely essential. 

20) "The Unstoppable Wasp" Volume 1 by by Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier (Marvel Comics)

Again no warnings on this one so it's definitely suitable for your pre-teens. We all know that Marvel has done an amazing job over the past couple of decades producing comics featuring mighty female characters who don't just rely on their superpowers or their strength to get along. 

In fact it seems almost impossible to imagine something as good as "The Unstoppable Wasp" by Jeremy Whitley and Elsa Charretier needing any excuse to justify its existence. It's just brilliant stuff, chronicling the life of Nadia Van Dyne - Hank (Ant-Man) Pym's daughter with his first wife. 

Nadia falls under the protection of Hope Van Dyne and realises her ambition to become The Unstoppable Wasp, utilising her Red Room training and whip-smart science nous to good effect. 

 The series eases you in gently as Nadia comes to terms with a new life in the U.S of A, determined to fit in but also equally determined to gather together like-minded superheroes and scientific geniuses for her own crew of crime-fighting super-spying awesome ladies.

Not without its own problems, the series has now been cancelled - twice - it still stands alone as the perfect example of Marvel not just gender-swapping popular characters, but bringing a whole new raft of coolness to long-established story arcs, and stand-up heroes that feel more human, more fleshed out and more realistic than ever before. 

21) The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Hodder)

No warnings here either, but absolutely worthy of inclusion in our list, though some might argue against its inclusion. Is it really a graphic novel? Of course it flipping is! Shaun Tan's "The Arrival" is a modern classic, still as vital, important and brilliant as it was when it was first released 14 years ago. 

Shaun brings his incredibly inventive and surreal artwork to bear in a tale of fleeing a country torn apart by dark forces, of the struggle to find a new place to settle, and the culture shock of adapting to a new country's customs and day-to-day life. 

We've often championed the cause of wordless books on the blog and The Arrival manages to convey this very human story completely silently, without dialogue, but with huge impact. 

We've read this again and again (C in fact used to snuggle up on my lap and gaze at the illustrations long before she could actually decode or 'read' what was going on). One of those books that you absolutely have to have a copy of on your shelves. 

22) Old Man Logan by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven (Marvel) (Violence, Drug Use)

I'll freely admit that I've never really been a fan of Marvel's X-Men comics, but have always had a ton of respect for the way modern authors and illustrators have treated Wolverine as a character, taking him from a ridiculous Lycra-clad death machine towards something more frail, world-beaten and emotional - particularly in the "Old Man Logan" story arcs. 

Here, Logan is living a simple but poor life as a farmer, scraping out a living in an irradiated desert, some years after a league of supervillains finally got smart, ganged up, and took out the world's leading superheroes one by one. 

In this hellscape the locale is controlled by The Hulk Gang, gamma-irradiated super-strong offspring of the original Bruce Banner, now completely psychotic and insane and a long way from the Hulk you may know and love from the movies. 

After the grisly murder of his family, Logan's vow of peace is shattered, and he swears vengeance against Banner, the Hulk Gang, and an eventual restoration of "goodie" superheroes by messing around with time travel, aided by the only other survivor, an aged Hawkeye. 

There's something intriguing and addictive about reading comics where normally invulnerable super heroes are knocked on their asses, and forced to drag their way back to glory. Though James Mangold's "Logan" movie touched on the notion of an aged Wolverine coming to the end of his regenerative powers, this comic does a far better job of giving Logan one last shot at glory before he finally kicks the Adamantium-plated bucket. 

23) The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson (Dynamite Comics) (Violence, Sex, Drug Use, Dog Poo)

As fascinating as fallen heroes can be in comics, antiheroes are even more captivating - particularly when you're never quite sure who the good guys and the bad guys actually are. 

"The Boys" by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson almost re-poses the question "Who Watches the Watchmen" and answers it with "A bunch of semi-psychotic near-invulnerable black-clad boot boys. 

Billy Butcher, Wee Hughie, Mother's Milk, The Frenchman and The Female are the 5 'boys' in question, sworn to make the world's cape-wearing lycra-clad superheroes toe a fine line. When Hughie's girlfriend is killed in an unfortunate accident involving being squished against a wall by an egotistical super, he joins "The Boys" and begins to unravel a complex conspiracy that threatens to undermine the fine balance between world peace and all-out super-powered war. 

Dark as the bitterest cup of coffee, shot through with a gallows humour that will make you feel utterly wretchedly guilty with every snicker and giggle, it's an action-packed fine-tuned look at superheroism from an entirely different and unexpected angle. 

24) "Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus Volume 1" by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima (Dark Horse Comics) (Violence, Sex, Nudity, frequent head chopping and disembowelment)

Long before most of the comics in our roundup - or in fact long before most of the comic creators in our roundup were even born, the Japanese Manga "Lone Wolf and Cub" by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima was quietly doing groundbreaking things while most of us were still scudding around the floor in our terry nappies. 

Created in 1970 and running for six years, spawning multiple movie treatments and inspiring many directors, authors and illustrators, this action packed samurai tale of a father and his toddler erupts across many volumes, filled with tales of justice, vengeance and ultra-violence. 

I've always been attracted to comics that keep things simple art-wise, with black and white ink work and creative panel layouts, and it seems amazing to think that these were doing all this stuff so long ago, and yet when you read them again now, they seem completely modern, exciting and fresh. I was a latecomer to these, owning an imported softcover untranslated version in my teens before rediscovering them as gorgeous hard-bound editions some years later (still retaining the classic Manga "right to left, bottom to top" layouts). Picking them up again digitally, they're every bit as brutally impressive as they were when I first saw them as Ogami Itto and his tiddly toddler bring their own form of brutal justice to a Japan that feels at times more like the wild west, but never less than scintillating and fascinating. 

25) Gwenpool by Hastings, Gurihiru, Beyruth and Bonvillain (Marvel Comics) (Mild Comic Violence)

Fourth-wall-breaking stuff is all fancy, trendy and cool now that Deadpool (and Miranda) popularised it, but it's never been done more stylishly than in "Gwenpool". Don't be fooled by the pink candy-coloured no-pants-wearing superhero girl, she doesn't actually have any super-powers to speak of, other than a deep geeky knowledge of the Marvel Comics Universe - which she accidentally finds herself flung headlong into for real. 

Thinking on her feet young Gwendolyn "Gwen" Poole swiftly realises where she is, and indeed what she is, and sets about trading her terrible combat skills and not-so-street-smarts to the highest bidder, a maniacal head in a jet-boosted chair going by the name of M.O.D.O.K (yeah, that annoying twerp!)

After accidentally offing M.O.D.O.K's top assassin, Gwen finds herself in his gainful employment, and that's just the start of many, many brilliant tongue-in-cheek dust-ups with characters from the greater MCU. 

Though I let my tweenager loose on these, there are moments where Gwenpool relies heavily on cartoonish violence to make these awesome comics suitable for an audience younger than 11. That said, the constant stream of tongue-in-cheek Marvel references and in-jokes make it sparkle and fizz, and it's quite something to see a comic actually managing to one-up Deadpool in the 'funny uber-violent fourth-wall-breaking / comic-panel-shattering' stakes. 

And that's it for our second roundup. We hope you find some new reading inspiration amongst these excellent titles and we're always open to new suggestions to dig into, so hit us up on Twitter @readitdaddy with any you think we missed!




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