Review: Comics Squad: Recess!

by Andy Wolverton

Comics Squad: Recess! – Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, editors (Random House Children’s Books)

As a librarian, I’m always delighted to see more graphic novels appearing in the children’s section of our public library, but I usually don’t see many themed graphic novel anthologies (with the exception of the Explorer series by Kazu Kibuishi). Now Random House Children’s Books has released the first in a new graphic novel series for kids, Comics Squad: Recess! edited by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, the sister/brother team who are also the creators of two graphic novel series, Babymouse and Squish.

As the title suggests, these eight stories are all linked by the theme of school recess, written and illustrated by an impressive collection of creators, many of whom children may already recognize. Gene Luen Yang (The Shadow Hero, American Born Chinese) starts the collection off with “The Super-Secret Ninja Club” about a nerd named Daryl who’s willing to go to any lengths to become one of the cool Ninja Club kids. comicssquadNext, the always-funny Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants series) gives us “Book ‘Em, Dog Man!”, a mini-comic being sent home to the parents of a first-grader whose drawings got him in trouble with his teacher. Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s (Lunch Lady series) “Betty and the Perilous Pizza Day” shows readers the dangers of combining kids’ favorite food with too much technology, while Ursula Vernon’s (Dragonbreath series, Digger) “The Magic Acorn” is a fun variation on “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” story. The Holm siblings contribute “Babymouse: The Quest for Recess,” which chronicles Babymouse’s never-ending determination to stay out of trouble, at least until recess. “Jimmy Sprinkles in ‘Freeze Tag’” by Eric Wight (Frankie Pickle series) is next, a story that sparkles with clever wordplay. And speaking of words, “300 Words” by Dan Santat (Sidekicks) shows that as long as teachers require book reports, kids will find creative ways to get around writing them. The book closes with a collaboration from Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy) and Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama, Sisters) called “The Rainy Day Monitor,” which proves that nothing is as powerful — or as fun — as imagination.

All of the stories have these things in common:

They’re all in black and white and orange.

They’re all clever and fun.

They will leave kids wanting demanding more.

Kids who already enjoy the Lunch Lady and Babymouse series will no doubt love seeing those characters in action here, but they will also discover new characters and adventures, giving them new creators to explore until the next installment of Comics Squad comes out. This first volume is the perfect book to give to young readers who already enjoy comics/graphic novels as well as to those who might be a bit hesitant to read them.

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Get Comic Squad: Recess! as well as other works mentioned in this review:

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The Comics Alternative is a podcast and blog focused on the world of alternative, independent, and primarily non-superhero comics.

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