restricted access Jumping on the “Comics for Kids” Bandwagon
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Jumping on the “Comics for Kids” Bandwagon
Brit, Fanny. Jane, the Fox and Me. Illus. Isabelle Arsenault. Trans. Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou. Toronto: Groundwood, 2012. 101pp. $19.95 hc. ISBN 978-1-55498-360-5. Print.
Davila, Claudia. Luz Makes a Splash. Toronto: Kids, 2012. 96pp. $16.95 hc. ISBN 978-1-55453-762-4. Print.
Davila, Claudia. Luz Sees the Light. Toronto: Kids, 2011. 95pp. $16.95 hc. ISBN 978-1-55453-581-1. Print.
Dawson, Willow. Hyena in Petticoats: The Story of Suffragette Nellie McClung; A Graphic Novel. Toronto: Penguin, 2011. 95pp. $15.00 pb. ISBN 978-0-14-317779-1. Print.
Lang, John. Lone Hawk: The Story of Air Ace Billy Bishop; A Graphic Novel. Toronto: Penguin, 2011. 97pp. $15.00 pb. ISBN 978-0-14-317466-0. Print.
Robertson, David Alexander. 7 Generations: A Plains Cree Saga. Illus. Scott B. Henderson. Winnipeg: HighWater, 2012. 136pp. $32.00 hc. ISBN 978-1-55379-355-7. Print.
Robertson, David Alexander. 7 Generations: The Pact. Illus. Scott B. Henderson. Winnipeg: HighWater, 2011. 30pp. $12.95 pb. ISBN 978-1-55379-230-7. Print.

On 1 October 2011, The Beguiling, Toronto’s landmark comic book store, opened Little Island Comics, a sister bookstore that, in focusing exclusively on material geared to young readers under the age of twelve, claims to be “the world’s first comic book store for kids!” (Little Island Comics). The headline of a Globe and Mail article published during the opening week of the store announced that, “At Little Island Comics, They’re Giving Superheroes Back to the Kids” (Dixon). In this article, Guy Dixon bemoans the dark “adult” [End Page 165] tone and mature content of contemporary comic texts and graphic novels. This new store, he suggests, is a fantasy respite for young people and comic superheroes alike: “There’s a new little store in the Annex where Spiderman and his fellow leotard-clad superhero friends can take a break from the hard, dark times of the last 40 years.” In a similar vein, Matt Demers, on the Torontoist website, uses a folksy tone—one often associated with fantasy narratives for children—to idealize the store as a whimsical space in which families read together: “In the Annex, past Honest Ed’s and just down Bathurst Street, there’s a little island. An island where books spur imagination and parents are welcome to learn right alongside their kids.” The interior design of the store echoes this nostalgic discourse of family literacy and imaginative print-based learning, paradigms that preceded the advent of cellphones and video games: bright colours, small-case lettering on signage, clean sightlines, and low-level display shelves to invite book browsing by young people constitute the primary aesthetic. Not unlike children’s programs at the public library (such as hands-on art workshops, book signings, and other family-oriented activities), public events held at the store also build on this family literacy message. In addition, bookstore staff members offer library services to assist with the selection of comic resources for public, school, and university libraries.

Little Island Comics presents a new hybrid space that combines the eclectic collections of comic bookstores with the design, educational agenda, and curatorial practices traditionally associated with children’s bookstore and library collections. Peter Birkemoe, owner of The Beguiling, highlights the pedagogic agenda behind the new comic bookstore: “People are focusing on how well-suited this medium is to children who are learning how to read, or perhaps learning English for the first time. People who are usually involved with young readers, like teachers, school librarians and parents, are sort of waking up to the fact that comics are perfectly suited for this” (qtd. in Dixon). The eclectic stock of the store reflects its potential clientele of families with young children, adult comic collectors, librarians, and teachers: recent popular comic series such as Bone, translated Japanese manga, vintage comic series such as Tin Tin and Asterix, graphic novel adaptations of classic literature, picture books that integrate comic elements, French-language texts, and a significant number of Canadian comics aimed at young readers are available. A notable selection of its stock includes texts produced...