20 July 2013

No Princes Needed and Other Thoughts

I have some comic book recommendations to pass along.  Matt and Isaac are bigger fans of comics than I am, but I have found a couple recently that I really like.  I am even thinking of setting up a subscription at our local store to make sure that I do not miss any issues.


Matt discovered Princeless a little over a year ago.  We recommend it to friends who have daughters, but it is great for boys, too, and Isaac likes it.  The story is about the Kingdom of Ashland and its Royal Family, the Ashes.  They have seven daughters and one son.  As each daughter reaches marriageable age, their father the king locks them in a tower to be rescued by a brave knight.  This works fine, except the knights, though brave, are not able to defeat the dragon/curse/monster/etc. that guard the girls.  The next to youngest daughter gets impatient and frustrated waiting to be saved and thinks it terribly unfair that she and her sisters have to be locked up.  She saves herself by befriending her dragon, disguises herself as a knight, and sets off on an adventure to save her six sisters.

I had a mentor early in my career who got excited whenever a new children's book came out that featured a strong female protagonist.  She loved books like Alice the Fairy by David Shannon and
Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains by Deborah Hopkinson because the girls in them were interesting and independent.  During my first few years teaching my mindset was also attuned to looking for books about strong girls.  My colleague has since retired and the focus in education has shifted due a concern that boys are not reading on the same level as girls.  And I am raising a son now so we read books at home that interest him.  It is conventional wisdom that girls will read books with main characters of either gender, but boys are less inclined to read books about girls.  For the most part, this holds true.  But there are books about girls that cross-over to boys.  When Isaac bought How to Steal a Dog, I was surprised and pleased.  The main character is a girl but the plot is one that will engage a boy.  

I think Princeless is one of those cross-over books.  There is adventure and Adrienne, the main character, has a sarcastic wit that will appeal to boys.  There is also a message that girls are just as strong as boys and should be valued on their abilities, not on their looks, that boys will benefit from reading.  Pixar tried to do with Brave what Jeremy Whitley has accomplished with his comics.  I ranted about Brave last year, so I won't repeat myself.  Princeless succeeds in creating a story about a girl who doesn't need a prince to save her that is fun and entertaining for girls and boys without having to emasculate all of the male characters in the story.  (Sidenote: Whenever I read this comic I also hear in my head Jonathan Coulton's song "The Princess Who Saved Herself.")


In the Free Comic Book Day bag this year was an issue of Finding Gossamyr.  It is the story of siblings Denny and Jenna.  Denny, who is autistic (or so the story leads you to believe) solves a theorem that opens a portal to another world in which everything is governed by the principles of mathematics.  The siblings are transported and their adventures begin.  There are good guys and bad guys, and good guys who may be bad guys, and vice versa.  People are healed with a magic derived from a math formula and answers are solved by working out long equations.  There are three chapters published, so the story is just beginning.  I really like this one so far and am looking forward to following the series.  


When we stopped by our local comic store yesterday, the owner recommended a new Batman comic to us, Batman '66.  It is based on the old 1960's TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward.  The characters are drawn to look like the actors from the show and the story reads like a script from one of the episodes, with some modern ideas thrown in.  It was fun to read (I actually read this one to Isaac myself last night).  The story is much sillier than more modern Batman stories, but the show was pretty silly itself.  Isaac and I enjoyed this new one and will be reading more.


I provided links to the comics I mentioned so that you can see what they look like.  I would encourage you to purchase them at your local comic book store rather than buying them online or from a large retailer.  You will get more personal help from people who know the genre and maybe even discover something new.  In Greensboro, check out Acme Comics/Acme Comics Presents on Lawndale.

And if you like Coulton's song "The Princess Who Saved Herself, check out his Zombie song.  It is Isaac's favorite.

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