The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics
edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly
This redoubtable collection is a celebration of everything that makes comics worth celebrating: the sheer joy and innocence of discovering what happens when you mix lively art with more than a dab of color and throw it together sequentially to tell an exciting narrative. That the book is edited by two of the true luminaries of the field speaks to the quality of the work contained within.
Neither needs an introduction, but it would be a disservice to not mention that Art Spiegelman is the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of Maus and his wife, Françoise Mouly, is the art editor of The New Yorker. Together, they run Toon Books, which has the delightful mission of creating comics that are suited and age-appropriate for kids.
The expansive treasury covers a wide gamut of the Golden Age of comics publishing and represents just about every genre conceivable within that time. There are superheroes, funny animals, pure fantasy, swashbuckling adventure, and some very familiar faces (Sugar and Spike, Dennis the Menace, Little Lulu, Uncle Scrooge, among others). The stories in the book are grouped into five sections (“Hey, Kids!,” “Funny Animals,” “Fantasyland,” “Storytime,” and “Weird and Wacky”), so it’s easy to go right to the type of tale you’re in the mood for.
Some kids might skip past the insightful introduction by author Jon Scieszka and the much longer foreword from the two editors, but adults will enjoy the commentary. The foreword in particular is a veritable treasure trove of information about the history of what’s contained in the rest of the book, as well as charming explanations from the editors about why they included what they did and why they left other things out.
At $40, this is a pricy kids’ book, of course, and is perhaps more of an adult one. Wherever it ends up in the library or home, it’s clear that it has mass appeal. There was a time when comics weren’t so edgy or controversial but instead just had a distinct charm that kids could easily relate to. Kids nowadays will still feel it, and no doubt adults will want to relive it as well.