Johnny Boo Volumes 1-3 by James Kochalka

One thing I’m looking forward to as my kids get older (they are almost three now) is introducing them to some of the books and comics I like. Right now their reading tastes tend towards wanting to be read various Thomas the Tank Engine stories over and over again, which is fine. But I’m curious to see if they’ll eventually enjoy reading comics. I was lucky enough to snag the first three volumes of Kochalka’s Johnny Boo series at ALA and they’ve become a real hit at my house. The stories about Johnny Boo, his friend Squiggle, and their frenemy the Ice Cream Monster are simple enough to keep the attention of a three year old and fun for parents to read out loud.

The first volume introduces the little ghosts Johnny Boo and his friend Squiggle. They have debates about which is better, Boo Power or Squiggle Power. When they go to find Johnny Boo’s secret ice cream (secret ice cream is more delicious than regular ice cream) they meet an ice cream monster who claims to be friendly, but he swallows all the ice cream and Squiggle! Fortunately Squiggle’s loop-d-loops cause the monster to burp, and everyone becomes friends in the end!

The second volume deals with the stars and Johnny Boo’s flippy haircut. When his hair flips and Squiggle laughs too much, Johnny Boo proclaims that Squiggle will not be his best friend anymore. In fact Johnny Boo states “maybe this dumb old rock will be my new best friend.” Squiggle cries and he and Johnny Boo make up, but Squiggle decides to visit the stars to learn about Twinkle Power, leaving Johnny Boo alone in the dark.

The third book shows the effects of eating too much ice cream, as Johnny Boo discovers that is muscle is all floopy, but the Ice Cream Monster is strong because he has started eating happy apples. Johnny Boo tries to find the happy apples, only to run into mishaps involving mushy apples and the strangely compulsive eating habits of the Ice Cream Monster. Even when trapped in a monster’s belly, Johnny Boo and Squiggle manage to make the best of the situation, perhaps because the Ice Cream Monster’s stomach is equipped with television.

One of the things I appreciated about the Johnny Boo books was the pacing of the yelling. Frequently being able to yell things like “Boo,” “Squiggle Power Extreme,” and “Run from his butt!” does wonders for maintaining the attention of young children. If you’re reading the books to kids, you can encourage them to yell along, and I think any child will be happy to yell “Boo!” or “EEK EEK EEK!” if given any encouragement.

I figure any time my kids will independently pick up a book and demand a reading session, that’s a good sign of the book’s appeal. Johnny Boo and the Happy Apples has been a daily read for the past week, and I was interrupted when I was writing this post and had to read all three books in a row. So that was around 120 pages that my kids sat through since each book is divided up into short chapters totaling 40 pages. These books would be a no brainer to add to a kid’s graphic novel section in a library, and they’re great to have at home if you want to introduce comics to your children. The production quality from Top Shelf is nice, these are hardback books printed on nice paper stock so the illustrations look very crisp and clear.

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