Reading With Pictures before (both as a blogger and as organizer for Chicago Net Tuesday), I was very eager to review their anthology, meant to act as an educational aid. I also wanted to be careful - after all, since the organization's mission hits home for me, I could easily throw my objectivity out the window.
The Reading with Pictures Anthology, as a purely all-ages comics experience, is actually quite enjoyable. It's not only good enough for schools and kids....it's definitely worth having on your bookshelf.
Thankfully, all of the stories in the anthology avoid an obvious we're-going-to-teach-you-something tone (think Afterschool Special) - in fact, most of the "education" is neatly folded into entertaining,solid stories. There are some obvious comics-can-help-reading stories (like one of my personal favorites, Tony Wollcott's "So Much More"), but most of the stories featured are subtle (such as Jay Piscopo's "Goblins of the Deep", that neatly ties information about undersea life into a pretty cool short story). In fact, despite diverse storytelling styles - from the Golden Age-esque art of Phillip Bowles' "Stellar Rescue" to the sheer fun of Grace Randolph and Tintin Pantoza's "High Noon in Junior High" - there is a consistently fun tone to the anthology.
(And lest we not forget, Josh Elder's Mail Order Ninja, which is probably the greatest piece of graphic literature since Watchmen. Seriously. And I'm not saying that because he's the Executive Director of Reading With Pictures. I mean, seriously, I love "Mongorillas". Although it comes second only to fellow blogger Rich "Mecha Simian" in terms of high concepts. And the fact that educators and librarians get 10% off their order and free shipping would be good news to Roger, Dave, Lefty, and Redhead Fangirl ).
So, in all honesty, I can recommend this anthology - buy it for a child you know is going back to school. Buy two copies and give one away, keeping a copy for yourself. Annoy your local comic shop owner, because much like pal Terry at Third Coast Comics, all the cool owners have the book on their shelves.
Because it's not just about having a cool comic - it's about taking the art form we love and using it as a way to teach. And that's a cause we can all get behind.