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Lions, Tigers and BONE, Oh My!

All this month, we’ll be helping Children’s Hospital Los AngelesMake March Matter campaign, which aims to raise over a million dollars in March alone for CHLA through the efforts of its corporate partners, among which we are proud to be numbered.  Children’s Hospital Los Angeles sees over 528,000 patient visits annually, and is the top ranked pediatric hospital in California by US News & World Report. You can help Make March Matter by simply attending one of the many events or participating in one of the many initiatives being offered by CHLA’s partners (including our event on Saturday, March 25), all listed at www.makemarchmatter.org.

To help remind us all to Make March Matter to support children’s health, we’ve asked all our contributors here at the website to focus on books and comics for kids, or the books or comics that meant the most to them as kids, because we firmly believe that escaping into literature is just as important in keeping children healthy and happy.

Today’s piece is from comics writer Erik Burnham:

How can I pick just one book? My nose was buried between pages since the time I could read, and getting older has made it harder to separate why I loved something — was it craft? Or did it come along at the right time? Truth is, it doesn’t matter: and I bristle at limits — so I’m sharing more than one favorite, and I’m playing to a theme: imagination. You just try and stop me!

My first favorite is The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis, which I first encountered read aloud in Mrs. Shaw’s 2nd grade class, after an abrupt move to Washington state. My teacher had a great reading voice, and really managed to conjure up the images — and there were some great images in this book. I love how mythologies were warped and mixed here; there were snow witches and satyrs, talking animals and Santa Claus… because why not? It’s a story of children finding themselves in a strange new world, and that made a strong impression on this kid, who had just changed schools, states, and climate, and was still trying to figure things out. Experiencing the Pevensie kids’ quest through Narnia with my new classmates, and thus having something to talk about with them made my life a little easier.

Favorite number two is Bone. It’s a Carl Barks kind of cartoon aesthetic applied to epic fantasy, and it’s the perfect book to jump into when you’re either sick in bed or it’s pouring buckets outside. (I was a little older when this came around, and I started it with the comics themselves, but now that there’s a brick of a collection available it’s even better for those rainy and/or sick days.) Bone is chock full of humor, heart, adventure, romance, and stupid, stupid rat creatures. Like the first Narnian book above, it’s really shows you a fun and unique new world. (Though none of us may ever love Moby Dick as much as Fone Bone does.) And Jeff Smith captured precisely how a blanket of snow falls — whump.

One final favorite on the theme of imagination, because trilogies are awesome. We’ve done a short novel to start, we moved on to a meaty graphic novel, now let’s have a comic strip for dessert.

I first found Calvin & Hobbes before that move to Washington I mentioned earlier. The comic strip was brand-new then, and it was noticeably different. I mean, a talking animal and a precocious child? Those were old hat. But Calvin was gleefully unhinged — look what he did to snowmen, never mind the rules to Calvinball — and I picked up on that. It was a fun that spoke to my sense of humor as a 7-year-old in the same way it speaks to my sense of humor as an… um, much-older-than-7 year old. Scientific Progress Goes Boink is my favorite of the collections (partly because it’s the title I love most, and partly because this is where Calvin clones himself.) It’s giddy and goofy and full of laughs.

So there — three quick suggestions for the young readers for the price of one! (And if I don’t stop here, I’m in danger of continuing. Say, do you folks remember the saga of Bunnicula–?)

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