Manga can seem intimidating for new readers because of long series, such as One Piece that has over 100 volumes. It’s hard for readers to get into the form if you don’t know where to start. As an avid manga reader, I decided it would be great to recommend some series that are really short or even stand-alone volumes so any reader can pick them up! Despite some (untrue) preconceptions about how most series typically focus on high school drama or are way too sports-focused, there are so many great mangas that have hidden depth.
For the first recommendation, I have to recommend Yoko Nogiri’s Love in Focus series. It is one of my all-time favourites and only has 3 lovely volumes. It features Mako, an aspiring photographer who takes after her grandfather. Mako travels to the countryside and finds herself in a new dorm where she makes new friends who share her passion for photography. While there is a bit of a love triange in this one, I adored the art style and Mako’s thoughts and experiences with photography especially as it relates to her connection with her grandfather. It’s a series that’s ideal for binge-reading, so I recommend requesting all 3 volumes at once.
I know graphic novels are sometimes seen as not “true literature”, especially those for young audiences, but I can confidently tell you that if you read The Magic Fish, you will change your mind. This wonderful story really emphasizes the power of language and how some emotions can’t be expressed in words, and this book does that through the power of fairytales.
This book stars 12-year old Tiến Phong who reads stories with his mother, Hiến, to help improve her English. The stories they share together are often put in juxtaposition to Hiến’s memories of leaving Vietnam as a refugee or to Tiến’s experience in figuring out his sexuality. The duo used stories to connect and to share what they couldn’t really put into words themselves. The illustrations were just lovely and really helped convey the beauty of the stories. I loved that the illustrations tended to be one colour, such as all purple or all red, but still conveyed depth through slightly different hues. Some of the fairytales, such as Hans Christian Andersen’s version of “The Little Mermaid”, may be familiar to readers but since I am not a huge fairytale reader, I found the stories all new and exciting. The illustrations were not only beautiful, but the words in the fairytales were also really well-written as well.
© Scholastic Inc.
The Baby-Sitters Club books by Ann M. Martin have been adored by generations of kids since the publication of the first book in the series, Kristy’s Big Day, over 30 years ago in 1986. Just writing that makes me feel very old. As a kid I loved going to the local library every week to stock up on new books, especially during the summers when, at least in my small town, there wasn’t much else to do but read (plus reading outside in the summer is the best).
© Scholastic Inc.
Over 200 books were published in the series from 1986 to 2000, some written entirely by Martin and others with assistance from ghostwriters, though Martin still provided the outlines and edited the books. Over 176 million copies of the books have been sold worldwide. Much of the inspiration for the stories and characters came from the author’s own life, including years of babysitting in her youth and working as a teacher as an adult.
In the 1990s there was a Baby-Sitters Club TV show and a movie. The books were so popular, there even was a BSC board game (and yes, my sister and I used to play it, although I didn’t like it as much as the Sweet Valley High board game). You can find the game on Amazon and eBay.