My four-year-old daughter and I love to read comics together. Having thoroughly enjoyed the Hilda comics and gone absolutely bananas over Giants Beware, I stopped in at London's wonderful GOSH! Comics (recently relocated to a fantastic location in the heart of Soho) and asked the clerk for a recommendation. The gentleman behind the till recommended Explorer: The Mystery Boxes, an anthology of short stories aimed at middle readers, edited by Kazu Kibuishi (the creator of Amulet, who also contributed the final story in the book).
Each of the stories in Explorer relates to a "mystery box" -- a cubic mcguffin that each creator is free to interpret in his or her own way. The contributors display enormous ingenuity and range in their responses to this challenge. Emily Carroll's "Under the Floorboards" is a spooky, Twilight Zonesque take; Rad Sechrist's "The Butter Thief" is a great cross between Japanese legends and Grimm fairytales; Johann Mate's "Whatzit," is a madcap science fiction comedy; and Kibuishi's "The Escape Option" is a beautifully illustrated environmental parable. There are seven stories in all, and we read them together over three bedtimes. Though the book is aimed at middle graders, Poesy really enjoyed it, with a little bit of translating, explaining and narrating from me. As soon as we were done, she wanted to hear the stories over again, which is always a good sign.
I asked Poesy if she thought that other kids would like having this read to them, and she was very enthusiastic in her recommendation!
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes
Alan Turing and the codebreakers of Bletchley Park invented modern crypto and computers in the course of breaking Enigma ciphers, the codes that Axis powers created with repurposed Enigma Machines — sophisticated (for the day) encryption tools invented for the banking industry — to keep the Allies from listening in on their communications.
In 1948, the Institute of Applied Science commissioned an unknown illustrator to depict a fistful of squirming, terrified criminals caught in an authoritative fist, under the headline “CAUGHT BY THEIR FINGERTIPS” — they were advertising a home Criminal Investigation and Identification course.
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