The Blurry Line Between Comics and Picture Books: Ben Hatke on His 8 Favorite Eye Candy Hybrids

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The Blurry Line Between Comics and Picture Books: Ben Hatke on His 8 Favorite Eye Candy Hybrids

Ben Hatke is a true magician. Few other comic creators can dissolve the confines of reality to explore other planets (the Zita series), launch daring robot escapes (Little Robot) and host mythic bed and breakfasts (Julia’s House for Lost Creatures) with such soul. The man also literally breathes fire. His latest offering from First Second Books, Nobody Likes a Goblin, continues the kid-friendly cartoonist’s descent into imagination, featuring a likable green monster in search of his skeleton buddy.

Alas, Hatke is not the only member of his exotic species. Those looking to dive deeper down the rabbit hole—or invite some younger readers down with you—need only check out the rich legacy of comic and story book authors yet to be discovered. Hatke was kind of enough to recommend his eight favorite works, listed in the gallery above. Check out his introduction below.
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I love comics and I love picture books. Both types of book involve a delicate dance of words and pictures.

The line between a picture book (a publishing format) and comics (a storytelling medium) can get a little blurry. Blurry enough, in my opinion, to be almost nonexistent. Some picture book authors pull very successfully from the cartoonist’s bag of tricks and their books sit quite comfortably in both categories.

Here then, in no particular order, are some of my favorite books that exist in that space between picture books and comics…

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Nobody Likes a Goblin Cover Art by Ben Hatke

8. Moving House


Writer/Artist: Mark Siegel
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

The story of little Joey and Chloe who will soon be leaving the house they love and moving to a new neighborhood. To their surprise and joy, their house stands up on long legs and decides to move along with them. With multiple small illustrations on the pages, Moving House is an excellent blend of comic and picture book.

7. The Big Wet Balloon


Writer/Artist: Liniers
Publisher: TOON Book

Oh, I am a huge fan of Liniers, the world-famous cartoonist hailing from Argentina. The Big Wet Balloon is a perfect comics picture book about two sisters and a red balloon on a rainy Saturday. You will love it. And when you finish reading The Big Wet Balloon you can read Macanudo.

6. Little Mouse Gets Ready


Writer/Artist: Jeff Smith
Publisher: TOON Book

Few people have mastered gestural storytelling like Jeff Smith. All of the comics-mastery seen in Bone is distilled down into a charming story of a little mouse getting dressed for his day. Perfect for very beginning readers.

5. Odd Duck


Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artist: Sara Varon
Publisher: First Second

It's just awesome. Sara is just awesome.

4. The Adventures of Polo


Writer/Artist: Regis Faller
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

A little dog named Polo hops into his boat and sails off into a colorful and immersive journey full of magical surprises. Told in wordless, borderless panels. I've seen this book carried around, examined and re-examined by kids of different ages.

3. In the Night Kitchen


Writer/Artist: Maurice Sendak
Publisher: HarperCollins

This is the very first book that I can remember reading that sits in this space. A dreamlike journey borrowing from Little Nemo and illustrated in Sendak's masterful hand. Oh, Maurice Sendak! You are forever the best.

2. Hippopotamister


Writer/Artist: John Patrick Green
Publisher: First Second

A hilarious tale of a hippopotamus and a red panda who wave goodbye to their dilapidated zoo and go in search of new jobs. High cuisine, construction or dentistry, everything is fair game for this pair. A wonderful blend of words, pictures and excellent cartooning.

1. Flotsam


Writer/Artist: David Weisner
Publisher: Clarion Books

The story of a boy, a camera that washes up on the beach and the mind-bending pictures that he finds inside. Told in beautifully painted wordless panels.