What ages are graphic novels aimed at?
Graphic novels are in fact aimed at everyone. Marvel and DC's main fare, the traditional superhero comics, are mostly aimed at teenage boys, though their average reader is a 30 year old man, so a lot of those titles are more adult.
At this time, however, comics are written for kids, for teens, and for adults, so it rather depends on the title, the publisher, and the intended audience. Japanese manga, for example, is rated so that you can tell what age range it's aimed at. U.S./Western comics are not as clearly rated, but are heading in that direction. Review sites like this one are here to help you figure out which titles are most appealing to which ages, but comics do exist for every taste and maturity level.
What age range is this title appropriate for?
Before you send me an email, remember that many graphic novel publishers include recommended age ratings on their titles. Manga publishers, especially, are very careful to include an age rating on every title.
Of course, if you want to know about a specific title, drop me a line and I can let you know where a title might best be placed.
Help! My child loves manga, but he's not really a teen -- what do the ratings mean, and how do I figure out what's ok for him to read?
Ratings are currently defined by the publisher, and most manga publishers have their ratings explained in terms of what each rating means. Check out the major publisher's age rating guides here:
That being said, the age ratings are guides and will not always include everything that may concern you as a parent. If you're concerned about certain types of content (language, for example, or bullying, or violence) I suggest at the very least flipping through a title before your child reads it. At best, read it yourself to make sure you understand the context for content.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Japanese are not as worried about nudity as our country stereotypically is, so nudity can be more common in manga. As one of my colleagues put it -- if you're taking a bath in a U.S. comic, the water is opaque, but if you're taking bath in a Japanese comic, the water is clear. Most of the time nudity in manga aimed at younger readers is not sensual at all, simply part of life (like when you're taking a bath, or getting changed).
Most books rated T for Teen or 13+ may have sensual or sexual comedy in them, nudity, language, and a bit more explicit violence -- so a bit of blood, etc.
Most books rated OT or 16+ may have sensual and sexual nudity, though usually not full frontal nudity -- for example, you may see breasts. The violence will be more drawn out and explicit, with more blood and crunching of punches and bones.
All that being said, sometimes these titles are rated T or OT meaning more about appeal and darker ideas. T may well be fine -- but I would certainly read titles first to see if they're ok for your child, depending on what he can handle.
Do you have any information on reading levels for children?
As I am not a children's librarian or a teacher, I am wary of suggesting reading levels as I simply do not have much experience with them personally. I do recommend resources like Michele Gorman's book, Getting Graphic! Using Graphic Novels to Promote Literacy with Pre-Teens and Teens as well as Alison Lyga's great Graphic Novels in Your Library Media Center. Both of these titles are excellent resources for educators, and they have lists of recommended titles that should help you zero in on the titles you would like to use.
Are there any "How to Draw Comics" titles for kids?
Hands down my favorite "How to" books on comics for younger creators are first Adventures in Cartooning by Alexis Frederick-Frost, James Sturm, and Andrew Arnold and Lila and Ecco's Do-It-Yourself Comics Club by Willow Dawson for kids slightly older. Both are charming and very clear, not to mention fun!
There are also a number of titles by Christopher Hart, who's well known as an author in this niche, specifically for kids, all starting with Kids Draw... (so, Kids Draw Manga, Kids Draw Angels, Elves, etc.) School Library Journal has given them the thumbs up, and rates them for grades 3 and up, so that might well fit. Some slightly older aimed titles that might still be useful would be the DC series by Klaus Johnson -- DC Comics Guide to Pencilling Comics (Inking Comics, Coloring Comics, etc.) These are rated for grades 7 and up, but they still might well explain a lot of the basics of panel layout, lettering, etc.
What do you think of Shonen Jump -- is it ok for a ten year old guy?
Shonen Jump is certainly geared toward boys (shonen actually mean boy or boys in Japanese) and is by far the most popular manga anthology magazine here and in Japan. Shonen Jump titles are aimed at boys and teens, and generally are for guys around 10 and up. The thing to remember is that there may well be humor, especially slapstick, with nudity and/or sensual goofiness ( i.e. catching a glimpse of a naked or scanitly clad woman, and thus be embararssed). If this would be a problem for what you'd like your ten year old to read and see, be aware that it might be present in Shonen Jump. However, the magazine is generally not more explicit than that. There can also be a bit of violence, but it is not terribly bloody, and is not the focus of the story.
When the stories anthologized in Shonen Jump are collected into book form, most libraries will get them (they're all enormously popular) and most will put them in the teen collection. The sports or competition stories (Whistle! about soccer, Hikaru no Go about the game of Go) are usually the least likely to have any older content in them. Rurouni Kenshin, as a historical samurai drama, had more references to violence and was in general a more serious storyline, but it did not have the level of violence or sensuality that you'd find in a title aimed at older readers.
If you see a title that is marked as Shonen Jump Advanced, know that this means the title is most suited for older teens.