An alien and a human learn to respect one another. A young girl gains confidence after seeing herself in a famous artist. A woman strives to build a career in professional wrestling. These are just a few of the short narratives that await the reader in Zen Pencils. Creator Gavin Aung Thang uses these short comics to portray the thought-provoking words of famous individuals such as Marie Curie, Winston Churchill, and The Dalai Lama. The result is a charming collection of engaging, wisdom-filled comics.

Although there are some recurring characters, Zen Pencils is tied together through its inspirational topics. The themes are varied, so readers looking for encouragement for various situations may find something meaningful. The topics covered include finding happiness and passion as well as dealing with difficult things, like bigotry, hardship, and peer pressure. Readers have the option to read straight through the book, but there is also a table of contents at the front so readers can flip to the comic of their choosing.

Thang’s art is what makes Zen Pencils’ so accessible and engaging. His expressive poses and expressions, along with color choice give the comics the appropriate mood. Thanks to his clear layouts, it is easy to follow the story’s direction. To make the messages clearer, Thang often uses recognizable character types-such as dragon slayers, superheroes, and aliens-to portray the meaning of these quotes, and older readers will enjoy the nods to popular culture icons, such as The Lord of the Rings and Batman.

Andrews McNeel Publishing claims that this is for children of all ages. The illustrations and clear layouts allow children to understand the messages behind the words, but the content—which is meant to inspire reflection and serious thought—suggests that Zen Pencils will most likely interest kids between seven to sixteen. Even though the publisher recommends this for children, older teens and adults will likely also enjoy Zen Pencils as a quick read. Because of its wide appeal, Zen Pencils should enjoy a place in most public libraries.

Zen Pencils: Inspirational Quotes for Kids
by Gavin Aung Thang
ISBN: 9781449487218
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 7-16

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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