Before you say "But Kimi ni Todoke isn't for eight-year-olds!", allow me to clarify: there were actually different lists for different age groups, and KnT was in the 'Best Comics for Teens' category, along with Pluto, Children of the Sea, and Maximum Ride. I question the inclusion of Maximum Ride, but considering the fact that I haven't read it, I can't really say anything. On the Tweens list, we have Leave it to Pet!, the only manga included for that demographic. On the wee widdle kiddies list (they like to call 'em Young Readers) were several manga including The Big Adventures of Majoko (shown above) and Ninja Baseball Kyuma.
Interesting note: if you do a search for "Best Books for Kids 2009", on SLJ's website, you only get the best comics list. The annual Best Books list is just called "Best Books", even though each title has a grade level recommendation. I'm slightly confused by this- do they think it's obvious that their book picks are for kids, but they have to make special note of the fact that their comics list is age-appropriate?
I have very mixed feelings about this in general. No one needs to convince me of the artistic value of manga (we aspiring mangaka tend to be pretty sold on that), but I think it's extremely important to get kids used to reading Books with a capital B during the elementary school years. If you learn to tackle big, intimidating books as a child, that's a skill that you will have in your intellectual arsenal for the rest of your life, and it's about a billion times easier to internalize that as a child than any other time. I believe that manga can be as meaningful as traditional books, so it's not a question of content; it's the fact that training your imagination and your attention span is still best done with traditional prose. And if you develop those skills, it only makes reading manga better. Putting out two separate lists emphasizes the fact that the two art forms are not the same thing, but plenty of the books on the traditional list seem to be made up of as much artwork as prose, which makes me wonder what SLJ thinks the distinction is.
This is hardly SLJ's fault, but I think there's a trend these days of parents giving their kids manga with the rational that "at least I can get them to read something, instead of just playing video games", and it's no insult to manga to say that there are some limitations to that strategy. The Teens list is A-okay with me, but I hope parents and educators prioritize prose well above manga for the little 'uns, even if it makes me the enemy of otaku-dom to say it.
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