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14 posts from April 2011

April 29, 2011

The Color of Limericks

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In a small rural town in Korea

Lived a young girl named Ehwa.

She grew up in an inn

There her life did begin

Forming the perspective she saw her life via.

(I feel like this post title is more of a zen koan than a post title.  We shall see what I come up with for the next two books in this trilogy.)

April 28, 2011

Lost & Found: A Book Review

I don't do reviews very often because mostly people know about books already.  But: there is this book, and I am super-excited about it!  So away we go to reviewing-land.

LostFoundCover-Shaun-Tan

A Review of Lost & Found, by Shaun Tan

At this point, everyone in comics!land has heard of Shaun Tan, because he is wonderful and amazing and also the creator of The Arrival.  But: now he has a new book which is lovely and gorgeous, and which everyone should know about as well.

Part of what's amazing is just the design of this book.  Because I'm obsessive, I noted that the cover design credit goes to Phil Falco -- who designs the Scholastic Graphix line -- and the interior design jointly to Phil and Shaun.  So, you see the type on the cover, and how it looks like it's all cut-out letters of newsprint?  That's all illuminated with spot gloss and raised -- and then the letters on top of the cut-out newsprint squares are raised or debossed accordingly.  So you have a double-dimensional cover effect. 

It looks terrific.

Also there is lovely interior design; this book is made up of three short stories (which I think were first published as individual picture books back in Australia?), and Shaun & Phil went out of their way to make there be transitional interstitials between each piece that actually make them feel like they are a singular book and not just an assorted collection.  That's impressive especially since the aesthetics are pretty different in the second story to the rest of the pieces in this book. 

I first saw a copy of this book at Community Bookstore; once I picked it off the shelf I couldn't put it down, which seemed like a sign for needing to buy it at once.  So I did.

The really excellent bit about Lost & Found is that all this bubbling over about design that I have just done is just the icing on the cake.  The inside of Shaun's mind is clearly a lovely and crazy place where animals are as likely to be teapot-Cthulhus (as pictured on the cover) as they are to be rabbits, and in each story he builds such a complete visual world that you want to go live in it (and you'd get your very own teapot-Cthulhu, of course). 

One example of how this book is great and then I'll stop burbling and go back to -- um, writing instructional handouts is what's on my plate for today.  Because otherwise, I'd just end up going on and on and on and this review would end up longer than the book is.

The Rabbits is the final story in Lost & Found.  It's a story about the colonization of Australia, and also, Shaun helpfully informs us in the afterword, a story about environmentalism and consumerism.  So Shaun draws Australia, and it is full of small round animals and everything is red and brown and yellow and blue and absolutely gorgeous, in a please-lets-take-the-next-plane-to-Australia kind of way.  And then the rabbits come to colonize it, and they are white, and they have long straight ears that exist so they are always at 90 degrees to something.

So you have this great organic land of Australia, and then you have the white rabbits full of angles.  And they have very straight black guns and straight marching lines and eventually, construction made of white squares and parallel lines and it overcomes all that is Australia except some little bit of brown. 

If there was a 'Using Visual Language Excellently' award, this book would get it, hands-down. 

Astronaut Academy Give-Away: Almost-Last Chance!

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Enter here to win; this give-away ends when the month does, so you've only got two days left!

My favorite thing that someone has said about Astronaut Academy yet: "Requires a serious cranial adjustment on the part of adults. Kids, however, will get Roman's humor and (dare I say) crazed genius right away. Like nothing I've ever read before."

April 22, 2011

Spy Limericks

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There once was a girl in New York City

She was young and smart and also pretty.

Then she came across some German spies

Uncovered their plot, to their great surprise

They'd never thought a girl could be so witty!

(This book; it's super-fun!  You should read it.)

April 20, 2011

Course Adoptions

Classroom

(from the Keene Public Library)

One of the things we talk about infrequently that generates quite a few book sales is course adoptions. 

What is a course adoption?  It's when a teacher decides to include one of our books in their course curriculum.  They'll say, 'Wouldn't this make an interesting springboard to discuss the war in Afghanistan in my Georgraphy of Internal Conflicts course?' and include it in the list of books they require their students to read.  As you may imagine, this generates some sales. 

(And then it tends to continue to generate sales, because if the book they adopt works and the students like it, the professor will continue to teach the class the next year [or on alternate years], and an entirely new group of students must acquire and read the book.  Students, it turns out, almost always like graphic novels!)

I honestly don't know how much this avenue of revenue-generation would be working for First Second without American Born Chinese -- the Printz Award being given to a graphic novel was such a landmark event for the children's book world that lots of the MLS courses (Library Science degrees) and Children's Literature courses added it right on to their next semester's required reading. 

Then the next semester they came back again to us saying things like, 'We should really have a class day dedicated to graphic novels!  What do you recommend?'  Usefully we had Laika and Robot Dreams to give them at that point -- and many more books down the line. 

Since then we've been publishing books like Drawing Words and Writing Pictures and The Photographer and Koko Be Good that have been adopted in more topical classes -- things like drawing and politics and women's studies. 

The people in the Academic Marketing department at our parent company, Macmillan, who kindly keep track of this sort of thing for us, tell me that we've had over 1,000 course adoptions for our books.  Multiply that by the number of people/class, and that adds up to a very solid amount of books.

First Second's graphic novels: coming soon to a classroom near you.

(This blog post was inspired by the fact that we got our first course adoption for Americus today.  Yay that book!  It is not even published yet and already it is being picked up for classroom use.  Huzzah!)

(P.S. If you are a teacher and considering adopting one of our books for your class, we give desk copies!  Just send me e-mail: [email protected])

April 15, 2011

Cat Burglar Limericks

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There once was a young girl named K.

Nothing ever went quite her way.

She fell in with crooks

Broke all the laws in the books

But in the end, she saved the day. 

(This may be one of the better limericks I have ever written!  Yay me!  But I suspect it is because this is just a limerick-y book.)

April 13, 2011

A note about editors

Editing is a widely misunderstood job.

 

For some the editor is a favorite punching bag, and even a subject of regular online ranting—mostly ignorant ranting.

 

Yes, there are nightmare stories of bad editorial relationships. But anyone aiming high with their own project, anyone wishing to produce something above ordinary ought to take the trouble to find out what a real editor does. An editor gives you distance. Now if you’re independently wealthy and you can spend twenty years crafting your magnum opus, then you will eventually get some distance from your own work. Barring that, an editor (a good one, and one that is well-suited to you and your project) can help give you several years worth of distance in one editorial conversation. And that’s a mighty enhancement, and a source of creative growth for an author, and something most books need somewhere along the way. Sometimes it’s a very light touch, sometimes it’s a robust, thrashing exchange. But there are, in comics especially, many, many, many books that are good but could have been great—for lack of a good editor.

 

So that’s a little offering on the matter of First Second and editing—yes, we tend towards some editorial dialog, not to meddle, nor to mold the author in our own image, but to push their project to its fullest fruition.

Comics Events & Bookstores

Arranging comics events in bookstores is interesting!

Bookshelves

(from the New York Public Library archives)

There are a lot of bookstores who totally get it; when you say 'comics,' they say: easel, projector, markers, sound system, what do you need?'  Most of these guys are the ones who are used to dealing with kids events and workshops at their stores -- because kids are totally on board with comics, and for stores (and for us), it's easy enough to translate 'this works for a picture book' to 'this works for a comic.' 

The part where the going gets rocky is when you have adults and comics.  Stores don't always have projectors so that all images can be part of the evening's program (they're expensive!).  Is an audience used to prose going to understand a comics reading?  If the local comics readers have traditionally been going to comics stores for their graphic novels, are they even going to come to a bookstore event? 

So when you're working with a bookstore, you have to address all of these and figure out the best way to make the event a success.  Sometimes it's a challenge!  Luckily, there are a lot of great stores out there dedicated to figuring out the best way to make books work. 

But now I have an author who is providing me with the entertainment of having a whole new type of questions to ask bookstores.  You see, he juggles knives and breathes fire and also writes graphic novels for kids. 

Work really doesn't get more fun than arranging pyrotechnic events at bookstores -- or terrifying people by offering to arrange pyrotechnic events for bookstores!

April 08, 2011

Zombie Limericks

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There once were a boy and girl sent away to camp

Summe caamp was the usual; tedious and damp

But they soon came to find

Something taking over minds

An evil out of which they must stamp. 

Because I am making lists today:

a. this is a terrible limerick

b. credit goes to Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan, during whose signing at NYCC I came up with the idea of book-related poetry at all.  (Feel free to also vilify them if you have not been enjoying this.)

c. the book is better.

MoCCA 2011 Schedule: Update

We've got an updated First Second signing schedule for this weekend's art schedule!  Read it and weep, people who are not going to be in New York City!

MoCCA

Saturday:

12:30 - Jessica Abel (Drawing Words and Writing Pictures)

2:00 – Nick Bertozzi (Lewis & Clark)

3:00 – Nick Abadzis (Laika)

Sunday:

12:00 – Ben Hatke (Zita the Spacegirl)

2:00 – Tracy White (How I Made It to Eighteen)

3:30 – Matt Madden (The Zabime Sisters)

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