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3 posts from June 2010

June 27, 2010

Garage Band


Let's talk about this book, because it's one of my favorite things that First Second has ever published.

(Anyone who's ever asked me about this book has heard this diatribe before, but for the sake of everyone else, here we go.)

Teenagers today are under a huge amount of pressure to succeed all the time.  It turns out that if you want to get a good job, go to a good college, basically to be a successful adult individual, it is oftentimes not enough to get moderately good grades and be a good person.  There are now fewer jobs than ever, and less financial aid to help out with college tuition, and when people look at a teenager and think, 'why this one?' there are queues of other people with equally superb qualifications for them to look at as well. 

So: not only do you have to be in the top 10% of your class, with no disciplinary record of any sort, no underage drug use or arrests for vandalism, not even a detention, but you also have to be the starter on your high school basketball team (and it'd be better if you went to all-state, honestly), and a musical prodigy (preferably on a rare instrument, like the bassoon; there'll be fewer bassoonists), volunteering for Habitat for Humanity every summer since you were fourteen, and aren't you doing something else on top of that?  Running your own internet business?  Starting up a program that helps impoverished inner-city children learn to read?  You mean you're not the international expert on the conditions for children in Afghanistan?

Well, then.  Why would we want you?

Teenagers everywhere are being told that they have to succeed excellently on every possible front of their lives to have a chance at success in their future lives.  Bomb your SATs because your girlfriend broke up with you the night before?  Break your leg and miss a summer of volunteer work?  Can't find anyone to publish your first novel, written at age 15?  Come on, seriously.  After that, there is no hope for you. 

Garage Band is about four teenagers who pretty much fail at this version of life.  (Though they do have the assortment of adult figures who wander around expecting their teenagers' lives will crash into the sea at any moment.)  It's a book about four guys who spend pretty much all their time having extremely good intentions but regardless messing up in just about the worst ways possible. 

And you know what? 

At the end of the book, no great tragedies occur.  There is no, 'so you are not going to college and had to give up your practice space and didn't take that record deal: now all your dreams are ruined.'  There is not a lesson about a single road to success that results from behaiving perfectly all the time. 

In fact, it looks like there's a reasonable chance they'll all be just fine.  They've still got a chance to achieve their dreams, and they're taking it.

I'm good with that. 

June 25, 2010


This spring, over the course of two weeks, I came across the Chris Ware Acme Novelty Library displace twice.  It is gorgeous -- in an ideal world, it could be replicated in wood and everyone would have one in their own home as sort of an Acme Novelty Library Bookshelf-Tree. 

(that would be awesome)

Acme Novelty Library Display

(also here is a picture that does it very little justice)

Apparently coming across that display was also some sort of sign, because a few weeks later, we embarked on a display project of our own.  Our display (for an upcoming fall book) is nothing like as intricate as Chris', but has a +10 power of adorability.

We just got a real, live version in our office, so pictures!

Adventures in Cartooning Display 007

(next to one of our parent company's displays for It's a Book, also coming out this fall)

Adventures in Cartooning Display 008

(a closer-up view that also showcases super-advance copies of earlier-than-brand-new Adventures in Cartooning Activity Book, winging its way to a retailer near you in August)

Adventures in Cartooning Display 006

(why yes, that is a die-cut header designed by the lovely and talented Colleen AF Venable)

Putting on my marketing hat for the end of the post, here's the v. short of why displays are awesome. 

Bookstores only have limited amounts of shelves by reason being bound to a limited physical location.   And most of their shelves are taken up by books they keep permanently in stock (it would be silly, for example, not to have at least one copy of Where the Wild Things Are or Harriet the Spy or From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or Bone in your bookstore AT ALL TIMES).  So the booksellers have to pick and choose from the books that are coming out for what they'll have space for on the few shelves that are left for new books.  A lot of books don't get picked up (because there are hundreds of thousands of books published a year) and for a lot of the books that do get picked up, there isn't enough space on the shelves to display them face-out. 

But when you put a display in the mix: voila, instant face-out-shelf-space that wasn't there before!  And it doesn't require rearranging, getting rid of books you had already, or anything!

So that's exciting!

(and also adorable!  just look at it!)

June 10, 2010

Covers That Go Bump In The Night: The Making of BRAIN CAMP

The lovely folks at our parent publisher Macmillan asked me to do a guest post over on the MacKids blog. I talk about the long but pretty darn amazing trek Faith Erin Hicks and I took to get to the final terrifying BRAIN CAMP cover, and all of the scary covers from our youth we had to relive along the way. Can't promise you won't get nightmares from this one...but isn't that the point!

If you were anything like me as a kid you loved a good scary story. Go and read about the whole process HERE, and remember, it's a well known fact that if you cover your feet the monsters can't hurt you.

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