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17 posts from June 2011

June 29, 2011

Why YA?


(from the Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums -- this is actually a picture of a blind girl who's examining these dead birds so she can have a better understanding of what birds are.  Crazy!  Also: awesome!)

The internet has lately been in a flurry about young adult literature.  Are books for teens these days universally too dark, containing dread subjects like suicide, anorexia, rape, abortions, drug use, etc.? 

(Having just, in the past week, read YA books about summer camp, art crime heist capers, and kissing, I am inclined to say no.)

However, I think the dust may have been kicked up here not because of the issue books that populate some of young adult literature, but because of nomenclature. 

This may seem a strange digression, but all of you scratching your heads, consider: what is young adult literature?

Up until about 1990, young adult literature was comprised of Go Ask Alice, The Catcher in the Rye, Annie on My Mind, and A Seperate Peace.  And Cormier's The Chocolate War

Now, those are all very nice books, but THAT IS ALL THERE WAS.*  You have to admit, that's an extremely limiting sample-set from which to create a general understanding of what YA is -- imagine discussing memoir or poetry or critical non-fiction or novels-in-verse and only having five examples to go by.

As a result, there wasn't much general discussion of -- or reading of -- young adult literature.  Kids read classics intended for children -- like The Wizard of Oz and Little House on the Prairie -- until they were too old to read 'kids books' and then they read books that were written for adults. 

It's only been recently that such thing as 'a teen section' has existed in libraries and bookstores.  This is undiscovered country, and as such prime fodder for discussion.

So, what is this emerging young adult literature?  Since it's so new, there isn't a single definition that has been passed down unto us by our parents' parents or our English classes -- if people have an instinctive feeling for what YA is, it isn't because there's a generally accepted/acknowledged understanding, but because they have made it up in their own minds. 

This causes problems. 

So one person thinks that young adult literature is all books for people ages ten to twenty. 

Another thinks that young adult literature is all books for people in high school, usually ages 14 - 18.

Yet another thinks that young adult literature is all books that have a young adult protagonist.

This one thinks that young adult literature is all books that address issues that are specifically relevant to young adults. 

That one thinks that young adult literature is all books that the authors and publishers label as 'young adult' or 'teen.' 

These five definitions (and there are others) overlap in places, but they're by no means the same thing.  And that's a problem, because how can you talk about something reasonably when no one is working from the same definition?  When someone who thinks YA Lit is for ages 10 - 20 turns to someone who thinks YA Lit is for ages 14 - 18 and says, 'the issues in these books are too sophisticated for some YA readers,' how can Person 1 be met with anything but blankness and incomprehension? 

(We have different ideas about what YA Lit is in our office, and First Second is only four people!  And we're a publisher -- it's our job to do this professionally!  That's just ridiculous -- but nonetheless an accurate representation of the state of the general opinion.)

Until there's a common understanding of terms, having this discussion is like the blind men having an in-depth analysis of the affect of the elephant on its environment. 


*This is hyperbole.  But not by much. 

June 27, 2011

Sailor Twain -- Sunset Sail


One of our favorite webcomics is Sailor Twain, and we therefore feel very lucky to be its eventual publisher.

If you've been following along for this saga of mermaids the the Hudson River and steamboats and occasional letter-writing, now you have a chance to meet the author (the esteemed Mark Siegel) in person whilst on an evening riverboat cruise down the Hudson.

The Sailor Twain Sunset Sail is August 5th from 6pm - 9pm; tickets are available here

All the proceeds from tickets will go to support Clearwater, a foundation dedicated to supporting and preserving the Hudson River. 

June 24, 2011

Limericks of Fate

There once was a very fine artist (now dead)

This book gets you into his head

Through his daughter and wife;

All the parts of his life

The mortal coil to which he had formerly been wed.

This book: it's really good and you should read it.  It's like a murder mystery and a meta-narrative all in one!

June 21, 2011

Templar Give-Away


We're doing a give-away of this book; if you haven't read it, you should enter to win, as it is a lot of fun -- full of adventure and treachery and sword-fights and missing treasure!

And the color is so good that it's up for an Eisner. 

June 20, 2011

Fall Again

Final covers for our Fall 2011 list; click for more information and excerpt pages!








June 17, 2011

Eternal Limericks


Once there were two friends

Who saw comics as more than a trend

So they made this book

(They're as smart as they look)

And it all came right at the ends. 

This book: very gorgeous!  And also award-winning. 

June 16, 2011

Anya's Ghost in Process

More on the process of Anya's Ghost


(rough sketch)


(tight sketch)



(final colors)

June 15, 2011

Anya's Ghost Step by Step

Vera Brosgol has been kind enough to share with us her process for making Anya's Ghost














More tomorrow as a rough page becomes inks becomes colors!

June 13, 2011

Fan Art of the Day

Any day is a good day when it includes fanart in the mail from Lane Smith, who wishes to tell you that the new books are excellent.


June 10, 2011

Textbook Limerick


There once was a kid who wanted to make comics

His friends and family all were skeptics

So he started out here

Got a job in a year

Now his family and friends all want to be his sidekicks!

(This is not actually a textbook limerick at all, in the sense that it scans terribly poorly.  But it is about a textbook; this one!)

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