At the urging of my sister, beginning in the New Year (probably January 7), I'm going to be re-running, one day at a time, my comic strip Marty Gray. It first appeared online in 1997 (!), as a daily feature of my (and collaborator Jon Follett's) web magazine, Strange Voices, which was a publication for extraterrestrials who were living on earth. Stay tuned!
Friday, December 21, 2007
Yes, it's true: Babymouse: Puppy Love is here!
Well, actually, it arrives the day after Christmas. But I'm going out of town, and hopefully won't go on-line for a week, so I'm telling you now.
It's the perfect thing to buy with all of those Christmas gift cards!
I just saw that Cynsations is giving away
...a Babymouse doll and a copy of the seventh Babymouse adventure: Babymouse: Skater Girl...But you have to enter the drawing by 3 p.m. CST TODAY! Hurry on over!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
The podcast interview that Sabrina at Teachtopia did with me a while back is finally online at ChildrensBookRadio.com. We discussed Babymouse, Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf, and children's graphic novels in general.
It turned out quite nice! Though, for some reason, it sounds to me like I'm 40 years old and I have a mustache. I don't exactly know what the sound of a mustache is, but there you have it.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast gives would-be readers seven reasons to read Babymouse: Skater Girl.
Thanks to Jenni, who is wasting time on-line instead of working. But who can blame her? The year is wearing away quickly...
Here's something that escaped my (and Google's) notice: an incredibly thoughtful (and complimentary) article at Pixiepalace called, "Imaginary Exploration in Babymouse." She muses on ideas of gender identity in Babymouse, not-so-happy fairy tales, and with which character in a story a reader identifies:
It is quite interesting that this character, and these authors, understood that it is possible to identify with the hunters, the monster and the victims, often all at the same time, especially when you are a child. I can’t think of a single other book that does this, although I am sure that they must exist (possibly the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips).
Monday, December 17, 2007
The term "graphic novel" has taken off here in the States. How do you feel about your work being described that way?
I don't like "graphic novel." It's a word that publishers created for the bourgeois to read comics without feeling bad. Comics is just a way of narrating -- it's just a media type. Chris Ware doesn't like it either -- he says it sounds like "Lady Chatterley's Lover."
Seriously, though—don't blame modern publishers. The problem is that the accurate and appropriate term—"comic books"—had already been appropriated and misapplied by the comics publishers decades earlier (to appeal to their own bourgeoisie). Charles Schulz used the appropriate (though now quite quaint-sounding) "comic magazines" in some of his Peanuts strips back in the ’50s. Let's face it: comic books are not books. They're saddle-stitched periodicals. Today's graphic novels are books. A vast number are even put out by book publishers, not monthly comic publishers. They're often a different beast, with a different audience, sales channel, production model, and profit model from "comic books."
If any "comic book" artist wants to boo-hoo over "graphic novel," they should rightly point their fingers back to their own childhoods in the 1950s and ’60s, when their generation abandoned an accurate term, leaving us today with yet another inaccurate term. Too bad.
UP WITH GRAPHIC NOVELS!
Sunday, December 9, 2007
It's weird what Google brings your way. I was just e-mailed a news alert on my name. It's for a blog entry that reprints (almost certainly without any proper compensation to or permission from the Hearst Corporation) a sidebar I wrote ages ago for Country Living Magazine about Safe Deposit Boxes.
It's funny how quickly you forget all the work you've done in your life. (And I'm just a young pup!)
Bonus: My former CL colleague Marie Proeller apparently had one of her pieces swiped for the blog entry just below mine.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Since I found infodad.com, I thought I'd gather together the site's other Babymouse reviews. Here they are:
There’s nothing to cry about in the Babymouse series by the sister-and-brother team of Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, but the seventh book in the series, Skater Girl, proves to be the most serious of all – and one of the best. ... [Babymouse] finds out that competitive skating really is hard work, requiring super-early appearances at the rink and constant compromises involving homework, friends and family. This is an accurate portrayal of the hard-driving world of young people’s skating competitions, and Babymouse’s eventual decision to give up the quest for glory in order to reclaim her friends and the fun of the sport has real-world resonance, too. This is highly unusual in the Babymouse books – a first, in fact – and lends Skater Girl depth that makes it more intriguing than the earlier books. It’s just as much fun, though, and the pictures of Babymouse are as enjoyable as ever. The story’s added dose of reality is an unexpected and welcome bonus.Wow! Who knew that anyone was keeping track of our firsts?
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Make no mistake: Babymouse is not a children’s picture book. It’s a graphic novel aimed at children aged six to 12 who -- ironically enough -- don’t have as many graphic novels as you’d think aimed at them.The latter sentiment is something I try to hammer home in my talks. It's something that is hard to grasp—and I understand why, having lived through the late-80s comic-book backlash, when all of the comic creators who were trying to introduce more mature themes into the overly saccharine comic book realm were chanting over and over, "comic books aren't just for kids." Unfortunately, nowadays it's hard to find a comic book left that is appropriate for kids. So it's good to hear people besides myself saying that.
The former observation—"Babymouse is not a children’s picture book."—comes up more often than you might think. The curse of having a character with a great name like "Babymouse" is that the "Baby-" prefix makes 50% of human beings assume that this is a book for toddlers.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Vanessa wrote a quickie glowing review of Babymouse.
Funny side note about blogs and the Internet: We've apparently surpassed the point at which a blog told more than we ever wanted to know about the blog-author. Now, blogs are becoming very purpose-driven, with little extraneous information outside of that scope. (This is my way of pointing out that, despite the above-mentioned blog having a great amount of detail about what Vanessa has read over the past year, I have no idea who she is, or what she does, or why she's reading Babymouse in the first place.)
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
It's hard to believe anyone still starts new comic strips (for newspapers) nowadays. The market is so brutal, the venue's restrictions so many. But Philadelphia Daily News political cartoonist Signe Wilkinson is launching a new strip with United Media, called Family Tree.
It sounds like a cross between Doonesbury and For Better or For Worse:
"'Family Tree' is not a political strip in the Democratic or Republican sense," Wilkinson said. "It's sort of how politics filters down to the family level."I remember seeing (though not meeting) Signe many years ago at the Philadelphia Inquirer building (which shares space, and its advertising staff, with the tabloid Daily News). I was in a mentorship program with the gracious Inquirer political cartoonist Tony Auth, and he took me on a tour of the building. It was shortly after Signe had won the Pulitzer, and we passed the room in which the Daily News staff was having its Editorial Board meeting (where the paper works out what will appear on the Op-Ed pages that day, including the content of the Editorial and the political cartoon). As I recall, Signe and a fellow staffer were in a "heated debate" (i.e., screaming match).
The new comic has a strong environmental theme, and also touches on various other topical issues. For instance, the teen girl and boy in the Tree family have to deal with the overemphasis on standardized testing, and the mother is trying to switch jobs in order to get better health-care benefits.
Finally, Wilkinson wanted to add another woman's voice to comics pages that have more female creators than 20 years ago yet remain a mostly male-cartoonist bastion.
"I feel I can deal with beauty, clothes, social pressures, mother-daughter relationships, and other issues in a way that will ring true to other mothers and other daughters," she said.
Hope her comic strip has as much fire!
Friday, November 16, 2007
Part 2 - On the best format and avenues for submissions:Even though the field is wide open, and publishers are hungry for graphic novels, I still get the sense that they don't quite know what to do with them. I'm still quite curious to see what becomes "standard operating procedure" for graphic novels at children's book publishers: A writer-illustrator team coming in with a concept, a solo writer/illustrator pitching her own work, a writer coming in and asking to be hooked up with an illustrator, or something else.
Writers face the added challenge of selling a graphic novel proposal to publishers without visuals to support it. Douglass Barre stressed that writers approaching comic book superhero publishers like Marvel and DC have little chances of having a proposal accepted with a manuscript alone, and so they should find an artist to draw sample pages. Comic artist Tommy Kovac suggested starting your publishing career with smaller publishers to prove your abilities. Agent Kelly Sonnack recognized that with children's book publishers, no submission standards or protocol presently existed for graphic novels. Kazu Kibuishi said that many artists are struggling to finish their graphic novels, so shopping a completed graphic novel not only proves you have the required discipline, but also makes it easier for editors to take or reject your project (since they are still new to editing graphic novels).
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Wordstock this past weekend was excellent. We had a very nice crowd of young'ns at the Target Children's Stage (though overall attendance didn't seem huge; I fear it was because it was sunny, not rainy). J. Otto Seibold was my co-presenter, and he is charmingly insane. He let us all in on the fact that many of his illustrations have hidden (often gross) details. I noted how much his illustrations of Olive, the Other Reindeer looks like an octopus when it starts out. And he set forth a bold claim: He is the very first person to illustrate a book entirely with computer. Can anyone disprove it? I think he's got something there.
I met many comicky types, too, many of whom are neighbors. Like Shannon Wheeler of Too Much Coffee Man fame, and the folks at TinyMeat, who make slick pop-culture wallets and iPod cases and such. (And I picked up the Buffy Season 8 graphic novel and the The Trial of Colonel Sweeto from a local comics shop's booth. Both are excellent.)
Also there were some folks from Fantagraphics who had every artist they came across draw a picture of Yoda in their sketchbook. (Mine dealt with Yoda's bad posture and obvious osteoporosis. Poor guy.) I hope they're able to publish it someday, but I imagine it was just for their amusement.
Or rather, I'll be there soon enough. I'm currently at PDX, using the airport's excellent free wifi service (unlike miserly Albany, NY—my old home port—which makes you pay for wifi).
One question (which I'm sure will be answered many times over by the end of the day Friday): Why is the IRA's Southwest Regional Conference being held in Little Rock, Ark.? When did Arkansas become the Southwest?
Come out and see us! I'll be hanging out with the great folks from Perma-Bound. They take our books, slice the paperback covers off, and re-bind them so that they are indestructible. It's a fascinating notion, and something you, as a kid, never thought of—where did all those weirdly-bound hardcover library books come from? I also found it interesting that it's actually easier for them to cut the covers off of fully bound books than it is to get unbound pages straight from the presses and bind them up.
Friday, November 9, 2007
That is to say, I've added an upcoming events list to my blog's sidebar. (Google Calendar really doesn't translate well to a blog sidebar, I must say.)
See where I'll be!
(Reminder: I'll be at Wordstock in Portland tomorrow, 12Noon.)
Monday, November 5, 2007
Part 1: On Trends in the World of Children's Graphic Novels:
The Harry Potter series proved to adults that children could read longer books, so one of the trends affecting graphic novels is higher page counts (Baby Sitters Club, Amulet, Avalon High). Another continuing trend is the broadening appeal to girls, from Babymouse to Fruit Basket. Books that increase social and playful interactions (with Harry Potter bringing parents and children closer or Captain Underpants with flipbook animations in its pages and other fun activities) connect and engage readers beyond the mere reading experience, with the universe of the story entering the real world of the children.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Betsy Bird's post on the "Favorite Books as a Teen Meme" crystallized my thoughts on something that's been troubling me for a while now—ever since I became a professional children's book author.
Why are all children's and teens' books today required to have children and teens as the main characters?
I'm sure the better-read kidlit types out there (i.e., everyone) will immediately be able to jump in and list dozens of such titles with no youngsters at all. But let's take a look at the books I was reading as a teen:
- The Xanth series by Piers Anthony (yep, I got sucked into that, as well)
- The Split Infinity series by Piers Anthony (actually, Anthony started becoming so age-inappropriate at this point, that I really shouldn't have read this series)
- The Pern books by Anne McCaffrey
- The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
- The Space Trilogy by CS Lewis
- Everything Isaac Asimov ever wrote
I also read comic books, which had their share of teens: Robin from The Dark Knight Returns, Evey Hammond from V for Vendetta, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Peter Parker...
But let's look at the rest of the pop culture I consumed as a teen and preteen:
- GI Joe: Not a kid to be seen
- Transformers: Ditto
- Star Wars: This was the big one; and no kids, see?
- Indiana Jones: Which was the crappy movie? The one with the kid in it.
In fact, I can barely remember reading anything that might show up on the sort of list your typical teacher/librarian would think kids would read; I had How to Eat Fried Worms, Fat Men from Space, and Bridge to Teribithia read to me by teachers and librarians, but I certainly didn't seek them out.
I think this is a major failing in today's market: The Formula (your story must have a protagonist who is a year or two older than the age group you hope to have read it; no adults as protagonists, and certainly no characters younger than the reader). I wish there was a way out of it, but I don't think there is.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I just received copies of the German translations of Babymouse: Queen of the World and Babymouse: Our Hero. Wunderbar!
- Felicia Furrypaws is "Patricia Pelzpfote"
- Wilson is still "Wilson das Wiesel"
- Squeak is "Quiek"
- Dodgeball is "Völkerball"
- Locker is "Schliessfach"
- "Ulp!" is translated as "Würg!"
- "Gulp!" is "Schluck!"
- Zooming dodgeballs make the sound, "Zisch!"
- Dodgeballs that hit their targets (i.e., Babymouse's face) go, "Peng!"
Saturday, October 20, 2007
No, really. It says so:
Yes, I will be at the Wordstock Festival in Portland, Ore., on Saturday, November 10. Catch me at the "Target Children's Stage" at 12 noon. (Apparently, along with J. Otto Seibold, illustrator of Olive, the Other Reindeer.)
Friday, October 19, 2007
Tomorrow is 24 Hour Comics Day. Enterprising artists will spend a full 24 hours creating a complete 24-page comic book. Yeek!
I think I'll instead observe it by drawing sketches for Babymouse #9 for a solid 18 hours tomorrow. Oog.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
A fascinating blog entry by Marvel Comics Executive Editor Tom Brevoort ("Things I Learned From Stan") discusses, among other things, the proper spellings of superhero and supervillain. It apparently depends on whether you work at Marvel or at DC:
4) SUPER HERO IS TWO WORDS; SUPER-VILLAIN IS TWO WORDS WITH A DASH. This all goes back to the joint trademark that Marvel and DC have on the terms super hero and super-villain—in their case, it's super-hero and super villain. (The one exception is Marvel Super-Heroes, which was trademarked as a title with the dash still in place.) Why? Because that's the way the trademark applications were filled out way back in the '70s. And as a conclusion to the Mark Gruenwald mantra by which I learned all this, superhuman is one word.
I guess it's the copy editor in me that finds this fascinating.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
This Willamette Week listing is slightly off.
PS—Amazon is just trying to hurt me, now. (Maybe it's jealousy over the Powell's visit.) Skater Girl is at 5,775, after being in the 20,000s this AM. Stop the torture!
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Just wanted to announce to ye Oregonians that I will be making an author visit to Powell's in Beaverton, Ore.:
At Cedar Hills Crossing
3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd.
Beaverton, OR 97005
Here's the listing on their web site. I'll be talking, drawing, and then signing the newly released Babymouse: Skater Girl and whatever other Babymouse book you bring up.
See you there!
Yawn. Turn on computer. Click over to Titlez.com. Skater Girl at ... 5,601?
Those elves have been busy all night!
UPDATE (9:12 AM PT): 5,807, back up from a journey into the 6,000s. (I think I may keep this log going all day.)
UPDATE (11:30 AM PT): 8,044. Hmmph.
UPDATE (1:01 PM PT): 9,391. Grumble grumble. Get back to work, elves!
UPDATE (7:16 PM PT): 14,225. Ugh. Calling it a day. Going off to draw monkeys.
Monday, October 1, 2007
I wonder if there's a way to distinguish between CG art that is drawn entirely on the screen and art done and scanned in. Yours is the latter, right? Is there a term for the first?
And the answer is—I don't know if there's another term for the two types of artwork, and, frankly, I'm not sure into which category my artwork falls. In any case, here's how I make Babymouse (you all can decide how to categorize it):
First, I make extremely rough thumbnail sketches with pencil:
I scan these, e-mail them to Jenni, and she cuts them up and pastes them down in a rough layout, which she sends back to me.
Then, I make some better sketches (at full size) using Sharpie markers:
Finally, I scan these marker sketches and use them as a template for my final "inks," which I draw in the computer (in Photoshop), using a Wacom tablet and stylus:
As you can see, I turn the scanned marker sketches a light blue and use them as the tracing layer while I work. (I delete that layer in the final file I save and send to Random House.) But, unlike, say, some comic-book artists (of the DC/Marvel variety), I never make really excellent pencil drawings before the final inking. Traditional comic book pencils are a work of art in and of themselves; the ink (often traced over by a different artist) just solidifies everything. In my work, I try not to spend too much time on any of the sketches—the danger of working too much on early sketches, in my opinion, is that you can wind up getting too attached to them and will be loath to throw them out or change them. So I try to keep things loose and rough until I do the final inks, which are purely digital.
So, is that computer-generated, or not? As Betsy has mentioned lately, this is shaping up to be a year of things that don't fit neatly into categories. Maybe that goes for the art processes as well as the books themselves.
PS—Skater Girl is at 8,981 on Amazon. Hang in there, kid!
Raechal Leone at Maryland Newsline did an interview with Jenni ahead of the National Book Festival this weekend; didn't get the link until today:
Maryland Author Turns to Family for Inspiration
And, by the way, Jenni reports back from the Festival on the rabid Babymouse fans:
The fans were crazy (they had to line up 1/2 hour before I signed.) I have never seen anything like it. All these little girls were wearing pink! One librarian told me that Babymouse was circing more than Captain Underpants!
Sunday, September 30, 2007
I'm not entirely sure what this post actually means in the scheme of things, but the upshot is that someone out there thinks that Babymouse: Skater Girl is ranked at about 60 in the top 100 Manga titles. Read the link for the explanation. It's complicated. But, yay! Someone thinks we're doing well.
Betsy over at Fuse recently said:
I used to think that employing a computer to handle all your illustrating needs in a picture book was a risky proposition. Then we entered into 2007 and suddenly there were books like Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug and The Wizard using computers in radically different ways. Finally I got a glimpse of "Mrs. Marlowe's Mice", and now I think that it is safe to say that I've been won over to this style of artistic expression.
So I just wanted to point out that Babymouse is fully computer-generated. Yes, I do preliminary sketches on paper, but all the final art is done in Photoshop. So beware—a book near you could be computer-generated, and you might not know it!
Friday, September 28, 2007
The Tandem Insights blog just posted a lovely recommendation of Babymouse: Skater Girl.
[ASIDE: Remember that whole Amazon-rankings-crack thing I mentioned before? Well, Skater Girl is currently at 6,056. Bad, bad, bad Titlez.com. You're like a car wreck; I can't look away!]
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Don't know if I'll be able to make it to this or not this weekend: the Stumptown Comics Fest. There's a bucketload of people exhibiting, most of whom I don't know at all. (Little secret: I'm the most poorly read writer/illustrator/cartoonist on the planet. I'm just too busy working to keep up with all of my compatriots.) But, looks like there's plenty to do, plenty of folks to see, including Carol Lay, whose "Story Minute" I used to read and enjoy every week in New York Press when I lived in the Big Apple.
MotherReader had a post that reminded me that Jenni is going to be at the National Book Festival this weekend in Washington, DC, meeting with the public and the First Lady, among other luminaries.
Just saw the entry, Babymouse author to appear at book festival over at Blog@Newsarama, which also mentions the Washington Post article I linked to below, as well as an additional Washington Post piece called, "Meet the Authors." It gives some more concrete info. about where she'll be at the Book Festival:
She will be among some 70 authors featured Saturday at the National Book Festival, a free event on the Mall between Seventh and 14th streets. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Holm will talk about her books and answer questions at the Teens & Children Pavilion from 10:40 to 11:10 a.m. She will sign books from noon until 1 p.m.
The Washington Post interviewed Jenni about Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf, and writing in general. Yowza! That's a nice place to have a story show up!
It does, however, highlight our never-ending struggles in getting our names spelled right. You wouldn't think we'd have much trouble. I mean, we're not Jon Scieszka or Uma Krishnaswami. So, while the Post got "Holm" correct this time (a gargantuan task, believe me—no one believes us that there is not an "s" or an "e" or an "es" on the end), they misspelled my sister's non-standard nickname "Jenni." Oh, well. Can't win ’em all. (Even the Author Name Pronunciation Guide can't help us here.)
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Another quick post...
Amazon has blogs, now? I guess I had heard tales of them, but never actually seen them until today. Blogger/Author Sue Corbett included the Babymouse series among her
Book Club titles for Emergent Readers. So these books were actually tested this past summer on real, live 2nd- and 3rd-graders. Nice.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Just saw that Teri already has a review of Babymouse: Puppy Love. I didn't even know that Random House was sending out ARCs! Actually, looking at the Amazon page again ... I didn't even realize that it was coming out December 26! I guess I should know these things. Oh, and I guess I should get back to work on Babymouse #9...
Monday, September 24, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
A great link from Adam Koford's blog (Apelad):
John Ralston's The Hole in the Wall.
More cats. (I don't even like cats all that much ... but they seem to be good fodder for comic strips.) A really nice palette of autumnal colors (although the seasons seem to progress during the story). My favorite one of the bunch:
Our two adventurers are accosted by a giant, floating cat head. It spits them out. Then it just sort of wanders off into the sky, and they shrug.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Betsy has officially reviewed Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff over at A Fuse #8 Production. She also mentioned the book in her earlier piece, "Breaking Out of the Mold (and Suffering As a Result)," at ForeWord Magazine. In both, she brings up the quandary in which we authorial types find ourselves when we make books that don't quite fit neatly in a single category. Even if the book itself is a great work, you're asking a lot of the publishing co.'s sales staff, the bookstores, etc., to come up with an easy way to shelve and sell these uncategorizable things. (Heck—everyone's still trying to figure out the best way to sell graphic novels.) And, as she mentions, you're in big trouble come Awards season. Many things to ponder...
Oh, and by the way, when I saw this sentence begin:
Fortunately, "Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf" makes it clear that no matter how lousy things are, there's always a chance that things will eventually get better.
... I immediately assumed that it would end with, "...there's always a chance that they can get even worse." But that's just the cynic in me.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Just saw a lovely review of Babymouse: Queen of the World! over on a blog called, "Musings on libraries and madness." The blogger, TeenBibliotecaria (nee Violeta Garza), is "a multi-lingual twentysomething aspiring librarian" who is finishing up her MLS in Pittsburgh (my wife's hometown). I love the photo—it's got a "I'm gonna make it after aaaaaaaaaalllllll!" sort of feel.
Anyway, glad she's entering the fray. The country needs more children's/teens' librarians—especially multilingual ones.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I'm going to let you all in on a little secret. I have no time. I have no time to pore over dozens of child-lit blogs every day and keep abreast of the goings-on of my industry. I'm usually far too busy being a cog in that industry to spend much time on self-reflection. So all I really read every day is A Fuse #8 Production.
What I do do, however, is make Google do my reading for me. I use Google News Alerts to comb the intertubes for mentions of Babymouse, my name, Graphic Novels, Cartoons, and Comics. This gets me a number of results every day:
- Stories about stand-up comics
- Listings of new comic books and graphic novels available this month in X comic book store
- Every fresh European-/Iranian-/Opus-related Islamic cartoon controversy
- Press releases and stories about the Cartoon Network—in India! Virtually nothing about the Cartoon Network in the USA.
- Irate newspaper readers writing letters to complain about a disrespectful editorial cartoon (and as a former editorial cartoonist, let me point out that those angry letters are the only reason that newspapers still put cartoons on their Op-Ed pages; without the cartoons, letters to the editor would nearly dry up)
- A software widget called "BabyMouse" that disables your computer's right-mouse-clicks for when you're web-surfing with your toddler
It also, occasionally, gives me actual news about the outside world, and any bloggers who happen to utter Babymouse's name. (We're listening...!)
Thus, I find out about Laura Lutz's Pinot and Prose, which Fuse had mentioned but I had, in my lack of free time, glossed over. Now, Laura's gone and said the magic word, and appeared in my mailbox thanks to Google.
So I take a look at Pinot and Prose, mildly intrigued since my wife and I are foodies (my wife's a winemaker; she works in the Willamette Valley, AKA Pinot Capital of the World), and see this delightful bit that makes me long for the old country (i.e., Astoria, Queens):
When I looked up the café, though, I was bummed to find out that it was located on the Upper West Side. And those of you familiar with the NYC area will know what a pain in the arse it is to get from Queens to the UWS.
Ah, yes. Life in Queens. Known to Manhattanites as Outer Mongolia. I was always astonished that our fellow New Yorkers would take an hour subway ride out to Park Slope, or spend 45 minutes trying to get from the Upper East Side to the Upper West Side during rush hour, but never even think of taking a 10-minute subway ride to Astoria. I wonder what neighborhood Laura's in?
For you Queens expats, let me share a delightful recipe with you: via the Food Network, a recipe by Cat Cora (yes, the Iron Chef) for Avgolemeno, or chicken soup with egg-lemon sauce. It's nearly a dead-ringer for the killer chicken soup we used to get at Uncle George's on Broadway. My only alterations: add some carrots, and let it chill overnight. It was much more Astoria-ish on Day 2.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
I certainly spent my fair share of time at the arcade and in front of the old Atari 2600 as a youth. (I still have the family Atari in my possesion, something which causes great acrimony between me and my sister—or maybe it's just her husband, who's a video-game designer...) But, even with my 1980s video game street cred, I think the following is a horribly dumb idea:
Joust is going to be made into a graphic novel and a movie.
That's right. A video game about knights jousting on the back of flying ostriches over a pit of molten lava is somehow a story. Personally, I'm holding out for the Yars' Revenge movie. (They already created a comic book to accompany the game, so that base is covered.)
Friday, August 31, 2007
Ja, Babymouse has made the leap to Germany, as well!
I haven't seen a real live copy of the book, yet, just the promotional materials. But I can see already that reading the German version aloud is going to be as much fun as reading the Italian version:
The books are put out by the fabulous Bloomsbury and translated by the German children's author Zoran Drvenkar, whose quote on the promotional sheet translates roughly as:
Each Babymouse story is like an enormous chocolate box, in which, aside from the chocolates, are also found film clips and literature quotations. Great fun—without any toothache!
The German versions of Babymouse: Queen of the World (Babymouse: Königin der Welt!) and Babymouse: Our Hero (Babymouse: Unsere Heldin) are available via Amazon.de.
LATE ADDITION (9/19/07): I was just checking up on the German Amazon page (I couldn't remember if the book was out yet, or not) and did a quick Babelfish translation. Apparently, Babelfish thinks that my name translates as "Matthew cross-beam."
Thursday, August 30, 2007
It's finally arrived at my door, so I can now share the news: Jenni and I have 2 pieces in the September/October 2007 issue of The Horn Book. The special issue is entitled "Boys and Girls;" a bunch of us author-y types write about "how one's gender affects one's reading" (as Roger Sutton says in his opening editorial).
We have a 2-page spread called "Jenni vs. Wonder Woman!" and also a little something for the "Cadenza" at the end of the book. Read! Laugh! Be informed! Etc.!
Friday, August 24, 2007
Much as bloggers spend much of their free time peeking at their site stats, authors sneak peeks at Amazon.com sales rankings. But it's cumbersome to go to Amazon over and over, and then scroll down the page to find the number—especially if you're tracking more than one book title.
There used to be a web site that tracked these numbers for you. It was originally called Amazonscan, and then (presumably due to a cease-and-desist letter) changed its name to Junglescan. Then it died out, whether due to lack of interest or legal action (I don't think Amazon liked the idea that people would take info. from their site without requiring users to visit the site in person).
Now, with Amazon trying to leverage its programming guts to financial advantage (they have all sorts of programming/application stuff available to web developers, and are also selling online storage for mere pennies), they have apparently given the OK to the team of folks that's running Titlez.com to resurrect the Junglescan idea.
This means that neurotic authors can now set up a list of all of their titles, and check in on the Amazon rankings every day. (Or several times a day.)
You can also look at a historical chart of the book's rankings:
(Guess which day was the Newbery announcement?)
Anyhow, I just think it's neat. Fellow authors, welcome to your new nightmare. Get checking those titles.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Stay with me on this one. The meta-humor is thick and forbidding, and those unfamiliar with the reams of back story may not get it. (I'm a little bit outside of this culture—that's right, I'm, unbelievably, not geeky enough—so I had to do some research myself.)
Most of you should know about leetspeak and gamerspeak and the horrible abbreviations people use and abuse online. I'm talking about things like:
LOL = I'm laughing out loud!
OMG = Oh my God!
ROTFLMAO = I'm rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off!
The aforementioned abuse gave rise to leetspeaking haxorz (hackers ... actually "h4x0rz" is probably the truly leet way to type it) to start mocking such abusers by creating things like:
ZOMG!!!! = Oh My God!!!!! No, Really!!! I really, really, am super-excited about something, see??? I put in a "Z" before it!!!
teh = "The," but since this common typo appears so frequently online, it's funny to put it in deliberately ("Teh book Babymouse: Rockstar r0x0rz teh s0x0rz," etc.)
Then you have a whole school of gamerspeak going on, brought about by those multiplayer online shooters where fellow players can type messages to each other. (Nowadays, I guess, everyone can talk to each other on headsets.) So you have things like:
im in ur base, killing ur d00dz = while you were busy doing something else in the game, I infiltrated your seemingly secure fortress, and I am now in the process of slaughtering all of your reserve units, and there's little you can do to stop it
OK. Still with me? Now, you've got your weird Photoshop art, some of which is little more than a funny photo of an animal with a weird caption. Such as this famous owl. From this came the LOLcats. People started captioning cat photos, and often uploaded them all for others to see on Saturday (Caturday). So some geniuses who saw this ridiculous photo:
created icanhascheezburger.com as a place to compile all of these LOLcats.
That's where the story should end. But it doesn't.
Another maniac, named Adam Koford, decided to spend a good portion of his life in creating a faux-Krazy-Kat-era comic strip called "The Original Laugh-Out-Loud Cats." It stars two hobo cats, and plays off the LOLcats meme. It's quite brilliant, but the most disturbing thing is just how good Koford's technique is. He apparently makes his living as an illustrator and does work with American Greetings, but I'm here to say:
EDITORS—SIGN ADAM KOFORD TO A BOOK DEAL.
The man is talented and funny, and he should be getting more than the $20 for which he sells each LOLcats strip.
I'm now the proud owner of #173:
I urge you all to read through the complete collection at Flickr.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Here's a little Halloween treat for everyone—a bit early, granted. It's the first thumbnail sketch from the sketchbook for Babymouse #9 ... which will have a Halloween theme.
Will it make it to the final book? Who can say. Now, you only have to wait another year or so to find out. (After all, you have to read Skater Girl and Puppy Love first!)
In Olde New York, they have a Summer Reading web site to encourage said reading and to help folks choose and discuss age-appropriate books (Birth to 5, Kids, Teens, Adults).
The site's users also write reviews of books they've read, which can be very enlightening when kids are doing the reviewing. (Or rather, being forced to write reviews. At least that's the impression I get from reading through them all. I envision grumpy but well-intentioned adults looming over them as they type.) In addition to the many blush-inspiring rave reviews of Babymouse: Our Hero, there were also some reviews that make me think that, just perhaps, the kids never actually read Babymouse: Our Hero:
Every Body Loves her she is the towns #1 hero she saved five people in the story.
She first has a bad day. Then one day someone needs help and she helps that person. So she becomes "Babymouse Our Hero".
Baby mouse gets fear in volleyball.So he beats them up. He won alot of tropies.Then later he lost power and energy at playing volleyball.So he got tired and quit volleyball
Then there are the brutal reviews (but at least they're short; the beating doesn't go on too long):
It was bad.
the story was soso because it didn’t have alot of details.
Then there's this one:
BABY MOUSE WAS THINKING ABOUT BEING PRESIDEAN BUT HER FRIEND SAID" NO WAY".HER LOOKER BURP! SHE WAS SAD,SHE MISSED SCHOOL AND SHE WAS LATE.SHE WAS THINKING WHAT IS FOUR TIMES ONEHUNDRED AND EIGHTYNINE.SHE HATES SCHOOL SO MUCH.
She hates school so much! I hope the book's a bit more nuanced than that.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Our paisanos at Salani Editore put out a first-class translation of Babymouse: Queen of the World. The book, which has a sturdy library binding and retails for 10 euros, is great fun to read aloud in an Italian accent. (If only my mother's family had spoken more Italian around her, I might have a prayer of being able to read it properly.) It's nice to know some things withstand translation, such as "Tipico!" and "Stupidi baffi!"
Some things that did change:
- An alarm clock in Italy doesn't go, "Riiinnng!" It goes, "Driiiin!"
- A bus pulling away doesn't go "Vrooom!" It goes, "Brumm!"
- Babymouse's little brother, "Squeak," becomes "Squik"
- "Felicia Furrypaws" becomes "Felizia Zampotti!"
- and "Wilson the Weasel" becomes "Donny Donnola"
It's great fun to see. And there's only one thing left to say:
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
It's true. Even though I drew this picture:
... I harbor no long-term ill-will against school. (Well, not at any of the teachers and librarians, certainly. Any ill will stems purely from my fellow classmates.) In fact, I love, love, love to do school visits. Why? Because kids are the best audience in the entire world.
Picture this: There you are, speaking in front of a conference room full of grown-ups. Your presentation is running a little short. You glance at the wall clock, click through to your final PowerPoint slide, and humbly ask, "Any questions?"
Silence. Some polite shrugs and head shakes. You thank them and leave, and suddenly your host has to come up with 10 minutes of material to pad things out.
Now, picture this: You're speaking to a gymnasium full of Second-, Third-, and Fourth-Graders. You zoomed through your presentation too fast. You still have 25 minutes to kill. (Okay, you were really fast.) You ask the kids, "Any questions?"
Forty-five minutes later, with all sorts of bells ringing, the faculty members are desperately trying to get the kids to stop asking questions so that they can all get back to Math class. Trust me—kids never run out of questions.
What's more, even after I've finished telling them all of the secrets of how Jenni and I originally came up with Babymouse and how we sketch and write and revise and create a whole book out of thin air, I can drag the kids up in front of the room and get them to think up crazy things for me to draw—say, Babymouse as a mermaid. Or a soccer player. Or a lawyer. Or a light bulb. (Yes, those are all actual past requests from students.) And then, just when my stamina is fading, I can call volunteers up by pairs and have them compete head-to-head in a Babymouse draw-off! Who draws a better Babymouse? Boys? Girls? You'll just have to wait and see.
So, if you would like me to come to your school (or library, or bookstore), just send me an e-mail, and we'll talk more. I live in Portland, Ore., so Pacific Northwest school visits are pretty easy. But I do travel quite a bit, and no area of the country is out of the question. (Guam and some of the Territories might prove problematic.) Canada's swell, too.
I hope to see you and your students in a school gymnasium someday soon!
Monday, August 6, 2007
Sounds like some sort of strange zombie that guards the card catalog. (Presumably because those things are so rare nowadays. Um, card catalogs, that is. Not zombies.) But there you have it: LibraryThing, which apparently is some conglomeration of book info. The site has a page on Queen of the World, with some reviews (professional and amateur) that I don't remember seeing before, including this one of the UK edition of QOW:
Clive Barnes, Books for Keeps No. 159, July 2006
"HarperCollins launches its assault on the graphic novel market in Britain with a new departure: Babymouse, a cartoon character with appeal to pre-pubescent girls. In these American import titles, Babymouse suffers some of the usual angst of school life (States side anyway), in feeling not part of the in-crowd and having to face up to the rigours of dodge ball. She endures and triumphs by drawing on the wells of inner strength and true friendship, and by enjoying a full fantasy life, in which she imagines herself as the heroine of a variety of cinematic pastiches, from pioneer western to prison drama. The books are a chunky paperback size, mainly in bold black and white, but with significant touches of pink. The fantasy sequences are really pink, and a pink heart surrounds each page number; but the totally twee is kept at bay by the down to earth humour of the sister (author) and brother (illustrator) team and their appreciation of some of the real anxieties of school life. Could this be the female Captain Underpants? Perhaps. I can’t help hoping that Babymouse’s boyfriend, who’s a weasel, discovers his true nature soon." (from CLCD)
Award & Distinctions:
o Gryphon Award Honor Book 2006
o Notable Children’s Books 2006
o Top 10 Graphics Novels for Youth, 2006
I like that—an "assault on the graphic novel market in Britain." (And let me tell you—the British graphic novel market is a tough battle. The Normans had an easer time.) But I've gotta say, not loving the "pre-pubescent" tag. That's a term that should only be used in Health class, in my opinion.
And what does he mean by, "I can’t help hoping that Babymouse’s boyfriend, who’s a weasel, discovers his true nature soon." What's his true nature? Is there some sort of X-men thing going on here that I don't know about? When he reaches puberty (post-pubescent), is he going to be able to fly or throw dodgeballs at twice the speed of sound or something?
Oh—and the best capsule review of QOW ever:
Babymouse discovers Felicia Furrypaws isn't very nice.
Friday, August 3, 2007
I guess when you're a cartoonist, there's no avoiding countless caricature portraits of real people (or yourself). I have to do a new one for every Babymouse book. I admit it--I'm a sucker for the genre. And, I'm a sucker for the Simpsons. So I followed Betsy Bird's lead and Simpsonized myself, and my lovely wife, Cyndi:
The girls definitely have better options in terms of hair, etc., in my opinion. Plus, I have zero accessories--no glasses, no jewelry, etc., so my portrait looks a little boring. (Or maybe it's just that girls always look better than guys, even in Springfield.)
Thursday, August 2, 2007
A great feature in the latest Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf newsletter, "What We're Circ'ing", gives mad props to Babymouse:
Judith A. Dubin, youth librarian at West Bloomfield Township Public Library, West Bloomfield, Mich., talks about the Babymouse series (Random House).
Babymouse has found her fans! In this graphic novel series from the sister-and-brother team of Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, cupcake loving, pink-heart-wearing Babymouse may be a cartoon character, but she faces the same daily trials and tribulations as most girls. A recent graphic novel display in our Youth Department has spurred an increase in the circulation of our graphic novel collection, with Babymouse leading the pack. Several moms (including some of our own librarians with daughters) have become fans after reading the series with their daughters. A patron even took the time to write us a note thanking us for our graphic novel collection and said, "My daughter has dyslexia and these are the only books she can read from start to finish on her own." We can't get new Babymouse titles in fast enough!
My sister's new book, Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff, is finally out! Even though it just hit the shelves (July 24, 2007, pub. date), the funny thing is, it's been in the works longer than Babymouse. I contributed 3 cartoons to Meatloaf, which I drew before Babymouse was even a scribble on a napkin. The drawings are ostensibly from the protagonist's older brother.
I lucked out with only having to do those 3 'toons; Elicia Castaldi is the one who had to tear her hair out illustrating the whole thing, which is a massive collection of trompe l'oeil artifacts (notes, report cards, IMs, school assignments, bank statements, etc.). You can get a sense of it from the cover alone:
Mel Barber's article from the York Dispatch, Graphic novelty: Comics cozy up to teenage girls, covers DC's The Plain Janes. It raises a point that I, a guy working primarily in a world of female professionals and readers, have often wrestled with: Why do girls read comics? Popular culture is steeped in images of strong, handsome men with superpowers who wear funny outfits and save the world from mad scientists and alien invaders. Boys imagine themselves with Superman's ability to fly or Batman's cool gadgets. And girls? Mostly they're the love interests and the damsels in distress. But DC Comics is challenging the boys-only stigma with a line of graphic novels targeting an often-overlooked audience: teenage girls. The Minx imprint launched this summer with "The Plain Janes," a realistic high school story written by Cecil Castellucci, an award-winning author of young adult fiction. "I don't think girls have the same type of power fantasies that guys do," said Karen Berger, executive editor of DC Comics. "Their whole makeup is less on the physical power and more on internal wisdom, individuality and assertiveness."
Many conversations with my sister, Jenni, have revealed that she, in fact, preferred the male superheroes when she was a kid, because they were much cooler (their powers, their costumes, their vehicles) than the female ones. I asked her what she thought about when she read comics as a kid. For me and most boys I know, you want to be able to fly, shoot laser beams out of your eyes, etc. etc. Do girls want the same thing? My sister says, "yes." But she also reads Shojo Beat and read a heap of Harlequin romance novels through her teen years.
We know girls are reading comics like crazy ... but why are they doing it? What do they get out of it, and is it any different from what boys get out of it?
PS: I just noticed that both the York Dispatch and the Scripps Howard piece yesterday eschew the use of proper title capitalization ... is that over for newspapers, now? Blogs really have defeated the mainstream media!
Popular culture is steeped in images of strong, handsome men with superpowers who wear funny outfits and save the world from mad scientists and alien invaders. Boys imagine themselves with Superman's ability to fly or Batman's cool gadgets.
And girls? Mostly they're the love interests and the damsels in distress.
But DC Comics is challenging the boys-only stigma with a line of graphic novels targeting an often-overlooked audience: teenage girls. The Minx imprint launched this summer with "The Plain Janes," a realistic high school story written by Cecil Castellucci, an award-winning author of young adult fiction.
"I don't think girls have the same type of power fantasies that guys do," said Karen Berger, executive editor of DC Comics. "Their whole makeup is less on the physical power and more on internal wisdom, individuality and assertiveness."
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
One reason I created this site was so I could try to actually keep track of the press relating to Babymouse. Expect me to play a bit of catch-up on past articles, but, for now, here's a new one from Scripps Howard News Service:
"Good summer-themed books" by Karen MacPherson
I've been lax. I build Web sites for a living (when I'm not drawing mice), but have no site of my own (excluding www.babymouse.com and www.hotknifedesign.com, but those include other people ... they're not all ME ME ME!).
Anyway, here's the site. I figured a Blogger account would be relatively easy to put together and maintain and might actually get spidered by search engines. Plus, as a Web designer, I really need to become more familiar with all of these off-the-shelf options.
Enjoy! More to come, naturally.