Tuesday, December 30, 2008

General rules for villains

Betsy's review of Fiendish Deeds over at Fuse#8 includes this fun rumination:

The general rule when it comes to villains is that if there is a mayor in a children's book, they are a bad mayor. This is always true unless A) The mayor is the hero's dad or B) The mayor is the hero. The same rule often applies to principals of schools. And the usual crime committed by mayors? City development, of course. You probably saw it in Hoot where it threatened endangered owls and in Highway Cats where it threatened felines. In this case the redevelopment would threaten only the residents of a bog, but it's still seen as a pretty underhanded act. Sex scandals and graft are difficult to impossible to work into children's middle grade novels, so good old nepotism and illegal development often have to do the job instead.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Heh. The prescient Bill Watterson.

"Calvin and Hobbes on the Big 3 Bailout." 'Nuff said.

Parkersburg News and Sentinel: More Best Books of 2008

Over at the Parkersburg News and Sentinel (and at Amy's Book Nook), columnist Amy Mendenhall listed her own "Best Books of 2008," in a wide variety of categories:


Graphic Novel: "Incognegro" by Mat Johnson (DC Comics). This might be a graphic novel, but it got literary acclaim for its story about racism and identity in the early 20th century as a light-skinned African-American man goes undercover to cover lynchings going on in the South for his newspaper.

Kids - Preschool: "The Pigeon Wants a Puppy" by Mo Willems (Hyperion). Somehow this got left out of a column, and I still don't know why as my kids loved it and I've had to read it over and over. The famous Pigeon who wants to drive the bus now wants a puppy. But the puppy is a bit larger than he expected... It's funny and cute and I haven't gone crazy reading it multiple times, which is always a good sign.

Kids - Middle Grade: "Babymouse: Puppy Love" by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House). The irrepressible mouse is back, and this time wants a pet. But pets aren't working out so well for her, they tend to disappear. So when she finds a lost dog, she decides to take care of it. This series is always a hit at my house.

Kids - Teen: "Stealing Heaven" by Elizabeth Scott (HarperTeen). A young professional thief who works with her mother finds a summer romance the possibility of life on the straight and narrow after befriending a "mark" and a cop. This book sucks you in with its story of becoming your own person and is good for both teens and adults.

Literary: "Home School" by Charles Webb (St. Martin's Press). The author of "The Graduate" delivers the sequel more than 30 years later in a sharp, firecracker of a book that tells what happened to Ben, Elaine, and the infamous Mrs. Robinson.

Wow--really? Were people looking for a sequel to The Graduate?


Paranormal: "Souless" by Christopher Golden (MTV Books). This book, in which teens and college students struggle to survive after a group of mediums try to contact ghosts and end up bringing zombies instead, wins for me because it has to do with zombies, terrified me, and I still loved it and am forcing friends to read it. It sucks you in and will keep you up all night reading and probably give you some nightmares after.

Ooh! Zombies!

Paranormal Romance: "Eternal Pleasure" by Nina Bangs (Dorchester). A woman falls in love with an immortal who is charged with making sure an evil race doesn't break into our world to destroy it. Sure, there are the usual vampires, werewolves and warlocks that make an appearance, but what wins me over is the dual-souled main characters, whose last bodies they inhabited were...dinosaurs. It is unusual and it works brilliantly. My only question is when does the next book come out?

Romance: "Queen of Babble Gets Hitched" by Meg Cabot (William Morrow). A New York dressmaker is set to marry the man of her dreams but is torn between two guys and tries to figure out who her heart belongs to with the help of her crazy friends and family members. This wins hands down for me, because Cabot took a plotline that I usually dislike and turned it into gold.

Science-Fiction: "The Host" by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown). Sure, she's getting all of the attention because of that OTHER series, but this book combines science-fiction with a tense thriller setting and a bit of romance in a story about what happens after an alien invasion has almost completely taken over the world by inhabiting the humans' bodies.

Another Stephenie Meyer book in the world? Oy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

More on the "top titles" of graphic noveldom

My last post ended with a question about the top graphic novel sellers. A PW article had mentioned that "sales of the top graphic novels often run under 10,000 copies." I went on:

Really?? I know the graphic novel market is still small, but I'm stunned that the top titles would sell less than 10,000 copies (I'm assuming per year; if those are total lifetime sales, that's even crazier). I guess the question is, what is "top" here?
Well, I just can't see how that 10,000 number makes any sense, however you slice it. From ICv2's list of Top 300 Graphic Novels, the top two titles each sold more than 10,000 copies in November alone. Granted, these are sales to retailers, who maybe can't get customers to buy them, but... I doubt they're hanging on to them for an entire year without selling them. Are they? Seems insane.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Excellent "State of Comics in the Classroom" article at Publishers Weekly

Laura Hudson at Publishers Weekly has written a rather comprehensive State-of-the-Union type article, "Comics in the Classroom." It covers the current state of educational acceptance of comics, the hurdles still to be met, and the continual game of catch-up that comics publishers are having to play. See, the thing is, comics publishers are basically magazine publishing companies. Only now they've been tapping into the bookstore market for the last decade, and they still don't know exactly what booksellers want (which is utterly different from what comics retailers want and need). They've been getting schooled there, and now they have belatedly turned their attention to the educational market, which--despite the excellent promise of comics in the classroom and the huge amount of advocacy by librarians--seems to be beyond their comprehension.

Most major comics companies are now dipping a toe into the schools market, and while some have made only cursory attempts to reach teachers, others, such as Dark Horse Comics, have worked directly with academics and education experts to develop materials....

But for every [comics] publisher working side by side with educators or attending American Library Association conferences, others have made only perfunctory attempts to reach out. “It’s great that there’s some material for teaching graphic novels, but they aren’t really comparable to what a typical language arts teacher would expect from an educational publisher or trade publisher,” Gutierrez says. “In graphic novels, publishers don’t have the expertise or the money to invest in research or teaching guides. They’re waiting to see if the market justifies that kind of incursion, while the educators are waiting for more third-party–verified research studies.”

New Market a Challenge

The biggest question mark is not just whether educators will accept comics as teaching materials on a broader scale, but whether traditional comics publishers, who only began to get their graphic novels into the general bookstore market in the last 10 years, are prepared to capitalize on the opportunity.

“Comics publishers are lagging behind traditional book publishers,” says Janna Morishima, director of the Diamond Kids Group at Diamond Comics Distributors. “Creating for kids hasn’t been a big priority until rather recently. I think they’re still getting used to the book market, and the educational market is an even more specialized part of the market. They are at a bit of a disadvantage.”
DC, in my opinion, was smart. They punted.
For DC Comics, home of Superman and Batman and, with Marvel, one of the “Big Two” mainstream comics publishers, the most efficient way to deal with their relative lack of expertise in educational publishing was simply to switch to a distributor that already possessed it. DC moved from Hachette to Random House Distribution in 2007.

“This discussion of how to expand our market was a crucial factor when we moved distribution. One of the more impressive things in the Random House package was the systems they have to access the school and library markets,” says John Cunningham, v-p of marketing at DC Comics. “Understanding their needs and how to sell and market to them is an enormously complex undertaking. Plugging our materials into [Random House’s] system made more sense than trying to develop systems of our own.”
Also fascinating is the look at the College-level comics educational market:
Outside of the k–12 level, graphic novels and comics have also made their way into university classrooms, where they have been adopted as course texts in a variety of disciplines. “There’s a critical mass of [professors] who are pursuing this as a study, and they’re legitimizing the medium not only for their students but also for their departments,” says Coogan, adding, however, that many comics publishers doom their chances for course adoptions by their unwillingness to send free copies to professors.

“Comics publishers could be actively trying to cultivate relationships with university English departments,” suggests Aaron Kashtan, a teaching assistant who researches comics theory at the University of Florida. “At my university, the English department regularly holds book fairs where textbook publishers like Penguin and McGraw-Hill market their materials to the department’s instructors. These publishers do this because for each instructor who decides to adopt a textbook, 20-some students will then have to buy that textbook. Comics publishers don’t seem to have come to a similar realization that university students represent an untapped source of income.”

Top Shelf Productions co-publisher Chris Staros explains it this way, “If 100 university courses with 40 students each use a book on a regular basis, that’s 4,000 copies a year.” In the comics industry, where sales of the top graphic novels often run under 10,000 copies, those sales can constitute a significant base.
Two amazing things here. One, that there are publishers out there who still don't understand that, if you want a title to really succeed, you have to hand out free copies like water. And two--"sales of the top graphic novels often run under 10,000 copies?" Really?? I know the graphic novel market is still small, but I'm stunned that the top titles would sell less than 10,000 copies (I'm assuming per year; if those are total lifetime sales, that's even crazier). I guess the question is, what is "top" here?

Friday, December 19, 2008

For Designers AND Cartoonists: Rejected Obama Logos

This is making the blogosphere rounds, thanks to Drawn: An inside look at the process of designing Barack Obama's campaign logo. You see some graphically interesting, though emotionally vacant, designs:

(Looks like something for the Olympics.)

Plus a neat cartoon speech bubble design:

Everyone, it seems, is in agreement that the "sunrise" logo that prevailed was the best, though.

It's always interesting to see which aspects of an artist's work needs to be hammered into place piece by piece, and which ones spring forth pretty much fully formed.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Babymouse: Just Plain Weird

I love to see when parents let their kids read stuff that they, themselves, don't understand. Lord knows my parents couldn't have begun to comprehend any of the fantasy and sci-fi books I was into when I was a kid, but they helped feed my habit, anyway. So it was cool to see this on a homeschooling blog:

... Anybody out there have kids who enjoy graphic novels? I don't recall them being around when I was a kid, but we've stumbled across a couple that mine like. N. just checked out her second Babymouse book. These are just plain weird if you ask me. I guess they're basically about a girl mouse who's probably 11ish years old, loves to read, is not especially talented or popular, and is quite the daydreamer. It's written in comic book form, all in white, grayscale, and pink.
... and to see that she included this in her sidebar:
Books that got my late reader reading for fun...
* Breyer Stablemates, by various authors
* Nate the Great, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Craig Sharmat
* The Adventures of Benny and Watch, by Gertrude Chandler Warner
* Babymouse, by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm

Friday, December 12, 2008

Minx ... not dead yet?

When DC's Minx collapsed, the imprint's flagship series, The Plain Janes, was left in limbo.

Well, it appears that some of that quarter-million-dollar marketing budget must be left, because Minx ads are appearing online to support the just-released second Plain Janes title, Janes in Love (click for larger view):

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hear the New Babymouse Song, "This Is Babymouse!"

Here's another Babymouse treat, in advance of the January release of Babymouse: The Musical:

The exclusive new Babymouse song, "This Is Babymouse!"

The song features lyrics by yours truly, music and production by the incredibly talented Marty Beller, and vocals by Jenni Babymouse and me.

Download the MP3 for future sing-alongs!

Check out the Babymouse Classroomcast Video!

Howdy, campers! Jenni and I were in New York City and very busy back in October. Here is the first treat from those labors:

The new Babymouse ClassroomCast Video!

It's a "Behind-the-Music"-style exposè. Check it out! If you want to embed the video on your own site, just follow the link above and copy and paste the code provided.

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Emily didn't look strange. She looked ... uncannily familiar."

Whoa. I was sad to see the shake-up over at Blog@newsarama.com (where I get 80% of my comics and nerd-culture news), but the new staff has certainly convinced me that they can do the job. To wit, Jeff Trexler's post, "This week in copyright."

First, I learn that the cruel reign of the Bratz may be at an end.

Then, comes the even more shocking revelation about Emily the Strange. I don't think any more commentary is needed, other than to say that the top image is from the 1978 picture book, Nate the Great Goes Undercover, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Marc Simont.

Be sure to read the rest of the commentary over at the appropriately named blog, You Thought We Wouldn't Notice.

UPDATE: I now see that everyone and their mother had already blogged about this. Oh, well. No scoop to speak of. I guess that's what happens when you're on Pacific time.

Hey, did you all hear about the OJ Simpson trial sentencing ...?

Harry Potter Lexicon Dispute Concludes with Worst Book Title Ever

I don't have much to say on the whole RDR Books vs. Rowling case over the proposed Harry Potter Lexicon. The book sounded like a cockamamie idea that was stretching Fair Use way beyond its breaking point. So it was good to hear that RDR is going in a different direction:

... Instead, the company has announced plans to release a new unauthorized guide to the Potter series, The Lexicon: An Unauthorized Guide to Harry Potter Fiction and Related Materials. The book will include commentary that does not appear on Vander Ark’s Web site. RDR publisher Roger Rapoport said the new book “has a new focus and purpose, mindful of the guidelines of the court.” The $24.95 trade paperback is set to be released January 12.


"...Harry Potter Fiction and Related Materials?"

Um ... no offense, but ... hey, RDR, let me guess: Your lawyers wrote the book title, didn't they?

Vote in the Nickelodeon Magazine Comics Awards!

Just saw, thanks to The Comics Reporter, that Nickelodeon Magazine is asking readers to vote for their favorites in its Comics Awards.

At the top of the ballot, you will find BABYMOUSE as a nominee for "Favorite Graphic Novel!" Go vote, kids!

My favorite award category: "Grossest Thing In Comics." (I picked "Wolverine's Back Hair.")

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Library bragging rights

I was amused to see the following post at the Hawthorne Library Media Blog:

You may have heard some of the kids talking about Babymouse. Who and what is Babymouse you might ask. Well, she is the very dramatic and adventuresome main character in this graphic novel series by sister and brother Jennifer and Matthew Holm. There are nine in the series and all the illustrations with the exception of the last one are done in pink and black.

I have to brag that Hawthorne was the first school in the district to have #9 (Monster Mash), which was just released this fall. I was at the Mildred Laughlin Festival of Books at the Stillwater Public Library in October and during a break I was browsing the "for sale" shelf in the lobby. I was flabbergasted when I spied Babymouse #9, as the kids have been asking for it since last year. It must have been a sample the library had received and I gladly left one dollar in the box for it. Now we have two copies, although there is a rather long waiting list, and the kids are anxiously looking forward to more Babymouse!

Love it! Be the first library on YOUR block to get the next Babymouse book!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Graphic Novels Market HUGE! Sort of?

I came across an older article (April of this year) that notes that, in 2007, annual Graphic Novel sales hit $375 million dollars.

The U.S. retail graphic novel market reached $375 million in sales in 2007, according to an analysis conducted by ICv2 and presented at its annual ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference at New York Comic Con on Thursday. The growth came from both bookstores and comic stores, which were both up around 12% over 2006 sales.
Which is awesome, of course ... except when you consider that $375 million is about the same as the (US + UK) first-day sales of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on July 21 of that year.

Baby steps, folks. Baby steps.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

teh Laugh-out-Loud cats r on iGoogle!

For any fans of Adam Koford's Original Laugh-Out-Loud Cats who also use Google as their homepage, Adam has created an iGoogle homepage theme.

It changes throughout the day. Get it here!

Wow! Graphic Novels for Kids DO Exist!

Pink Me's list of Cybils-nominated Graphic Novels is impressive. I'm just psyched to see so many graphic novels for kids out there! When I started four (almost 5!) years ago, there was nothing. Now, it's a huge field! Go, us! Keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pre-Cybils review of Babymouse: Monster Mash at Parenthetical.net

Parenthetical.net has posted a Cybils review of Babymouse: Monster Mash:

Babymouse loves Halloween. (I can relate. My front porch still looks like Halloween threw up on it.) She wants to dress up as something scary and have a party with her friends, most of whom seem to be boys. But her nemesis, Felicia Furrypaws, informs her that, “Everyone knows that girls have to be pretty for Halloween. It’s a RULE!” (Dear women who feel compelled to be a “sexy ____” every year, this book is for you.) ...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

And I am a snake-head eating the head on the opposite side...

Just to turn the Internet into an endless Möbius strip, I'm going to link back to the "Linkfest: Babymouse and book deals" article at SLJ's Good Comics for Kids blog, which links to my posts about the Newsarama interview and Good Comics for Kids' own article on library circulation stats for graphic novels.

I am dizzy.

Resources for students who are interested in getting into the comics business

So, I just did a presentation today at a school in East Islip, Long Island. But it was for Middle and High School students, not my usual audience of elementary school kids (or librarians). I talked a great deal more about the broader comics field, and discussed how one gets into it.

The short answer: There's no magic bullet. This isn't like trying to become an MD or a CPA. It's sort of like achieving Buddhahood. Everyone's path is different. (Except Buddhas get a lot more sleep than cartoonists, I think. Pay's about the same.)

At any rate, though, there are schools out there that have begun to cater to the profession. Here are some quick links for students (middle and high-school) who are interested in pursuing a career in comics.

College-level instruction in Comics, Cartooning, and Graphic Novels:

(Many more links at TeachingComics.org.)

Information about life as a gag cartoonist:
Mike Lynch (1)
Mike Lynch (2)

Information about editorial cartooning:
Association of American Editorial Cartoonists

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New Peanuts cartoons, via iTunes store

The Schulz family has teamed up with Warner Bros. to create new Flash-animated shorts of classic Peanuts comic strips. You can download the first one for free from the iTunes store for a limited time.

I just watched it, and I have to say: It looks pretty darn good. I kept wanting to find fault with the animation, the voices, the music ... but it's all really well done. The actors for the kids' voices are eerie in their resemblance to (or at least evocation of) the voices of the 1960s (and later) actors.

Watching it all the way to the end, however, I was struck by the fact that, no matter how you slice it, the pacing and dramatic arc for daily comic strips just doesn't translate as well as you'd hope to a video format. You're expecting a little more out of the story, but you know what? This is just a gag that was supposed to be read in a few seconds over breakfast.

I'm not sure what the solution to that dilemma is—maybe simply release the videos as a daily feed, one strip's worth at a time? Obviously, the cost of producing video is so much higher than producing print that, to even bother with it, the studio is going to want to make the length sufficient to justify the effort. I mean, a team of people producing a single, 30-second animated strip a day? It sounds ridiculous. But that feels like the proper delivery method—rather than artificially packaging them into a piece that's "long enough" to justify the expense and that, by its nature, falsely suggests the narrative structure of a longer piece, rather than a string of gags.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Jennifer and Matthew Holm interviewed at Everead

Jenni and I were interviewed by Everead:

...What is the best and worst of working with your sibling?

Matt "crashed" on my IKEA couch in my studio apartment in NYC for several months at one point. I always say that if we survived that, we can survive just about anything.

Best: She's incredibly easy to work with, and we have a common repository of childhood experiences and favorite books that help form our creative sensibility.
Worst: She took all of the Peanuts books from our parents' house!
Check out the whole interview, plus a fun Mad Lib we created!

Babymouse: Skater Girl review (by a younger reviewer)

Came across this link via the comments in the Newsarama interview. It's a review at Riverside Reads by "Darren:"

This book is about a little girl mouse who loves to skate. I like this book because there is a lot to read and because it is funny. It is created by the illustrating team of Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. I wonder how many books they have written, because I would like to read more of them.

Babymouse Halloween Costume Wrap-Up

I received some great photos of people (grown-ups) dressed up as Babymouse for Halloween. The first is from librarian Lori Ess:

So cute! I love the knee socks.

Meanwhile, the folks at Random House hold a Halloween costume competition each year between the Editorial, Marketing, and Sales departments. This year, members of the Editorial department each went as different Babymouse covers!

Says editor Shana Corey: "So we didn’t win best costume, but our cupcakes did win best bribe to the judges..."

Anyone else out there (kids or grown-ups) have Babymouse costumes? Send me the photos!

UPDATE: Found a close-up shot of super-rad Random Houser Jim Thomas as Babymouse: Rock Star on the PW Halloween costume round-up page, which has many more awesome kidlit costumes:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Matt and Jenni Holm interviewed at Newsarama.com

An interview that Jenni and I did with Zack Smith at Newsarama.com is now up! We talk about our process and Babymouse's origins, and also get a bit more in-depth regarding our comics influences. We also talk about the upcoming book, and its influences:

NRAMA: And you just had the latest Babymouse come out...

MH: Yeah, Babymouse: Monster Mash. It’s a Halloween-themed, and there is no pink, all in orange and black! It’s been very exciting, and kids have really been into it. And boys like it, because they tell us they enjoy the series, but feel weird about picking up a pink book. (laughs)

And then we have Babymouse: The Musical, which is of course a takeoff on High School Musical and that whole craze. It’s a spoofing every big musical ever, because Jenny grew up in the age of Broadway musicals, and our house was full of Annie and Cats...

JH: We gave little recitals from Grease in the living room.

Why I Vote

There are lots of reasons to vote. But here's my big, simple reason. It has nothing to do with patriotism. It has nothing to do with the rarity and preciousness of the right to choose who operates your government for you, which has never been enjoyed by the vast majority of humanity throughout history. It has nothing to do with our fathers and grandfathers and founding fathers who put their lives on the line so that we would continue to enjoy that right in our own country, as well as grant that right to others in distant countries. It has nothing to do with our grandmothers and great-grandmothers who marched stoically in the streets, looking like scandalous buffoons, to get a right they should have been granted but weren't because it was "common knowledge" that women were idiots. It has nothing to do with the people who were beaten bloody by our own public servants simply because they tried to register to vote.

No, it's a very simple, practical reason. I don't trust that many people. I don't trust that they'll do a better job than I would. I work very hard, and think carefully before I act. I don't often see others doing the same. So there's no way that I'm going to leave major decisions—about my money, about where I can and can't live, about who I can and can't live with, about how I run my business, about the food I eat, about the safety of my neighborhood, about the safety of my country and the way it behaves toward the rest of the world—to somebody else. And that's what happens when you don't vote. You're trusting that other people are better at making those decisions for you than you are at making them for yourself.

Maybe you're a knucklehead. Maybe everyone else is better at making those decisions than you are. But if you're not, then you need to vote.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Some Quick Babymouse Shout-Outs

Saw that Little Willow recommended Babymouse: Monster Mash as one of her Best Books of October 2008.

Also, Linda over at "In Linda's Library" recommended the Babymouse series as a great "First Chapter Book:"

One of the most exciting times in any one's life (and equally fun to observe over and over) is when the ability to read takes hold and the wonderful world of literature suddenly opens itself. Ever since Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat there have been special books just for those readers who are just beginning to be able to read to themselves. There are increasing numbers of really good stories that fall into this category. Older readers still look for these books and remember them with great fondness. I read new ones eagerly and laugh at the jokes as hard as I would have over fifty years ago when I was just learning to read....

Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Jennifer Holm is a favorite with girls (and a few boys brave enough to overlook the ever-present pink) who are just learning to read and those who are confident readers who continue appreciate the humor, some of which is quite sophisticated on many levels. The graphic format means that it is easy to grasp what is going on whatever ones reading level. The stories are full of humor and everyday experiences.

Friday, October 31, 2008

"Babymouse" the Number-one Most-circulated Graphic Novel Series for Kids

I don't know how I missed these articles from School Library Journal; my Google feed of the "Good Comics for Kids" blog at SLJ seems to be misfiring (as it often does on many feeds ... grr ...), because I don't remember seeing any of these entries before:

"Crunching the Numbers: Library Circulation Statistics"

"Crunching the Numbers: Round Robin Discussion"

What are they? Why, they're hard data on graphic novel (especially kids' graphic novel) circulation in libraries, and an in-depth roundtable discussion of the stats. Blogger Robin Brenner is better known as the brain behind the invaluable site No Flying, No Tights. She is also a librarian at the Brookline (Mass.) Public Library. She checked the circulation records throughout Metrowest Boston's 41-member Minuteman Library Network, compiling several lists of top circulating titles, including this:

Top 20 Circulating Titles for Kids (Ages 0-12)
1. Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
2. Bone series by Jeff Smith
3. Warriors series created by Erin Hunter, written by Dan Jolley
4. Redwall : The Graphic Novel by Brian Jacques, adapted by Stuart Moore
5. Tiny Tyrant by Lewis Trondheim
6. Artemis Fowl : The Graphic Novel adapted by Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin
7. Houdini the Handcuff King by Jason Lutes
8. W.I.T.C.H. series
9. Goosebumps series based on the novels by R.L. Stine
10. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series by Makoto Mizobuchi
11. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Peterson
12. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table retold by M.C. Hall (Stone Arch)
13. King Arthur: Excalibur Unsheathed: An English Legend story by Jeff Limke (Graphic Universe)
14. Marvel Adventures/Age series from Marvel Comics
15. The Baby Sitter's Club series (by Ann M. Martin) a graphic novel by Raina Telgemeir
16. Hardy Boys, Undercover Brothers series by Scott Lobdell
17. Hannah Montana by Various Creators
18. Nancy Drew, Girl Detective series by Stefan Petrucha
19. Point Blank: The Graphic Novel adapted by Antony Johnston
20. Avatar the Last Airbender series by Various Creators

Top 30 Individual Titles for All Age Ranges
1. The Wallflower by Tomoko Hayakawa
2. Babymouse: Camp Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
3. Babymouse: Skater Girl by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
4. Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
5. Bone: Rock Jaw Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith
6. Kitchen Princess by Natsumi Ando
7. The Lost Warrior created by Erin Hunter, written by Dan Jolley (Warriors series)
8. Babymouse : Puppy Love by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
9. Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino
10. Shugo chara! by Peach-Pit
11. Bone : Old Man's Cave by Jeff Smith
12. Redwall : The Graphic Novel by Brian Jacques, adapted by Stuart Moore
13. Tiny Tyrant by Lewis Trondheim
14. Artemis Fowl : The Graphic Novel adapted by Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin
15. Houdini : The Handcuff King by Jason Lutes
16. W.I.T.C.H. Graphic Novel
17. Goosebumps : Terror Trips by Various Creators
18. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon : Ginji's Rescue Team by Makoto Mizobuchi
19. Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days by Fumino Hayashi
20. Death Note. Vol. 9, Contact by Tsugumi Ohba
21. Naruto. Vol. 13, The Chunin Exam, concluded...! by Masashi Kishimoto
22. The Cartoon History of the Modern World by Larry Gonick
23. The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci
24. Pichi Pichi Pitch by Pink Hanamori
25. Mouse Guard : Fall 1152 by David Peterson
26. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table retold by M.C. Hall (Stone Arch)
27. The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross by Arina Tanemura
28. Bleach. vol. 17, Rosa Rubicundior, Lilio Candidior by Tite Kubo
29. Naruto. Vol. 14, Hokage vs. Hokage! by Masashi Kishimoto
30. Ultimate X-Men. Vol. 15, Magical by Robert Kirkman

She notes:
Graphic novels for younger readers certainly dominate the top 30 volumes, with about half for kids and half for teens. This certainly shows how much the under-18 crowd is hungering for graphic novels of all kinds! The first adult title in terms of circulation by volume, Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine, appeared at 34, and it was the only adult title in the top 50. I'm guessing this is an indication of how much libraries are not yet serving their adult fans as much as they might be.

The Round Robin article includes this discussion of the gap between the worlds of comics publishers, book publishers, retail stores, and libraries:
4. Bone and Babymouse are also incredibly popular, again something I'm not really surprised about.
RB: I do think it's interesting that Babymouse is so popular in the library and yet, when I've talked to many a comics folk, they haven't really heard of it. When I served as an Eisner judge, and we were discussing titles for kids, none of the other judges had ever seen it or heard of it. This illustrated to me the gap between what comics folks see for kids and what book industry folks see for kids -- I don't think it's willful blindness, but I do think it means there's a pretty substantial lack of information going both ways.

EV: I had the same experience on the Eisner committee. Only one other judge had heard of Babymouse and the two of us spend quite a bit of time explaining that, when it comes to comics, the Diamond bestseller list isn't the only list to be looking at anymore. It had just never occurred to them to look anywhere else for comics information. Robin's right, though. I also don't think it's willful blindness. It's more of a learning curve thing. There are plenty of librarians who would never think to look on a bestseller list for comics info, let alone consider Diamond as a source.

EK: Bone. *sniff* my hardcovers are falling apart one by one. Even the ones with low circ. And it is interesting that comic fans haven't heard of Babymouse. She is the best!

Snow Wildsmith: It worries me that the "mainstream" comics professionals seem so unaware of titles like Babymouse or that they think that stuff like the Marvel Adventure titles aren't a success. I would think selling multiple copies to multiple library systems would count as a success, especially with the built-in need for replacement copies. That also frustrated me (and I know Eva and I have discussed this) about Tokyopop's seemingly rapid dismissal of their titles for ages 8-12. They've canceled Agent Boo and I think others and the stock on many of the remaining titles is very low. We have Josh Elder coming for our festival of reading in Oct. and he said that he doesn't know if he'll even have copies of Mail Order Ninja to sell. And that was a title that ran in Sunday newspapers. If libraries are buying them and kids are reading them, then why aren't they a success?

SR: Most of the titles on the kids list hit that more recreational read category (self contained superhero stories [not continuity-based] and media-related, whether book or tv/cartoon) and not the literary-type or longer story graphic novels. I think the introduction of graphic novels to these next couple of generations is going to be similar to the development of comics starting in the 1950's. Comics were a form of escapist, purely recreational entertainment that was disposable but fans read TONS of it. So kids these days are coming into their library wanting to read comics…and they're going to seek out and grab the first title they recognize so of course they're going to go for the Spider-Man material or Batman because of The Dark Knight movie or Artemis Fowl because they're fans of the book. Eventually this material is going to run dry and hopefully lead readers to something more sophisticated or meatier. Problem is there's very little of this kind of material being published right now with probably the exception of Bone – and Bone had an inherent audience of fans from the past decade who passed it on to kids to read. There just isn't a critical mass yet for this kind of (I hate to use this word but), more literary work.
Finally, it has a call to action:

EK: It would be interesting to see similar lists in other large systems. Not all can run the report though. But New York Public Library, Boston Public Library, or other large urban and suburban systems.... What goes out by them. It'll show us what they're ordering and also what's popular in those areas. How do comic reading habits differ in different demographics?

So how 'bout it, 'brarians—any way to tell us all more about your circulation numbers?

Visit Babymouse.com for a Special Halloween Treat!

I almost forgot to mention this. Go to Babymouse.com for a delightful Halloween surprise.

(It made me jump the first time I saw it!)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Camp Babymouse reviewed by Oz and Ends

Oz and Ends' J.L. Bell is still getting around to reading the 2007 Cybils Nominees! Such diligence! Here's his take on Camp Babymouse:

The fun in the Babymouse books is the trouble she gets into along the way, and for me the real fun is her reactions to that trouble. ("Typical!" is a, well, typical response.) You can't take these stories too seriously, a feeling helped by the fact that the drawings seem to have been done with a couple of Sharpies.
True dat. One Fine Point, one Ultra Fine Point. (Well, the sketches, anyway ... re-done in Photoshop to approximate the look of Sharpies.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Kevin Cannon's 24-Hour Comics Day creation, Blotchmen, is a great parody of Watchmen, full of literary depth, from a William Carlos Williams reference that drives the plot, to cameo appearances that should delight the kidlit crowd:

Yeah, I'm pretty sure you never want anyone to tell Rorschach that you stole his stuff. Magic crayon or no.

Read on for more surprises!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Babymouse: Monster Mash recommended by Kansas City Star

The Kansas City Star's Mary Schulte included Babymouse: Monster Mash in a round-up of recommended Halloween reading:

Babymouse #9: Monster Mash, written by Jennifer L. Holm with illustrations by Matt Holm (ages 6-9; Random House Books for Young Readers; $5.99). A graphic novel by the Holm siblings deals with Halloween costume dilemmas and creatures from the black lagoon hiding in Babymouse’s locker. Babymouse wants to be a monster, but her classmates insist girls have to be pretty. Babymouse doesn’t disappoint — she becomes the BEST monster and has the BEST Halloween party ever

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bad Cartoons

I don't like to get too political on this blog, but I think this subject falls within the domain of my cartooning expertise rather than my political leanings.

Gawker's "Cartoon Violence" feature just posted an entry called, "World's Worst Editorial Cartoonist Shares Wonderful Colin Powell Traitor Cartoon." It's hard to argue with their conclusions:

Hey, were you wondering who the worst political cartoonist in the United States is? We have an answer! It's California-based syndicated cartoonist Gordon Campbell, who took a break from his recent joke-free cartoons about how we are now a nation of communists because of the bailout bill to draw a very special cartoon in which he just colored noted traitor Benedict Arnold black and called him Colin Powell. That is the whole of this cartoon, a portrait of the man who betrayed George Washington and this young nation, in blackface, with white flags, and the utterly insane caption "Benedict Powell... Race Patriot."

(Now, for a GOOD Benedict Arnold cartoon, count on Kate Beaton. Click for larger version.)

PS—Also liked Gawker's piece on the second-worst cartoonist, the New York Post's Sean Delonas: "The Joke So Ill-Advised, Sean Delonas Made It Multiple Times" Awww. I miss the Post. They so crazy.

Babymouse: Monster Mash on the Cybils List!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Babymouse: Monster Mash Hits #1 on the Seattle Times Besteller List

Yes, it's true! Babymouse: Monster Mash is at #1 on the Seattle Times bestseller list:


1. Babymouse 9: Monster Mash, Jenny Holm and Matt Holm

2. Because of Winn Dixie, Kate DiCamillo

3. Bridge of Sighs, Richard Russo

4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

5. Twilight, Stephenie Meyer

Ha! Suck on that, Twilight!

John Ralston's The Hole in the Wall now at Top Shelf

I missed this earlier in the year—Top Shelf Comix has serialized John Ralston's The Hole in the Wall on their site. Much fun if you haven't seen it yet.

Babymouse: Monster Mash reviewed at Pink Me

Pink Me (very appropriate blog name, by the way) reviewed Babymouse: Monster Mash, with the assistance of a young reviewer (Nature Girl):

[Your neighborhood librarian]: What was your favorite page?
[Nature Girl]: The one where her eyeball falls out!
I like the way this Nature Girl thinks.

Here she is (at right) with two other young graphic novel readers:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Scripps Howard News Service Recommends Babymouse: Monster Mash

Karen MacPherson of Scripps Howard News Service included Babymouse: Monster Mash in her article "Halloween books for youngsters:"

-- Babymouse, the star of a hugely popular graphic novel series for young readers, celebrates Halloween in "Babymouse: Monster Mash" (Random House, $5.99). Once again, author Jennifer Holm and her artist brother Matthew Holm, do a terrific job at capturing the challenges of childhood in a light-hearted way. If you haven't met Babymouse, you're in for a treat. (Ages 7-10).

Mouse Guard Publisher Being Bought Out ... Next Move for the Filthy, Dirty Disease Carriers?

Many folks have been talking about how Archaia Studios Press is being bought out, leaving their current titles in semi-limbo. But until now, everyone has failed to mention that Archaia is the publisher of the runaway hit, Mouse Guard, which seems to be the only title from their roster that anyone even knows about. Christopher Butcher at comics212 rectifies that oversight—with prejudice!

I don’t know why everyone keeps going on about this “Archaia Studios Press” being bought out… I had thought it was the publisher of Publisher of Mouse Guard being bought out… Or at the least, The Publisher of Mouse Guard and they’ve got some good French licenses as well. I mean sure, The Publisher of Mouse Guard is publishing other books, and they’re all produced by nice-enough folks and there’s a general level of quality to the line which speaks well of managing editor Mark Smylie. But The Publisher of Mouse Guard publishes Mouse Guard, which is a phenomenally successful indy publishing story, possibly the best-selling indy comic of the past few years.
He also points out that the Mouse Guard collections (the big fat comics with spines) were printed by Random House's Villard imprint, and that everyone is going on and on about how great Archaia's contracts were for creators and the buyout publisher's contracts are probably only "industry standard" (read: serfdom).

The big question he has, is, isn't the world pretty much David Petersen's (the author of Mouse Guard) oyster at this point? Couldn't he go anywhere?

MY question, as someone who has only published on the book side, and not on the periodical side, is "Why not just go straight to graphic novels, and ignore all that weekly/monthly/whatever saddle-stitched world?" Is the money that good? ’Cause all reports about money for creators in the comic-book biz say the opposite.

If there are any traditional comic-book insiders out there (you DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, SLG types), I'd love to know if you think it's really worth it for an established creator to work inside the monthly direct market machine, rather than go straight to the 100+ page graphic novel stage.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Matthew Holm ... that's my name! Don't wear it out.

I just recorded the pronunciation of my name for TeachingBooks.net, a site which has many authors pronouncing their names and giving little stories or mnemonics about them.

You wouldn't think people could mess up "Holm." You'd be very, very wrong.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Babymouse: Monster Mash Reviewed by The Horn Book

A lovely review of Babymouse: Monster Mash in the latest issue of The Horn Book:

Elementary spooks

This Halloween season, there’s no shortage of spooky stories for your grade-school readers. For starters, check out the latest Babymouse book by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Monster Mash, the ninth cheery graphic novel in the series, trades the books’ usual pink-and-black color scheme for a seasonal orange and black as Babymouse struggles to make the right decision: be something scary for Halloween (what she wants to do), or something pretty (class queen Felicia Furrypaw’s decree). You don’t need to be familiar with the rest of the books to jump right in to this one — but you may want to go back and enjoy the others once you’ve finished it. (6–10 years)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Reports: Jennifer Holm at Urbana-Champaign

Everead reports on sister Jenni's appearance at the Youth Literature Festival at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this past weekend. Pictures, too—you can see here (the photo's a bit dark) that she appears to have been freezing her whiskers off:

Babymouse creator Jennifer Holm

Berkeley Breathed Getting Out of the Comics Biz ... for Real, this Time.

Berke Breathed's Opus Sunday comic is coming to an end next month. I would mourn, but I really haven't read his stuff since Bloom County folded. Bloom County, of course, is one of my top influences. Hmm... what are my top influences? In no particular order:

  • Bloom County
  • Calvin & Hobbes
  • Star Wars
  • Peanuts
  • The Simpsons
  • The Far Side
Boy, I read a lot of comics as a kid. And watched cartoons. Yup. Child of the Seventies/Eighties. (I did read a lot of non-illustrated books, too, but they have much less of an effect on my daily job.)

Back to Berkeley Breathed, though. Be sure to check out the podcast interviews that Bat Segundo did with Berkeley Breathed last year. (Part One, Part Two) B.B. talks a great deal about how the newspaper comics page is now the most sanitized piece of media in existence (hint—Bloom County could not be printed today. Period.) and how the age of collective social experiences (say, everyone knowing who the Beatles and Elvis are; everyone watching the same TV show; etc.) is over.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Video interviews with children's authors at the Portland Kidlit Bloggers Conference

Holly Cupala, newest member of Readergirlz, has posted several video interviews on her blog, including a shadowy and mysterious one of me. We tried to shoot one during dinner, but people kept giving speeches! The nerve! Well, at least it kept Holly at the winners' table for the raffle draw, much to the benefit of her bookshelves. This video was shot at the end of the night, in the poorly lit lounge.

Stack o' Winnings

I see that Fuse posted her photos of the Kidlit Conference, at last. Here, then, is my ire-drawing stack of winning books:

Sez Betsy: "What I couldn't figure was why the other tables did not whoop. Whooping clearly attracts luck, so whoop we did."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One More Kidlit Blogger Conference Post: A Special Babymouse: Monster Mash Door Prize!

I totally forgot to mention this yesterday. I created a special Babymouse: Monster Mash gift for the door prizes at the 2008 Portland Kidlitosphere Bloggers Conference.

The prize was a poster ... a poster of which only two others exist in the world—one belongs to my sister, and one hangs in my office (below). It's the rejected cover of Babymouse: Monster Mash:

(Note that it wasn't rejected for the reason you might think—scariness and general zombiehood—but rather because people feared that Babymouse wouldn't be immediately recognizable as Babymouse since she's wearing a suit. And, to be fair, she's not smiling as she is on every single other Babymouse cover.)

Adrienne Furness was the winner!

She picked a plain brown poster tube out of the pile of prize goodies, without any notion as to what was inside. Brave girl! Congrats!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Babymouse: Monster Mash reviewed by SherMeree

Blogger/Librarian (geez ... I feel like I've been saying that a lot lately) SherMeree reviewed Babymouse: Monster Mash over at her blog.

Check it out! It's in among a nice treat bag of spooky books, just right for Halloween!

At 2008 Portland Conference, Kidlit Bloggers Raise Money for Books for Africa


Here's the backstory:

As an author, I automatically get author copies of all of my books (although I have to say the European publishers are a bit stingy when it comes to sending copies of the translations ... but then again, they pay in Euros, so with the exchange rate being what it is, I can't really complain). For example, here's what I just pulled out of my garage:

These are the GLBs—Gibraltar Library Binding hardcover editions. I also get copies of the standard, paperback versions of the books. Those are the flashy ones—silver foil, French flaps, secret illustrations under the flaps, etc. So I give those away to people when I need to promote the book, etc. Fortunately, Random House takes care of every reviewer I could imagine, so I never need to send out review copies myself.

But I'm usually left with a case of GLBs for each book. When I was living in New York, I tried (tried) to give them away to a Brooklyn-based charity that in turn donates books to schools in the city. After shipping them to the indicated person and having them returned after total failure to deliver, I sorta gave up on giving books to local charities.

So I searched further afield, spurred on also by one of my friends' trips to Burundi in east-central Africa (one of the ten poorest countries in the world), when she visited schools throughout the country on a fact-finding mission for the Church of England. The photos she brought back were both inspiring and appalling. Students living and studying in buildings that we wouldn't let people squat in here. Kids sharing iron beds which had metal springs but no mattresses. Everyone she met in the country, she said, was in a sort of continuous haze as a result of low-level Malaria infection. And these were the best schools in that country, the ones with the best chance for the future.

Perhaps the saddest thing was a photograph of the library of one school she visited. It was the biggest library of any school in the country, and it was a single bookcase. I'm pretty sure that I have more cookbooks on my donwstairs bookshelf than these students had in their whole library.

Anyway, things are dire there. Fortunately, there are folks like the Minnesota-based Books for Africa working to correct this problem. I sent them a few cases of books last year, along with a check to cover the transportation costs (it costs them around 38 cents per book to ship them).

Back to the Kidlit conference. When I came to the 2008 Portland Kidlit Bloggers Conference on Saturday, armed with a case of Babymouse: Monster Mash GLBs to give away, I was faced with the reality that (a) There were 70-some people in attendance and (b) I had about 20 books. I didn't want to shortchange anyone, so I decided, on the spur of the moment, to let the market decide (as the economists like to say). I gave away the books for free, but collected any donations people wanted to give in return for a book ($3-$5 was typical) to pass on to Books for Africa.

It was a rousing success. Even when I had to run out to pick up my wife for the conference dinner, people kept leaving donations! They even tracked me down afterward to shove five-dollar bills into my hand, like some kindly uncle at a birthday party.

The result: a whopping $97!

Not bad for people's spare change! Thank you, thank you, thank you all. I'll round this up to $100 and send a check out to BFA pronto, probably with a case of Puppy Love. (I'm sure the themes in Skater Girl would resonate with people in any country, but will the subject matter—ice skating—strike a chord with kids in the tropics? I think I'll pass the Skater Girls on to Jone MacCulloch for her Doernbecher Children's Hospital drive.)

Fantastick Ye Olde Manga

Killer stuff from Shaenon Garrity—pre-WWII Manga, including Monkey Steelworkers and people in Robot Disguises:

(See also the put-upon mouse.)

That's from the manga Yukaina Tekkôsho, which translates as either The Delightful Steel Mill or The Happy Cog Factory. Awesome stuff.

More fall-out from the DC/Minx collapse

Looks like some people are on fire about what they think the comics bigwigs are going to conclude from the failure of Minx comics.

Yes, Minx, DC’s line of realistic fiction comics for young girls that held interest to only a small sliver of young girls that had no reason to access the direct market that it was sold on in the first place, predictably failed and its going to be chalked up as an argument against marketing comics to women.

Because heaven forbid they–as Katherine Keller suggests–actually produce the sort of YA fiction that appeals to tween girls–fantasy.

... Heaven forbid they consider that their assumptions about young girls who read manga may be wrong, that maybe they should actually crack a [@!#$] manga and see what sort of story is told rather than just pump out the after-school-special [@!#$] they think girls like to read and assume everyone with girl parts and the ability to read English will flock to it.

And heaven forbid they look at this failure and compare it to the relative successes of series like Courtney Crumrin and think of what they could do to capture that audience rather than write off an entire age demographic and gender as out of reach.

But we all know they won’t do that. We all know what’s going to happen. Just as sure as my coworker will assume the lack of a scrunchy on my car’s gearshift is due to his mentioning it rather than my personal hair habits, there are people who will assume the failure of Minx is due to a disinterest in comics that results from the pairing of two X chromosomes rather than poor marketing or a poor product.

Yowzers. Sounds like her thesis is that the quality of the Minx comics was also a factor in the failure. I couldn't say—I still haven't read the Plain Janes et al, so I can't comment on that aspect . (There're only so many hours in the day, you know.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Portland Kidlit Blogger Conference: Postgame

Well, that was a rousing day. Here's a quick rundown on the highlights of the 2008 Portland Kidlitosphere Conference as I saw them:

Airport Sheraton: Much nicer interior than the exterior implies; easy to get to; terrible climate control. Look at photos of us throughout the day (I took none; others took hundreds; see how that balances out?), which range from jackets and parkas in the morning to mopping our fevered brows with icewater in the afternoon.

Learned some things about Podcasting and Social Networking that will actually be of more use to me in my Web Design business than in my kidlit life. Thanks, Mark and Greg!

Our table won a LOT of raffle prizes at dinner, and then at the Readergirlz after-party. Ahem. There might have been some ... mixed ... feelings from some of the other tables over that. I'm expecting I'll be able to link to one of Fuse's photos of my loot in the next day or so. Unfortunately, I have to finish drawing Babymouse #11 before I can read any of the books I won.

[UPDATE: The photo is here.]

PORTLAND Kidlit Drink Night! That's right, New York—you're not the only ones who can have a semi-regular get-together! Laini Taylor rounded up contact info. on all of us local yokels, so expect there to be fun, frolic, and socializin' in the not-too-distant future!

Speaking more of conference organizer and Portland local Laini Taylor, I must here confess something I confided to Laini and Fuse yesterday ... until yesterday morning, I had always thought Laini's book was called DREADmark, not DREAMdark. Lordy lordy.

Also, Laini and husband Jim recommended some excellent local Indian food, which we will try in due time. They were stumped as to good local Chinese food, though, as has been everyone I've yet encountered in Portland. Anyone??

Sock puppets. Look to everyone else's blogs for much more on that.

We collided with another conference, one which was involved in some sort of alternative-health-multilevel-marketing-scheme: "Tunguska" herbal mouth sprays, which do everything from pep you up to make you fall asleep within five minutes. (Rather than "Binaca", I suggested "Bi-knockout" as a name.) I couldn't even make up all of the crap associated with this. Just follow the link. ("Adaptogens?") Also discovered that, with reference to "Tunguska," (a) I was the only one who knew of the 1908 Tunguska Event (the curse of deep knowledge of useless fields, like the UFO world) and (b) out of 7 or 8 kidlitters and their spouses, only Laini had read The Golden Compass (which references "Tunguska"—the region, I believe, not the impact there).

I had some rousing success raising donations for Books for Africa. Thanks to all of you! Details on the final numbers and all else related to that will follow in a separate post.

Next year in Jerusalem! Oops, wrong event. I mean DC. Washington, DC. I'll see what I can do about getting myself out that way.

Oh, and one more thing:


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Shojo is old news

The word "Shojo," that is. Here in the States, we just started to hear about "Shojo" in the context of Shojo Manga (via Shojo Beat) only a few years ago, but apparently the word "Shojo" is almost extinct in Japan itself. Matt Thorn did the scholarship here:

The word itself has been used in Japan for centuries, but it didn’t really become “popular,” it seems, until the turn of the century, which is to say the latter Meiji Period. You can read more about the word on the Wikipedia article I’ve been helping to edit. But since the 1950s, the use of the word in colloquial Japanese had declined to the point where now it is used basically as an adjective for a genre of manga and fiction, and also as a “news/legal” word that is rarely used in daily conversation.

... But what really came as a shock to me was the realization that, unless I’m overlooking something, the word “shôjo” now appears in the title of just one girls’ magazine, Shôjo Comic. There are two other extant girls’ magazines (Bessatsu Friend and BetsuComi) that used to include the word “shôjo” in the title, but the one dropped “shôjo” in 1984, and the other dropped it in 2002.

... The “shôjo” peak is in the late 1910s and the 1920s.... Throughout the 1950s, the word “shôjo” seems to have lost the potency it once enjoyed, and was now being used simply to identify a magazine as being for girls. Publishers began to try to distinguish new magazines from the pack, while at the same time identifying them as “feminine,” by choosing titles such as Margaret (from the French “marguerite”, which is what the Japanese call a daisy). By the 1970s, publishers pretty much stopped including the word in the titles of new girls’ magazines. Now it seems all but extinct.

Minx bows out; shelving practices blamed

Looks like DC Comics' Minx division for teens is shutting down. Although there's no full consensus yet on the cause for the failure of the line (a line best known for Cecil Castelluci's The Plain Janes series), a major component appears to be the inability of comics distributors to convince bookstores to shelve the graphic novels alongside YA novels. Apparently, not enough of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants crowd is venturing into the Graphic Novels section of bookstores.

Some trouble was evident back in March. I wrote then:

I guess it looks like DC tried to do both--get girls into traditional comic-book stores and get a piece of the YA bookstore market--and fumbled.
Seems the fumble led to a game-losing touchdown (to stretch the metaphor too far).

It's an interesting quandary—which section do you go for? For instance, in the Children's category, most graphic novels tend to be filed with other children's books, not with the graphic novels. I can think of a number of reasons: (1) the difference between picture-laden kids' books and graphic novels is not as great as the difference between text-only teen books and graphic novels; (2) there are simply not that many graphic novels in the children's category, so it makes less sense to devote a special section of the GN area to them alone; (3) booksellers/parents feel more comfortable keeping children out of the GN area altogether, because that way they don't have to worry about the young'uns stumbling onto the sex and violence that will probably be shelved not too far away from Bone and Owly.

I suppose the dichotomy has helped Babymouse, keeping it where the book readers are, but hurt the Minx line, which couldn't get at those same book readers.

Graphic Novels and Books ... why can't we all just get along?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More filthy, dirty disease carriers

Yup, move over Redwall and Mouse Guard. Now, there's Mice Templar.

(Not for kids; much beheading.)

How to Break into Writing Comics

The number-one question I get from people is, "Do you get tired of drawing Babymouse?"

The answer (fortunately) is no. Babymouse is fun to draw. Wilson and Felicia Furrypaws are fun to draw. I could draw them over and over again all day long, given I had things for them to say and do. Less fun, for me, since I came from a newspaper-comic-strip background, which is character-focused to the detriment of all other visual elements, is drawing the rest of Babymouse's world—making sure sidewalks and houses and hillsides all have the proper perspective, drawing tree after tree, drawing cars (I'm one of those kids who never really drew cars ... I spent more time drawing spaceships), and so on.

The number-two question I get from people is, "How can I get started in children's books/graphic novels/publishing?"

Luckily, someone else did the homework on this one, because my answer isn't very satisfying (draw cartoons for 15 or 20 years with no reward in sight, get a job at a magazine for eight years while doing graphic design work on the side, wait until your sister develops a successful YA publishing career, collaborate with her on a graphic novel series, then wait two and a half years for publishers to begin to show any interest in the graphic novel genre). Johanna at Comics Worth Reading has a four-and-a-half-step-plan to success. The follow-up discussion is also excellent, as other successful comickers chime in with their own experiences.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Killer Superhero Art from the ’70s

Via newsarama, a collection of superhero (and esp. TV superhero—like the SuperFriends, Space Ghost, and Herculoids) artist Alex Toth's work. Boy, here's a guy who could draw:

Babymouse: Monster Mash reviewed by 100 Scope Notes

A rousing good review of Babymouse: Monster Mash by the blog 100 Scope Notes:

... Girls have a whole ... set of unwritten Halloween rules, and in “Babymouse: Monster Mash” we see how those rules can have an impact on your social life. Full of the same wit that has been an unfailing hallmark of the Babymouse series, “Monster Mash” is a graphic novel full of the sort of real-life friend troubles that younger readers will identify with.

... Once I started reading, it was hard to put this one down. Babymouse books have a way of keeping the reader engaged all the way through. Be it with daydream sequences, humorous situations, or moments of genuine feeling, the plot never plods.

The illustrations, created in ink, as inventive as ever. This is the first Babymouse book to forego the pink color scheme in favor of an appropriate pumpkin orange. I think this was a smart move. Not only does it instantly I.D. this as a halloween title, but the absence of pink might also result in more boys picking it up.

Entertaining through and through, “Monster Mash” is a book you should have on hand.
Don't miss Scope Notes' reminiscence of Worst Halloween Costume Ever (Hint: it'll make you jump, jump).

What were the Worst Costumes you folks ever wore? Thinking back, mine was a black cat. Which wasn't bad as costumes go, but I wore it in 8th grade. That's a bit late for a boy to be a black cat, even in my enlightened opinion.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

... and yes, we are living in the End Times

The Department of Homeland Security is teaming up with...

Sesame Street.

No. I'm not kidding.

Now, I'm as much in favor of disaster preparedness as the next guy (probably more so, actually), but ... Homeland Security? This has more than a whiff of "Duck and Cover" about it.

Don't Panic?

No, not the financial markets. I'm talking about the fact that a new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book is being written:

Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer has been chosen to write the sixth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. The new book, And Another Thing..., will be published by Hyperion in October 2009. The Bookseller reports a bit of backlash on the Hitchhiker fan site over the choice of Colfer, who is in turn defended on his own fan site. Ellen Archer at Hyperion negotiated the deal with Sophie Hicks and Ed Victor of Ed Victor Ltd., agents for both Colfer and the Douglas Adams estate.

One question: Why? I mean, the series has ended three times. So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish was a fitting (second) finale. Mostly Harmless was Mostly Unnecessary. Do we really need another one?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Steal this book? How big of a problem is this for libraries?

The post on Babymouse in the Auckland City Libraries made me think of something else:

Stolen library books.

A number of the ACL copies were listed as "MISSING." Presumed stolen? It reminded me of a story my sister related to me not too long ago. She was speaking with a children's librarian, and Jenni mentioned that the Babymouse books were also available in a durable, hardcover, Gibraltar Library Binding. She assumed, naturally, that librarians would be interested in buying books that were likely to survive years of repeated use and abuse.

But the librarian replied, "Oh, no—we only buy the paperbacks."

"Why?" Jenni asked.

"Because people always steal your books, and paperbacks are cheaper to replace."

Flattering to us, of course, but I wonder, librarians—is this a serious problem at all libraries? Is it worse for Children's departments?

Babymouse is big in ... New Zealand?

Google Alerts occasionally brings me Babymouse listings from various libraries. I don't usually follow them up, because there's usually not much more to glean from the pages than the fact that, yes, a certain library has a certain book.

But when I followed a link to Monster Mash on the Auckland (New Zealand) City Libraries site, and then checked the pages for the rest of the Babymouse books, I saw that nearly all of the copies are checked out! It looks like they have 7 copies of each book, so that's 63 altogether for the series. I see that one copy of Beach Babe is available, and one copy of Rock Star. (Another copy of Rock Star is listed as "MENDING." I envision a book in body cast and traction, for some reason.)

So, to the 60 readers in Auckland (and the many others who have placed holds on the books!), you have my thanks. Maybe someday (say, should my wife ever decide to work a winery harvest in NZ) we'll have a book tour there.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sue everybody!

Heh. Saw this post today:

Ashli has been getting these Babymouse books from the library. They are really cute and fun. I should sue the Holms because it is clear to me that Babymouse is just an anomorphic representation of Ashli.

First review of Babymouse: Monster Mash!

Hurrah! The blog, A Year of Reading, has posted the first review of Babymouse: Monster Mash!

I was so happy to find BABYMOUSE: MONSTER MASH this weekend! Now that Jennifer and Matt Holm are only writing 2 new Babymouse books per year, the wait between books seems like forever!

(Aww, thanks ... sadly, though, I need to get SOME sleep ...)

BABYMOUSE: MONSTER MASH is set during the Halloween season. And, the fun thing about this book is that it is ORANGE INSTEAD OF PINK! A fun change that totally works for this issue. And, as always, Babymouse is quite adorable on the cover and throughout.

In this story, Babymouse is planning a Halloween party. The group of "mean girls" (Felicia Furrypaws and friends) want to be invited but they want Babymouse to play by their rules. Babymouse has to make some choices.

I love so much about this series, but this one really nails why I like it so much. Babymouse gets lots of peer pressure in this book-peer pressure to be someone who she is not. Peer pressure to do things she knows are not right. I like this because it is so real--so close to what some of our kids deal with on a daily basis. Babymouse is a character who gives us a way to think about these things. Since I've read every Babymouse book out there, I've become quite attached to Babymouse. In the first few books I think I loved her because she was adorable and unique. And I loved the size of the books and the humor. But in this book I realized, I love the character Babymouse. She is strong and real and anxious and fun-loving and so many other things.

Reviewer Franki's 3rd-grade daughter also has a capsule review of her own at the end—but beware of spoilers!