Monday, November 16, 2009

Tote that bag! Lift that book!

Jarrett has some pics of a nice tote bag that Random House and the folks at Perma-Bound teamed up to create. It features a bunch of nutty RH graphic novel characters, including LUNCH LADY and BABYMOUSE.

If you're a teacher that plans to be at the NCTE conference in Philly this week (where Jenni, Jarrett, and I will be talking Graphic Novels), you just might pick one up so you can haul your loot around!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Comic Books Are Good for Kids ... so says SCIENCE!

Always nice to see a headline like this:

Comic books are good for children's learning
Parents should not "look down" on comics as they are just as good for children as reading books, a new study claims.

I haven't seen the research itself, and of what it consisted--unfortunately, all articles about it just mention the conclusions, not how it was actually conducted. Hopefully, it's solid enough that people take notice!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A peek into how DC remastered the Watchmen

When you work with a program like Adobe Photoshop for hours and days and weeks and years, sometimes you have nightmares about it. But the sorts of horrible imaginings that make me break out into a cold sweat? They are other people's typical day at work.

To wit, (via Blog@Newsarama) the DC artists who had to remaster WATCHMEN for the recent super-spiffy Absolute Watchmen edition.

See all that shading? Well, it all has to go. Because DC's archives are all kept on old film (they no longer have the original art), scanning and reprinting that film can create hideous moiré patterns in all of the shaded areas.

So the artists had to go into EVERY SINGLE PANEL and erase--by hand--every trace of shading.

Here's what it looks like partway through, when the artist was just beginning to contemplate cleaning up the places where the shading ran into the actual ink lines (which, by the way, had to be preserved):

DC pre-press artist Corey Breen recalls:

It was so tedious at one point, one of the three artists working on it, had a nervous breakdown. She just stood up and started yelling, “I’m seeing dots in my dreams, I can’t take this anymore."

Think about that next time you pick up a graphic novel and say, "Oh, it's just a comic book..."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Matthew Holm at Portland COSTCO on Saturday, Nov. 7!

That's right, it's a big day for fans of supersized fun. (And, well, supersized packages of everything.) At 1pm this Saturday, November 7, I will be signing copies of the BABYMOUSE books at COSTCO in Portland, Ore.!

I still can hardly believe that our books are in Costco! See, I am, paradoxically, a big fan of both tiny little chains and Great Big Chains like Costco. I've been a member since the late '90s (the Costco in Long Island City was a like a little taste of the suburbs in the big city; who knew a store could be that large?! Our regular grocery store was only slightly larger than our apartment) with only a sad few years in the Hudson Valley, where, for reasons unknown, there were no Costcos. Sigh. But now, in Oregon, we have Costcos that also sell wine! Nothing better than picking up a bottle of Veuve (at a deep discount!) to go with your barrel of pretzel sticks. (Yes, we have done this.)

Anyhoo, come on out and see me! Get some BABYMOUSE books! Get an autograph! Get a gallon jar of mayonnaise or a 1000-ct bottle of ibuprofen!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Link round-up

No time for real writing, analysis, or any of that fancy stuff, so here are some HIGHLY USEFUL LINKS!

Betsy Bird's (Fuse#8) fabulous walk down memory lane at School Library Journal—the lane in question being Kid Lit Blogging Blvd. You forget just how far kid lit blogs have come, how they've outlived and outgrown the trendy fad of blogging that swept the interwebs several years back, and really established themselves as one of the more (dare I say "most"?) important places in our society where children's literature is being talked about.

On a more personal note, were it not for the kid lit blogging community, I would know hardly anyone in my own industry (outside of my editors ... and sister, of course) and would have exactly 3 friends in Portland. One of those being my dog. (No, that's not true. My dog hates me. Probably because I dressed her as a chicken for Halloween. See the hate in those eyes?)

Also from SLJ, Good Comics for Kids' Roundtable discussion about kids, libraries, and gatekeepers for age-appropriate content. Frank talk about a subject that has major impact but about which people don't normally give 2 seconds thought. (Aren't you glad librarians actually think about this stuff at length before they go to work?)

A rousing good recap of a Seattle Bookfest Graphic Novel Panel over at Comixology. The info. about the "vocabulary" of comics and the difficulty that adults who did not grow up reading comics may have in understanding this "foreign language" is particularly important for any would-be graphic novelists or educators out there.

It makes me think even more about the whole "comics in the classroom" thing, of which I'm a huge fan. I've always been gung-ho on the ability of comics to draw in struggling readers and to help all kids develop a habit of always reading something. But having heard the anecdotes in the linked post many times from adults in other settings, I think the importance of the literacy angle on comics may be nowhere near as important as the visual literacy angle.

And I don't toss that term around as a joke—we're living in an age in which information no longer flows neatly down a page in a single column, broken up by paragraph indents. I'm starting to become alarmed at the number of adults—who are superior readers, mind you—who are apparently visually illiterate or nearly so, lacking a grasp of the basics of visual composition and the presentation of information on a page or screen. Seriously—if grown-ups can't figure out which cartoon panel to read next, how in the world are they going to be able to navigate their way through a newspaper, a web page, a tax return form, or an election ballot?

Quick shout-out

Just a quick shout-out to Portland's own LK Madigan, who had a furious turnout for FLASH BURNOUT, her debut YA novel.

I'm in the middle of the crowd at her reading at Powell's (Cedar Hills) so you can't tell, but there were 50+ people there! Zoiks! (Honestly, I don't think I've ever had 50 people at a bookstore event.)

Lisa, in addition to being a fellow Portland Kid-Litter, was also the first person in Portland to invite me to do a school visit, which was awesome of her. Also awesome was the fact that, while we were out to lunch on the day of that school visit, her agent called her to say that FLASH BURNOUT, then just a manuscript, had sold! (See how it all ties together? That's called careful plotting, boys and girls...)

Catch-up time!

I've been traveling, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, resting up from a brush with a virus, and working like mad on the next BABYMOUSE book, so I haven't had a chance to blog in just about forever.

For starters, here are some snapshots from the fantastic school visit I had last Wednesday at Princess Anne Elementary in Virginia Beach:

A lovely display to welcome me. Check out the dragon reading DRAGONSLAYER! (It always pays to read up on the competition.)

A book or two for me to sign. (The feeling came back in my hand earlier today.)

Then the school's environmental club (rats ... I forget the exact name of the club; may have been a "Green" club or an "Eco" club) came up with these awesome ideas for a future BABYMOUSE title: BABYMOUSE GOES GREEN! Most of them involved Babymouse recycling and/or picking up litter. I pressed them on details of the plot, but they weren't sure. I suggested maybe Babymouse realizes how much waste all those paper cupcake wrappers are creating, and works to reduce her footprint! (But, at least they're biodegradable!)

Tons of ideas.

Here's a nice rendering of the cover.

My absolute favorite drawing of Babymouse.

The club members tearing around the library, trying to tell me which ideas were theirs.

They also got some nice goodie bags (in addition to getting out of class to come talk to me).

An awesome, jam-packed day, with lots of presentations, a pizza lunch combined with Q&A from some lucky kids, and even a surprise drop-in visit by one of the art classes from the middle school across the street! Thanks, everybody!