Looking at Fall 2012: Little White Duck: A Childhood in China (Lerner/Graphic Universe)

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China
story by Na Liu & Andrés Vera Martínez
illustrated by Andrés Vera Martínez
Lerner / Graphic Universe | 9780761381150 | $9.95 | Oct 2012

It seems like every season there's a book on the Lerner list that sneaks up on me and is either utterly charming (see the Monkey With A Tool Belt series) or is completely, mind-blowingly revelatory (see No Crystal Stair).  In the case of this fall's Little White Duck, we seem to be in the middle ground, right in the sweet spot between charming storytelling and pretty remarkable personal memoir. This graphic memoir is based directly on the memories of author Na Liu, one of two sisters growing up in China in the mid to late 1970s.

In later life, she immigrated to the United States and married cartoonist Andres Very Martinez, who encouraged her to tell her life's story, which he has illustrated with real verve.

It's already received a starred review from Kirkus, and I expect we'll see more. Kirkus calls Little White Duck, “a striking glimpse into Chinese girlhood during the 1970s and ’80s.”  Click through to the Lerner / Graphic Universe blog post about the starred review, and you can see some interior pages.  Here's a bit more from the Lerner blog post:

Based on the early life of the book’s author Na Liu—now a doctor of hematology and oncology—and illustrated by her husband–Andrés Vera Marténez—an award winning artist and graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the School of Visual Arts—this page-turner is described by Kirkus as “beautifully drawn and quietly evocative”. The book explores, in eight stories, author Na Liu’s—nicknamed Da Qin (Big Piano) and her younger sister Xiao Qin’s (little piano) childhood in Wuhan, one of the nation’s largest cities, right along the Yangtze. Different aspects of China’s history are weaved into the book—from the “Four Pest Campaign”, a time in the late 1950s and early 1960s when the country fought back against the ravages of rats, flies, mosquitoes, and cockroaches—to the observance of the Chinese New Year—Na’s favorite holiday—a time of national pride and great celebration.

This is already one of my favorite books for the fall. 

my3books' First Impressions for Spring 2010: books for kids from Consortium publishers

Recap: Here's the introduction to the First Impressions series of posts.

Consortium Book Sales & Distribution:  As always, I left this two-day long sales meeting completely overwhelmed with options.  Among the hundreds of new titles that will be coming out from the more than 100 indie publishers that are distributed by Consortium are a couple dozen that I'm very very excited about.

On the Children's and Young Adult side of the catalog (literally - it flips over!), a new publisher joined Consortium for Spring 2010, Enchanted Lion Books.  Two of their picture books are featured below, alongside a graphic novel collection of Trickster tales from Fulcrum Publishing.

The Chicken Thief
by Beatrice Rodriguez
Enchanted Lion Books (Consortium) | 9781592700929 | $14.95 | Apr 2010

Perhaps the sweetest & funniest picture book I've seen in a long time, it's the wordless epic of a fox who snatches a hen from the yard where she lives and runs off with her.  Bear, rabbit and rooster make chase, but after a surprising number of twists in the tale, it's a happy ending for all involved.


The Wild Daydreams of a Solitary Hamster
by Astrid Desbordes
illustrated by Pauline Martin
Enchanted Lion Books (Consortium) | 9781592700936 | $17.95 | May 2010

With understated humor and a very clear line indeed, young readers encounter a graphic novel-format picture book about a Hamster whose interactions with the other animals who are his friends gently illuminate the meaning of life, the life of the mind, and the nature of friendship.  Naturally, it's translated from the French.


Trickster: Native American Tales
edited by Matt Dembicki
Fulcrum Publishing (Consortium) | 9781555917241 | $22.95 | June 2010

More than 20 trickster tales, each retold and illustrated by different Native American storytellers working with selected illustrators.  Here's a sample page from one of the tales, Coyote And The Pebbles.


Consortium on Facebook & on Twitter.  Their Spring catalog can be downloaded in two parts here: Adult & Kids.

Enlightenment in the Copyright Page, Or, Three Author/Illustrator Treats From Kids Can Press, Fall 2009

Contributing Editor Angela Sherrill (of incredible Chicago bookstore 57th Street Books) returns with a look at three charming books in the Fall 2009 catalog from Kids Can Press.  Angela's last post on my3books was a look at the Pink Cheeks of David Roberts.

I love the details in a copyright page.  Even when I have no idea what some of them mean.  If you really want the details and history of copyrights, rest assured that the U.S. Copyright Office has a horridly boring website where you can fall asleep while browsing.

What initially caught my attention on the copyright pages of these three Kids Can books were the illustration methods.  I'll spare you the wonder of the font names and let you explore those on your own time.  Here, we're looking at three examples of author/illustrators that do both and do it well.  They are all on the Fall 2009 list from Kids Can Press and available now.


Have I Got A Book For You!
by Melanie Watt
Kids Can Press | 9781554532896 | $16.95 | Aug 2009

From the copyright page: “The artwork in the book was rendered in charcoal pencil and assembled digitally.”

If you don’t love Melanie Watt already, you have missed out on years of enjoyment, so don’t wait another day to join in the fun.  Booksellers, librarians and families all over the continent have been laughing at and with Scaredy Squirrel.  His fearful antics and preparedness tactics are endlessly funny. 

Melanie’s newest character is no Scaredy Squirrel, but the book is a loony treat all its own.  Meet Mr. Al Foxword as he tries to sell you a book. This book, in fact.  Al's suits and desperate smile leave much to be desired.  If nothing else, Al Foxword is enthusiastic. You should be, too, when you read this book. I insist you give this one the proper treatment by reading it aloud in your best enthusiastic-infomercial or used-car-salesmen voice. Whatever you do, don’t skip to the end.  Read it through properly and enjoy this flim-flam fox. He's got a few tricks up his polyester sleeves.  

By the way, Melanie knows this is one ridiculously silly book.  Check that copyright page again for her dedication.


Big Bear Hug
by Nicholas Oldland
Kids Can Press | 9781554534647 | $16.95 | Sept 2009

From the copyright page: “The artwork in this book was rendered in Photoshop.”

The illustrations make this book look like a cartoon, but the message is bit more serious than your typical bear-centric cartoon. First of all, this bear is a real sweetheart.  He hugs (read loves) everything in the forest.  But even the patience of this furry and lovable creature is tested when an overweight and empty-headed woodcutter comes into the picture. What results is a message of tolerance that trumps the “green” message we've come to expect.

I wouldn't have suspected myself to be a fan of a “green”, Photoshop-ed picture book, but this one surpassed all my expectations.  Thanks to that handy copyright page, I must confront my prejudice against illustrations rendered without the artistic tools of the previous millennium and allow that for some artists “the medium is transcended by a powerful sense of vision.

And if we check that copyright page again for Oldland's dedication, we'll see that he did indeed have a vision — it came from his mother.


Binky the Space Cat
by Ashley Spires
$7.95, 9781554533091, 2009

From the copyright page: “The artwork in the book was rendered in ink, watercolor and cat fur.”

The world of children's picture books is not lacking in space traveling animals.  Whether they reference historical space trips such as Laika and Ham, or purely imaginative one such as Green Wilma or David Carter's bugs

What makes Binky so wonderful in the world of well-traveled fictional characters?  Maybe it's that unique mixture of ink, watercolor and cat fur? I think it's the wacky shape of his head and the deft hand of talented illustrator.  But who am I?  I can't write OR draw!

The Final Word:  If it's a wonderful little press like Kids Can, go ahead and check the copyright page every once in awhile.  You might find enlightenment there.

-- Angela K Sherrill
57th Street Books

> For more enlightenment on Kids Can Press, you can learn more here: web site ~ catalog downloads

New visual treasures from Fantagraphics, Princeton Architectural Press & Chronicle Books

OK, having got that little throat-clearing end-of-summer group hug out of the way, I'm free to talk about three of the cool books that recently arrived here at my3books HQ.  

I'd like to use the traditional phraseology "landed on my desk", but to be honest, so many books and catalogs and packages come and go here that nothing really lands on my desk.  Also, when you say "landed on my desk", that more or less implies the presence of mailroom staff or interns or something like that.  And I'm usually the only one who opens up the jiffy mailers and book cartons.  

Nevertheless, you must check out these three beautiful books.  I can't think of a single good phrase to refer to them in the aggregate but at least one of them is perfect for the traditional "gift book" section in your typical indie bookstore.  One of them is simply a graphic novel from one of my favorite artists.  And one of them is a book that I would say is a no-brainer for any customer or loved one who is hoping to become a visual artist one day.


Pictorial Webster's: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities
by John Carrera
Chronicle Books | 9780811867184 | $35 | Sept 2009

A visual delight, a word-lover's coffee table book, a fascinating historical document - Pictorial Webster's is all of these things.  John Carrera stumbled across an ancient and battered 1898 Webster's International Dictionary at his grandmother's house in 1995.  He was struck by the quality of the illustrated section: 80 pages of engravings in a variety of styles.

He embarked on a 10-year-long quest to find more examples, track down the original engravings and restore these beautiful images to print.  He ultimately located the original engravings at Yale University, organized their holdings, and then put together a collection that spanned the different editions across the decades.


Carrera published the extremely limited letterpress edition through his own fine press company, Quercus Press. The Fine Press Book Association recently featured a video by Carerra that walks viewers through the steps that were required to create his book. Chronicle Books has finally brought out the trade edition. They're also hosting a drawing - one lucky individual is going to win a copy of the Quercus Press edition. Chronicle is also hosting another drawing with IndieBound: five winners will win beautiful framed posters of Pictorial Webster's art.


Low Moon
by Jason
Fantagraphics Books (W.W. Norton) | 9781606991558 | $24.99 | June 2009

When I started repping for W.W. Norton, one of the special treats awaiting me as a longtime fan of graphic novels was the Fantagraphics list.  I've always been a fan of their particularly lovely bookmaking and their wide-ranging participation in both the history of the field as well as the future of comics.  To be dropped in amongst their riches was like Dorothy stepping out of her ruined farmhouse into technicolor Oz.

Consider this short list: The complete Peanuts.  Daniel Clowes' Ghost WorldLove and RocketsChris Ware's Acme Novelty LibraryComplete Crumb Comics.  Bill Griffith's ZippyTony Millionaire's Maakies.  Jules Feiffer.  Krazy & Ignatz.  I could easily fill this blog with nothing but Fantagraphics books, if I wanted.

 But my most exciting discovery of all has been Jason.  The mono-named Norwegian artist has been a prolific creator and a recent star of Fantagraphics' list.  His "clear line" style is immediately appealing and understandable to readers, and gives those readers what I think of as a head start - your focus and attention can be spent in finding the emotion and the subtext that runs below the surface narrative.

Some of my favorite backlist titles by Jason include I Killed Adolf Hitler (a time-traveling assassin is sent back to 1939 to do in the Nazi dictator, though the mission does not go as planned), and Pocket Full of Rain (a collection of 25 works from Jason's first 10 years as an artist).

He was one of the contributors to the Funny Pages serials in the New York Times Magazine, creating in the title piece from my featured book, Low Moon, an Old West homage that somehow combined gunfights, thwarted romance and chess.  Fantagraphics' Web site features a short video peek at Low Moon.


Inside the Painter's Studio
by Joe Fig
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988528 | $35 | Paper | Sept 2009

Jackson Pollock 1951 (2002)This book began in 2000 when artist Joe Fig began a series of miniature sculptures of historically significant artists in their studios (see the Jackson Pollock sculpture, right).  After two years of working from memoirs and paintings and other source materials, he moved on to a related study of contemporary artists.  As he says in his preface, "my intention was to get a clearer understanding of the real, day-to-day practicalities of being an artist..."

Chuck (Chuck Close 1997) (2000)The resulting book combines all of the elements of Joe Fig's work and his behind-the-scenes research: an interview with each artist (which Fig quickly standardized as The Painter's Studio: An Artist's Questionnaire, seeming to riff on the Proust Questionnaire...), site photographs of each artist's studio space, their painting table, and works in progress, and photographs of the resulting miniature sculpture of the artist's studio by Fig.  In the end, what the curious reader holds in their hand in a guided tour through How Artists Work, told by an insider.  It's truly fascinating.

Fred Tomaselli 2003 (2003)Among the 24 artists involved in this project are Chuck Close, Ross Bleckner, Jane Hammond, Julie Mehretu and Fred Tomaselli.



Twitter coordinates:
Chronicle Books
Fantagraphics Books
Princeton Architectural Press 

my3books: 3 graphic novel series I want to read right now

I had a momentary burst of private, internal nerves at the thought of going public with my longstanding comic book fandom, but then I watched John Hodgman geekily roast President Obama at the Radio & TV Correspondents' Dinner last week. After all, I told myself, if the president can flash "PC" the Vulcan high sign, I can surely go public with these facts:

  • that I grew up a DC fan, mostly gorging on the many varieties of Batman comics
  • I came to maturity on Neil Gaiman's eternal Sandman series
  • I handsold Maus in bookstores
  • I repped Viz's mind-altering manga once upon a time
  • I now evangelize the gospel of graphic novels as a sales rep for Fantagraphics, among other publishers.

Not that any of this will be news to those who know me or who follow my Twitter feed.

Even someone who works with graphic novels and comics daily will occasionally be surprised by a new author or illustrator sneaking up on you, or a series of books that has been running under your radar for years will suddenly pop up into your consciousness. This spring, that's happened twice, and I was prompted by my daughter's summer reading to finally track down a third series that I'd been meaning to check out.


Fables (Vol 1: Legends In Exile)
written by Bill Willingham
Vertigo (DC) | 9781563899423 | $9.99 | 2003

Fables began life as an ongoing Vertigo/DC comic in 2002, written by Bill Willingham. It concerns a hidden neighborhood in New York City called Fabletown, where the principal characters from folklore and fairy tales have come to live. I've seen the regular issues on comic shop shelves, but never picked them up.

The covers for the series (through issue 81) were originally drawn by James Jean, who has recently begun publishing with Chronicle Books, with two new projects coming out this fall: Kindling (a portfolio of 12 poster prints) and SKRWL (a set of illustrated journals in a slipcase). Vol 1 contains issues 1 through 5 and an original short story. (The Wikipedia entry for the series contains a list of all the subsequent collections.) The story arc of issues 1 to 5 consists of the hunt for the apparent murderer of Rose Red, Snow White's sister.

The whole idea of this series - fabulous characters come to real-life NYC, mix with humans, have adventures that span a variety of genres: murder mysteries, conspiracy theories, capers, etc. - is so rife with Gaiman-esque storytelling possibilities that I just can't resist it.

Apparently, I'm not alone. This past winter, ABC gave the greenlight to a pilot for a tv adaptation of Fables, hoping to find some new magic to follow in the footsteps of Lost. There's been a painful silence since that December announcement, but it's an intriguing idea.


Flight: Volume 1
edited by Kazu Kibuishi
Villard Books | 9780345496362 | $19.95 | 2007

This is the series that my daughter Alice reminded me about - last week, she was reading and re-reading a copy of Flight: Explorer Volume 1, which is a sibling series aimed at kids from 9-12.

Although Flight Vol 1 was first published by Image Comics in 2004, Villard Books has since picked up the series, republishing the first two volumes and bringing out three more to date. I remember seeing a few volumes at Anderson's Bookshop when the reissues first came out.

Flight was originally invented by series editor Kazu Kibuishi as a showcase for his own works and those of other up-and-coming writers and artists and animators. The covers are absolutely stunning, and to be honest, all make me feel a little youthfully optimistic. Look at the cover for Flight, Volume 5 (left). To see the list of contributors, and all they've gone on to do, is pretty impressive.

Kibuishi is also the author of the acclaimed series Daisy Kutter and the Amulet series from Graphix (Scholastic).

I'm looking forward to this summer's release of Flight, Volume 6 - it's due out in late July.


Scott Pilgrim (Volume 1: Precious Little Life)
by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Oni Press | 9781932664089 | $11.95 | 2004

This is another series that's been moving right along under the radar for a couple years, but it all just burst back into my awareness with a post yesterday at BoingBoing by Cory Doctorow raving about the series. I could spend a lot of time crafting a clever description of the series, but Cory just does it so well:

Scott Pilgrim is a 23-year-old Toronto slacker who falls in love with an Amazon delivery woman who's just moved from America, but in order to date her, he must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends, who have a variety of super powers (my favorite is the vegan, who has the vegan power of moving things with his mind). On the way, we find out about Scott's friends -- slackers, successes, screw-ups, beauty queens, lovelorn ninjas, a whole charming host of them -- and his history and run through a series of genuinely touching, ha-ha-only-serious flashbacks about Scott's life.

The series looks sweetly hilarious - the Globe And Mail described it as "a Crouching Tiger set in Archie's Riverdale."  There's also a movie adaptation currently filming, based on the entire series, to be called Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Edgar Wright is directing (yes, the very man who brought us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz!) and Michael Cera has been cast as Scott Pilgrim.


Since I mentioned Fantagraphics up there at the top of the post, I can't really leave without giving you a bonus pick - have you seen the terrific graphic novel anthology they've been putting out? Mome, Volume 15: Summer 2009 is just out.