Publishers Weekly Comics Week profiles Nickelodeon Magazine, particularly noting that publication’s inclusion of comics for kids, often by cartoonists more well-known for drawing idiosyncratic work for an adult audience.

“So-called mainstream comics are mostly superheroes,” explained Nickelodeon Magazine senior editor Chris Duffy. “Comic-strip humor is a little too staid these days. I think you see so many ‘surprising’ cartoonists in Nickelodeon Magazine,” Duffy said, “because those [comics artists] labeled ‘alternative’ often have the freewheeling, anarchic sensibility that 10-year-olds like.”

Cartoonists who have contributed to the magazine’s regular “Comic Book” section include Jason Shiga, Sam Henderson, Jason Lutes, Jeff Czekaj and Sara Varon, among many others.

 
 

The 2008 Youth Media Awards were announced this morning at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Among the esteemed winners was The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, a heavily illustrated mixed media book which won the Randolph Caldecott Medal. The John Newbery Medal was given to Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, given annually to books for emerging readers, went to Mo Willems for There Is a Bird on Your Head! A full list of honored books is available online.

 
 

TOON Books Editorial Director Françoise Mouly appeared on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss educational uses of comics. Lehrer and Mouly were joined by Michael Bitz, founder of the Comic Book Project at Columbia University, and Stanford University’s Barbara Tversky. An audio file of the segment can be accessed via the program’s website or via the module here.

 
 

New York magazine runs a twelve-page preview of Kazu Kibuishi’s graphic novel Amulet, the first in a series published by Scholastic. Kibuishi is also the editor of the Cybil Award-nominated Flight anthologies. Newsarama interviewed Kibuishi about Amulet.

I had the idea to this project about when I was graduating from college. The concept of these kids moving into a mysterious puzzle maker’s house was cool, but I didn’t quite know what the story was really about (beneath the surface), so I had a lot of false starts.

Years later, after I had finished working on Daisy Kutter and a couple of Flight volumes, I had a better sense of how to do the work. And after having been through some tough times with my family since then, I also had something I wanted to talk about.

Seeing as Scholastic was looking to publish graphic novels, and this idea seemed a perfect match for them, I felt very lucky that my friend Raina Telgemeier asked me if she could show my preview material for the book to her editor at Scholastic. The folks at Scholastic also seemed to feel it was the right fit, and now here we are!

Kibuishi has also edited the forthcoming Flight Explorer, a spin-off of the Flight series specifically aimed at younger readers.

 
 

Tom Spurgeon conducted a lengthy interview with TOON Books Editorial Director Françoise Mouly for his website The Comics Reporter. Over the course of the conversation, Mouly discusses at length the origins and objectives of TOON Books. Among other topics, Mouly describes her experiences reading the books-in-progress with groups of children to illustrate the usefulness of comics in developing literacy:

One little boy this week interrupted the reading in the middle and said, “Can I say something? I noticed something about all of these books. They all have the speech bubbles in them. That is all what people are saying. That’s really good, because I am interested in what people are saying. The books that they give us, there’s a little bit of text over here and a little bit of text over there, but these books, it’s all about what people are saying.” This is like, “Wow, I’m going to hire you as my literary critic here.” [laughter]

They clearly respond to it. They think of it as something for them. Many, many, many kids grow up without any print around. There are no books, there’s no magazines, there’s no comic books at home. At school they’re told they have to learn to read or they’re an idiot. The books that are put in front of them are on two sides of a divide. These are the picture books and these are for babies… they are supposed to grow out of this. They are supposed to learn to read god knows how and then get to the point where they can read without pictures. They’re to get beyond needing pictures. A couple of the kids look at our books and say, “These are chapter books?” And I say yes. That’s one of the things I picked up from talking to the teachers. That the process is for the child to become so literate that he actually doesn’t need the pictures anymore and he can read a chapter book. By definition, they’re not illustrated. At that point you can drop the pictures because the kid is literate enough. And for the child, in a way that’s such a loss. Because it’s something they do like, and it’s easy and natural for them.

 
 

Also of note in recent New York Times coverage of kids’ comics: the illustration accompanying Times reader response to the original piece was drawn by cartoonist Brian Ralph.

Ralph, a Fort Thunder alumnus, has drawn a variety of comics for different age groups including the all-ages-friendly wordless graphic novel Cave-In, a series of one-page comics called Reggie 12 for Giant Robot, and various work for Nickelodeon Magazine.

 
 

Finalists have been announced for the 2007 Cybil Awards, the online awards for children’s and young adult literature chosen by bloggers. These include finalists for the graphic novel category, which breaks down as follows:

Teen/Young Adult

  • The Arrival, by Shaun Tan
  • Flight Vol. 4, edited by Kazu Kibuishi
  • Laika, by Nick Abadzis
  • The Plain Janes, by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
  • The Professor’s Daughter, by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert

Elementary/Middle Grade

  • Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin
  • Babymouse #6: Camp Babymouse, by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
  • The Courageous Princess, by Rod Espinosa
  • Robot Dreams, by Sara Varon
  • Yotsuba&! Vol. 4, by Kiyohiko Azuma

A full list of graphic novel nominees, submitted by readers, can also be found on the award’s website. Cybil Award winners will be announced on February 14.

 
 


Brian Ralph, previously mentioned on this blog, contributes part one of a comic strip-form drawing tutorial to the First Second website. Ralph is developing a book project with the publisher and also teaches comics and illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

 
 
The New York Times Editorial Board follows up the paper’s previous piece on comics in the classroom with an editorial endorsement:

Teachers are finding it easier to teach writing, grammar and punctuation with material that students are fully invested in. And it turns out that comic books have other built-in advantages. The pairing of visual and written plotlines that they rely on appear to be especially helpful to struggling readers. No one is suggesting that comic books should substitute for traditional books or for standard reading and composition lessons. Teachers who would once have dismissed comics out of hand are learning to exploit a genre that clearly has a powerful hold on young minds. They are using what works.

 
 

Anne Levy notes that during the behind-the-scenes conversation informing the Cybil Awards, there had been some discussion of the distinction between picture books an comics. Levy points towards some further consideration of this topic on the “Oz and Ends” blog by J. L. Bell as part of a series of posts dubbed “Comics and Non-Comics Week.” Bell particularly notes the way that Scott McCloud claims certain picture books as “comics” in his book Understanding Comics and quotes extensively from cartoonist Dylan Horrocks’s essay about McCloud’s book.

Bell continues his discussion in subsequent installments, drawing a distinction between pages and page spreads, noting the primacy of the page turn as a narrative device in picture books, the density of both repetition and variety in comics pages versus picture book pages (using Art Spiegelman’s Maus as an instructive example), and the inclusion of visually narrative devices such as speech balloons and sound effects in comics, among other topics.