Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Maya Makes a Mess

I don't usually talk about graphic novels for children for one simple reason - my public library doesn't carry them!! When I worked at the Glendale Public Library in Arizona, I had librarians on my staff with excellent graphic novel taste (this book was written by one of my staff) and I honestly could not imagine living in a place without graphic novels for children.  Now I want my girls to begin reading some graphic novels, and I can't get my hands on them - it is frustrating!

One of those series is the innovative easy-to-read comic book series produced by the Candlewick Books imprint, TOON Books.  TOON Books is remarkable for being a collaboration between Francoise Mouly (art editor of the New Yorker  among other accomplishments) and Art Spiegelman, who is a celebrated, award-winning comic book creator.  They have taken many famous comic book and graphic novel creators and artists and have them create books designed specifically for emergent readers.  Comic books can help young readers "crack the code" of literacy - the illustrations and text help guide them from left to right, and from the top to the bottom of the page.  Also, even though these are beginning readers, they are great stories as well.  One of my favorites, Little Mouse Gets Ready, was written and drawn by Jeff Smith (who created the uber-popular Bone series).  The books are leveled, so parents and teachers can tell at a glance what would be most appropriate for their reader.

TOON's backlist is very strong, but there are a couple of books that are coming out this fall that I wanted to draw your attention to.  I am interested in seeing A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse, by Frank Viva.  Last year I read his picture book, Along a Long Road.  What is remarkable about that book is that it was created as one enormous piece of art (from the book: "created as a single continuous thirty-five-foot-long piece of art using Adobe Illustrator").  It had a retro yet modern feel to it.  I cannot wait for this new title from him - I think he will only continue to become more innovative.
But I'm really here to tell you all about an opportunity to get a new TOON books Fall 2012 title for yourself.  TOON Books is celebrating the publishing of the book Maya Makes a Mess with a very fun giveaway.  This book is written by another high-quality graphic novelist - Rutu Modan won a Eisner Award for Best New Graphic Novel for her first published work.  She has written about a topic that is very familiar to parents - Maya, who has atrocious table manners, is suddenly invited to dine with the Queen.  Will the Queen find Maya's manners lacking? I don't want to give too much away, as I plan to blog this soon.  But TOON Books is offering copies of this title to the readers who are the messiest eaters.  I hate to tell you this, but bad manners are encouraged here!!  Follow this link to see how to enter (but basically all you have to do is email a picture - what could be easier?).  While you are there, check out some hilarious pictures of TOON staffers making...well, a mess.  It is a fun way to encourage reading.  If you win a copy, you'd better let me know!  By the way, don't wait to enter - this giveaway ends August 15th.

Watch for my review of Maya Makes a Mess coming soon.  I hope that more reviews of great graphic novels and comic books for children will convince the children's librarian at our public library to reconsider.  For now, look for TOON books at your library and enjoy them!

Little Mouse Gets Ready.  Jeff Smith.  TOON Books, 2009.
A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse.  Frank Viva.  TOON Books, 2012.
Maya Makes a Mess.  Rutu Modan.  TOON Books, 2012.


  1. Why doesn't your library have graphic novels? No money? No space? It's worth finding the money and space, in my opinion. When I came to my current library a little over four years ago, I found one Babymouse title in the juvenile fiction and some random superhero comic collections dating from the 1960s in the adult nonfiction, and half a shelf of misc. titles in the teen area (really random - some Starman, Left Behind graphic novels, random volumes of Fruits Basket...) We have pretty good collections now in juvenile, teen, and adult and they are a big part of our circulation, especially juvenile and teen.

    1. Jennifer, I think it's a really good question - I don't know the children's librarian very well, so I'm not sure why that is not part of her collection development plan. I will say that the teen librarian has done a terrific job of purchasing graphic novels, and has been very receptive to buying whatever we ask for. Babymouse is the other series that I really wish our library had - I just don't want to buy them, but I guess I will!!

  2. Does the library have any kind of a request/suggestion system? We have little purple cards people can write purchase suggestions on. Mostly the kids just ask me though (-:). I don't know anything about your children's librarian of course, but while she could be one of those people who don't like graphic novels and comics of any kind (in which case it's really bad that she lets her personal prejudices dictate her collection development), it's possible she was just never exposed to them and hasn't thought about buying them. Or maybe she'd really like to buy them, but the director doesn't want her to, so if enough patrons ask for them she'd be able to say to the director, "see? I SHOULD have Babymouse!". That's how my neighboring librarian got her children's collection going.

  3. Maya Makes a Mess was originally published in Hebrew - I had no idea it was translated. This is one of the very few graphic novels for children in Hebrew. It's a a very Israeli book. Israelis are a very informal people who like to "push the envelope". This book got very mixed reviews from the 30+ school and public librarians in my county (in Israel). The book , published two years ago in Israel, has a been a hit in my combined school/public library.

    Malkah Livneh

  4. HA! I knew it! I kept thinking the art and style were oddly familiar. I looked at a bunch of Israeli children's books a few years ago and I studied Hebrew as a child and now I know what it reminded me of! Funny how some countries seem to have a distinct style of children's literature (the Dutch go in for unbelievably depressing chapter books)