Heidi MacDonald, PW’s queen of comics blogging, recently wrote about an interesting phenomenon: comics fans pushing old favorites (like Superman) on kids in lieu of more age and reading level-appropriate comics (like TOON Books). She laments:
“From where I sit, it’s pretty obvious that book publishers haven’t really figured out how to do kids graphic novels.”
This got us thinking about a misunderstanding we keep running into.
Kids comics =/= kids graphic novels
You wouldn’t give a five-year-old a copy of Wuthering Heights, just as you wouldn’t give him or her a copy of Watchmen. I had a librarian come up to the TOON Book table at the NYC School Librarian Conference, and tell me that she had a 1st grader who wanted to check out a “graphic novel” adaptation of Macbeth. He thought it would be “easy” because of the illustrations. She handed him a TOON Book instead.
“The TOON Books are marketed as kid books, NOT as graphic novels,” our editor Françoise Mouly says. “It’s a crucial distinction. They will be discovered, bought, recommended by parents, teachers, librarians, NOT by comics fans. They are 100% targeted to parents of kids who are learning to read, and completely uninteresting to 99.99% of comics fans. Parents, teachers and librarians are the ones for which we publish.”
Timothy Callahan, reviewing Art Spiegelman’s Jack and the Box for ComicBookResources.com, wrote, “…without my seven year-old son’s input, I’m not sure I would have given this book three and a half stars. From my jaded perspective, the book looks too simple, even for a child.”
At the end of the day, we’re not publishing for Timothy Callahan. We’re publishing for his son.