Shelf Awareness for Thursday, October 9, 2014


Workman Publishing: Dinosaur: A Photicular Book, created by Dan Kainen, written by Kathy Wollard

Bantam: The Forbidden Door (Jane Hawk #4) by Dean Koontz

Little Simon: But Not the Armadillo / Here, George! / Merry Christmas, Little Pookie / I Love You, Little Pookie by Sandra Boynton

DC Comics: Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2 by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Yanick Paquette

Simon Spotlight: Ready-To-Read Has It All ★Beloved Characters ★Exciting Nonfiction ★Award-winning Authors ★And More!

Arthur A. Levine Books: Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older

Workman Publishing: Born to Dance: Celebrating the Wonder of Childhood by Jordan Matter

News

Nobel Literature Prize Goes to French Novelist Patrick Modiano

French novelist Patrick Modiano has won the Nobel Prize in Literature "for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the Occupation," the Swedish Academy said. The prize is worth 8 million kronor (about $1.1 million).

In its biography of the winner, who was born near Paris less than three months after the end of World War II in Europe, the Academy said that "Modiano's works centre on topics such as memory, oblivion, identity and guilt. The city of Paris is often present in the text and can almost be considered a creative participant in the works. Rather often his tales are built on an autobiographical foundation or on events that took place during the German Occupation. He sometimes draws material for his works from interviews, newspaper articles or [his] own notes, which he has accumulated over the years. His novels show an affinity with one another, and it happens that earlier episodes are extended or that persons recur in different tales."

The New York Times said that "many of his fictional works delve into the moral dilemmas that citizens faced during World War II, and some play with the detective genre."

Most of Modiano's titles translated into English are out of print, although that may change soon. Those works include 1978 Prix Goncourt-winner Missing Person (Rue des Boutiques Obscures), translated by Daniel Weissbort and published by Verba Mundi/David R. Godine; Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas, translated by Mark Polizzotti, to be published by Yale University Press in February; Out of the Dark (Du Plus Loin de l'Oubli), translated by Jordan Stump and published by University of Nebraska Press; Honeymoon (Voyage de noces), published by Verba Mundi/David R. Godine; and Dora Bruder, translated by Joanna Kilmartin and published by University of California Press.

Modiano also has written children's books and film scripts, including the screenplay for Lacombe Lucien, the 1974 movie directed by Louis Malle and set during the Nazi Occupation of France.


Flame Tree Press: The Sky Woman by J.D. Moyer


HarperCollins's Brian Murray: 'Book Business Doing Quite Well'

Less than a day after news broke that HarperCollins will publish in languages other than English--starting with HarperCollins Germany--HarperCollins president and CEO Brian Murray spoke at length on the move and other issues, including company support of independent bookstores, at the Frankfurt Book Fair yesterday. He was interviewed by industry consultant Ruediger Wischenbart and answered questions from five journalists from industry publications.

HarperCollins, Murray explained, had looked for years at the possibilities of expanding outside the English-language market and especially into European markets, but never "pulled the trigger" on either buying a publisher or building from the ground up. With the changes in the digital distribution landscape and the global market that have occurred over the past few years, Murray said, "it seemed like a good time to look seriously at how do we expand beyond the English language."

Brian Murray in conversation with Ruediger Wischenbart
Brian Murray in conversation with Ruediger Wischenbart

The acquisition of Harlequin this year, Murray said, has given HarperCollins a globally recognized brand with international infrastructure and a foothold in the German book market, the biggest in Europe; Harlequin's extensive book club program was also an attraction. Harlequin's German imprints, such as Cora and Mira, will continue to do what they've been doing; HarperCollins Germany will launch its first list next fall.

"Harlequin was a really good fit," he continued. "We think the combination [of HarperCollins and Harlequin] will really help us hit the ground running in Europe."

On the topic of the overall health of the publishing industry, Murray was keenly optimistic. He noted that although the book business has in the past been lumped together with other media industries that have largely failed to cope with the rise of digital technology, there is a growing recognition that "the book business is doing quite well. Analysts are just starting to realize this now." Murray also pointed to the very fact that HarperCollins was able to buy Harlequin and begin expanding its reach internationally as evidence that there is a lot of confidence in the book business.

"I think it's a great place to be right now," he said of the industry. "I think the fundamentals of the business are undervalued."

When asked whether the print and digital book markets were beginning to reach a sort of equilibrium, Murray agreed that they were, and expressed no doubt in the future of print books. He said he felt "absolutely certain" that print books would remain a huge part of the book business for "a long, long time." He pointed to the resurgence of independent bookstores--the "reinvigoration of the indie channel"--in the United States as a reason to be excited about print books.

"We are very supportive of that channel," Murray said. "And we will continue to support independent bookstores." One example: HarperCollins's recently announced program offering expedited shipping for independent booksellers during the holidays.

Later in the discussion, Murray pointed to digital subscription services as another positive development. "Subscription programs have been surprising to us," he recalled. "They've served the long tail extremely well.... Subscriptions are very successful at mining and merchandising our backlist and catalogue; it's a surprise how much turn there is in that deep catalogue."

HarperCollins is already at work creating subscription services for Harlequin's lists. Murray was likewise optimistic about the prospects of digital and print bundling, but acknowledged that the right balance for bundling has yet to be found. "There's opportunity there," he said. "Someday that will happen."

When asked if HarperCollins had begun new terms negotiations yet with Amazon.com, Murray said he was unable to comment. But, when asked earlier if there were areas into which his company would not expand, Murray said that there were. "Generally, we represent all of our authors and business interests," he explained. "We tend not to do business deals that would devalue the royalty income and rights and value of their work." --Alex Mutter


Disney-Hyperion: Incognito (Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker #2) by Shelley Johannes

Paulo Coelho: 'Bookstores Are Like Temples'

Last year at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Paulo Coelho was everywhere--his image was on ads on shuttle buses and posters--but in the end, he was unable to attend as planned. This year, his image is back on the buses and posters, and the Brazilian author was able to visit in person.

Paulo Coehho with Juergen Boos

In an entertaining and informative--if sometimes rambling--conversation yesterday with Frankfurt Book Fair president and CEO Juergen Boos, Coelho talked about reading, writing, the publishing industry, books and the joys of celebrity. (The last of which allows him to do whatever he wants, he said, including standing for a while in the middle of the conversation with Boos.)

Coelho, whose The Alchemist has sold 65 million copies worldwide, immediately thanked "booksellers and readers who have made my books a success." He approvingly said, "We still have bookstores," adding, "The problem now is how to defend bookstores and help bookstores adapt. I can't see bookstores dying. For me, they are like temples."

He said there are "two major reasons why people read books, which hasn't changed since books were invented": for entertainment and for knowledge. "Today I see a fight between information and entertainment." Although he said he's not a prophet, he made a prediction: "I believe we will still have books" for many years.

Paulo Coehlo bus ad
One of many bus ads featuring the author

The publishing industry needs to adapt, Coelho said. "If we don't adapt, we die." He pointed to some achievements: "Culture is available all over the world," he said. "The war is won: people can read. They can put my book in an online bookseller and then someone in Africa can read it in Portuguese or Spanish or English."

Still, he criticized a system and "so-called intelligentsia" that overly value "people writing in the 19th century."

Coelho stated that there are "only four stories to tell": the first, featuring two people, is "a love story"; the second concerns "a triangle" (he gleefully referred to his new novel, Adultery); the third is about "a struggle for power"; and the fourth is about "someone who lives in this place and goes to that place," like Don Quixote.

Those age-old forms of stories are being told again and again and in new ways, Coelho said, calling on the industry to adapt to this fact. "We can't go back to the 19th century," he added.

He noted one of his two flops was Manuscript Found in Accra, published in 2012, perhaps a book ahead of its storytelling time. "Every sentence of this book is a story," Coelho said, adding that he hopes it finds a wider audience "20 years from now, as the attention span gets smaller and smaller and smaller."

For Coelho, writing, as with most authors, is about "expressing my soul" and "showing who I am" and "having a voice." If he were to have begun his writing career today, Coelho said, it would be much more difficult because now "everyone has a voice. And when everyone has a voice, there's a lot of noise. When there's a lot of noise, no one is listening."

Coelho briefly discussed his experiments selling books online at low prices and even giving them away, saying that selling many more copies of his titles at 99 cents results in sales 10 times higher than when the books are sold at "normal" prices. "At the end of the day, the profit is much more significant than the price of physical books," he said. In a similar vein, he framed piracy as a matter of price sensitivity for "so-called pirates.... If you can offer them something they can afford, they'll buy it!" --John Mutter


Houghton Mifflin: The Goodnight Train Rolls On! by June Sobel, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith


APA Survey: Audiobook Market Growing at 'Tremendous Pace'

The audiobook industry is "continuing to grow at a tremendous pace," with net sales in dollars up 12% in 2013, according to the Audio Publishers Association, whose annual member sales survey was conducted by Management Practice. The APA estimated industry retail sales at $1.3 billion.

APA members reported publishing 35,713 titles in audiobook format in 2013, more than double the previous year's 16,309 and more than five times more than in 2010, when 6,200 audio titles were released.

Digital downloads continue to dominate the market, with 70% of all audiobooks sold being in digital format. Downloads represented 62% of net sales in 2013, compared to 54% in 2012.

Unabridged audiobooks account for 91% of units sold, and fiction outsells nonfiction (nearly 80% of all audiobooks). The APA noted that "these patterns have held steady with virtually no change in statistics year over year."


Shelf Awareness Giveaway: Berkley Books: Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins


B&N, OverDrive Bringing Nook Newstand to Libraries

Barnes & Noble's Nook Media subsidiary will partner with e-book/audiobook distributor OverDrive to enable public libraries to offer patrons access to hundreds of digital magazines and newspapers from the Nook Newsstand. The new service is expected to roll out in the coming months.


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The Heavens
by Sandra Newman

When Grove Press senior editor Peter Blackstock (The Sympathizer, Miss Burma, Freshwater) preempts a submission six days after receiving it, I tend to sit up and pay attention. In Sandra Newman's (In the Country of Ice Cream Star) transportive new novel, The Heavens, Ben meets Kate in New York, in 2000, and the two fall in love. But Kate's recurring dreams of Elizabethan England are becoming alarmingly realistic, and Ben wonders if she's losing her grip on reality. The reader's not sure of anything, other than that she never wants the book to end. Strange, stunningly clever and absolutely immersive, this book proves Blackstock's gut should be insured. --Stefanie Hargreaves, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

(Grove Press, $26 hardcover, 9780802129024, February 12, 2018)
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#ShelfGLOW
Shelf vetted, publisher supported

 


Notes

Image of the Day: Living Language Dothraki


Athchomar chomakaan, khal vezhven! Khal Drogo and Khaleesi Daenerys paid a visit to the Penguin Random House lobby to mark the on-sale day of Living Language Dothraki, the first official course in the language developed for the HBO series Game of Thrones. Here the couple stand with the Living Language staff.


Personnel Changes at Simon & Schuster

Faye Bi has joined the Simon & Schuster children's publicity department as publicist. She formerly worked at Little, Brown for Young Readers, where most recently she was associate publicist.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jake Halpern on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Jake Halpern, author of Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25, 9780374108236).

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Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Cary Elwes and Joe Layden, co-authors of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride (Touchstone, $26, 9781476764023).

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Tomorrow on NPR's To the Point: Yochi Dreazen, author of The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War (Crown, $26, 9780385347839).


TV: How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane

CBS is developing a comedy based on the book How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane: And Other Lessons in Parenting from a Highly Questionable Source by Johanna Stein. Variety reported that Stein is co-writing the adaptation with Adam Barr (Growing Up Fisher, The New Normal, Suburgatory). The project "revolves around a pair of unconventional parents who try to raise their child by their own rules."


This Weekend on Book TV: Poet Laureate Charles Wright

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, October 11
5 p.m. United States Poet Laureate Charles Wright's Inaugural Reading at the Library of Congress.

7 p.m. Karen Dawisha, author of Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781476795195).

8:30 p.m. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (Beacon Press, $27.95, 9780807000403), at BookPeople in Austin, Tex.

10 p.m. Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (Metropolitan/Holt, $26, 9780805095159). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Richard Whittle, author of Predator: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution (Holt, $30, 9780805099645). (Re-airs Sunday at 2 p.m.)


Sunday, October 12
12 a.m. Christian Sahner, author of Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present (Oxford University Press, $27.95, 9780199396702).

8 a.m. Daniel Hannan, author of Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World (Broadside Books, $26.99, 9780062231734), receives the Henry and Anne Paolucci Book Award. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

1 p.m. Anna Harvey, author of A Mere Machine: The Supreme Court, Congress, and American Democracy (Yale University Press, $25, 9780300205770). (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

1:35 p.m. Patrick Egan, author of Partisan Priorities: How Issue Ownership Drives and Distorts American Politics (Cambridge University Press, $29.99, 9781107617278). (Re-airs Monday at 1:35 a.m.)

5 p.m. Richard Moe, author of Roosevelt's Second Act: The Election of 1940 and the Politics of War (Oxford University Press, $29.95, 9780199981915), at the National Book Festival.

5:45 p.m. Sylvia Longmire, author of Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren't Making Us Safer (Palgrave Macmillan, $27, 9781137278906).

7:15 p.m. Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781451697384).

11 p.m. Adam Tanner, author of What Stays in Vegas: The World of Personal Data--Lifeblood of Big Business--and the End of Privacy as We Know It (PublicAffairs, $27.99, 9781610394185).



Books & Authors

Awards: European Union Prize for Literature

Yesterday at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the winners of the European Union Prize for Literature, which recognizes "the best new and emerging authors in Europe," were announced. The winning writers are Ben Blushi (Albania), Milen Ruskov (Bulgaria), Jan Němec (Czech Republic), Makis Tsitas (Greece), Oddný Eir (Iceland), Janis Jonevs (Latvia), Armin Öhri (Liechtenstein), Pierre J. Mejlak (Malta), Ognjen Spahić (Montenegro), Marente de Moor (the Netherlands), Uglješa Šajtinac (Serbia), Birgül Oğuz (Turkey) and Evie Wyld (U.K.). Each winner receives €5,000 (US$6,365) as well as "extra promotion and international visibility."


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcovers
Florence Gordon by Brian Morton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9780544309869). "Irascible, intellectual, life-long activist Florence Gordon never sought the limelight, and her work now seems to be receding into feminist history. But, at 75, she receives a rapturous review in the New York Times. That, plus some disconcerting physical difficulties, increasingly unreasonable demands from her ex-husband, and the recent move of her son and his family to her Upper West Side neighborhood throw this fiercely controlled, independent woman off balance. Every character in this novel faces unexpected challenges and is vividly, memorably drawn. Florence's granddaughter, Emily, observes that 'each person is the center of a world.' Rarely has that been so richly demonstrated." --Banna Rubinow, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

The High Divide by Lin Enger (Algonquin, $24.95, 9781616203757). "Early one morning in 1886, Ulysses Pope leaves his family to embark on a journey that he hopes will save his immortal life. The wife and two sons he leaves behind are devastated by his unannounced departure, and so begins a life-altering adventure for all concerned that addresses questions far beyond the usual trope in a classic Western novel. The High Divide is a book about a man living his life with integrity and how he puts his family and his life on the line to make amends on a grand scale. Enger writes with enormous literary skill in this remarkable work." --Pam Cady, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Paperback
Mud Season by Ellen Stimson (Countryman Press, $16.95, 9781581572612). "Have you ever dreamed of moving to rural Vermont? Imagined the good life away from traffic, noise, and the difficulties of city life? Stimson and her husband did exactly that, moving from St. Louis with children and dogs and cats in tow. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Mud Season is the story of their immersion into a small town populated with crusty Vermonters who view 'flatlanders' with a combination of suspicion and amusement. This is a funny, self-deprecating memoir of making a new life in a beautiful place." --Ellen Burns, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, Conn.

For Ages 9 to 12
Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen (Schwartz & Wade, $16.99, 9780385371032). "As Gabriel unravels the mystery of what happened when his father disappeared without a trace, he encounters ravens who riddle, a magical writing desk, owls who enjoy puns, and an underground city. Word play and puzzles make this a clever, magical story." --Lisa Fabiano, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, Mass.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, October 14:

Mayor for a New America by Thomas M. Menino and Jack Beatty (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780544302495) is the Boston mayor's memoir.

Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand (Little, Brown, $25, 9780316376112) follows a Nantucket family reuniting for the holidays.

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig (Norton, $27.95, 9780393073720) chronicles the invention of the birth control pill, which was introduced in 1960. (Pub date: Monday, October 13.)

Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War by James Risen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780544341418) explores the war on terror.

Redeemed by P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast (St. Martin's Griffin, $18.99, 9780312594442) continues the YA House of Night series.

The Best in the World: At What I Have No Idea by Chris Jericho (Gotham, $28, 9781592407521) is the memoir of a WWE wrestler.

Now in paperback:

Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can't Ignore by Jay Sekulow, Jordan Sekulow, Robert W. Ash and David French (Howard Books, $12.99, 9781501105135).

The Pointless Book: Started by Alfie Deyes, Finished by You by Alfie Deyes (Running Press, $12.95, 9780762457519).

Movies:

The Best of Me, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, opens October 17. The film stars James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan.


Book Review

Review: The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books

The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books by Azar Nafisi (Viking, $28.95 hardcover, 9780670026067, October 21, 2014)

republic of imagination cover Several years ago, author and literature professor Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran) met a young Iranian man at a reading in Seattle. The man, who had recently emigrated to the U.S., had lived through the trauma of state-sanctioned intimidation in Iran: random car searches and arrests, the banning of Western books and music. He told Nafisi that Americans don't truly care about books: in their safe, comfortable homeland, they can't approach great literature with the hunger of Iranians reading photocopied pages of Flaubert or Hemingway behind closed doors.

Though Nafisi never saw the young man again, she remembered his words and wondered if the privileges Americans enjoy insulate them from the world's great literature, particularly their own. Does one have to be an exile or a revolutionary to appreciate books brimming with lyrical prose and radical ideas? And as books and ideas are deemphasized in schools in favor of STEM education and career readiness for students, how can readers protect their own sacred territory, the Republic of Imagination?

Nafisi explores this "republic" and its connection to American identity through close readings of three classics. She begins with Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, tracing Huck and Jim's journey down the Mississippi along with Huck's evolution into a true outsider: not simply a runaway boy, but a young man who chooses to live outside the rules of his society when they run counter to his conscience. Nafisi, also a voluntary exile, feels a deep kinship with Huck, and she links his story to both her own experience and to the journeys of other Iranians who escaped their homeland's oppressive regime under harrowing circumstances.

Nafisi next examines Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt, with its titular antihero who delights in the "wholesome" commercialism of his generic, midsized Midwestern city. Although Babbitt was published in 1922, its portrait of consumer society rings disturbingly true today: ubiquitous ads, collective obsession with the latest gadgets, pride in conformity. While Nafisi admits to using and enjoying consumer goods, she cautions against the "standardization of thought" portrayed in the novel, pointing to the troubling aspects of the current Common Core standards as an example. In the last section, Nafisi compares the life of Carson McCullers, a perpetual outsider, with the misfit characters who populate her novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

Throughout this book, Nafisi weaves in anecdotes from her own life as an outsider, including the day she took the oath to become a U.S. citizen. In elegant, insightful prose, she blends literary criticism, personal history and social commentary to create an enticing invitation to inhabit the Republic of Imagination. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: The author of Reading Lolita in Tehran explores American literature and identity through the lens of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and two other classic novels.


Deeper Understanding

Stand Up Comics: Diversity in Form and Content

Stand Up Comics is a regular column by Adan Jimenez. These titles need no introduction: just read the column, then read some good comics!

Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper and Raúl the Third (Chronicle, $9.99, 9781452128696)
Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack Octopus and Elirio Malaria are three Mexican-American friends who work on cars and dream of owning their own garage. While they have the skills to run a garage--Lupe is a mechanic extraordinaire, Flapjack is an expert polisher and Elirio is the best detail artist around--they don't have the money to start it. Luckily for them, the Universal Car Competition is just around the corner, and all they have to do to win a carload of cash is fix up their beat-up jalopy by raiding an old airplane factory and the expanse of outer space.

Beyond a light and fun story that's perfect for the middle-grade crowd, this book is incredibly enjoyable for two reasons: it features astronomical terms and concepts for kids to learn, though not always in a scientific way; and it features Mexican-American culture, something I appreciate and enjoy as a Mexican-American. I got a little thrill every time I recognized something from my childhood in the book (for example, Flapjack takes his name and look from El Chavo del Ocho, a character from a Mexican sitcom I watched nearly every day as a kid), but there is a glossary at the back for people who want to learn more. I learned that Aztecs also saw a rabbit in the moon, something I thought was only a Chinese concept.

Raúl's art resembles both the Mexican murals of Los Angeles and the line art in most kids' notebooks. It is beautiful even in black and white, and I have no doubt will look even better in color (I read a proof copy that did not include the full-color art that will be present in the final version).

Handselling Opportunities: Anybody interested in Mexican-American, or Chicano, culture, especially the lowrider culture, and anybody interested in light astronomy that includes historical and cultural markers, which could lead to longer love affair with the hard science.

Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World by Monte Beauchamp et al. (Simon & Schuster, $24.99, 9781451649192)
In my fantasy university course titled "The History of Comics," this book would be the first text assigned. With short graphic biographies of 17 of the greatest comic book, cartooning, animation, comic strip, comix, manga, picture book and gag strip creators, Masterful Marks is a perfect primer for the earliest days (and I mean earliest, with one subject born in 1799) of the various forms of comics and the mediums closely associated with it.

There are 16 biographies in all, on Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby, Chas Addams, Winsor McKay, Charles Schulz, Hergé, Harvey Kurtzman, Robert Crumb, Al Hirschfeld, Walt Disney, Lynd Kendall Ward, Rodolphe Töpffer, Edward Gorey, Hugh Hefner, Osamu Tezuka and Dr. Seuss, written and drawn by some of today's most celebrated cartoonists. While they're all biographies, the comics nevertheless employ different methods of storytelling, which keeps the anthology from becoming repetitive. For example, Drew Friedman's chapter on R. Crumb focuses on how Friedman was influenced by Crumb during his formative years; Dan Zettwoch's chapter on Tezuka is told from the perspective of Tezuka and one of Tezuka's characters; and Nicolas Debon's chapter on Winsor McKay is stylized as a Little Nemo in Slumberland strip.

Besides their works and influences, each chapter also has many interesting tidbits about each cartoonist's life. One example: many early cartoonists were drafted and fought in World War II.

Handselling Opportunities: Anybody interested in the work and lives of early cartoonists.

The Graveyard Book Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell et al. (HarperCollins, $19.99, 9780062194817)
The Graveyard Book is one of my favorite Gaiman titles, and I was very excited when I heard it was going to be adapted into the comic book medium, more so when I realized it would be adapted by P. Craig Russell. He has masterfully adapted many works in his career, including a few short stories by Gaiman himself (do yourselves a favor and read Murder Mysteries if you haven't already), but he is probably best known for his adaptation of Richard Wagner's opera Der Ring des Nibelungen (which he will hopefully finish one day).

This first volume follows from the beginning of Nobody Owen's life in the graveyard to the Convocation of Jacks. Russell takes few liberties with Gaiman's novel, but his classically inspired art and layouts are clearly his own, even when not drawn by him. (Russell gets help from Kevin Nowlan, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson and Stephen B. Scott, who all work from Russell's layouts and notes, giving the work a uniform feel even with artists known for such disparate styles.)

My only hesitancy about this adaptation is no fault of its creators. When reading the original novel, I had very strong visions of how the main characters looked, especially Bod, Jack, Silas, Miss Lupescu and the Sleer. But Russell and the other artists have portrayed them in an entirely different way (especially Silas and the Sleer). While it's interesting to see what other people imagine while reading The Graveyard Book, now I can no longer remember what my Bod, Jack, Silas and Miss Lupescu looked like (but I can still remember the Sleer because they were so creepy).

The second volume is available now, so make sure to pick that up, too.

Handselling Opportunities: Fans of Neil Gaiman (and who doesn't that cover) who won't mind seeing characters who might not look like what they imagined.


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