Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Monday, October 5, 2020

Monday, October 5 Dedicated Issue: JY

Jy: The Weirn Books, Vol. 1 by Svetlana Chmakova

Editors' Note


With the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness celebrates Yen Press's JY imprint and its exciting works for middle-grade readers.

Jy: Gabby and Gator by James Burks

Books & Authors

A Note from Kurt Hassler, Publisher and Managing Director Yen Press

When Yen Press launched its JY imprint--eponymously named for JuYoun Lee, our Deputy Publisher and Editor-in-Chief--in the fall of 2017, it was building on the tremendous success we'd already seen with the Berrybrook Middle School series by Svetlana Chmakova and the recognition of the growing need for graphic novels for younger readers. Three years and 36 books later, JY has built a strong reputation for quality with the beautifully repackaged W.I.T.C.H. collections from Disney, fan favorite manga Little Witch Academia and Svetlana's most recent offering, The Weirn Books.

JY's mission today remains unchanged from its foundation: engage young readers with quality comics and help foster a lifelong love of reading! With forthcoming titles like Disney's Wizards of Mickey and a new edition of author James Burks's first graphic novel, Gabby and Gator, in addition to our ongoing releases, JY has a little something for everyone--including long-running series like Zo Zo Zombie and W.I.T.C.H. for readers who just can't wait to hold the next book in their hands.

It is truly gratifying to see how much the market for kids' graphic novels has evolved in such a short time and for JY to continue to be a part of that growth. In keeping with the spirit that inspires the imprint, JY is making a $10,000 donation to the Children's Literacy Initiative as of the writing of this introduction.

Let's keep reading great graphic novels together!

Jy: Little Witch Academia Volumes 1-3 Available Now!

JuYoun Lee: Defining and Nourishing Perspectives

JuYoun Lee; credit: Svetlana Chmakova

JuYoun Lee is the Deputy Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Yen Press. Among her many duties at Yen Press, she is head of the JY imprint, an imprint dedicated to publishing books for middle grade readers. In this role, she is the editor for creators such as Svetlana Chmakova and is a driving force for shaping the wonderful stories that have come to be a part of JY. Below, she discusses the importance of books for middle-grade readers and her goals for JY.

JY was launched in Fall 2017. What compelled you to create this imprint?

I've been very interested in kid's comics for a long time and was lucky enough to have been working with the enormously talented Svetlana--which led to the publication of Awkward! This fantastic book was beloved after it came out in 2015, and the next book in the series, Brave, also gained a great deal of popularity. By then, it was clear there was a strong market for middle-grade graphic novels and it seemed to be the perfect time to establish a dedicated home for Yen's all ages comics and manga, allowing us to give them the marketing efforts they deserve and expand the line-up. We also wanted to make it easy for librarians and educators to identify properties safe for all ages through the branding.

How would you describe the process of getting the imprint up and running?

Well, I've been with Yen from the very beginning and we'd launched our light novel imprint, Yen On, a few years earlier, so it wasn't my first time. The most important part of having an imprint up and running is to launch with a solid line up.

Why focus on the middle-grade audience? Is there any intention of someday expanding into YA or early readers?

I believe that middle school is when what you read defines and nourishes who you are and your perspective of the world. You are old enough to observe what's going on around you with insightful curiosity and your mind is open and willing to take things in like a sponge. Some of the books I still remember best are those I read during that age. I have long wanted to publish comics for those readers. Some books for early readers might be a consideration down the line, but for now, we are focused on the middle-grade audience.

You're the Editor-in-Chief of Yen Press as well as the head of JY. With the responsibilities that come along with these positions, what does your average day look like?

I don't think we have enough time for this question, haha. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to allocating time and multitasking. I try to have dedicated slots for meetings with creators for original properties, while also ensuring I have enough time to oversee the licensed materials. One of my secrets is to alternate between something that requires a lot of brainwork and something that's more mechanical--then I can use the time to think of the more creative task while still getting something done. Between meetings and other decision-making tasks, it's always tough to find a good chunk of time to actually focus on editing, so it's a challenge to shift appropriately and manage my attention wisely and to use spare moments efficiently.

What is your goal for JY? Has that goal changed at all in the three years since the imprint's launch?

I wouldn't say it has changed--I want JY to be a comfortable home for many authors where they feel like their voices can be cultivated and heard. I am endlessly amazed at what authors can do--making comics is a lot of work!--not just in terms of their skills, but the ideas and stories they have inside are marvelous. It's my job to help them convey those messages to the readers in the best possible way and to make sure the books have a place in the market where they can reach their audience easily. I also have the added benefits of working with so many great licensing partners and want to expand the list of kid-friendly materials from overseas as well.

Do Yen Press or JY have any other big plans on the horizon?

I believe every book we publish is a big plan. 2020 was tough in many ways, not just for us but for the whole world, so I hope 2021 will be a year of healing and getting back to some form of normalcy. I think Yen has been doing relatively well given the circumstances, but I really hope 2021 brings us a lot more to be happy about.

Jy: Zo Zo Zombie Volumes 1-8 Available Now!

Who Is Svetlana Chmakova to Reject the Sirens' Call?

Svetlana Chmakova

Svetlana Chmakova was born and raised in Russia until the age of 16, when her family emigrated to Canada. She quickly made a name for herself with works like DramaconNightschool, the manga adaptation of James Patterson's Witch & Wizard and the webcomic Chasing Rainbows. She graduated from Sheridan College with a three-year Classical Animation Diploma. Here she talks with Shelf Awareness about working with JY, a recent move to New England and The Weirn Books.

You have worked directly with JuYoun Lee on all of your Yen Press/JY projects. What is your working relationship like? After a decade of working together, do you two basically have your own editorial language now?

I have an amazing working relationship with her, she is my guiding light, my reality check and the impossible magician who makes my book deadlines work even after I've wrecked them. I don't know that we have a specific editorial language, but we do have a very established way to approach the development of a book (which we now know involves throwing out my initial outline completely, for example, to make way for something better).

Would you please tell us about The Weirn Books? Be Wary of the Silent Woods is the beginning of a new series within a previously published world of your own making, is that right?

Yes, that's right! It is a spin-off series from my original 4-volume run called Nightschool: The Weirn Books, which is more of a YA introduction into the Night Realm, a world of both established genre folklore and my own additions. The new series is middle grade and is set in the same universe but in a different geographical area, with an entirely new set of characters. It explores different aspects of the Weirn Books world's mythology, magic rules and social structure.

Your website says you live between "Toronto, Canada and California." Why set this series in New England?

I am a rolling stone and I am now in New England, actually. We'll see for how long, haha! My husband is also from here, as are many of my friends, so I've visited the region a lot. And I mean, if you've ever been to New England, you'll know exactly what I mean--every nook and cranny is just calling out to be a fantasy mystery setting. Who am I to reject this siren call?

Most residents of New England can attest to the abundance of storms and mosquitos in New England; but in The Weirn Books, there are also "irate mermaids" and "human-passing night things" like "vampires, shape-shifters" and weirns. Are the "night things" in all of New England or just Ailis Maeve Thornton's little town of Laitham?

In all of New England and in all of the world. Things of the night that appear in the Weirn Books are all the creatures that human folktales talk about, and all the ones that they don't. The Night Realm is an entire world neighbor to ours, with shifting and vast geography that overlaps with ours in a lot of places but is separate in others.

What are weirns? Would you tell us a little bit about Ailis and the process of designing her (and others') Astrals' physical features?

Weirns are my own take on the age-old concept of a witch and their cute little familiar--weirns are witches who are born with demon guardian spirits bound to them for life. Ailis is a Weirn! She is a young Weirn so she is still getting to know herself/her Astral, but they have a very strong bond and her Astral would literally punch a werewolf up a tree to protect her. As for the visual design of the Astrals, I've always loved masks and had already previously created several personal characters for whom the mask was their face and had fun with it. Building on the idea that any mask gives a sense of duality to the wearer (which is an aspect of the Weirn/Astral bond), I was doodling and exploring ideas for what would be striking and appealing, design-wise, while reasonable enough to draw repeatedly, and ended up with a cute little mask-face creature with shadowy essence for body. That was the first Astral design! I liked it a lot, so I built the rest of the Astral visuals from that.

All of the night creatures, including the weirns, go to a special night school for magical creatures. It's very fun--with the abundance of "magic school" stories out there, what did you do to make yours stand out?

People come to my work because of my voice and my approach to character/world building, so I never really tried to make my work stand out, if that makes sense? It's already different because it's by me. My books are unapologetic love letters to whatever genre I'm writing in, and urban fantasy is where my little writer heart beats ever since I first discovered it as an impressionable teen. So, if you're into unapologetic authors frolicking in their favorite genre, pull up a chair, grab a cup of tea, this is going to be a fun ride!!

What are the plans for The Weirn Books? 

Volumes 2 and 3 are in the works, so please look for those in the next couple of years! That's all I can say for now.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell Shelf readers?

When you read my books, please make sure to look for Mr. Raccoon--he hides in the busy backgrounds and likes it when people find him. Thank you so much for reading and for your support, I will make more books for as long as there are people reading them!

A Sneak Peek of JY's Upcoming Fall Titles

W.I.T.C.H.: The Graphic Novel, Part VII. New Power, Vol. 1 created by Disney (JY/Yen Press, $15, paperback, 256p., ages 8-12, 9781975332983, October 27, 2020)

Twelve portals were opened between Earth and the dark world of Metamoor which weakened the mystic veil that separates the two and protects humanity. Five girls, Will, Irma, Taranee, Cornelia and Hay Lin have been gifted with powers over the elements and chosen as Guardians to stand against this menace. Continuing the story set out in the W.I.T.C.H. animated series and the six previous volumes of the middle-grade graphic novel, in New Power, Vol. 1 the girls mysteriously lose their powers.

Gabby and Gator by James Burks (JY/Yen Press, $11, paperback, 192p., ages 6-up, 9781975318567, October 27, 2020)

Gator has a nasty habit of eating the other neighborhood pets. Gabby would rather practice tuba than hang out with other humans. Each spends most of their time home alone which, for Gator, is in the sewers. When the two meet, their adventures prove that the best friends are those who accept you as you are, teeth and all!

Wizards of Mickey created by Disney (JY/Yen Press, $16, paperback, 272p., ages 8-up, 9781975319038, November 17, 2020)

When a sorcerer steals a powerful enchanted crystal from an ancient wizard, apprentice Mickey Mouse travels to the capital to reclaim the crystal. His search leads him to the Great Wizarding Tournament, which he enters with two friends he meets along the way: Goofy and Donald Duck. Little do they know, a far more sinister plot is unfolding...

Jy: Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Jy: Brave by Svetlana Chmakova

Jy: Crush by Svetlana Chmakova

Jy: Diary by Svetlana Chmakova

Jy: Berrybrook Middle School Box Set by Svetlana Chmakova

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