About a year and a half ago, I was walking through the exhibit hall at Book Expo America and noticed a publisher I wasn’t all that familiar with and a title that had just become the hottest thing in my middle school library. I’m talking about Andrews McMeel Publishing. The series was Big Nate, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid read-alike by Lincoln Peirce that was circulating faster than a spinning tire.
As it turned out, I hadn’t realized that Big Nate was an existing comic strip and the series was a takeoff from that character. So in addition to buying all the Big Nate books by HarperCollins, I started to buy the comic strip reprints published by Andrews McMeel.
So I was pleasantly surprised when a couple of months ago I received a press release saying that they were creating a kids’ line called Ampkids. The Big Nate titles are obviously first in the line, but in addition there is a Foxtrot for kids edition and Liō: There’s a Monster in My Socks.
Format: Most of the comic strip compilations I’ve read have a bunch of strips on one page. It’s a busy look but possibly intimidating for a young reader. The layouts in these books are mostly four panels on a page. The fonts are large and clear, very unlike the Sunday comics and unlike most of the comic strip compilations I’ve read, and there’s a lot of white space on the page. The format is inviting to the young and/or reluctant reader.
Content:Each of these titles, while very different, was equally hilarious. I will say that when I am reading a comic strip compilation, some of the jokes become repetitive. After all, this is a year or more worth of comic strips put together. But I don’t believe this is unique to the AMP Kids titles. Big Nate is by far my favorite, because it really speaks to the middle school/middle grade age—which is the age group I’ve been working with for most of my career. Next on my list is Foxtrot. Of course, I’ve heard of Foxtrot, but I never actually immersed myself in the strip, and I just loved these characters. While I’m not well versed in the original strip, it’s obvious that the kid-oriented strips were pulled for this collection. And Liō: There’s a Monster in my Closet is so bizarre, I know that this will fall apart by the end of the school year, because the boys will love this title.
These titles have been out for a while, and not too many titles have been added to the line. I’m looking forward to seeing what else will come our way. This is a great way to reinvent and remarket existing material for an emerging audience.