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Comic-Con News: Katie O’Neill Announces ‘Dewdrop’

We’ve got breaking news from Comic-Con International in San Diego this afternoon: Oni Press has just announced Dewdrop, a new graphic novel for young readers by, Katie O’Neill, the creator of Princess, Princess, The Tea Dragon Society, and Aquicorn Cove. It has a very classic structure: As a group of water-dwelling animals get ready for their festival, three of them get nervous about their roles. Each one in turn faces their misgivings with the help of their friend Dewdrop, a cheery axolotl (yes, I had to look them up, and they are almost as cute in real life as in O’Neill’s illustrations).

The book is due out in April and it will be a square-format hardcover priced at $12.99. I had the opportunity to ask O’Neill some questions ahead of time; it’s being announced at the Oni Press panel today.

Dewdrop looks like it’s designed for younger readers than your last two books—the square format makes it seem like a picture book. Why did you decide to go in this direction?

I’ve loved getting feedback from parents that my books, along with all the other incredible children’s graphic novels being published right now, have helped get their kids more excited about reading from a young age. Making a story that had even simpler and more accessible language, as well as big readable expressions, felt like a natural extension of that. I was also really keen to introduce simple concepts of mindfulness and self-esteem to very young readers, as I think the level of technology and eventually social media use that they will grow up with may make it more difficult to develop those tools.

How do you think this book will be read—aloud by a parent or on their own by a child? How did that change your storytelling?

My hope is that both will happen—it makes me really happy when I hear from parents that after reading one of my books with their child, they then continued to come back to it on their own. Being able to achieve that kind of re-reading magic is a really huge goal for me as an author.

The story has a very classic feel to it. Was it inspired by something in particular?

I love fairytales and folktales from all over the world, so the structure with repetition was definitely inspired by those. As a child I also loved stories that took place in a society of animals, such as The Animals of Farthing Wood or the Warriors cats series, so I took inspiration from those too. 

At the same time, the characters are very modern looking. Where did they come from?

I wanted them all to have big, expressive faces with emphasis on the eyes, so I think that reflects a lot of modern character design for children. I also love Japanese logo character and mascot designs, so I drew on those as well- they’re very easy to draw, yet convey a lot of feeling.

Your book Princess, Princess was designed for very young readers. Dewdrop has a very different look. What caused you to make such a dramatic transition in style in such a short time?

Over the last few years, through my work in The Tea Dragon series and Aquicorn Cove, I’ve been developing a painterly style that I hope is reminiscent of mid-century illustrations and Little Golden Books. Since Dewdrop has a storybook feel, it seemed natural to use it for that too. Going forward, I’m excited to incorporate more ink work and other traditional comic techniques back into my art, more like Princess Princess Ever After. I find it fun to explore new techniques, depending on the project.

OK, this may sound like a dumb question, but I have to ask—does this story take place underwater? If not, how are the fish swimming around? If so, how is everyone else moving, cooking, playing guitar, etc?

Yes it does; I decided to go with Spongebob Squarepants-style underwater logic with this world—it’s not super accurate, but it’s really fun to work with! Hopefully the nature facts in the back will make up for my lack of scientific precision.

Will we see more of these characters and their adventures in future stories?

I have no plans at this stage, but my hope is that with easy-to-draw characters, young readers will be inspired to come up with their own stories for them and investigate more creatures that live in ponds!

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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