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BEA Buzz: Five graphic novels to look forward to this year

I dropped in on Book Expo America, the annual book trade show, on Friday, and I was impressed by the graphic novel presence there. Two of the rock stars of the show were Raina Telgemeier, who was signing advance copies of Sisters, and Jeff Kinney, who has a new Wimpy Kid school planner (yes, I know a lot of people don’t think of Wimpy Kid as a comic, but it’s sort of in between, and I’m happy to claim it as one of ours).

Here are five of the books I saw or heard about that look particularly promising; all will be out later this year.

Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier: This is the followup to Telgemeier’s Smile, which has now spent two years on the New York Times graphic novels best-seller list. Like Smile, Sisters is a memoir of Telgemeier’s childhood, this time focusing on her relationship with her sister Amara as it unfolds on a cross-country trip. The book is due out in September; in the meantime, Telgemeier has been posting about it occasionally on her blog.

El Deafo, by Cece Bell: Cece Bell, best known as an illustrator of picture books such as the Sock Monkey series, turns her hand to comics in a graphic memoir of growing up as the only Deaf child in her class. The story is told with a light touch that will appeal to Telgemeier fans; the characters are drawn as rabbits, and while she doesn’t sugar-coat it, Bell talks about the cool aspects of wearing a hearing aid, such as being able to hear everything—everything—her teacher does, even outside the classroom. This will also be out in September, just in time for the start of school.

Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch, by Eric Orchard: In his first graphic novel, Canadian artist Eric Orchard combines magic and adventure in a tale of an eleven-year-old girl on a quest to rescue her parents, who were turned into kangaroo rats by the mysterious Thimblewitch. This looks like it will feature an imaginative array of characters: Maddy must face down spider-goblins and scarecrow warriors, but her allies include her pet flying toad and a bear and a raccoon who are cloud cartographers and travel by balloon. Ku Liang of Diamond Book Distributors described it to me as being along the lines of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.

Toto Trouble, by Thierry Coppée: The small publisher Papercutz has an interesting strategy: They publish hugely popular licensed title like the Lego Ninjago and Geronimo Stilton graphic novels, they do Classics Illustrated graphic novels, and they have a nice, if less well known, line of original graphic novels that are mostly imports from France. That’s the category that Toto Trouble falls into: it’s sort of an Everyman kids’ comic about a little boy who is constantly running afoul of parents and teachers—a bit like Dennis the Menace. The first volume actually came out last week, and there are more on the way.

Colonial Comics: New England 1620-1850: Fulcrum got some good buzz a couple of years ago for Trickster their anthology of Native American folk tales, and they have done several anthologies since then, including two new anthologies that are new this spring: Wild Ocean, a collection of short comics about ocean wildlife, edited by Trickster editor Matt Dembicki, and Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History, by Joel Christian Gill. Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750 gives the anthology treatment to the topic of early American history, and like the other books in the series it will feature a selection of short stories about the topic, many written and drawn by members of the Boston Comics Roundtable.

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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