Nursery Rhyme Comics, and it was good. Now they have filled a felt need with a second book in the same vein--Fairy Tale Comics (coming Sept. 24), and it, too, is a book well worth adding to your child's library (after enjoying it yourself).
17 stellar cartoonists were gathered together to present, in graphic form, 17 fairy tales in kid-friendly fashion. The majority are well-known stories (Red Riding Hood, Snow White), but several are from outside the European tradition (like The Boy Who Drew Cats, which you can preview here, and The Prince and the Tortoise). There's a nicely balanced mix of girl and boy and animal heroes. Some stick right to the traditional versions, others put little twists in (a female woodcutter, a boy who realizes he has no qualifications for king-ship, and refuses the crown, sparking a democratic revolution). In short, there's lots of fun.
Graphic novels for kids are excellent offerings for any reluctant readers you might have on hand. Some of the stories here have slightly denser text than others, but there's nothing here that's unsuitable for a young reader of 7 or 8, and many are great for emergent readers; that being said, even 13 year old boys will read it repeatedly (from personal observation) and grown-ups will enjoy it too.
This one is not just great for the reader, but also one for the budding graphic artist. When you have 17 different artists all gathered together, it's a fantastic way for a kid to see and learn different approaches to telling a story visually and rendering reality in comic form.
And I really do think this particular collection of fairy tales serves a felt need. Raising my boys, I've worried a bit about their fairy tale literacy--I've read stories out-loud to them, sure, but they've never voluntarily curled up with the Brothers Grimm, and so many of the fairy tale picture books are girl-oriented, and they weren't that interested. However, when something is presented in comic book form, its boy appeal soars....and voila, they become familiar with the stories. I hope there are more books to come!
It's my pleasure to be part of the Blog Tour for Fairy Tale Comics, and to have interviewed one of the contributors--Bobby London, whose story "Sweet Porridge!" kicks off the book.
Charlotte: So it's my understanding that Chris Duffy, the editor, read lots of fairy tales, picked the ones he thought would make a nice book with Calista Brill, the senior editor at First Second, and then found "cartoonists who would be a good match for particular stories" (from this interview at the Westfield Comics Blog).
Bobby: More often than not, he'll just rely on his poker buddies.
Charlotte: Were you surprised to be asked to illustrate this story? Did you get a specific version of the story that specified "porridge," or did you get a chance to browse through versions with different food-stuffs (such as pasta)? Had you in fact had any previous experience drawing porridge, or other gelatinous substances, that might explain why you were picked for this one?
Bobby: I was surprised to be asked to draw the lead story, I'm usually found at the back of the bus, when I'm not busy being thrown under it. As for sampling grits, rice krispies or any other forms of breakfast cereal for the story, no, I did not; I don't think the Grimm Brothers would appreciate me changing the title of their story to "Sweet Pasta"; we're talking about the Grimm Bros. here, not Carlo Collodi.
It's true I had to be adept at drawing any number of funky substances to keep my spot in National Lampoon, but for Fairy Tale Comics I had to work very closely with Mark Martin, the talented cartoonist who translated my color layouts to Photoshop, to get precisely the right color of porridge yellow. Too much green or brown and I would have proven I taught the guys at Ren & Stimpy everything they know. And, no, it wasn't type casting; I prefer to think was chosen for this project because of my literary heritage, i.e. my familiarity with the works of Cervantes, Rabelais and Jonathan Swift.
Charlotte: I've been reading up on your past history as a cartoonist....how you have moved from comic strips for grown-ups to children's media, and now to graphic illustration for kids. Did you enjoy creating your version of the story?
Bobby: My past history is rather poorly represented in the media and generally in the context of the lives of other artists. My Wikipedia page has been vandalised - er, that is, I mean, "edited' and "rewritten" - over 2 dozen times by total strangers, fans of other cartoonists and people to whom I owe large sums of money. For instance, nobody knows that I didn't start out as an adult, have been drawing cartoons well since age 4 and submitting to Highlights For Children at 12. Of course, I was attempting to illustrate the Kama Sutra as soon as puberty set in but I couldn't have made the segue to kids comics without having a successful career illustrating for mainstream newspapers and magazines and I brought those characters with me to Nickelodeon Magazine via my comic strip, Cody. It's a very liberating experience drawing comics for kids.
Charlotte: When you were working on Sweet Porridge, did thoughts of the youthful age of the possible audience affect choices you were making, or did you let things just happen?
Bobby: No, I don't have to think about it. My girlfriend will attest to my true age level being about 6. When writing for adults, I often used to get tired of having to shock myself so this is a holiday. And, you know, I get my nasty grownup ya-yas out drawing Dirty Duck so I don't feel compelled to sneak naughty messages into kid stuff, like some perverted creeps I know.
Charlotte: What will be next? Do you think you'll do more graphic illustration for kids, maybe even your own graphic novel?
Bobby: I'm working on an autobiography but it's not a graphic novel, I couldn't bear drawing *some* people I've had to work with over the years ( I'm a cartoonist, not a Witch Doctor). Yes, I'd love to write and illustrate a storybook or two if they'd still have me, and Chris Duffy has been nagging me to do a Cody graphic novel. Animation offers have come in, too. Believe me, it's a dream come true to still be in demand at age 63 but I think I'll have to hire an assistant. If that means I'm a sellout, so be it, I also get the Senior Discount at Chili's.
Charlotte: Thanks Bobby! And good luck with the autobiography.
And thanks also to First Second for the review copy of Fairy Tale Comics.