This weekend, the annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) comes to the Toronto Reference Library and, like for the last 10 years, graphic novel creator Raina Telgemeier will be there.
Scholastic offered me the chance to ask seven questions to the woman behind the graphic novels Smile, Sisters and Drama as well as four The Baby-Sitters Club books.
TCAF, which runs Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., is a week-long celebration of comics and graphic novels and their creators, which culminates in a two-day exhibition and vendor fair featuring hundreds of comics creators from around the world.
1. The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is this weekend. How long have you been going to it and why do you keep coming back?
My first time was in 2005, and I believe this will be my eighth year exhibiting! It’s one of my favorite shows in North America, and really, anywhere in the world. The level of talent on display matches the charm and graciousness of all the wonderful attendees who walk through the door.
2. What will you be doing at this year’s festival? Will you be attending any events? Which ones interest you and why?
I’ll have a table like always, and on Saturday at 1 p.m. my husband, Dave Roman, and I will be throwing a panel called COMICS DANCE PARTY!! It’ll be a combination of live reading, drawing and silliness. I’m also really looking forward to seeing Gurihiru present. They’re one of my favorite comics creative teams, and I absolutely adore their work.
3. I see from your website that you are in the process of creating a new book. What is your favourite part of your job? And your least?
I am, indeed, working on a new book! I’ve entered my favourite stage, which is creating the art. Months and months and months go into writing the story first, and that part can be really challenging. When it’s time to draw, I feel like I get to just sit back and get lost in the world I’m creating on the page.
4. I read through your website (loved your engagement story) and found it interesting your college art teachers didn’t like your style. But your readers obviously do. What is it about your style that appeals to a generation who likely grew up with anime rather than Archie?
I wouldn’t say that my art teachers didn’t like my style…just that they didn’t think it was going to fly in the commercial illustration market. That was almost 15 years ago, though, and popular taste has changed a lot since then! My cartoony drawing style gelled by the time I was in high school. I’ve refined it and learned a lot over the years, but it’s inspired by classic animation, comic strips and picture book illustrations, and they say a retro style never gets old.
5. I see you wrote an X-Men comic (which I will need to find). I found it interesting you wrote the story rather than creating the illustrations. Do you do a lot work where you just write? Was it hard not to want to create the illustrations as well?
Well, X-Men: Misfits was a really unique project – it was a shoujo manga take on the X-Men universe, which meant they hired a manga artist to create the illustrations! I was hired because the publisher liked what I’d done with the Baby-sitters Club graphic novels, and wanted to tap into my tween girl audience and sensibilities. It was the first and only time I’ve ever done the writing but not the art for a project, and giving up visual control wasn’t easy, for sure. But again, the publisher wanted a certain look for that book, and it was fun to write really wild ideas that I probably wouldn’t want to draw myself! In that sense, writing for someone else to draw is very freeing.
6. You have done memoirs and slice of life books. What is your favourite type of book to create – fiction or non-fiction?
I like both! They each present unique challenges as a writer: with memoir, I’m crafting real life events into stories, so I can stand behind the narratives 100 per cent – these things really happened! But fiction allows me the freedom to play and deviate from reality when I want to. When it comes to the art, I can push the visuals as far as I want to in my fictional stories, but I’ll admit that there is also comfort in drawing real places, looking up reference and getting things ‘right’ in memoir.
7. What would your dream project be?
You know, I’m already doing it. I get to tell personal stories that I care about, and my readers are excited for each one. I’m already living the dream!
Dance of the Banished
Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Pajama Press, pajamapress.ca
Ali and his fiancee Zeynep dream about leaving their home in Anatolia and building a new life together in Canada. But their homeland is controlled by the Turkish government, which is on the brink of war with Britain and Russia. And although Ali finds passage to Canada to work, he is forced to leave Zeynep behind until he can earn enough to bring her out to join him. When the First World War breaks out and Canada joins Britain, Ali is declared an enemy alien. Unable to convince his captors that he is a refugee from an oppressive regime, he is thrown in an internment camp where he must count himself lucky to have a roof over his head and food to eat. Meanwhile, Zeynep is a horrified witness to the suffering of her Christian Armenian neighbours under the Young Turk revolutionary forces. Caught in a country that is destroying its own people, she is determined to save a precious few. But if her plan succeeds, will Zeynep still find a way to cross the ocean to search out Ali? And if she does, will he still be waiting for her?
An Inky Quest & Coloring Book
This new colouring book by Johanna Basford takes readers on a inky quest through an enchanted forest to discover what lies in the castle at its heart. As well as drawings to complete, colour and embellish, there are hidden objects to be found along the way including wild flowers, animals and birds, maps, lanterns, keys and treasure chests. Beginning at the entrance to the forest, the journey progresses through woodland, rocky caves and tree-lined mazes, over streams and a waterfall, across the trees tops, to finally reach the castle. Also hidden throughout the book are eight symbols. Readers must find all the symbols to solve the colouring puzzle on a pull-out poster at the end of the book.
From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
Feiwel and Friends, feiwelandfriends.typepad.com
Book comes out May 19. Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison is a completely average 12-year-old. The only things about her that aren’t average are her name (too long and princess themed), her ability to draw animals (useful for her future career as a wildlife illustrator) and the fact she is a half-orphan who has never met her father and is forced to live with her aunt and uncle (who treat her almost like their own kids, so she doesn’t want to complain). Then one completely average day, everything goes wrong: the most popular girl in school, Annabelle Jenkins, threatens to beat her up, the principal gives her a demerit and she’s knocked down at the bus stop . . .Until a limo containing Princess Mia Thermopolis of Genovia pulls up to invite her to New York to finally meet her father, who LEAD promptly invites her to come live with him, Mia, Grandmère and her two fabulous poodles. Maybe Olivia Grace Clarisse Mignonette Harrison isn’t so average after all.
Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures
Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater
Pip is a girl who can talk to magical creatures. Her aunt is a vet for magical creatures. And her new friend Tomas is allergic to most magical creatures. When things go amok, and they often go amok, Pip consults Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures, a reference work that Pip finds herself constantly amending. Because dealing with magical creatures like unicorns, griffins and fuzzles doesn’t just require book knowledge, it requires hands-on experience and thinking on your feet. For example, when fuzzles (which have an awful habit of bursting into flame when they’re agitated) invade your town, it’s not enough to know what the fuzzles are – Pip and Tomas also must trace the fuzzles’ agitation to its source and in doing so, save the whole town.
Three Prima Ballerinas Becoming Mothers
Princeton Architectural Press, http://www.papress.com
In dramatic black-and white photography, Lucy Gray documents three prima ballerinas balancing the demands of family and work.
Dreams of My Mothers
Joel L.A. Peterson
Huff Publishing Associates
In writing his new biographical fiction book, Joel reflects on some very unique circumstances and experiences, at extreme ends of the human condition, he has been privileged to bear witness to, during a time when America struggles to find a shared identity – with race, culture and what it means to be American. And, through his unique upbringing, he has realized the incredible influence our mothers can have on building that identity, no matter our race.
A Reader’s journal
Chronicle Books, http://www.chroniclebooks.com
Well-read women keep their books close to their heart. Here they can record what they’ve read, reflect on their favourite characters and notable quotations and list books to devour next.
Fear The Darkness
Penguin Books, penguinrandomhouse.ca
Ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn has seen more than her share of pyschopaths. She is ready to put all that behind her, building a new life in Tucson with a husband, friends and some nice quiet work as a private investigator. When her sister-in-law dies, Bridget takes on her 17-year-old niece Gemma-Kate. Brigid doesn’t exactly love the idea especially since there has always been something unsettling with Gemma-Kate, who starts taking an unhealthy interest in dissecting the local wildlife. Meanwhile, Brigid agrees to help a local couple by investigating the death of their son, which also turns out to be not that simple and she begins to wonder if there is anyone she can trust.
Editor’s Note: I stopped reading this book for about four days while I was angry; Angry at Brigid for not figuring it out. Glad I kept reading until the end.
The Girl in the Red Coat
Faber & Faber, http://www.faber.co.uk, Penguin Books
Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children’s festival and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her her mother has had an accident and she is is to live with him for now. As the days become weeks, Carmel realizes this man believes she has a special gift and she is a potential saviour.
Editor’s Note: This book pulled me in within the first paragraph and had me reading long past my bedtime. This is a scenario I tell my son while streetproofing. Despite it being every parent’s worst nightmare, the book was amazing and will be a re-read.
The Truth and Other Lies, A Novel
Viking, Penguin Canada Book, http://www.penguin.com/meet/publishers/vikingbooks/
On the surface, Henry Hayden seems like someone you could like, or even admire. A famous best-selling author who appears a modest every man. A loving, devoted husband. A generous friend and coworker. But Henry Hayden is a construction, a mask. His past is a secret, his methods more so. No one besides him and his wife know that she is the actual writer of the novels that made him famous. For most of Henry’s life, it hasn’t been a problem. But when his hidden-in-plain-sight mistress becomes pregnant and his carefully constructed facade is about to crumble, he tries to find a permanent solution, only to make a terrible mistake.
Editor’s Note: What a troublesome review. I liked the book and I would recommend it, however, I almost stop reading it half way through because I despise Henry. I finished it, however, because I couldn’t stop. I wanted to know more. I wanted to find the truth in Henry’s half-lies and lies, if there was any.
The Ghost & Max Monroe, Case #2: Missing Zucchini
Kids Can Press, http://www.kidscanpress.com/products/ghost-and-max-monroe-case-2
Zeeta and Zelda Zamboni are beside themselves when they call the Monroe Detective Agency. “Our most prized possession has been stolen!” the sisters announce. “Will you help us? Please?” Max agrees to help them find their missing possession, and then he finds out what it is: a two-hundred-pound zucchini! Looking for a zucchini is “sure to be duller than dirt,” Max thinks. However, once he and Uncle Larry (the ghost) start digging around for clues, they discover this new case is actually full of interesting possibilities. In fact, the Zamboni sisters have some awfully suspicious neighbors. The big question is, will Max and Uncle Larry manage to solve the mystery and locate the giant zucchini in time to enter it in the Harvest Fair’s vegetable competition?
Science and space
101 Great Science Experiments
DK Books, http://www.dk.com
A great collection of illustrated, step-by-step experiments that are safe and easy to do at home.
Editor’s Note: My six year old loves science and experiments and his room is literally covered in them (note: do no let experiments sit too long in jars on a desk. They start to stink). We have lots of science experiment books already and while a good one, most of the experiments found in this book, we have found in others. But there are few that are different including building your own periscope and crush with air. Most of the items used in the experiment are easily found.
DK Smithsonian The Planets, The definitive Visual Guide to our Solar System
DK Books, http://www.dk.com
Explore the volcanic landscape of Venus, the dunes of Mars and other wonders of the solar system with state-of-the-art imagery and high-definition maps. Based on the latest discoveries and date from NASA, The Planets takes you on an incredible journey.
Editor’s note: I have loved space for years, but it peaked, like many Canadians, when Chris Hadfield took the helm of the International Space Station. My older brother fuels my taste for space and my six-year-old son’s love makes me want to show him more, and this book helps. Spectacular, awe-inspiring pictures and fantastic information, this book is a great addition to my library.
How to be Space Explorer, Your Out-of-this-world Adventure
How to Be a Space Explorer is a practical manual for all aspiring astronauts, packed with jack-dropping stories from real-life space exploration.
Editor’s Note: My son enjoyed the visual of using sheets of toilet paper to measure the distance between planets. I loved all the information in shorts bits and the great photos. This will be a great book to look at for years.
Pocket Genius: Science
DK Books, http://www.dkbooks.com
Destined to be toted in school backpacks everywhere, DK’s new encyclopedia series for young readers contains on-the-spot information in children’’s favorite subject areas. Kids love facts: they want to know about the biggest, fastest, tallest, and oldest everything. Full of instant information, these books feature a fresh and striking design that is sure to appeal to the middle-grade audience.
Editor’s Note: I say this a lot about DK Books, but what a fabulous book. I find myself flipping though it, stopping to read about simple machines, the giant redwoods and how plants work. Like all DK Books, there is a lot of information on each page despite of the size of the book.
Rocket Science for the Rest of Us
DK Books, http://www.dk.com
Media reports on the latest scientific discoveries and breakthroughs – from black holes, dark matter – can appear to be written in a foreign language. Get a handle on these difficult concepts by reading Ben Gilliland’s unique take on them. Some of it may actually be rocket science, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand it.
Editor’s Note: This book scares me a little. There is so much information on every page you don’t know where to start. Saying that, I did get sucked into the chapter called Boldly Go and the mission to Mars. It listed five reasons why I might just want stay on Earth. As with all DK Books, the pictures are glorious and if you are interested in space, the information is pretty fantastic.
Smithsonian Eyewitness Rock and Fossil Hunter
DK Books, DK.com
Discover the world of rocks and fossils with more than 30 activities.
Editor’s Note: My six-year-old son says he loves fossils. Flipping through it, my son will love the activities including glittering geodes and a new way to make a volcano. We’ll be busy this summer.
The Amazing Earth Quiz Book, over 1,000 questions to test your knowledge
Which is the coldest capital city in the world? Where is the saltiest body of water? How fast can a tsunami wave travel? Test your knowledge with 60 entertaining, fact-filled quizzes.
Editor’s Note: Much like The Amazing Space Quiz Book, there are lots of interesting questions that I can’t answer. I am again thankful that the answers are provided. There is easy, medium and hard questions as well as fast facts and a fair amount of beautiful photos.
The Amazing Space Quiz Book
Dk Books, http://www.dkbooks.com
What’s Neptune’s largest moon called? Which planet has the shortest orbit? At what rate is the moon drifting away from Earth? Test your space knowledge with these quizzes.
Editor’s Note: I love space, but my brain doesn’t hold any information so even the easy quizzes where beyond me. Thankfully, there is a fast facts (cheat sheet) section where you can read all the information you want in order to answer the questions. There are pictures throughout the quizzes.
The Astronomy Bible, The Definitive Guide to the Night Sky and the Universe
Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest
Firefly Books, http://www.fireflybooks.com
The Astronomy Bible is a comprehensive guide to the study of what lies beyond our planet.
Editor’s Note: When this book came home, my six-year-old son grabbed it disappeared in his room to map out the stars. Lots of information is packed into this book with beautiful photographs to accompany chapters such as the moon, planets and the sun.
The Complete Periodic Table
Basher Books, http://www.basherbooks.com/usa/subjects-periodictable.html
This revised and expanded edition shows you the periodic table as you’ve never seen it before. All 118 elements have their own unique personality, making chemistry easier and a whole lot more fun.
Editor’s Note: It cracks me up that my six-year-old will choose this as his bedtime story each night. It’s been interesting to read about elements from chlorine to Einsteinium. My guy is ecstatic that there are some elements left to be discovered and now he knows, finally, what he wants to be when he grows up – a scientist.
The Queen’s Shadow
Kids Can Press, http://www.kidscanpress.com/products/queens-shadow
In this informational picture book, award-winning author and illustrator Cybèle Young interweaves the science of animal eyesight into a clever whodunit involving a haughty queen. It is during the Queen’s Ball, at which “society’s most important nobility” are in attendance (all of whom are animals), that a “major crime has been committed”: the queen’s shadow has been stolen! Mantis Shrimp, the Royal Detective, takes the lead in the investigation to find the perpetrator, and one by one the animal suspects defend their innocence. From a shark and a snake to a dragonfly and a goat, each creature’s testimony explains their version of the scene of the crime based on their own unique eyesight, while the finely textured and detailed artwork illustrates the ballroom as viewed by that animal.
Editor’s Note: What a cool book. I liked how I believed each animal until it proved it couldn’t be the thief and pointed to the next creature. I haven’t yet been able to convince my son to read it, but I think he will like it when he gives it a chance. In sidebars to the story, the author provides factual information about how the eyesight of each animal works, and why.
The Science Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained
DK Books, dk.com
Written in plain English, The Science Book is packed with short explanations that cut through the jargon, step-by-step diagrams that untangle knotty theories, classic quotes that make scientific discoveries memorable and witty illustrations that enhance and play with our understanding of science.
Editor’s Note: I don’t think I have ever said this about a DK Book before – it’s too much information and not enough beautiful pictures. I think you have to be a true science lover to read this book.
Other science and space books
Beyond the Red Sky
Is the government hiding information from us? Can technology have feelings just like humans? Ross Gandy invites readers on an adventure alongside Captain Andrew (Andy).
Andy, who is part of an elite team trained to pursue alien aircraft, runs into trouble when aliens capture him. With knowledge of different alien technologies, Andy must go on the run from the government. Beyond the Red Sky is a sci-fi novel that digs deep into government secrecy and relationships not just with humans but also with technology.
Breakthrough: How One Teen Innovator is Changing the World
At age 15, Jack Andraka created an early-detection test for pancreatic cancer. In this inspiring and compelling memoir, he delves into the challenges and triumphs he faced on the road to his revolutionary discovery. Includes do-it-yourself science experiments throughout.
Dinosaurs from Head to Tail
Kids Can Press, http://www.kidscanpress.com/products/dinosaurs-head-tail
From one dinosaur’s head to another’s tail, this informational picture book challenges readers to guess which prehistoric creature each of eight different body parts belongs to. (For example, “What dinosaur had claws like this?”) For each question, the answer is given on the following spread, with an overview that includes the name of the dinosaur, an illustration of the entire animal in its habitat and facts about the featured body part, such as why it looked the way it did and how scientists believe it was used.
FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman: Ruff Ruffman’s 44 Favorite Science Activities
Candlewick Press, http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/249594/fetch-ruff-ruffman-ruff-ruffmans-44-favorite-science-activities#9780763674328
Families and teachers looking for a fun way to add science to kids’ agendas need look no further. This full-color book of Ruff Ruffman’s all-time favorite activities offers a chance to try real science at home, with special tips for turning the activities into science-fair projects. Ruff simplifies the scientific method for kids and shares basic setup and safety procedures for creating a laboratory and keeping a lab notebook. From there, it’s on to step-by-step directions for 44 interactive activities using household items. Icons indicate difficulty levels as well as activities that require grown-up help, while a topical index allows readers to search by subject matter. Triple-dog-dare junior scientists to try them all.
Otter in Space
Otter, the funny and adorable picture book character who made her debut in I Am Otter, returns! This time, she and Teddy set off on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in space.
Touch the Brightest Star
A companion to the popular and acclaimed Tap the Magic Tree! From sunset to sunrise, watch-and help create-the magic of the nighttime sky in this interactive bedtime story.
The First Hippo on the Moon
From David Walliams, star of Little Britain and internationally bestselling author, comes an explosively funny space adventure about two hippos racing to be “the first hippo on the moon.”
Make Your Own Gifts, 52 Year-Round presents all Wrapped Up
DK Books, http://www.dkbooks.com
This book will show you how to make the perfect present, including the wrapping paper.
Editor’s Note: I turned to the Make, Bake and Create Treats section first. Of course I did. The subtitle is called Divine Dishes – and they truly are. The coconut bites are beautiful, the brownie jar looks delicious and you can never go wrong with hearty rolls. Other sections include paper crafts, stitched and beaded, molded and sculpted and beautifully wrapped. There are lots of pictures and step-by-step directions. No shortage of ideas, which I hope to try.
This column was originally published at insidetoronto.com