|Jorge Aguirre, GiantsBeware.com|
True confession: I am a sucker for First Second Books. Publisher of the Zita the Spacegirl series, Sara Varon's beautiful titles, the award-winning American Born Chinese, and many more terrific books for young readers as well as adults, First Second is the gold standard for graphic novels. And as we celebrate week two of our Graphic Novel Summerfest over here, let's take a look at Giants Beware (First Second, 2012) by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado as another example of how this imprint does things right.
Scrappy Claudette is a pint-sized giant slayer who teams up with her best friend Marie (who aspires to be a princess) and her little brother Gaston (a pastry chef in the making) to venture off on a quest to rid the land of a baby-feet-eating giant. But there's one minor detail, they forgot to tell their parents. Along the way, Claudette and her sidekicks encounter plenty of challenges but ultimately realize that “monsters” often don't live up to their bad reputation.
|Rafael Rosado, GiantsBeware.com|
Jorge is a writer for television and documentaries, and Rafael works in the animation industry as a storyboard artist for Warner Brothers, Disney, and Cartoon Network. So trust that with these guys behind the scenes and Claudette at the helm, we're in good hands. Giants Beware has earned rave reviews, including from The New York Times, which wrote, "Claudette may be undersize, hotheaded and prone to violence and lock-picking, but she’s also loyal, brave and ambitious."
Question: Where did these characters come from?
Rafael Rosado: Claudette had been kicking around my sketchpad for years. I kept drawing this rambunctious girl with spiky hair who was looking for a fight. Later, I added Gaston and Marie and drew the three kids as French street urchins. I had a general idea about the three of them going after a giant and asked Jorge if he could flesh out the story and write the script, and he added other characters as he wrote.
Q: You both have long careers in other fields, so why children's literature? What inspired you to create books for kids?
Rafael: We’re both fans of graphic novels and comic books in general, and in a way we made the kind of book we would go out buy for ourselves. There seems to be a renaissance in children’s comics and graphic novels at the moment, and we’re very happy to be a part of it.
Jorge Aguirre: Giants Beware is our first graphic novel, and this might sound a little naive but we didn’t realize we’d written a children’s book until we were done. (Maybe it started dawning on me about three-quarters of the way through). Rafael and I have known each other for years, and our main goal was to write a story that would entertain both of us. If I wrote a gag, Rafael would take the gag a step further in the art, then when I was re-writing all the dialog when I lettered, I’d try to re-write lines to make Rafael laugh some more. There was a lot of back and forth, but our first audience was each other. Probably since our starting point was three child characters, most of the jokes and story lent themselves to a young audience. But we never made a conscious decision to write for children.
Q: The beauty of graphic novels is that they hook young kids into reading early and reading often. They are the genre of choice for many students, strong or struggling. But sometimes graphic-novel creators can forget about their audience, for example, including things like fancy typography that can distract or make the act of reading a frustrating exercise. How much do you think about young readers as you collaborate on your projects?
Jorge: As a writer of graphic novels, I try not too think about it too much. I obsess about the story and the dialog, but if I think too much about the reader, like trying to please someone else besides Rafael or me, then I get a little stilted in my writing or I’m afraid I might start talking down to our readers. For example, when it comes to vocabulary, I like to throw a word or two in there that I found in my thesaurus just because it makes Rafael and me laugh, even though kids might not know the word. I think that’s okay as long as I give the reader context so he or she is not lost or frustrated, and there is always that secret hope that the reader will learn a new word or two. Having said all that, we stay away from sex, extreme violence, cuss words, but that’s pretty easy because that doesn’t feel like a part of Claudette’s world. Now, when I write for TV, the audience is a big part of what I think about.
Rafael: Well, sometimes we knew or guessed that a particular visual gag would go over well with the kids, so we went ahead and put it in. Like all the potty humor with Valiant the dog. It’s a cheap gag, but kids love it. . .
Jorge: And so do we!
Q: What do you hope kids take away from your books? What do you hope to accomplish?
Rafael: We hope that it gets them excited about reading in general, not just graphic novels. We hear from a lot of parents, and kids themselves, that this is a book they read over and over. That makes us happy. It means the story clicks with them, and they want to go back and re-visit the world we’ve created.
Jorge: We hope they enjoy our story. We hope it makes them laugh and that the story sticks with them after they put the book away.
Q: What will we see next from you guys?
Jorge: The story for Book 2 of Claudette is done, and Rafael is very busy drawing it. It’s going to be action-packed! We’re very excited. And we’ve just started working on the story for Book 3.
Read more author interviews at AuthorOf.blogspot.com.