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2014 Preview Interview: Flying Eye Books

Now that we’re solidly into 2014, the time seems right to check in on a few publishers and see what they have coming out in the near (or not so near) future. Kicking off our 2014 Preview Interviews is Flying Eye Books. I chatted with Flying Eye/Nobrow U.S. Sales and Marketing Director Tucker Stone about the latest.

Travis: Greetings from Michigan! Well, Flying Eye Books has a year under their belts – how does it feel? Any surprises?

Tucker: I feel pretty lucky to have seen Flying Eye from both the retail and publishing side, because I got to see it begin when I was still a full time bookstore guy at Bergen Street Comics, while also being able to attend the Book Expo trade show when the first batch of Flying Eye titles debuted. It’s really exciting to be a new imprint and a relatively new company in the US at a time when print is in this weird, wildcat place. I’m a little too new at this to talk about surprises. Every day has its own new kind of craziness to it. I was surprised the first time I sent a book to somebody and they emailed me to say they liked it. It’s going to take a while before I take moments like that for granted.

Is there a Flying Eye book from 2013 that you felt caught on more than others?

Hilda and The Bird Parade (out now) is definitely the book that most people are going to associate with Flying Eye this past year, and that’s to be expected—Luke Pearson’s cartooning is consistently amazing, and it’s clear that Hilda has really struck a chord with a lot of readers.

2013 was a big year for Hilda overall, with Hildafolk (re-released as Hilda and the Troll, out now) becoming available in eight different languages in a new, expanded format—it was pretty amazing to see all those different versions all lined up next to one another.

Let’s get into the books you have coming out in 2014. Anything for the K-2 (ages 5-7) crowd?

100 Bears (out now) from Magali Bardos came out right at the beginning of 2014. It’s a counting book that goes all the way to 100, but unlike most traditional counting books, it’s got a narrative.

Hug Me (out September 9) is a picture book coming out in fall, about a little cactus looking for someone to hug.

This year has already seen the beginning of our Dahlov Ipcar Collection, with the release of I Like Animals (out now) and The Wonderful Egg (out May 13), neither of which had seen print since the early 60’s. They’re both picture books, one about a little boy who loves animals, the other about a mysterious egg set during the Age of the Dinosaurs.

The later half off 2014, there’s going to be a children’s book called No Such Thing… (by Ella Bailey, out September 9) which is about a little girl named Georgia who is dedicated to proving ghosts don’t exist, despite a whole bunch of evidence that says otherwise.

How about for upper elementary – grades 3-4 (ages 8-10)?

The Dinner That Cooked Itself (by J.C. Hsyu; illustrated by Kenard Pak, out December 9) is a pretty gorgeous version of an old Chinese fable about a lonely man whose life is changed by magic and beauty. It reminds me of one of the first books Flying Eye published, One Night Far From Here (out now).

Not in terms of subject matter—they couldn’t be more different in that respect—but in the way that the art in both tends to envelop you whole. I have a hard time pulling myself away from looking at Kenard Pak’s illustrations for Dinner. I think that’s a book that is going to inspire a few people to try drawing. That probably sounds a little silly, but I think you’ll see what I mean when that book shows up.

What’s the weirdest book you have coming out in 2014?

The most unusual book is probably Mr. Tweed’s Good Deeds (out October 14). It’s both a counting book and a find-it book about Mr. Tweed, an anthropomorphic dog in formal wear who heads out for a walk and ends up helping every animal he comes across, usually by helping them find something they’ve lost. It’s just got so much stuff in it, and the use of color in it is particularly striking. It’s the book I’m most looking forward to seeing a physical copy of right now.

I see Hilda is back in Hilda and the Black Hound (out May 13). Her new adventure looks pretty trippy.

It’s as meta as Hilda has gotten, definitely—Luke Pearson really played with the formal characteristics of comics in this one in a way that I think is going to attract some attention. There’s these new characters introduced in Hilda and the Black Hound called the Nisse that are capable of transitioning in and out of our world, essentially hopping through dimensions. If you’d told me that was a concept in a book for younger readers, I think my initial feeling would have been that it’s a bit too complex, but the way Pearson manipulates the panel structure and layout does it with ease. All the other stuff anybody would expect is there—it’s still funny, the relationship with her mother remains one of the best family dramas you’ll find in contemporary comics, and it looks fantastic—but it’s also just an inspiring example of an artist who is pushing himself extremely hard, and finding great success while doing so.

As you mentioned, Flying Eye is reprinting a couple books, I Like Animals and The Wonderful Egg, both by Dahlov Ipcar – what was that process like?

I’m not the best at explaining the Dahlov process, but Here’s what Alex Spiro had to say about that particular process recently:

In the absence of original acetate colour separations, first editions of the books had to be taken apart at the binding very carefully so as not to damage the artwork, then each page or spread had to be scanned at 12,000 dpi using a large flatbed scanner. Then the artwork had to be picked apart by hand from these scans to recreate the original colour separations.

The way the original books were printed is very similar to the silkscreen process, where individual overlapping colours produce secondary and tertiary colours. So what we had to do was to recreate the original separated colours before they were all mixed up in the printing process. That even meant, in some cases, redrawing parts of the illustrations where the colour information was not able to be retrieved. In most cases it meant working with photographic levels and colour selections to isolate colours within the image before then separating them out of the scanned image, only to then completely reassemble them in the printing process.

It’s certainly a mouthful, but it is a complicated process, not dissimilar to unravelling the underdrawings in renaissance paintings, then using those same underdrawings to repaint the pictures, less the X-ray equipment and adeptness with oil paints…

The production value in your books is so high – they’re really something to hold. How do you pull it off?

We just love books and we want to make ones that we think are special. I think that if you start from that place you will find the solutions necessary. I don’t mean that to be flip, that’s just how it seems to me. I love books, and I love comics. If every question that comes up is getting answered from that point of view, then I believe the end result is going to reflect those feelings.

Anything on the distant horizon that has you excited?

Luke drew this poster of the New York office and I’m one of the characters he depicted. I’m pretty stoked about that.

Immortalized! Thank you for taking my questions, Tucker.

Here are a few more 2014 books from Flying Eye:

Big Meals for Little Hands: Easy French Cuisine for Kids (by Viginie Aladjidi & Caroline Pelissier; illustrated by Marion Billet, out April 29)

The Best Book in the World by Rilla Alexander (out July 8)

Lil’ Merl and the Dastardly Dragon: A Story-Activity Book by Liam Barrett (out July 15)

Children are Naughty by Vincent Cuvellier; illustrated by Aurélie Guillerey (out May 13)

Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill (out now)

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About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.

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