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100 Scope Notes
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2015 Preview Interview: Flying Eye Books

Flying Eye Books is always up to something interesting. I talked to Tucker Stone (the US Sales and Marketing Rep for Nobrow/Flying Eye Books) about what to look for in 2015.

Travis Jonker: How’s it going at Flying Eye? How’d that name come about, by the way?

Tucker Stone: Things are going great! 2014 was such a huge year for us—there was the latest Hilda adventure, Hilda and the Black Hound,

the overwhelming admiration and accolades for William Grill’s amazing Shackleton’s Journey,

and then the runaway success of Hug Me—it’s always a real honor to get to work with these artists, but ultimately you want their work to be seen, and that happened last year. It’s an awesome feeling!

Regarding the name—well, Alex (:::) was trying to think of a name that would reference our alternative origins, while representing a sense of adventure and excitement that would appeal to children and parents alike. Our first logo for Nobrow was a somewhat gruesome flying eyeball and because we didn’t want to terrify children with our new brand, Sam and Alex thought of the winking owl logo we have today. The knowing wink gets rid of the awkward plural (Eyes), the owl is a perfect universal symbol of knowledge (and adventure) and given the success rates of avian logos in publishing “Flying Eye Books” seemed like the perfect name! There was also the rather neat, now fitting tagline that seemed to follow on naturally from it: “Books to take your children’s eyes on a journey of wonder!”

I think it’s a solid name choice. Since most publishers have last name based monikers, Flying Eye stands out.

Now, on to 2015? On to 2015. What do you have coming up for very young readers (age 0-4)?

Our first Flying Eye title in 2014 is going to be a book called Jérémie Fischer’s Wild About Shapes, which you’re already well aware of (note: I reviewed the book here)—it’s a bit difficult to explain the book in words.

It’s a bunch of shapes of animals that change into other shapes, but they also relate to one another in time and space, and they chase each other and play with each other….It’s hard to encapsulate that kind of reading experience, so we hope people have a chance to pick it up, because it’s such an intuitive object when they do! I do think that it’s something younger children will really get into, and the language works perfectly for reading out loud. It’s a fun book to yell “run” with.

Yeah, this book is pretty amazing in person. It’s sort of like a magic trick kids can hold in their hands.

Coming in April, we’ll have our third reprint in the Dahlov Ipcar Collection, a book called Black & White that hasn’t seen print since the early 1960’s.

I’m as excited about this book as I am any of the new books we publish.

Dahlov Ipcar from Nobrow Ltd on Vimeo.

I had the chance to meet Dahlov last year at her home—she’s still painting at 97, and she didn’t let my visit cut into her time in the studio—and at the time, she gave me a little background about Black & White, which had been inspired by what she was seeing all around her in those early years of the Civil Rights movement. To see how an artist responded to the injustice of those years in the form of children’s literature is always going to be an enlightening experience, but even more so when she explained the struggle she faced in getting the book she wanted to make out there. The compromises she had to make (changing the characters from children to dogs being the largest one) don’t come across at all in the narrative, but they were enough to keep the books firmly allegorical. It feels good to release the book now and to bluntly say: this is what she meant. This (the racism of 1950’s/1960’s America) is what she was reacting against. I think it’s a beautiful, powerful book.

It’s a topic that’s as important now as when the book was initially published.

In May and June, we’ll have two new picture books about rambunctious animals—the first one will be This Is My Rock,

which is by an artist that’s worked with Flying Eye before on a Christmas book we published called A Letter for Bear.

That’s a great book! I think it flew under the radar a bit, but I would encourage people to check it out.

This time around, David is writing about a goat who has managed to become king of the mountain, but after a couple of days, he starts to realize that he’s not having a very good time all by himself, yelling at everybody who tries to come up to the top of the rock and join him. As someone who didn’t really get a hold on how sharing was supposed to work until his late 20’s, I feel a certain kinship with this book’s main character. I am nowhere near as embarrassed by that admission as I should be!

I like the idea of a sharing book that people in their late 20s can also find useful.

The other mischievous animal book we have coming is Hungry Roscoe, also by a guy named David. (David J. Plant, to be specific).

Roscoe is your classic raccoon, up until a point—unlike the raccoons you’re likely to find waking you up in the middle of the night, Roscoe is sick and tired of eating garbage, and has decided the easiest route would be to hook up with all those zoo animals who are getting three squares a day of the freshest produce. His primary obstacle is a mustached zookeeper who looks sort of like an extremely muscular member of the Mario Brothers clan. Roscoe’s various disguises and tricks are put to the test—it’s a really funny book. I don’t know if it will change my opinion of actual, sleep-disrespecting raccoons, but it’s totally possible.

I feel like you can’t go wrong with a raccoon named Roscoe.

How about lower elementary (ages 5-7)?

In 2014, we published a book by Rilla Alexander called The Best Book In the World, which is a book about books and the joy of reading, focused on a little girl named Sozi.

Sozi had actually been previously published in a book called Her Idea that Rill put out in a small quantity a few years ago.

That book had never been widely available in Europe, and not at all in the US, so we worked with her to come up with a new version of it for Flying Eye. In Her Idea, Sozi explores all the different ways that ideas can appear in your life, and where you go with them from there. It’s such an intuitive book, too. We asked Rilla about what it was like when she read it to children in its previous edition and this is what she had to say:

The thing I found in reading it over and over to children is a lot more kids have doubts about their abilities than anyone thinks so it really struck a chord with them and I have had some intense conversations with 8 year olds about not being satisfied with what you make. The younger kids really love this book simply because she is chasing around ideas and catching them (and the whole frustration of procrastination just calmly sails over their heads). The feedback I had from parents is that it gave their children more of an understanding of how special their ideas are. They told me their children started proudly saying “Dad, I’ve got an idea”…

The other picture book we’ve got coming out that’s in this age bracket (but will be fun for younger siblings as well) is Danny, from the Le Bec brothers, who are working together on a children’s book for the first time.

Danny is about a hippopotamus who decides he needs to get braces, a decision which sends shockwaves (well, to some degree) throughout the rest of the jungle, especially with one toothy reptile. Things end up not going super well for the local dentist. Danny is also printed in spot color, which you and I have talked about before regarding the Dahlov Ipcar Collection, and it really shows—the book looks like it came out of a time warp, while reading like it was written yesterday. It’s a cool book that we hope people take a chance on!

Although a lot of people know about Flying Eye because of the Hilda books, our biggest ambassador to the picture book world is the book Wild, by Emily Hughes (note: I reviewed it here), and coming this year will be her newest book for us, The Little Gardener.

What can you say about Emily? She’s an astonishing talent and getting a chance to see her put together a book is an inspiring experience we wouldn’t trade for anything. Earlier this year, she loaned the office some of her original pages for a show at the Society of Illustrators, and seeing how simple it really was—just her pencils on paper—blew me away. There’s a lot happening in design and digital illustration these days, and I’m always impressed by what I see scrolling through tumblr, but I’m of a certain temperament that, ultimately, it’s seeing those original pencils that is going to take my breath away.

Something that I love is when illustrators share how they make their art – so often it gives you a whole new level of appreciation. I’ve shared things with kids before and they always find it interesting too.

I guess I haven’t really said much about the plot, but I feel like I don’t want to spoil it. It’s about faith and perseverance. It’s about a tiny little gardener who loves nature more than anything in the world. It’s a beautiful, beautiful book.

I had the chance to look at this book and I love it. It’s the kind of book that grown ups are going to enjoy sharing with kids. Definitely a timeless feel.

Upper elementary? Middle grade (ages 8 and up)?

This summer we’ll be introducing a new character named Professor Brownstone—he’s your classic Jeeves-ian type, a real proper guy who knows his way around an outfit and a proper cup of tea, but in this book—Professor Brownstone’s Mythical Collection: The Urn of Uruk—he’ll be telling the story of when he was much younger, hunting treasures and legends.

The author, Joe Todd Stanton, has these really awesome spreads that are jam packed with jokes and references, and the book is definitely going to be perfect for re-reads. You’ll need more than a few passes to take it all in!

Yeah, it looks like there’s a lot to take in here. 

What’s new in nonfiction?

Well, we won’t see a new one from William Grill, but in his stead, we’ve got the first in a new series of books about juvenile animals from Ella Bailey, who had her first book with Flying Eye last year—No Such Thing.

This series is called One Day on our Blue Planet, and the first book will be set in the African Savannah.

It tells you about one day, from dawn to dusk, in the life of a curious little lion cub. What does he do all day? What is his family life like? It’s a really adorable book, but the substance of the book is hand-in-hand with the style. We’re really proud of it, and while the next book is still in the planning stages (it’ll be out around this time next year), we have every confidence that people are going to love the window that Ella has opened to this part of the animal kingdom.

The other big nonfiction title we have coming is Joe Lillington’s Toby and the Ice Giants.

Toby is a little bison who spent his time 10,000 years ago walking up to every animal he could find and asking them who they were, and why, and whether or not they wanted to be friends. (In the case of some sabre toothed conversationalists, the answer was no.) It’s a funny book with fantastic, well researched illustrations, but it’s also a book packed full of facts and background about a time period that only gets more fascinating the more you learn about it.

What’s the most unusual or unexpected book on the horizon?

In August, we’ll be putting out a book called Mad About Monkeys, by an amazing artist named Owen Davey.

Mad About Monkeys is essentially a compendium of some of the best monkey drawings you’re ever going to find—Owen’s style is so smart and unique, and it’s positively oozing with color. Nothing else looks like what he’s doing, and the book could be totally wordless and it would still be the sort of thing that a kid would go crazy for. But it’s not wordless, it’s stuffed, and it isn’t just the basic “what are they called, where do they live” kind of facts. It’s about how the animals play, how it is that they never seem to miss a branch when they jump from a vine, what the purpose of fighting is in their social systems…it’s an enthralling educational experience, and one that we’re very proud of. It’s gonna be a great way to transition from a relaxing summer to the beginning of the school year!

And let us now transition to the conclusion, Tucker. Thank you for taking my questions!

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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.

Comments

  1. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Flying Eye!

  2. WOW!!! Flying Eye always has some of the most visually impressive art represented in their picture books. Such a joy to see that 2015 will be no different for this small press mainstay.

  3. Ditto-ing those fine folks up there. Thanks, Travis and Tucker!