2016 Preview Interview: Flying Eye Books
I talked with Tucker Stone (the US Sales and Marketing Rep for Nobrow/Flying Eye Books) about what Flying Eye Books has up their sleeve for 2016
(Click on images to enlarge)
Travis: Hello from Michigan, Tucker – how’s it going? How is your beard coming along? It was looking fantastic last time our paths crossed.
Tucker Stone: I had to get rid of it, I’m sorry to say. My 2 year old daughter had been on team beard from the jump, the mangier it got, the more she liked it. But something happened post ALA Midwinter—I can’t put my finger on it, but upon my return home I was a man alone. Of course, as soon as it was gone she wanted it to come back, and all these months later, she’s still asking me what happened to the actual hair. She seems to think I’m keeping it somewhere.
Well, consider me on #teamtuckerbeard with your daughter.
So, Flying Eye 2016! Should we start with William Grill? Wolves of Currumpaw is his first book since winning the Kate Greenaway Medal, right?
It is! But when he was visiting New York for the Times Best Illustrated breakfast, he spent his free time drawing sketches of the City—so maybe there’s an urban decay book in him?
I could see him doing pretty well with that topic.
Wolves of Currumpaw (July 12, 2016) is the real deal. I loved Shackleton’s, unreservedly…but at the end of the day, Shackleton’s is a story of triumph, and Wolves is a tragedy. There’s different heartstrings being pulled, and a sense of obligation that comes out at the end of this story that’ll split you wide open. I walked away from Shackleton’s marveling at what people can accomplish, and I walked away from Currumpaw realizing how much we have to accomplish.
I’m no connoisseur of children’s book the way you are, so I’m not going to make a blanket statement about the rest of the field. I do think that the general messages of Wolves of Currumpaw could not be more necessary. The world feels like a difficult place to live in right now, and we have to find a way to share the space. That’s just one of the things I took away from it. And that’s without going into how great it looks, how unique…I could not be luckier in that I’ve gotten to watch this one develop.
I’m seeing a couple re-issues from Helen Borten. How did those come about?
Do You See What I See? by Helen Borten (May 10, 2016)
Helen and her family were down and we’re big fans. The guys who started Nobrow have been digging up children’s books from the 50’s and 60’s for a long time before Flying Eye (our children’s book imprint) started up, and that sort of mania leads to googling these people before too long. Helen never went anywhere, of course—she just turned the same skill she had for children’s books to a different career and became a force in journalism.
Do You Hear What I Hear? by Helen Borten (May 10, 2016)
It was a bit of lucky timing too—she was aiming to find a publisher to bring the “Do You” series back, and we were looking to work with her.
I know both these books have a pretty big following among picture book aficionados (as seen below in 100 Great Children’s Picture Books by Martin Salisbury), so it’s nice they’ll be more easily available now.
What is the most unique book from Flying Eye in 2016?
The Journey, by Francesca Sanna (September 13, 2016). No question.
It’s a picture book for young children about a family of refugees abandoning their homeland due to the war that, among other things, takes their father. It’s particularly inspired by the experience of Syrian refugees, but also incorporates the journeys that have had to be undertaken by the people of Somalia, Tibet and Eritrea.
Francesca met with families, she met with children in refugee centers, and the end result is a phenomenal piece of art. I can’t imagine anyone walking away from this book without being stirred up by it, even though it’s a children’s book, through and through. I’m as pumped about you reading it as I was when I read it myself. If people aren’t making a big deal about it at some point this year, I should probably quit my job, because that will be totally on me.
Coming strong with the animal-based nonfiction titles! What can readers expect from Smart About Sharks, One Day on Our Blue Planet in the Antarctic, and Wild Animals of the North?
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?
Smart About Sharks (August 9, 2016) is the second book we’re doing with Owen Davey, his first with us was Mad About Monkeys…which also happened to be our first book on that ALSC Notables list.
We’d already gone ahead with Owen to make a shark book in the same fashion as monkeys—cool digitally born art, quirky but scientifically solid text—and it’s been really awesome to see that one welcomed so quickly.
Wild Animals of the North (June 7, 2016) also lives in that space of being a “hipster encyclopedia” about animals (that’s a critical remark someone made about Monkeys that I’ve decided to adopt as an actual descriptive term because I thought it was funny).
I agree – that’s funny.
Dieter Braun is the guy behind that one, he’s a German artist, and there will be a second book in 2017 that focuses on the animals of the Southern hemisphere. The illustrations in those books are extremely dynamic, you can tell that Braun is trying to capture the animals as living, moving creatures instead of static receptacles for attention. It’s a living encyclopedia, a book that will hopefully remind children that these animals are outside, right now.
One Day on Our Blue Planet in the Antarctic (March 22, 2016)—I don’t remember if I talked to you about the first one, the one about the lion cub?
It’s by Ella Bailey, her third book with us and the second in the One Day series. It’s actually sold out right now as we’re talking, it turned out that kids were hungry to read about a penguin learning to swim. Our hope is to keep making these books with Ella for a while. She’s got a real talent for anthropomorphizing juvenile animals in a way that lives just on the right side of cute. I’ve seen enough non-fiction to know how difficult it can be to educate without being dogmatic or condescending, and Ella operates pretty well in that space. I think she’s aiming for the jungle next, but I’m not totally sure.
The jungle seems like a good next move.
Triumphant returns seems to be a bit of a theme. Professor Astro Cat, Hilda, and Mr. Tweed are all back. Any surprises this time out?
The Hilda book is going to really rock people, yeah. It’s a buddy comedy, there’s a lot of stuff with her mom (and Hilda’s mom is legitimately awesome, one of the few no-question best comic book characters out there right now), and there’s this THING that happens in this one that I think is gonna kick your head in a bit. I think Hilda and the Stone Forest (September 27, 2016) is nothing but surprises. I don’t want to spoil that one too hard. If you have a comic book store near you, stop by on Free Comic Book Day—we’re giving away the first 12 pages of Stone Forest in this cool little Hilda comic book we made, the first “American style” comic from Nobrow/Flying Eye.
Trying something new! This is good to know.
Professor Astro and Mr. Tweed are coming back with a vengeance, if by vengeance you understand that I mean “a book about physics” and “a book about a band made up of walruses”.
The best kind of vengeance.
Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventure (May 10, 2016) is right around the corner, you may even be looking at it right now—it’s a book that works to explain the scientific method and physics from the basics of atoms all the way to sound waves and magnetism. The challenge with Astro is that you’ve got such an incredibly distinctive and popular book (Frontiers of Space) that you have to live up to, and I think Ben Newman really embraced the challenge.
Because it’s set on Earth, it’s a brighter book than Frontiers, which by necessity spent a lot of time in the blackness of outer space, and I think all that blue and yellow and green just gives the book a bit of a sunniness that’ll help get its younger readers into the subjects on hand.
It’s like that Matt Damon movie, The Martian.
Everybody is super positive and always trying to figure stuff out. Science!
Mr. Tweed and the Band in Need is going to be pushed back a bit to put more walruses in it. I’m not kidding, actually. It’ll show up in 2017 with even more walruses. That’s what the book is about: they bring in Mr. Tweed to be their look-and-find expert so that a walrus band doesn’t miss its upcoming show.
Mr. Tweed is kinda the Bizarro Waldo: he prefers to find rather than be found.
If you had to choose one Flying Eye 2016 book as your spirit animal, which would you choose and why?
There’s this mouse in the Astro Cat book that follows Astro around and smarts off sometime.
I’ve got a whole narrative in my head for that little guy. I like him a lot. I wish he had his own book, but that it was just a board book about his morning routine. I feel like he’s a well organized little guy who eats the right amount of protein, gets up super early, power cleans his body weight, the whole deal. I love that mouse. He gets it done.
I do get the feeling that everything would fall apart if Mouse and Astro Cat ever parted ways.
What do you have for more straightforward picture books this year?
Marcel and—no joke—Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat.
Marcel (September 13, 2016) is the story of a French Bulldog who has the perfect life in downtown New York, right up until his owner decides to start dating a man who lives uptown. The new relationship puts Marcel a bit out of sorts as he tries to navigate all the changes that ensue. The artist is a Turkish woman who had just moved to New York a few years ago, and the book has a real sense of place in that way you can only get from a new pair of enthusiastic eyes.
Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat (September 13, 2016) is the story of a cat who lives at a different house every single day, which is how he ends up having so many different names. Then one day he disappears, and the whole neighborhood comes together to track him down. (Well, after they figure out they are all trying to track down the same cat, that is.) They’re both sweet books with a bit of a message to them, but nothing overt or in your face.
Speaking of faces – that cat has some great eyebrows.
You ever see that movie where Keenan Ivory Wayans keeps screaming the word “MESSAGE” whenever the script gets cliched?
They aren’t like that. They’re sweet.
Anything we missed?
Keith Negley’s My Dad Used To Be So Cool (July 12, 2016) is going to be landing pretty soon, we’re hoping it’ll land in stores before Father’s Day. It’s a semi-detective story in stripped down picture book fashion, told from the point of view of a young boy who keeps coming across what appears to be evidence that his dad was once someone rather cool. There’s a motorcycle outside, covered in weeds, pictures of some guy with a mohawk—it’s in the same vein of his previous book, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this one was a bit more personal.
We’re also putting out a second Fantasy Sports (July 19, 2016) graphic novel via our Nobrow line.
That book isn’t technically a Flying Eye title, but children and young adults are definitely a big part of the audience that Sam Bosma (the creator) is thinking about when he puts the books together, and I think he’s really outdone himself this time around.
The first Fantasy Sports wasn’t created with the idea that it was going to become this long series of titles—it was just Sam trying to tame this big, fun idea he had.
With Volume 2, he had the chance to really develop and explore this world he’s creating, knowing that there was definitely going to be space for it to exist, that he didn’t have to worry about printing it and getting it out there. As someone who came aboard Nobrow after the initial world of Hilda already existed, it’s been fun to have a chance to see an artist really develop an entire world of characters, history, logic, magic. It’s also got a ton of volleyball in it against a bunch of freaky black lagoon type people. It’s a great book
After that—man. Ask me again in a week. There’s a lot more books on the way.
Thanks, Tucker – it was fun talking to you.
Also coming in 2016 from Flying Eye Books…
Dogs in Cars by Emmanuelle Walker, illustrated by Felix Massie (October 4, 2016)
Clap, Clap! by Madalena Matoso (April 12, 2016)
Filed under: Previews
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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