Monday, December 25, 2006

Take Note, Publishing World

Fuse #8 has asked for Manga titles for kids, "Manga on par with Babymouse."

The silence has been deafening.

I wish I could list title after title that I have discovered in my reading for the Cybils nominating committee for the graphic novels section. I haven't seen Hikaru No Go (main character is a sixth graders) or Yotsuba (sounds like a cutesy child Amelia Bedelia) but I will say that Kat & Mouse is quite a stretch for "KIDS (not teens)." The two main characters are seventh graders and the book features a two page spread overview of the Expensive East Coast Private School cafeteria that includes scores (Brains, Evil, Cool, Sports) for each of the cliques.

I poked around Google a bit and found MangaBlog on Manga4Kids, a site which reviews Manga for parents of children 13 and under, and gives feedback on plot, character & morality, violence, sexuality/body functions, language, and substances in each title.

But clearly, the publishing world needs to take note of this niche and get busy!


  1. Anonymous9:43 AM

    Just finished Kat & Mouse and I think it's for those kids who also like babymouse (which is also set in a middle school with cliques etc); and it also reminded me of all those 7 year olds who adore High School Musical. I think what will really show the right age is how the boy/girl interaction gets handled.

    What I don't understand anymore is the definition of Manga. Is it now just japanese style?

  2. Fair enough. I guess I see Babymouse as more appropriate for kids vs. teens because of the readability of the text, and the fact that she's a mouse, which takes away the reality of her school experience and makes it more generic/less harshly realistic. So I take into account the depiction of the character and the school experience along with the boy/girl interaction.

    I heard Scott McCloud speak at NCTE and he gave a pretty concise explanation of Manga storytelling vs. the storytelling in U.S. comics. Here are his main points:
    1. Manga has iconic characters. You fill in the details on those blank faces and it gives you a sense of participation.
    2. Manga pays more attention to the environments. They matter more. In Manga we often encounter scenes in fragments, just the way we see things. Again, more of a sense of participation.
    3. Manga uses silence to give the reader a chance to understand the story by themselves.
    4. Motion in Manga is often subjective -- the reader feels like s/he is moving, whereas in U.S. comics, the motion is bombastic.
    5. Manga uses lots of real world anchors, showing an appreciation of the beauty of everyday objects.
    6. Manga uses genre targeting -- that's why there are so many genres in Manga -- one for each group of readers.
    7. Manga uses archetypes -- the differences in the way characters are drawn is often dramatic.

    The thing that all of these stylistic characteristics of Manga (according to Scott McCloud) accomplish is that they give the reader a sense of participating in the story, not just observing the story.

    The U.S. tradition/style comes out of the superhero tradition, and grew out of vaudeville and the theater: characters are most often depicted face out, they play to the audience, and the superheroes perform (in Manga, you follow them).

    Scott McCloud sees the new generation of artists building a bridge between the two styles, and creating art that will speak directly to a new generation of readers.

  3. Anonymous7:50 PM

    Hi! I'm the author of Manga4Kids and MangaBlog, and I have a few suggestions.

    My favorite kids' title at the moment is Chikyu Misaki, from CMX. It's the story of a girl who makes friends with a Loch Ness monster-like creature in a nearby lake and discovers that the monster can turn into a little boy. The plot gets more complicated, with a kidnapping and hidden treasure, and I found it was paced very like a good children's movie. The series is complete in three volumes. It's rated "Teen" because there is some very mild nudity and potty humor, but the kids in it are definitely kids.

    In the department of books that kids will love and parents will hate, I just got an advance copy of Kilala Princess from Tokyopop. It's sort of like their popular Kingdom Hearts series in that it integrates manga and Disney characters, but this is all about the Disney Princesses. It's a bit jarring to see the two different styles juxtaposed like this, and the story is standard-issue, but some kids will eat these up like potato chips.

    Not quite manga but a good read and rated all ages is Inverloch, which is a webcomic and a print comic (put out by Seven Seas). It's a quest story with elves and various other creatures—the story starts slow and then gets better—and the art is very nice.

    Astronaut Elementary is a manga-influenced comic by Dave Roman, an editor at Nickelodeon magazine. It's about a bunch of smart-alecky kids in an elementary school in outer space, and the humor is definitely more on a kid than a teen level. The webcomic is on hiatus at the moment (Dave just married Raina Telgemeier, who does the Babysitter's Club graphic novels), but check the archives. He has published the webcomic as three volumes of minicomics.

    While they aren't exactly great literature, I did want to mention the Tokyopop Manga Chapters series, which combine pages of manga with pages of text. My 7-year-old nephew really enjoyed Agent Boo, which is a science-fiction tale about a plucky fourth-grader. It's the sort of thing I loved when I was a kid. And don't forget the Nancy Drew manga from Papercutz!


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