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Get an exclusive first look at First Second's upcoming graphic novels
Science and fantasy collide in First Second's Winter 2018 catalog, which features titles from first-time comic creators (Marcus Sedgwick, Laurie Halse Anderson) as well as more seasoned award-winners (Gene Luen Yang, Nate Powell). The winter lineup spotlights a range of important themes, from the tenets of Buddhism to Greek mythology to gender identity to monster hunting, here's what you can expect from the publisher early next year.
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The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, and Nate Powell (Jan. 2)
First Second executive editor Calista Brill says fans of Nate Powell's work on the National Book Award-winning March trilogy will find a lot to love in this graphic novel he illustrated before he began work on that project. "It's a lightly fictionalized account of a critical moment in the Civil Rights struggle in Texas that co-author Mark Long lived through as a kid and is re-exploring in the book," says Brill of the paperback reissue of the New York Times Bestseller co-written by Jim Demonakos. "It's a very powerful book."
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Little Sid by Ian Lendler and Xanthe Bouma (Jan. 23)
This picture book tells the story of young Prince Siddhartha (the titular "Little Sid"), a spoiled young boy who gets everything he asked for... until he asks for happiness itself. "One of the things that is so powerful about this book is that it is very carefully and thoughtfully researched and coming from a place of great respect for Buddhism," says Brill of this illustrated origin story. "It is at once very funny, charming, and sweet, but also a very good introductory text for the basic terms of Buddhism."
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Hermes by George O’Connor (Jan. 30)
"Hermes is more of what people have come to love from the Olympians," says Brill of O'Connor's popular Greek mythology-focused series. "It's an impeccably researched and extremely authentic and faithful retelling of several key episodes in the mythology of Hermes." It's also a perfect book for readers who might prefer their graphic novels to have a smidge more superheroes in them. "One of the connections that George really enjoys drawing out is that our modern conception of superheroes owes a lot to ancient mythology," explains Brill. "The relationship that we have with superheroes is actually pretty similar to the relationship that a lot of ancient peoples had with their pantheons of gods."
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Is This Guy for Real? by Box Brown (Feb. 6)
Readers may be familiar with comedian Andy Kaufman's public persona, which saw him challenge women to physical fights, among other things. However, Brill says Brown's graphic novel will reveal a different side of the divisive comic. "He was actually a sensitive guy," says the First Second editor. "But for some reason, he was just compelled to seek out negative attention in this way. One thing that the book explores very powerfully and persuasively is why somebody, who by all accounts is actually a really lovely person, would crave that kind of audience response." Brown's work delves into Kaufman's quest for authenticity through the audience's immediate response. "He found the way to get it was by having that response be one of pure hatred," says Brill.
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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll (Feb. 6)
Next year will also see the debut of the graphic novel adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson's best-selling novel. For the comic, the author worked very closely with illustrator Emily Carroll. "Together they've created something that is faithful to the original and as powerful as the original," says Brill. "And in certain respects, for some readers, will be even more powerful... The artistry in it is phenomenal, and the anguish of that novel is captured so beautifully. In certain respects, I find that the visuals make it even more intense and even more relatable."
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The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (Feb. 13)
Wang's newest graphic novel is a coming-of-age tale about a young European prince who likes to wear dresses. So while his parents are attempting to find him the perfect bride, he is secretly becoming a French fashion icon—all while falling in love with Francis, the dressmaker keeping his secret. "Jen's writing takes a very personal and sensitive look at gender expression, identity, and family," says Brill. "It has a very, very happy ending which is the thing that I love the best about it."
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In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang (Feb. 13)
Wang's other offering next year is a paperback reissue of her collaboration with author Cory Doctorow. The graphic novel tells the contemporary story of teen girl gamer who becomes involved with problematic politics in the online gaming world while also befriending a young Chinese kid through the game. "It's about breaking boundaries and making connections through gaming," says Brill. "It's also about questioning your assumptions about the world around you."
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Cucumber Quest: The Ripple Kingdom by Gigi D.G. (Feb. 27)
The latest in writer-illustrator Gigi D.G.'s Cucumber Quest series promises to be just as "psychedelic" as the previous books, says Brill. "It looks really wild and crazy, but when you actually sit down and analyze it, it is extremely disciplined and extremely smart," the editor says of D.G.'s art style. "She's a very, very skilled cartoonist, and she's somebody nobody should underestimate."
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Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu (March 6)
Fans of Hidden Figures looking for other inspirational women in history might find them in Bagieu's offering. "The thing that connects all of the people who are profiled in this book is that they are women who bucked the trend," explains Brill of the women featured in the book. "Women who did their own thing and marched to their own beat, some of them at great personal cost and some of them to great personal peril. And many of whom are relatively obscure characters that Bagieu plucked from the annals of history to introduce."
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Monsters Beware! by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado
Claudette is back for her latest adventure! And this time the scrappy medieval villager manages to get her town enrolled in a local wizardry tournament for wizardry while also getting tangled up in yet another epic battle with a posse of monsters. "This is more of what readers love from the series, which is a lot of rip-roaring fantasy adventure," says Brill. "My favorite thing about this series is that it employs my favorite device for kids adventure series, which is everybody's always yelling everything, all the time with their mouths very wide open."
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New Shoes by Sara Varon (March 20)
Varon's latest book explores Guyana, where we meet Francis, a donkey who is commissioned to make a custom pair of shoes for a calypso star named Miss Manatee. He embarks on a journey through the jungle to collect materials, and in the process, he also manages to save his friend who's been taken captive by a leopard. "It has this very sweet story about making the perfect pair of shoes, and then it also has this incredible element of introducing the local flora and fauna of Guyana," says Brill. "This is like a love letter to that country."
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Star Scouts: The League of Lasers by Mike Lawrence (March 20)
The Star Scouts are off on another adventure as Avani and Mabel are invited to audition for the ultra-elite (and secret) Star Scout society. The only catch? They'll have to compete against their nemesis to get in. "It speaks to a lot different issues of identity and belonging," says Brill. "Also, science-fiction fans are going to get such a kick out of the world that has been created here."
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Science Comics: Robots & Drones by Mairghread Scott and Jacob Chabot (March 27)
First Second's Science Comic series will be taking readers into the world of Robots & Drones. "One of the things we wanted to demonstrate is that robots are not a modern concept," says Brill. "People have been working on creating robots for basically as long as human records go back. Obviously, in the last 50 years, there's been this dramatic stride forward. But we really wanted to drive home the point that this is not a new fascination for humanity."
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Secret Coders: Potions & Parameters by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes (March 20)
Also coming next year is the next installment in MacArthur Genius Grant-winner Gene Luen Yang's Secret Coders series, which aims to teach kids (or anyone with an interest) how to code. "Gene started out his career as a high school-level computer programming teacher. So he has extremely strong opinions and a great background for teaching this kind of thing," says Brill. And lest you doubt Yang's teaching capabilities, the editor notes that they test out his lessons in-house. "Before we publish these books, we make sure that most of the people in the office are capable of following his instructions and solving the problems that he poses. We figure your average 35-year-old publishing professional is probably about as good at programming as your average eight-year-old!"
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Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter by Marcus Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor (April 3)
Next year also sees YA novelist Marcus Sedgwick publish his first-ever graphic novel, which Brill says is a little different than what fans have come to expect from him. "It's an old-fashioned, good-hearted romp," she says of the book which follows orphaned heroine Scarlett Hart. "She lives in this gothic mansion with her loyal family butler and secretly fights monsters at night. It's so much fun and nostalgic in certain respects. It makes me think of the old hardcover children's serials that I used to read when I was a kid."
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Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable (April 10)
Brill reaches for a beloved classic when describing Annable's younger-skewing graphic novel. "The best comparison that I can give people is Frog and Toad are Friends because it feels timeless and intensely adorable," says the editor of the book's tone. "It's about two sloths who have very different attitudes about the world. One is sort of an anxious, worrywart homebody, and the other one is a sort of devil-may-care world traveler. And they are separated for the first time and have to learn to get along without each other. It has the classic feel of a mismatched friendship story."
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Science Comics: Sharks by Joe Flood (April 17)
This installment in the Science Comics series focuses on sharks, but hopefully, no new information about the creatures will surface between now and the book's publication — an actual worry the books' creative and fact-checking teams face due to the evolving nature of science. "Science is a living discipline," says Brill. "We want to make sure that part of the point that kids are getting from these books is that there are never facts that you can't reasonably question. You should never take it for granted that something is true. You need to always be confirming and re-confirming."
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The City on the Other Side by Mairghread Scott and Robin Robinson (April 24)
And for readers looking to once again visit Wonderland—or at the very least a fairy realm of some kind, there's The City on the Other Side, which features a young girl stumbling into an alternate version of San Francisco where fairies are at war. "There's also this undercurrent of a little girl coping with this enormous tragedy and this huge upheaval in her life," says Brill of the graphic novel, which is set shortly after the great earthquake and fire of 1906. "The adventure she gets herself tangled up in echoes that, and as a result, the stakes feel really high. It's a very intense and gripping story with really, really beautiful and persuasive world-building."
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Crafty Cat and the Great Butterfly Battle by Charise Mericle Harper (April 24)
Another returning favorite is Birdie, a young girl who transforms into her secret alter-ego Crafty Cat to solve problems with the power of craft. This time around, Birdie goes up against her rival, Anya, as they both try out for the main part in the school play. As for readers looking to join in the fun? "There's a big section at the end of each book where you get instructionals on how to make all of the crafts that Crafty Cat makes during the book," explains Brill. "So there's this wonderful interactive element to them."