TOON Books, the comics imprint recently acquired by Astra Books for Young Readers, has announced plans to publish the first picture book by acclaimed humorist David Sedaris. The book is illustrated by the late author-illustrator Ian Falconer, creator of the popular Olivia series. Pretty Ugly is due in hardcover on February 27, 2024. Aimed at ages five and up, the book takes a comedic look at why some people are labeled beautiful while others are deemed ugly.
Françoise Mouly, founder and publisher of TOON Books, said in a statement, “Twenty years ago, I asked David and Ian to create a piece for a comics anthology called Little Lit: Strange Stories for Strange Kids. Together they created Pretty Ugly, a funny fable that manages to reveal a profound lesson about tolerance. It’s a perfect example of visual storytelling. You have to let the rhythm of the story and art unfold to get to the reveal and appreciate all the humor.”
Mouly described the project’s evolution into picture book form. “When I started TOON Books, I kept going back to that work thinking it could be a standalone picture book, but never got around to it till recently. With the systematic attacks so-called conservatives are leveling on all those they see as deviant or even just different, it felt urgent to publish a tale with such a clear moral center. David and Ian agreed and earlier this year, we finalized the editing and design, prepping it for spring 2024 publication. A few weeks before he died, I sent Ian the dummy and—in true Ian style—he remarked, ‘this looks great. I can’t wait to see it bound... and gagged.’ ”
Mouly added, “It gives me such pleasure to be able to share one of Ian Falconer’s final projects and David Sedaris’s first book for children and bring the genius of both comic greats to kids, parents, teachers, and everyone who loves a good funny book.”
Sedaris is the author of Calypso, Happy-Go-Lucky, and Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, as well as several collections of personal essays, including Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames. His writing is regularly featured in the New Yorker and has twice been included in The Best American Essays. There are more than 12 million copies of his books in print, translated into 25 languages.
Falconer, who died in March, was an author-illustrator, designer of theatrical sets and costumes, and creator of 30 covers for the New Yorker, among other publications. His bestselling picture books starring piglet Olivia have sold more than10 million copies worldwide.