Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is the latest publisher to announce a children’s graphic novel imprint: Etch, which will gather all of HMH’s graphic novels into a single imprint, will debut in September 2020. The launch catalog will consist of seven titles, with plans to publish about 15 books per year.
Publisher Catherine Onder will oversee the imprint, but editors from the HMH children’s imprints Clarion, Versify, and HMH Books for Young Readers will all acquire properties for Etch. “I’ve been so impressed by the passion from the team, across both editorial and design, and the talented roster of creators that they’ve brought on board,” Onder said. “This variety of perspectives, interests, and expertise is key to our providing graphic novels for every reader.”
While most of the books on the initial list are middle-grade, plans call for more middle-grade and young adult titles in future seasons. “Etch is a young readers imprint, but beyond that we’re not putting any restrictions on age groups,” Onder said.
The imprint will kick off in September 2020 with three middle-grade graphic novels and one YA title. The middle-grade stories are Dinomighty! by Greg Trine, illustrated by Aaron Blecha, an action story starring four dinosaurs with a similar vibe to Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man series; Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery by Renee Treml, featuring a bird skeleton who solves mysteries with the help of his sidekick, a stuffed parrot; and Carmen Sandiego: The Chasing Paper Caper, third in the series based on the popular animated show. The YA book is Ryan Inzana’s Ichiro, which was nominated for an Eisner Award when it was first published in 2012. The story is about a Japanese-American boy who has supernatural encounters after his family moves back to Japan. Etch will publish a revised paperback edition of the graphic novel.
The next group of titles will include Timo the Adventurer by Jonathan Garnier, illustrated by Yohan Sacré, a fantasy adventure slated for October 2020; Oh My Gods! by Stephanie Cooke and Insha Fitzpatrick, illustrated by Juliana Moon, first in a series about a girl who goes to school on Mount Olympus with teenage Greek gods, scheduled for January 2021; and Power Up by Sam Nisson, illustrated by Darnell Johnson, a middle-grade adventure that mixes middle school drama with robot video game battles, due out in February 2021.
Graphic novels are not a novelty at HMH, whose current catalog includes Kayla Miller’s Click and Camp, as well as Dave Roman and John Green’s Teen Boat!, Joann Sfar’s The Little Prince Graphic Novel, graphic adaptations of Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, and Don Brown’s Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918 and The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees.
While the launch titles lean toward fantasy and adventure, plans call for Etch to offer a broad lineup. “Although Power Up does include plenty of video game action sequences,” Onder said, “it is a slice-of-life friendship story between two boys, where issues with school, friends, and parents are all at play. And contemporary stories in that vein will continue to be part of the mix at Etch, including more books with Kayla Miller.”
Given that HMH already has a wide variety of graphic novels, why create a separate imprint? Onder said in a statement, “With Etch, we’re creating a more visible home for the graphic novels that HMH has been publishing strongly for years, while also concentrating our energies on and expanding our reach into a vibrant category of books that plays a key role in turning children into lifelong readers.”