Astra Publishing House today announced its acquisition of TOON Books, a leading publisher of easy-to-read comics and graphic novels for young readers. This is the seventh imprint to join Astra Books for Young Readers, whose burgeoning roster also encompasses Astra Young Readers, Calkins Creek, Hippo Park, Kane Press, mineditionUS, and Wordsong. ABFYR is also the publisher of Astra Magazine, an international literary magazine debuting in April.

TOON Books was launched in 2008 by publisher, designer, and editorial director Françoise Mouly, who has also been art director for the New Yorker since 1993. She explained that she founded the company after pitching her concept of telling engaging stories through humor and art “to every publisher in town and they all rejected it as a wonderful idea but far too innovative to take on.”

Committed to her belief that comics are a “gateway drug to literacy,” Mouly struck out on her own and lined up celebrated book creators from around the world, including Eleanor Davis, Liniers, Jeff Smith, and Art Spiegelman (her husband and frequent collaborator) to apply their talents to kids’ comics. The titles on the resulting TOON Books list have garnered such accolades as the Theodor Seuss Geisel, Eisner, and BolognaRagazzi awards, and have earned spots on numerous annual Best Books lists.

Leying Jiang, president and CFO of Astra Publishing House, welcomed TOON Books as an ideal complement to the company’s existing imprints. “TOON has established a reputation as the foremost publisher of comics for early readers,” she said. “And with its graphic novels for middle graders, it rounds out the offerings from ABFYR’s very distinguished children’s book imprints in a most organic way.”

Mouly also expressed enthusiasm for her company’s new alliance with Astra (which also acquired TOON’s backlist in the deal), noting that TOON will continue to release four or five titles annually, “but our goal is to build that to have bigger and better reach. TOON books are all about using kids’ natural affinity for the symbolic language of comics, to get everyone, even the most reluctant readers, to develop a passion for reading.”

And Mouly is convinced that TOON is currently in an auspicious position to accomplish that mission. “Astra Publishing House’s support of important ideas, combined with the experience and savvy of its many industry veterans, makes it the ideal place for an imprint that wants to be at the vanguard of creating the books today’s kids want to read,” she said. “Together, we can rally forces to promote access to a wide range of attractive and diverse books in bookstores, homes, libraries, and schools that will shape the 21st-century readers.”