Eleanor Davis’s The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook, released by Bloomsbury in September, is attracting attention from readers of all ages. The delightful mystery, in which three science-loving kids band together to solve a crime, is the first of two volumes. Although it is aimed at middle-schoolers, Davis explained, “ Anyone into the more technical aspects of comics could also be interested in some of the sequential storytelling techniques used in the book.”
The initial print run of The Secret Science Alliance paperback edition is 40,000 copies, along with a small hardcover run. While there are no current plans to extend the series beyond the second volume, which does not yet have a set publication date, Shapiro explained that Bloomsbury would be open to the possibility if both books are well received.
Davis’s agents Denis Kitchen and John Lind brought the work to Bloomsbury. Deb Shapiro, director of publicity at Bloomsbury Kids, praised Lind’s knowledge of both graphic novels and children’s literature as key ingredient of the success of the project. “Heunderstood all dimensions involved to appeal to all of those markets,” she noted.
Davis is known both for Stinky, a book for younger children published by Francois Mouly’s Toon Books line of early reader comics, as well as work aimed at an older audience which has appeared in the Fantagraphics comics anthology Mome. “My work for adults is often sadder, and a little harsh sometimes. But I think in all my comics I'm writing about people trying to be good, and trying to do the right thing,” she explains.
In the Secret Science Alliance, Davis wanted to create the type of book she enjoyed as a child, which included “smart, savvy kids who are brave, strong, and true; who outsmart grownups and have fantastic adventures.” The volume follows the adventures of an unlikely trio of junior high students who secretly meet in a clubhouse to work on extraordinary inventions. When their invention notebook goes missing and they also uncover a dastardly plot, they go to work in the tradition of the best underage crime solvers from the Hardy Boys to Harriet the Spy. The illustrations explode off the page in a riot of color and detail, with sophisticated, intricate panels that will impress discerning readers of graphic novels while entertaining the book’s younger audience.
The Secret Science Alliance illustrates Bloomsbury’s growing interest in graphic novels, both for the adult and t he children’s market. The house’s success last year with Rapunzel’s Revenge, by children’s book author Shannon Hale, was “a nice gateway into” the category and “opened the door” for Davis’s work, according to Shapiro. Calamity Jack, the sequel to Rapunzel’s Revenge, will be published in January.
Bloomsbury is publicizing the book through channels aimed at the young adult and graphic novel markets. “The Secret Science Allianceresonates so perfectly with middle grade market,” Shapiro noted, and the company has reached out to the educational marketplace. The book was highlighted in Deborah Sloane’s Picnic Basket e-mail blast, and Davis appeared at the American Association of School Librarians. Shapiro also noted that many librarians and teachers are now online, and the book has received good word-of-mouth through that community.
Looking to reach a broad a section of the graphic novel market, Shapiro explained, “ We were able to foster relations with Diamond [the main distributor to the comics shop market], through Rapunzel’s Revenge, which is so important in expanding reach into new kinds of retailers.” In addition, Davis’s reputation and contacts among the comics community have helped generate interest in the book. She was at the San Diego Comic-Con this summer and also appeared at smaller comics convention throughout the fall. Bloomsbury has also sent copies of the book to several regional trade shows, including Great Lakes.
Davis is currently collaborating with Ann Davis, a history teacher who also happens to be her mother, on a historical murder-mystery for young adults set in Samarkand in the 700s. The artist promised, “It's going to have excitement and mystery galore.”