Welcome to our Fall 2023 Children’s Announcements issue!
In our main feature, we speak with editors and booksellers about the shifts they’re witnessing in the market for middle grade books, and the challenges and opportunities within the category. We also profile author Candace Fleming and illustrator Eric Rohmann, the married collaborators behind several picture books, about their creative process and forthcoming projects. All this, plus our comprehensive A–Z listings of children’s and YA titles being released between August 1 and January 31.
About Our Cover Artist
“I always thought I would be doing something related to art and visual storytelling,” Jen Wang says, though she didn’t initially envision a career in comics. “When I was a teenager, comics existed for sure, but not the way that they do now. It was very much this niche thing.”
The landscape has since widened. Macmillan launched its graphic novel imprint, First Second, in 2006; Wang, who had been an active creator of webcomics, released her debut book, Koko Be Good, with First Second in 2010. She is the author-illustrator of several other graphic novels for young readers, including In Real Life (cowritten with Cory Doctorow), The Prince and the Dressmaker, and Stargazing.
Wang works mainly in “natural media,” she says. “I tend to start drawing my comics with pencil and inking by hand. Then I will color them digitally.” She adds, “I’m sort of traditional; I think it’s because I’ve been doing comics that way since I was, like, a teenager.”
For our fall cover, she went with a different approach: “I actually did all of it on Procreate, on an iPad this time, because I just wanted to try it.”
She credits manga and animated movies as potent influences on her style. “I think they really inform the way I visualize things,” she says. “My books tend to be very cinematic.” When creating her graphic novels, she says, “I typically start with the story. I think of myself more as a writer, and the art is always supplementing it.”
Her narratives are often grounded in everyday life. “Even though I have elements of fantasy in my books, I’m very drawn to reality-based story lines and character development,” she explains. Another thread that runs through all of Wang’s work is her attraction to “big, emotional coming-of-age-type stories,” she says. “It’s always about self-identity and self-discovery—and there’s always a lot of crying.” Though she didn’t set out to write YA, she found that taking on the perspective of teenagers who are “feeling all the feels and thinking about these things for the first time” gave her stories “a sense of clarity.”
Based in Los Angeles, Wang is a cofounder of Comic Arts L.A. The festival went on hiatus during the pandemic, but, she notes, “we’re very interested in seeing it come back.”
Also on the horizon is another YA graphic novel, tentatively due out in fall 2024. “It’s my first book since the pandemic,” she says, “and I’m excited to actually have this thing out the door.”—E.K.
The Shifting Middle Grade Market
We surveyed industry professionals to get their thoughts on the factors affecting middle grade success and what they see ahead.
Collaborating Couple Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann
Author Candace Fleming and illustrator Eric Rohmann’s newest title, Mine!, is the latest in a long stretch of picture books by the husband-and-wife team.