Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing has undertaken a divisionwide effort to encourage the publication of comics and graphic novels throughout its imprints. It's an initiative that began about a year ago, culminating last month at the S&S offices with a roundtable presentation by a panel of comics experts to a gathering of about 50 S&S staff from every department in the children's group.

Rubin Pfeffer, S&S senior v-p and publisher of children's trade, is the force behind the initiative, which is being coordinated by Ginee Seo, v-p, editorial director of Atheneum Books for Young Readers, and Liesa Abrams, senior editor at Aladdin Paperbacks.

Hope Larson's Chiggers

Seo and Abrams, both self-described comics fans, emphasized that S&S is not launching a stand-alone graphic novel imprint. Instead, the program is intended to educate the entire children's division and encourage all imprints to acquire quality comics alongside conventional prose works. “The comics program is not just about books,” Seo explained, “but educating the market and everyone here internally about the comics medium. We want editors to treat comics like any other category and to integrate them as another form of respected reading material.”

Abrams said she was hired a year ago, in part, to help bring a “cohesive, directed approach to tackling the medium.” The May roundtable of comics experts spent the morning answering questions on the overall graphic novel retail market. The panel featured retailer Ben Ruby from B&N, librarian Melissa Jenvey from the New York Public Library and Diamond Kids director Janna Morishima, in addition to this reporter.

Seo has already announced that she will publish Chiggers, a graphic novel by Ignatz Award—winning comics artist Hope Larson, in summer 2008, among the first comics from the S&S program. Forthcoming books will be in hardcover and paperback, in full color, and will target middle grades through high school. Initial genres include historical fiction, fantasy, a biography series, adaptations of prose works, nonfiction and “hybrid graphic works, like Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” said Seo. “But we're not limited to these,” Abrams said. “We're trying to do what we do in prose—publish books that are commercial, educational and fun—but do it with comics.”