On Tuesday, September 1st, 2020, a RH Graphic preview event covered the imprint’s plans for autumn 2020 and spring 2021.
The event was hosted by the RH Graphic core team: Gina Gagliano, Whitney Leopard, Patrick Crotty, and Nicole Valdez.
Random House has been publishing graphic novels since the 1990s, and RH Graphic, formed in 2018, represents the unification of its graphic novels.
Publishing Director Gagliano cited RH Graphic’s motto, “a graphic novel on every bookshelf,” and noted that the publisher’s focus has been on ensuring that there are comics for every bookshelf in the United States. She noted that kids and YA comics are the fastest growing market of graphic novels.
RH Graphic publishes comics for four main demographics. Chapter books are geared toward readers ages four and older, young middle grade is targeted at kids seven and up (and includes mainly series), middle grade is targeted at kids eight and older (and is the most widely-read category), and YA aims for readers ages twelve and older.
RH Graphic has already published several books in each of these four categories, including the young middle grade graphic novel Bug Boys by Laura Knetzger, the YA graphic novel Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky, and the middle grade graphic novel Aster and the Accidental Magic by Thom Pico and Karensac.
Gagliano teased that the publisher would be exploring new ground in 2021, including books in the nonfiction and mystery genre, as well as some adaptions.
Next, the RH Graphic core team was joined by some of their creators for a preview of some of the exciting books we can look forward to over the next few months.
The Magic Fish
First up was The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen, which will be published on October 13th, 2020. This YA graphic novel examines how similar stories appear around the world, but they may “change their clothes” from one culture to the next.
Trung said that research was needed for The Magic Fish, as it was necessary for them to look into architectural and sartorial history. But The Magic Fish also draws on his own personal experiences in Parochial school, as well as his experiences borrowing books from the library to read with his immigrant parents in order to improve their English and hone his own reading skills.
In addition to the journey undertaken by Tiến, the main character of The Magic Fish, the graphic novel also includes a character arc for Tiến’s mother. Trung noted that The Magic Fish draws a parallel between the intergenerational trauma that can occur in both queer and immigrant narratives, examining how a failure to communicate across generations can lead to strife between them. The Magic Fish also looks at other ways that generational divides can form, such as showing the way immigrant children can end up learning to navigate various institutions themselves in the absence of parental guidance.
Trung said that one of the reasons that they were excited to share their story through RH Graphic was the enthusiasm with which Gagliano embraced his queer narrative. While some publishers view the inclusion of queer representation as a potential impediment to sales figures, RH Graphic approached queer themes with unbridled enthusiasm.
Katie the Catsitter
Katie the Catsitter will be released on January 5th, 2021. This middle grade graphic novel was written by Colleen AF Venable and illustrated by Stephanie Yue, and it features 217 – yes, you read that right, two-hundred seventeen – super powered feline characters!
The story follows Katie, who begins watching her neighbor’s pet cats – before noticing said neighbor seems to be conspicuously absent when a certain super villain attacks the city!
Katie the Catsitter focuses on friends and friendships, and what happens when issues such as differing financial situations and rates of maturation have an effect on platonic relationships. Venable said that her worst breakups have been friendships, and those personal experiences informed the story.
Another one of the many interesting things about the Katie the Catsitter is that it was drawn around the globe: Yue revealed that she completed the art while traveling across the planet from one country to the next!
Perhaps best of all is the fact that all 217 cans were given names and distinct super powers, including Paul Simon, whose power is breaking up teams. Clearly, Katie the Catsitter is a graphic novel that will have something for everyone!
Donut Feed the Squirrels
In Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song, three of the best things in the world – squirrels, donuts, and puns – come together for one irresistible story! The adorable chapter book will be released on September 29th, 2020.
Song said that the decision to utilize squirrels for the story came from the appeal of the diminutive mammals. Song noted that squirrels were particularly relatable for young readers thanks to their familiarity: squirrels share space with humans, living alongside us in cities and suburbs alike.
Song grew up in Manila in the Philippines, and explained that she didn’t see a squirrel until she had moved to New York City as an adult. As she wondered how the squirrels would fare during the impending winter, she quickly developed a sense of kinship with her furry neighbors.
The real-life squirrels served as inspiration for Donut Feed the Squirrels, which Song describes as a heist story. The “brains” of the operation is Norma, the triangle-shaped squirrel, who is paired with Belly, the gumdrop-shaped squirrel.
Song said that it was important to her for the squirrels to remain somewhat abstract because readers should always be aware of the fact that the illustrations are representative images – they’re “just lines.” Song hopes that this will encourage readers to pick up their pencils and begin sharing their own stories!
If you can’t get enough of Norma and Belly, they’ll be back in a sequel, in which they will be setting their sights on an even bigger culinary coup: pie!
Let’s Talk About It
Let’s Talk About It by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan is arriving on March 9th, 2021. A nonfiction YA book, Let’s Talk About It aims to give teens the answers to hard-to-answer questions about a broad spectrum of topics, including gender, consent, safe sex, body image, and sexting.
Moen and Nolan said that they chose topics based on the questions that they had had as teenagers, but were unable to ask, either because they had no where to turn or because they simply lacked the vocabulary necessary to articulate their inquiries.
Thanks to seven years of experience making webcomics that distilled complicated topics into a digestible format, Moen and Nolan already had a framework for conveying information through the medium of comics. However, they modified their approach for Let’s Talk About It, removing themselves from the comics and instead creating a venue that gave the opportunity for well-informed kids to teach other kids.
Moen and Nolan said that one of the most important messages they wanted Let’s Talk About It to convey to readers is that they’re okay, and that what they are thinking and feeling isn’t wrong. This type of resource is invaluable, especially for kids who might find themselves in an environment that is hostile to their personal expression of sexuality or gender, and presenting the information in a graphic format ensures that it will be able to reach the largest number of potential readers.
A graphic novel on every bookshelf
In addition to the four highlighted titles, RH Graphic has a whole plethora of additional books coming later in 2020 and beyond! Here’s some more of what you can expect to see from the publisher going forward (and don’t forget, we already know that exciting titles like Check Your Texts by Aatmaja Pandya and Magic Girls by Megan Brennan are on their way, too). Which titles are you most excited to add to your bookshelf?