Little Mouse Gets Ready
Now that his self-published comic book Bone has become a successful series for kids, cartoonist Jeff Smith is reaching out to children again with Little Mouse Gets Ready, a book for emerging readers.
"Little Mouse is actually a character I created when I was a kid," said
Smith, who also invented his Bone characters as a child. "It's one of
the many characters I made up when I was young. It was just a little
gray mouse with a little red vest. So I thought, ‘Well, maybe he would
be a good character to use in a comic for kids,’ since I used to make
up stories with this character when I was a kid."
Little Mouse Gets Ready will be released in September by Toon
Books, a line of graphic novels for kids that was launched last year by
comic pioneers Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman. The books have
already been embraced by some school systems that recognize comic books
as an effective way to encourage children to read.
"I've been friends with Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, his wife,
for awhile, and the two of them are launching this line of comics, or
graphic novels, aimed at really young, emerging readers," Smith said.
"They asked me if I'd like to do one. And I thought it would be fun."
Smith said Little Mouse was a welcome switch from his current work on the more adult-level comic book RASL,
which follows the adventures of a dimension-hopping art thief and was
recently collected into its first trade paperback. While that story is
complex, the story in Little Mouse is very straightforward, Smith said.
"I know Bone is marketed as a kids book these days, but I
really never intentionally set out to write a kids book before. So I
had to think about being very straightfoward in this story. Plus, these
are for really little kids, like five to seven years old," Smith said,
comparing Little Mouse to his Bone series, which is marketed to children age 9 and up.
Little Mouse Gets Ready tells the story of how the title
character gets ready to go to the barn, mastering all the details of
getting dressed, from the buttons on his shirt to the tail hole in his
"I read the other comics that they'd prepared in the line. There's something called Silly Lilly, and I read Art Spiegelman's Jack and the Box, which was just a very straightforward children's story," Smith said. "When I was first coming up with the idea for Little Mouse,
I thought that since the character had the little red vest, that maybe
it would be fun to have him dress himself, since that's something all
kids can identify with."
Smith said that beyond that, he just wrote and drew the book the same
way he always does, creating a story that even he could enjoy. "I'm
just kind of a big kid myself," he added with a laugh.
It's rare to find comic materials like Toon Books that are published
specifically for ages 4 and up, yet Smith has proven that children are
a viable audience for comic books, thanks to the sales success and
enthusiastic acceptance among educators of the color versions of Bone
from publisher Scholastic. While it's often cited that Bone has sold
"more than a million copies worldwide," Smith told Newsarama that the
ninth volume of Bone in color, which was just released by Scholastic on Jan. 20, has already sold 3 million copies.
While those kind of numbers aren't expected from the fledgling Toon
Books line -- at least not yet -- this venture represents the first
collection designed to offer newly-emerging readers comic books they
can read themselves. And Smith said that's something he supports 100
"What was interesting was that when I originally got involved with
Scholastic, it was Art and Francoise who originally called me. Art and
Fracoise were trying to launch some kind of imprint of comics for kids
then. And I thought it was a great idea from the beginning," Smith
said. "For whatever reason, they didn't end up working with Scholastic,
so they started up their own imprint at Raw Junior. So it's kind of
weird that they first brought me into the world of children's comic
book publishing, way back before Bone
was even at Scholastic. And now it's come around full circle again to
where I'm working with them at their Toon Books. And the whole
experience has just been great."
Little Mouse Gets ready will be a 32-page hardcover in 9" x
6" format and will retail at $12.95. For more information on other
stories from Toon Books, visit the Toon Books website at http://www.toon-books.com
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