Trung Le Nguyen shares his inspiration for The Magic Fish

 

What inspired this beautiful story for your debut?

        The Magic Fish originally started out as several different art projects. I realized through exploring fairy tales that, at this point in my life, I had an interest in certain themes of transformation, sacrifice, and flight. The Magic Fish wound up being the project where I did my best to connect those fairy tale themes to a human element. I wanted to see what happens when different characters with their own points of view started iterating on fairy tales made up of flat archetypes. Broadly speaking, my book became a project about how similar stories take on different shapes depending on who tells them.

 

Was it important to you that this story be told through the comics medium? 

It was super important! The graphic narrative is my preferred method of storytelling, but it comes from a place of caring about the ways people access and interpret information beyond just the letters and symbols. I think the way we envision literacy is evolving. We are starting to examine how images are really great at facilitating context-specific information and how that can be its own sort of literacy. Really, the crudest drawings can communicate so much, and I love how thoroughly that can be explored in comics, both from the creator end and the reader end. I imagine there’s been more discussion about it in the context of children’s picture books, but the derisive thing I always heard about picture books growing up is that they don’t give you room to exercise imagination. There’s a misapprehension that pictures dampen the desire to imagine because a scenario is already presented, and I really disagree with that sentiment. A drawing in a comic has to be economical. Because we’re human beings with only so much time on our hands, the pictures we draw more often suggest than depict. Even live action movies work this way. In every mode of storytelling, there is an expectation for the audience or the reader to fill in the gaps, to suspend disbelief, and to hold room for curiosity. That’s what keeps us reading and watching. That imaginative legwork keeps us invested. And for immigrant families or even just for people engaging with literature at different reading levels, a picture offers an anchor for their imaginations to connect with each other. Pictures help our own imaginations share space with others. 

 

While this is a YA story about a young boy, the mom and her own story and history plays such a prominent role throughout. Can you share why her story was an essential piece of the narrative?

For any story about a young person, I find that their relationships to their guardians or caretakers to be really illuminating. I wonder if that’s a cultural thing. When I think about American stories, there’s so often this urgent desire to set oneself apart from one’s parents, right? And me being a kid who grew up in a totally different world than my parents, I don’t really have that urge. That individual distinction was baked into my experience. I’m more interested in figuring out what parts of my parents I carry on, and I wanted to explore that between Tien and Helen. I wanted readers to consider that this parent character lived a robust and complicated life before she had a kid, and that colors the ways she loves him and her hopes for his future. 

One of the tougher aspects to read through this is how much Tien has to act as his own advocate since his parents English is more limited—which is something I don’t think is considered a lot for kids of immigrant parents from non-English speaking countries. Was this your own experience, and what are aspects that you wanted to share with readers who are unfamiliar with this life experience?

Certainly yes, this was colored by my experiences. I’m sure a lot of children of immigrants grew up with the experience of witnessing their parents experiencing horrible racism or xenophobia from other adults. Kids see that stuff, and they clock it, and they carry it with them. I remember being really little and watching people treat my parents with totally unvarnished condescension and feeling a complicated mixture of shame and indignation. When you’re a kid, what can you do in that situation? You can’t act out because it’ll make your already-embarrassed parents look worse. My strategy as a kid was to divert my parents away, tell them I needed to use the bathroom or that I was urgently thirsty or something. I imagine it’s something almost a little bit like a YA protagonist being embarrassed at their terminally uncool parents in front of their friends. I’m sure there were shades of that. For me, as a bilingual immigrant kid, it came with the added weight of, “My parents maybe don’t know how to get out of this situation, and I need to protect them from these mean people.” So by the time I hit middle school I remember doing my best not to involve my parents in my school life or social life, thinking it would just be easier for everyone. I think I wrote that in with Tien a bit. He’s so hesitant to admit that he needs an adult because he doesn’t want his parents to go to the immense amount of trouble it would take for them to navigate an English-speaking institution.

Is there a message that you hope readers get from reading The Magic Fish?

Yeah! The Magic Fish is a story about not having all the pieces to get your point across, but still doing your best to make it work anyway. I hope readers walk away with being a little more mindful of all the ways we might not know how to show up for each other. It takes so much heart to keep on trying. And it also takes a lot to let other people try again. I hope people leave more room for trying whenever they can.

Witchy Reads All Year Round!

We LOVE spooky, witchy, magical stories and we know you do too! So if you’re looking for the perfect read for this very spooky weekend (or all year round!) here are some suggestions.

Mood: SPOOKY VIBES

The Book: SEANCE TEA PARTY by Reimena Yee

Mood: WITCHY MYSTERY

The Book: THE MONTAGUE TWINS: THE WITCH’S HAND by Nathan Page and Drew Shannon

Mood: GOOFY WITCH FUN

The Book: WITCHES OF BROOKLYN by Sophie Escabasse

Mood: LET’S GET INTERACTIVE

The Book: THE RUNAWAY PRINCESS by Johan Troianowski

Mood: GET LOST IN AN ENCHANTED FOREST

The Book: KERRY AND THE KNIGHT OF THE FOREST by Andi Watson

Grab yours today!

Draw Your OWN Séance Tea Party!

What better way to celebrate the spooky season than drawing your OWN Séance Tea Party! Check out how creator Reimena Yee and RH Graphic book designer Patrick Crotty brought this beautiful cover to life in this step-by-step visual!

Want to create one of your own?

  1. Grab some paper, pencils, colored pencils, whatever you’d like!
  2. Add in a dose of inspiration (and magic!) G
  3. Get Drawing!

Grab your copy of Séance Tea Party today!

 

 

 

 

 

Random House Graphic Announces a Graphic Novel Celebration Coming This September [Press Release]

Random House Graphic Announces a Graphic Novel Celebration This September

The new graphic novel imprint at Random House Children’s Books is partnering with indie bookstores for themed panels every week.

 

(New York, NY, August 20, 2020)—Random House Graphic is announcing an exciting kickoff to the fall season with “Falling for Graphic Novels,” a series of virtual events in September hosted by five indie bookstores across the United States.

The panels will feature Random House Graphic’s creators and allow attendees to discover and virtually visit new stores around the country. Each panel will focus on a theme in kids and YA comics, allowing readers to immerse themselves in stories of magic and heroes, queer and diverse representation, and even an interactive art class.

The celebration will give attendees an in-depth look at this exciting medium that continues to grow in popularity and show the power and breadth of visual storytelling. The series begins Wednesday, September 2, with a new event each week. You can see the full schedule with links to reserve your place below:

September 2, 2020 (Wednesday) @6PM PT

“Heart Happy! Tales of Friendship, Family, and Fun!”

Featuring Laura Knetzger, Jose Pimienta, and Jeffrey Brown

Hosted by Vroman’s Bookstore (Pasadena, CA)

Moderated by Oliver Sava

Hosted on Crowdcast

Reserve your spot now

Join Random House Graphic for a super-fun panel celebrating friends, family, and fun! We love stories that touch our hearts and leave us with all the feels! Join creators Laura Knetzger (Bug Boys), Jose Pimienta (Suncatcher), and Jeffrey Brown (Once Upon a Space-Time! and Lucy and Andy Neanderthal) as they dive into creating stories filled with humor and good feelings and discuss why graphic novels are the best.

September 10, 2020 (Thursday) @4PM CT

“Random House Graphic Doodle Draw!”

Featuring Mika Song, Kaeti Vandorn, Stephen Shaskan, and Brian Yanish

Hosted by BookPeople (Austin, TX)

Moderated by Alex Lu

Hosted on Zoom

Reserve your spot now

It’s time to doodle draw with Random House Graphic! In this fun and interactive event, meet and draw with some fantastic new graphic novel creators. Join Mika Song (Donut Feed the Squirrels), Kaeti Vandorn (Crabapple Trouble), Stephen Shaskan (Pizza & Taco: Who’s the Best?) and Brian Yanish (Shark and Bot) as they discuss introducing graphic novels to kids. The artists will share how to draw characters from their stories and compete in a doodle-duel! Grab some paper and pencils and join us!

September 16, 2020 (Wednesday) @7PM CT

“Magic and Mayhem: Adventures in Graphic Novels!”

Featuring Sophie Escabasse, Reimena Yee, and Nathan Page and Drew Shannon

Hosted by The Book Stall (Winnetka, IL)

Moderated by Nicole Herviou

Hosted on Crowdcast

Reserve your spot now

Witches! Ghosts! Magic! Oh my! Join a very special event to celebrate magic and mayhem in kids’ and teens’ graphic novels. Creators Sophie Escabasse (Witches of Brooklyn), Reimena Yee (Séance Tea Party), and Nathan Page and Drew Shannon (The Montague Twins: The Witch’s Hand) share why magical, gothic stories are the absolute perfect reads for fall!

September 22, 2020 (Tuesday) @6PM MT

“Celebrating LGBTQ+ Representation in Comics!”

Featuring Trung Le Nguyen, Jessi Zabarsky, and Chad Sell

Hosted by BookBar (Denver, CO)

Moderated by Samantha Puc

Hosted on Crowdcast

Reserve your spot now

Today, queer stories can be found everywhere—especially on the bookshelves of kids and teens! More than ever, readers are able to see themselves and their identities reflected in fantastic stories. Join creators Jessi Zabarsky (Witchlight), Chad Sell (Doodleville), and Trung Le Nguyen (the upcoming The Magic Fish) as they discuss a range of fantastic graphic novels celebrating LGBTQ+ identities. 

September 27, 2020 (Sunday) @2PM ET

“RH Graphic: Pick Your Hero!”

Featuring Judd Winick, Mark Siegel, J. C. Phillipps, and John Gallagher

Hosted by Books of Wonder (New York, NY)

Moderated by Mike Avila

Hosted on Crowdcast

Reserve your spot now

It’s time to pick your hero! Join Random House Graphic as we celebrate stories about heroes—from traveling through epic worlds to alien boys landing on earth to fighting evil unicorns and superhero cats—there are so many great graphic novels for kids to jump into! Join creators Judd Winick (HILO series), Mark Siegel (5 Worlds series), J. C. Phillipps (Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker), and John Gallagher (the upcoming Max Meow: Cat Crusader) to learn more about their exciting new adventures!

Random House Graphic is an imprint of Random House Children’s Books dedicated to the growth of graphic novels in the publishing industry. Launched in January 2020, Random House Graphic publishes graphic novels of all genres for ages four and up. To learn more about Random House Graphic or to find your next read, visit rhkidsgraphic.com or follow @RHKidsGraphic on Twitter and Instagram.

Random House Children’s Books (rhcbooks.com) is the world’s largest English-language children’s trade book publisher. Creating books for toddlers through young adult readers in all formats, from board books to activity books to picture books, novels, and nonfiction, the imprints of Random House Children’s Books bring together award-winning authors and illustrators, world-famous franchise characters, and multimillion-copy series. Random House Children’s Books is a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

What Are You Reading This August?

It’s summertime and we know what that means–summer reading! 

Here are just a few recommendations for your TBR list this month: 

Mood: Family Drama!

Our Rec: STEPPING STONES from Lucy Knisley

New home, new family, new sisters, new drama! This fantastic middle-grade debut from the amazing Lucy Knisley is perfect for any reader who is going through a tough place, and needs a cathartic release! Following her parents divorce, young Jen is moved to the country with her mom and her mom’s new boyfriend–and he comes with two daughters of his own! Learning to navigate a new home is hard enough, but having to find your voice and place in a new family is so much harder. But Jen will find her strength as she discovers her uniqueness is what makes her special.

Jump onto this new series now!

 

Mood: Hilarious Space Hijinks!

Our Rec: ONCE UPON A SPACE-TIME! by Jeffrey Brown

Let’s be real… we could all use a break from planet earth right now. And that’s just what this hilarious new book delivers! When Jide and Petra are selected to join their new alien classmates on a intergalactical research mission to Mars, they have no idea that things will soon turn to chaos when they accidentally take off an adventure with no adult supervision. Hilarious adventures will have every reader laughing hysterically as you read this next great story!

Take off on mission SPACE TIME now!

 

Mood: Adventures with your furry BFF!

Our Rec: ASTER AND THE ACCIDENTAL MAGIC from Thom Pico and Karensac

Aster is all of us. A girl who loves her video games and living in the big city. So when her parents move her to the middle of NOWHERE you can imagine our reaction–UGH! The worst! But soon she’ll meet a weird lady with a heard of dogs, and one of those dogs will become her BFF, and soon she’ll meet a trickster who will let her talk to her dog–but only in dog language. And this is just the beginning.

Get ready for hilarious adventures of a girl, her dog, and magic gone wrong!

Stay tuned for more recommendations in the coming months!

What are you reading this summer?

It’s summertime and we know what that means–summer reading! 

Here are just a few recommendations for your TBR list this month: 

 

Mood: Summer Vibes!

Our Rec: SUNCATCHER from Jose Pimienta

You may be missing the feeling of going to a live concert, but this fantastic new story will immerse you in the rhythm of the 90’s Mexicali scene! Enjoy a story about passion and music, where a young girl discovers the soul of her late-grandfather is trapped in a guitar! In order to free him, she must play the perfect song. But in her quest to free him, she may doom herself.

Where is the line between passion and obsession? You’ll find out when you add this to your TBR pile!

 

Mood: Adventures with your bff! 

Our Rec: BUG BOYS from Laura Knetzger

Stag-B and Rhino-B are best bug friends. They go to the beach, they read books, they explore the world of Bug Village. They have their ups and downs, but friendship is always at the core. This wonderful book will make you laugh, cry, and everything in between. And BONUS–there are more bug adventures to come in Spring ’21!

Spend some time with your new bffs! You can get BUG BOYS now!

 

Mood: Romance!

Our Rec: WITCHLIGHT from Jessi Zabarsky

Two women–one a witch–start on an epic quest as enemies and then fall in love. What is not to LOVE about this premise?! This beautifully illustrated romantic fantasy is sure to warm your heart and keep you turning the page. As the two women set out on a mission to uncover the truth of Lelek’s powers (and why she is missing some of them) their understanding and compassion for one another will leave you feeling happy and content.

A bewitching tale for any romantic. You can read this now.

Stay tuned for more recommendations in the coming months!

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