I don’t really do many magazines. For one thing, advertising wears me out. We twenty-first-century Americans are targeted as consumers often enough, so I can do without excessive magazine ads. I also don’t need or want tips on how to have a highly-curated life with just the right products, not to mention all the color-coordinated (shabby chic couture!) containers needed to store those products.
(This intro is brought to you by Grumpy Old Woman.)
I will, however, do magazines that have to do with children’s literature or children’s book reviewing, even if there are ads. (I’m being inconsistent, I know, but the ads are usually from booksellers, and that’s way more tolerable to me than ads for weight-loss products.) There’s a brand-new children’s magazine out in the world, named Illustoria, which has children’s books as part of its focus. Given my general magazine-wariness, I wasn’t so sure about this, but I like it. Issue one: It’s a promising start.
The magazine—which is full-color, ad-free, debuted last month, and will publish quarterly—focuses (partly) on children’s book illustration, children’s book authors, and storytelling. In general, its goal is to celebrate writing, drawing, and the so-called DIY vibe; to say it makes merry of making is perhaps the best way to put it. This focus on books and storytelling is not surprising, given that it was founded by Joanne Chan, a former editor (Lucasfilm/Disney Publishing Worldwide and Tricycle Press/Random House Books for Young Readers) and former bookseller (Bank Street Bookstore in New York City).
Chan wants Illustoria to be an antidote to our hyper-digital age. When I asked her about it via email, she told me that she believes that …
“We, as adults, and our kids are inundated with technology and screens in a way that too often disconnects us from fully enjoying and experiencing the present moment with each other. As a busy mom and as a staunch lover of the printed page, I find that, hands down, one of the most relaxing, enjoyable, and rewarding times in my day is when I get to snuggle up and read with my kids. With the magazine I wanted to extend and embrace those moments when kids and adults can pause from the hustle and bustle of our busy days and find wonder, joy, and inspiration in stories and art.”
She also notes that she wanted to create a magazine for children that embraces the same values as the current slow-food and maker-culture trends of today, “a return to craftsmanship, an appreciation of quality, a celebration of curiosity, creativity, and also the people behind the scenes.” Bottom line is that, if this magazine results in children and their parents pausing a bit in their hurried days—stopping to read, pore over pictures, and take a breath—she’ll be content.
She is speaking much TRUTH to me here as a parent, and I say that as someone whose tween children aren’t even often online and don’t even have smart phones yet. (I know how I sound, but YEESH, they will have plenty of years ahead of them of staring into screens. The longer I can postpone that, the better.)
So, what are you as a reader going to get in the first issue, called “Beginnings”? There’s a comic from Lark Pien; there’s an interview with author-illustrator Aaron Becker on the making of his Journey trilogy; and there’s a piece from author-illustrator Cece Bell on how she made El Deafo. There is a comic about the life of Maya Angelou, created by Docu-Comix, in what could be (time will tell) a regular feature called “Literary Giants … as Kids.” There’s a page, called “Dusty Bookshelf,” in which author Laurel Snyder talks about an older book she loves—in this instance, E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It—which may turn out to be another regular column. (Again, issue two will show us readers if this will be a regular feature.)
All of this is geared toward children, but the magazine’s very sub-title is “For Creative Kids & Their Grownups.” As made clear by Chan’s comments, the magazine wants to get the attention of parents too – and not just because they are the ones with the pocketbooks who would subscribe to this for their children. There’s a feature on musician Andrew Bird, which will definitely appeal to parents, but I have to say: It’s brimmin’ with child appeal. It’s a piece he wrote himself, focused on his childhood and when he first learned violin. It’s a touching, yet not too earnest or precious, tribute to his mother. There’s a piece on cooking, science, and even a very short one on fashion design. There are writing and drawing (and even comics-making) prompts, and everything is illustrated. To be sure, some pieces may be less appealing to children but more for the adults (such as the “On Our Desk” and “On Our Playlist” pages), but it all adds up to a satisfying whole.
It’s a rewarding offering that I hope sticks around for many years down the line.
Julie Danielson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.