Wednesday, 9 March 2016

3d-review – Electrigirl - editor interview

Electrigirl is the first in an exciting new series about an twelve-year-old girl, Holly Sparkes, who is struck by lightning and discovers she has electric superpowers.

It's a thrilling story,  but what really marks this out as an exciting new project is that it takes the current huge interest in highly-illustrated fiction - by having part of the story told in a full comic strip format.

Readers (particularly those aged eight to twelve) have responded enthusiastically to the increase in storytelling with high use of illustration. From the enormous popularity of 'Diaries-with-doodles' formats such as the Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates series, plus books such as 'Goth Girl'; illustrations really seem to pull in and engage readers and fire their imagination.

Electrigirl takes the format forwards and sits between illustrated fiction and a full graphic novel. 

It's a great subject for this new format - as it is the parts of the stories where Holly uses her superpowers that get the graphic treatment.

At first Holly hates the fact that she has a habit of frying what she touches. But her best friend, Imogen, is behaving oddly, so Holly ends up in training with her superpower-obsessed younger brother, Joe, who puts her through her paces, ensuring she can control her powers.

Imogen is obsessed with an addictive quiz she's doing on her new mobile phone. But it's not just Imogen who is behaving strangely. Holly and her brother suspect that the new phone company is becoming very influential in her town and might just be at the centre of some sinister happenings. 

Holly and Joe head off to investigate, but Holly's powers are still beyond her control. 

It's a story that children will fly through - lots of cliffhanger endings to chapters will help that. 

But the real success of this story lies in the fact that the action scenes where Holly's superpowers take over all switch to comic-book format, with illustrations that really help children see and imagine the action.

Review by Timothy, aged eight

Electrigirl is an awesome, powerful book! I really wanted to pick it up and read it and it is full of energy and awesome ideas and sneaky plans. I really liked how Electrigirl had to rely on her younger brother who knew all about superpowers. A great read for anyone who likes super stuff! 

Jo talking to fans at her superpowered Electrigirl book launch in February
Written by Jo Cotterill and illustrated by Cathy Brett, Electrigirl was edited by Kathy Webb, whom we are pleased to welcome to Space on the Bookshelf today.

Interview with Kathy Webb, Managing Editor, OUP Children's Division

What was your favourite children’s book as a child?

'Father Christmas' by Raymond Briggs and The Little Grey Rabbit books by Alison Uttley.

What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

It’s more YA than children’s, but Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy had me spellbound. In fact, anything by Patrick Ness would be my favourite. For younger readers I love the Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face books by John Dougherty and David Tazzyman (am I allowed to say those as I work on them though!) and I’ve just finished reading Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford which I thought was fantastic. Sorry – there are just too many to choose from . . .

What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?

The fact that they can transport you to other worlds, other places, and other times, and you can absorb yourself completely in those worlds and go on amazing adventures all from the safety of your bedroom. Children’s writers are immensely talented – child readers are a much more discerning and critical audience than adult readers and so children’s authors and illustrators have their work cut out to hook them quickly and keep them interested for the entire book.

What do you love about this book and what makes it stand out?

Electrigirl is an amazing book and concept. The combination of pacy story, eye-catching comic strip illustrations, and engaging characters that you can empathise with is the perfect mix. I think the fact that the book is part prose and part comic strip really makes it stand out from the crowd.

How many people worked on this book from arrival of manuscript to finished book on shelf?

About fifteen – and that’s not including all the sales force, the printers, or the warehouse staff.

Electrigirl is in a great format that makes it really easy to read – but just how easy was it to get the balance right when editing it?

Jo and Cathy worked really closely with the editorial and design team on this book to make sure we got the balance between text and illustrations just right. 

Electrigirl only goes into comic strip mode when Holly is fully charged and using her superpowers and we were really careful to build up the length of the comic strip elements gradually throughout the book as we know that many children aren’t used to reading comics these days and it can be quite a tricky way to read a story if you’re not used to it. We didn’t want to bombard readers with chapter upon chapter of comic strip right from the start.

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