In this business we’ve all gotten pretty used to the blurring of boundaries: between genres (is that picture book biography with invented dialogue nonfiction or fiction?); between age groups (how young does YA go now, 14? 12? younger?); between formats (right, that 534-page novel is actually a picture book!). Ho hum; been there, done that.
Jaded as I am, however, I’m still puzzling over Charise Mericle Harper’s The Power of Cute (Random House/Robin Corey, October), an appropriately adorable picture book for preschoolers about a baby whose superpower shrinks monsters down to size so that they are as cute as it is. The book has sturdy square pages; it has spacious double-page spreads; it has flaps and foldout pages and dialogue balloons; it has sound effects (“AAHHH!!”, “ROAR ROAR ROAR”).
It’s also billed as “My Very First Graphic Novel”. Wait, what?
True, the protagonist’s wide-set eyes lend it a passing resemblance to an anime or manga character, and the monsters could be Uglydolls. But aren’t all picture books precursors to graphic novels? Maybe the publisher is going after the adults who have heard picture books are dead but think graphic novels are cool. Maybe the crisis in current picture book publishing can be averted! We just need a different label.