Toon Books
PredecessorLittle Lit
FounderFrançoise Mouly
Headquarters locationNew York City
DistributionConsortium Book Sales & Distribution (US)
Diamond Book Distributors (international)
Key peopleFrancoise Mouly, Art Spiegelman
ImprintsToon Graphics
Owner(s)Raw Junior

Toon Books is a publisher of hardcover comic book early readers founded by Françoise Mouly. With titles by such creators as Geoffrey Hayes, Jay Lynch, Dean Haspiel, Eleanor Davis, and Mouly's collaborator and husband, Art Spiegelman, Toon Books promotes its line as "the first high-quality comics designed for children ages four and up".[1]


The concept for Toon Books came to Mouly when her son Dash was learning to read, and his first-grade teacher assigned him "easy readers".[2] Appalled by the lack of appeal of the educational material, Mouly instead spent time with her child and armloads of French comic books.[3] In fact, one of the first Toon Books releases was Agnès Rosenstiehl's Silly Lilly,[4] a.k.a. Mimi Cracra, a comic-book character familiar to millions of French toddlers.

After proposing the Toon Books idea to major children's books publishers from 2004 to 2007, and being rejected because the proposed books didn't fit existing categories, Mouly returned to her roots as a self-publisher — she had founded her small press, RAW Books & Graphics, in 1977, and RAW Junior in 1999.[5] As she had done for the avant-garde comics and graphics magazine RAW, or the kids comics anthology Little Lit, both of which she co-edited, or for the covers of The New Yorker, Mouly gathered an array of talent for Toon Books.

2008 saw the launch of eight titles, featuring star authors (such as Harry Bliss, Art Spiegelman or Jeff Smith), veteran children's book authors (Geoffrey Hayes)[2] as well as novice cartoonists (Eleanor Davis, the author of Stinky, was still in art school when Mouly contacted her).[citation needed] The initial line of titles received glowing reviews and multiple awards, prizes, and distinctions.[6] Upon Toon Books' debut, Publishers Weekly characterized the line as having the potential to revitalize the field of comics for kids: "Françoise Mouly is at it again. After transforming American comics with the seminal 1980s comics anthology RAW, Mouly is now out to teach kids to read by using comics".[7]

In fall 2012, Toon Books released its first Toon graphic novel, The Secret of the Stone Frog, by David Nytra. Two years later, Toon Books launched an imprint called Toon Graphics aimed at readers eight and up.[8]


When it first launched, Toon Books was distributed by Diamond Books, a unit of Diamond Comic Distributors dedicated to getting comics and graphic novels into the book trade. In 2010, Toon Books entered into a distribution partnership with Candlewick Press.[9] In late summer/early fall of 2014, Toon Books launched the new line TOON Graphics, an imprint for readers 8 and up. It was distributed from by Consortium, a unit of Perseus, a move that reflects Toon's true status as a small but expanding independent publisher.[10]

TOON in the classroom

Attitudes towards comics have radically changed since the 1954 Congressional hearings where they were denounced as the cause of juvenile delinquency. They are now touted by progressive librarians and educators as an effective tool for children to discover the pleasures of reading.[11][12] As Art Spiegelman said, "comics can be a gateway drug to literacy".[13]

In the absence of any model or precedent, Mouly developed her own methodology to make sure the TOON Books would be well adapted to beginning readers' needs. She consulted with educators as she developed each individual book but also took rough drafts of the stories to schools, taking notes while watching children read.[14] Responding to educators' and librarians' suggestions, Mouly expanded the Toon Books line with bilingual versions (French publisher Casterman just released French-English Toon Books),[15] audio versions (which will be developed into a novel multilingual tool for ESL and/or support for reluctant readers),[citation needed] as well as the first nonfiction Toon Book.[16]

Toon Books have been greeted enthusiastically by librarians, teachers, and parents looking for material for early readers. Early on, the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Nancy Grasmick, embraced Toon Books as part of the Maryland Comic Book Initiative.[17] Other states' school systems are now considering Toon Books for their own Comics in the Classroom initiatives.[citation needed] The books are part of Renaissance Learning's Accelerated Reader Program and have been assigned Reading Recovery and Lexile levels, all of which are firsts for comics for young children.[14]

The Toon Books website offers free online learning tools for both students and educators. Downloadable lesson plans and activity sheets provide teachers with leveled lesson plans for kindergarten through third grade. Other tools include free online readers, videos, and games.

The free "CarTOON Maker" invites readers to make their own cartoons. The online Readers Theater teaches educators how to get students to perform TOON Books. On the Toon site for kids, early readers can make paper puppets, watch videos, and learn "CarTOON" lessons from master cartoonists.

The TOON Leveling System

The TOON into Reading program is divided into three levels:[18]

Awards and honors

In 2009, Stinky, written and illustrated by Eleanor Davis, was named a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book.[2] The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is awarded to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most renowned book for early readers published in English in the U.S.A.[20]

Geoffrey Hayes' Benny and Penny: The Big No-No! won the 2010 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, while Jeff Smith's Little Mouse Gets Ready was named a 2010 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book.

Liniers' Good Night, Planet won the 2018 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Early Readers,[21] and Ivan Brunetti's Comics: Easy as ABC won the same award in 2020.[22] Toon Books have been nominated multiple times for that same award since the award's inception in 2012, including the years 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020.


See also


  1. ^ "About Toon Books", Archived 2009-05-31 at the Wayback Machine Toon Books website. Accessed Nov. 23, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c MacPherson, Karen. "Comics for New Readers", Pittsburgh Post Gazette (Scripps Howard News Service) (April 14, 2009).
  3. ^ Heer, Jeet (2013). In Love with Art: Françoise Mouly's Adventures in Comics with Art Spiegelman. Coach House Books. p. 114. ISBN 978-1-77056-351-3.
  4. ^ a b Rosenstiehl, Agnès. Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons: A Toon Book (Toon Books, 2008) ISBN 9780979923814.
  5. ^ Hansen, Liane (September 21, 2003). "It Was a Dark and Silly Night..." NPR. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  6. ^ "Toon Books Awards and Honors", Toon Books website. Accessed Mar. 13, 2014.
  7. ^ Reid, Calvin. "Toon Books: Comics for Kids", Publishers Weekly (Nov. 16, 2007).
  8. ^ Alverson, Brigid (2014-05-02). "Toon Books Adds Imprint for Older Readers". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2014-10-13.
  9. ^ Publishers Weekly staff. "Candlewick Partners with Toon Books: New imprint launches in October", Publishers Weekly (Sep. 09, 2010).
  10. ^ Publishers Weekly staff. "Toon Books Switches Distribution to Consortium". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  11. ^ Lyga, Allyson A. W. "Graphic Novels for (Really) Young Readers: Owly. Buzzboy. Pinky and Stinky. Who are these guys? And why aren't they ever on the shelf?", School Library Journal (March 1, 2006).
  12. ^ Schwarz, Gretchen E. '"Graphic Novels for Multiple Literacies", Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (International Reading Association) (November 2002): "In an increasingly visual culture, literacy educators can profit from the use of graphic novels in the classroom".
  13. ^ Higgins, Tim. "The Importance of Being Art Spiegelman", The Morning Call (Nov. 17, 2010).
  14. ^ a b Audio interview with Mouly on WKCR-FM, archived on the Teaching Graphic Novels blog (June 12, 2009)
  15. ^ Solym, Clément. "Casterman et Toon books, les BD bilingues anglais-français", Les Universe du Livre L'Actualité (07/06/2009).
  16. ^ a b Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler. Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework (Toon Books, 2010) ISBN 978-1-935179-02-3.
  17. ^ Hudson, Laura. "Comics in the Classroom: Thanks to a new generation of educators, the school and library markets keep on growing", Publishers Weekly (Jan. 06, 2009).
  18. ^ "Toon Books Level Correlations", Toon Books website. Accessed Mar. 13, 2014.
  19. ^ Hayes, Geoffrey. Benny and Penny in Just Pretend: A Toon Book (Toon Books, 2008) ISBN 9781606865309.
  20. ^ Press release. "Geoffrey Hayes, wins Geisel Award for "Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!"", American Library Association website (Jan. 18, 2010).
  21. ^ "Eisner Award Recipients 2010-Present, San Diego Comic-Con International".
  22. ^ "SDCC '20: The 2020 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award winners, The Beat".