Tuesday, October 26, 2010: Dedicated Issue: Andrews McMeel

See what's new at Andrews McMeel

Andrews McMeel: Bon Appetit Desserts by Barbara Fairchild

Andrews McMeel: 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective by Garry Trudeau

Andrews McMeel: The Robot Book by Heather Brown and Marion Bataille

Editors' Note

Andrews McMeel: Happy 40th!

In this issue, with the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness celebrates the 40th anniversary of Andrews McMeel Publishing. Here are highlights of the fall list, showing the publisher's range and creativity in its core areas: comics and humor, cookbooks, keepsake and gift books, puzzles and games, general trade (particularly quirky crafts, home and pet titles) and children's.

The stories were written by John Mutter and Shannon McKenna Schmidt.


Andrews McMeel: Pocket Posh Puzzles

Books & Authors

Doonesbury and AMP: All in the Family

Doonesbury, the brilliant comic strip by Garry Trudeau, and Andrews McMeel Universal, parent company of Andrews McMeel Publishing, have a shared history. In 1970, Trudeau was a Yale student drawing a sports comic strip called Bull Tales for the Yale Daily News. Jim Andrews and John McMeel had just started the Universal Press Syndicate and were looking for comic strips to distribute to newspapers. Andrews read Bull Tales, encouraged Trudeau to create a new national strip, and the rest is comic strip and book history.

To celebrate, today Andrews McMeel Publishing is publishing 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective--exactly 40 years to the day since B.D. and Mike Doonesbury met as college roommates in the very first Doonesbury strip.

The book is "especially important to us because it's about our history and how we started," Kirsty Melville, president of the book division of Andrews McMeel Publishing, said. She called Trudeau "one of the most insightful and best observers" of the country's history for the past 40 years, going back to the Vietnam War and the Nixon presidency. "Doonesbury is a satirical analysis and commentary on American political life. His contribution to American life validates what our company is all about."

Rather than offering just a chronological history of the strip, 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective celebrates and tells the stories of the characters who have starred in the 14,000 Doonesbury strips published during the past four decades. In a four-page center foldout, Trudeau offers what he calls a "clarifying, if vertiginous," annotated chart of the more than 60 characters--from Zonker, Joanie, Ginny, Duke and Honey to newer characters like Zipper, Alex and Toggle. He charts relationships and notes status in Doonesbury ways (one symbol indicates that the character "lived on Walden Commune"; another shows "Married by Rev. Scot Sloan"). And in 18 essays interspersed throughout the book, Trudeau focuses on particular characters and groups of characters. Some 1,800 full strips are included in the book.

Amusingly, a minor character in Doonesbury mentioned in the book is "petroleum industry bigwig" Jim Andrews, whose Doonesbury wife is Kathy Andrews. (In real life, Kathleen Andrews, wife of the late Jim Andrews, is vice-chairman of Andrews McMeel Universal. At the family-owned publishing company, Hugh Andrews, Jim's son, is CEO and president, John McMeel is chairman and James Andrews, Hugh's brother, is v-p of licensing.)

In his introduction, Trudeau observes, "The matrix of relationships at the heart of Doonesbury yielded endless narrative possibilities. I didn't have to find a new twist on old themes as most legacy strips do--or rethread the needle every day like a gag cartoonist. I simply followed the characters into their quotidian lives, played out against a scrim of cultural and political context, and occasionally bumped them into that thicket of coincidence that only fictional characters must endure. Honey reencounters her old roommate J.J. on Donald Trump's yacht! Mike marries Kim, introduced twenty years earlier as a Vietnamese orphan! Alex and Toggle find each other on Facebook! Think of the odds! All storytellers stand on the shoulders of Dickens."

"The book is a celebration and portrait of the Doonesbury characters and shows the history of the last 40 years through their eyes," Melville said. "Doonesbury exemplifies the comic strip as a form of art. This is one of the greatest graphic novels one will ever see."

Trudeau, who over the years has avoided the limelight and let his characters speak for him, is doing a variety of media for this book. In the next few weeks, he will be interviewed by NPR Morning Edition host Renee Montagne, Charlie Rose, CBS News Sunday Morning, the Guardian, the BBC World Service and BBC Newsnight. He is the subject of the cover story for the October issue of the Atlantic, Vanity Fair is doing a one-page feature, and Rolling Stone will highlight him and the book.

There's another publicity peg: Yale University Press yesterday published Doonesbury and the Art of G.B. Trudeau by Brian Walker, which is a scholarly review of Trudeau as an artist, tracing how Doonesbury has developed, how he works, what has influenced his style and discusses his non-Doonesbury work. Trudeau worked with the author and press and has supplied commentary. "We're working in tandem with Yale," Melville said.

Originally Andrews McMeel planned to do a first printing of 60,000 copies of the $100 book. "But as we went out and talked about the book, there was more demand and interest than we anticipated," Melville said. The first printing now stands at 100,000 copies.

Andrews McMeel has some experience with this kind of definitive comic tribute, befitting the genre's role as "a cornerstone of the company," as Melville has said. In 2003 it published The Complete Far Side by Gary Larson, a $150, two-volume book, and two years later it came out with The Complete Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Last year it published Celebrating Peanuts: 60 Years, a $75 collection that marked the official 60th anniversary of the beginning of the iconic strip. Collectively the books have sold more than a million copies.

The Doonesbury Legacy

"Humor and satire" are one of the biggest exports of intellectual property for the United States, and Doonesbury, with an estimated readership of 100 million around the world, is a prime example of this, Melville noted. Melville can personally attest to the long reach of Doonesbury: as a student in Australia in the 1970s, she read the strip regularly in the Guardian Weekly.

Trudeau calls himself a satirist rather than a humorist, writing, "A satirist who tries to be even-handed is more correctly called a humorist. Humorists tend to be cynical, whereas satirists are generally hopeful. We actually believe that society can do better."

Doonesbury also has a non-satirical, non-humorous side. Many strips in the last decade have dealt with the consequences of war on soldiers. As Melville said of Trudeau, "He feels very passionate about the veteran experience." Trudeau has been to Afghanistan and met with U.S. soldiers as well as with veterans who have returned home. "Maybe Doonesbury has been as successful as it is because it comes from the heart and provides an inspired perspective on the most relevant issues of our day," Melville said.


Andrews McMeel: Twinkie Chan's Crochet Goodies for Fashion Foodies by Twinkie Chan

Bon Appétit Desserts

Barbara Fairchild knows her desserts. The long-time Bon Appétit magazine editor-in-chief indulges in something sweet each evening after dinner, a tradition that began in childhood. "Nothing provides the satisfaction, gets the attention, or creates memories like a great dessert," declares Fairchild in the introduction to Bon Appétit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful (on sale November 2).

The luscious tome is a comprehensive guide to dessert making, featuring more than 600 recipes culled from the magazine's archives along with some published for the first time. Both experienced and novice bakers can turn out layer cakes and cheesecakes, candies, cookies, tortes, puddings, soufflés, holiday desserts and more.

There are color photographs throughout, along with test-kitchen secrets, suggestions for stocking a dessert pantry, and guidance on mastering baking techniques. Each recipe has a "whisk rating" from one to four to indicate difficulty level. (Glazed Lime Cake: one whisk; Spiced Chocolate Torte Wrapped in Chocolate Ribbons: four whisks.) In addition, buyers receive a bonanza: every copy of Bon Appétit Desserts comes with a subscription or a renewal to the magazine.

Andrews McMeel Publishing tackled the challenge of creating a full color 704-page book at an affordable price ($40). "We wanted to take a fresh approach and also to represent the brand but be slightly different from the magazine," said Melville. The result is "a warm, open, contemporary look."

Melville launched the company's cookbook line when she joined Andrews McMeel five years ago. "Cooking is a passion of mine," she said. (Fairchild describes her as a "devoted foodie.") She and other staffers often test the recipes in books they've purchased or are considering acquiring. "We have a rule that we can't publish a book from a chef if we haven't tried the food," noted Melville. A website dedicated to Andrews McMeel's foodie titles, cookbooks.andrewsmcmeel.com, showcases recipes, reviews, videos, author blogs and event information.

Since the cookbook program's inception, "we've worked to establish credibility in the culinary area, gradually adding on different kinds of books," Melville said. Publications have included the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Cookbook Award winners My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh and The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet, one of a series done in conjunction with eminent cookware retailer Sur La Table.

Joining forces with Fairchild and the Bon Appétit team "was a fantastic experience--two publishing entities working together for the common good," Melville said. "The world is full of people who love dessert." And with the array of recipes in Bon Appétit Desserts, those who wish to emulate Fairchild can indulge their sweet tooth every day for more than a year and a half--and never have the same confection twice.



Prudent Advice Aplenty

When Jaime Morrison Curtis's two-year-old daughter, Scarlet Jane, is older, she'll have a special read waiting for her. The tot was the inspiration for her mom's new book, Prudent Advice: Lessons for My Baby Daughter (A Life List for Every Woman).

The 500 pieces of advice range from whimsical (#4: When given the opportunity, wear a costume) to weighty (#77: Sometimes it's just not about you). "It's a timeless set of life lessons for women of all ages," said Christine Schillig, v-p and editorial director at Andrews McMeel. Interspersed throughout are poems, inspirational quotes, recipes, artwork and handy tools like a New York City subway map (#12: Whenever possible, take the train).

Dispensing advice to offspring is an age-old custom--the epitaph in Prudent Advice is from a 1794 tome with tips from a mother to her daughter--and Curtis gives it a modern spin. She combines traditional advice (#1: Always send a thank-you note) with guidance on contemporary topics (#21: Pay attention to politics).

"A lot of advice books tend to be written by older women speaking to younger women after decades of life experience. That's one of the things about Prudent Advice that is fresh and real," Schillig said. "It comes from someone who is new to the experience of motherhood, when you still remember a lot of odd little things as well as more profound, larger things." A favorite recommendation with Schillig and other Andrews McMeels staffers: #193: Leggings are not pants.

The book is based on Curtis's blog, PrudentAdviceForMyBabyDaughter.com, which she launched after Scarlet's birth. Beset by anxiety that her daughter could someday be left motherless, she began compiling words of wisdom for her. 

"I want my daughter to know my expectations of her aren't based on what it means to be a good woman but what it means to be a good person. My expectations of her are that she should be thoughtful and kind and think for herself and be independent," explained Curtis. "It isn't about being a good cook or a good wife or keeping a clean house, but I do include tips on those things, too, that I thought were helpful." (#5: Learn to love cooking if you can. If you can't, still have a few simple dishes that you can prepare well.)

Curtis eventually shared her endeavor with a few friends, who in turn told their acquaintances about it. After ApartmentTherapy.com featured the blog, "it took on a life of its own," said Curtis, who is the Los Angeles editor for DailyCandy Kids and founder of the crafting website PrudentBaby.com. Thousands of e-mails poured in from friends, family and strangers around the world, all eager to offer their thoughts on what should be included on the list.

Some 85% of the ideas Curtis received were based on what not to do, say, wear or think. "It would have been much simpler and easier to write a list of 'don'ts,' " she said. "Every now and then I do use it, but sparingly and only for things I think are really important--things so central to my value system they justify a blanket statement like 'don't do this' (for example: #3: Don't underestimate your father's ability to understand you)." Rather than "a list of ways to be or not be," Prudent Advice is a collection of "thoughts and guidelines for my little girl to help her find more satisfaction with her life and point her away from mistakes I made," said Curtis.

One item in particular on the list will come in handy for Scarlet to remember her mom's heartfelt advice: #70: If you love a poem, passage, speech, or piece of prose, memorize it. Then you will always have it with you.


More of Jaime Morrison Curtis's wise advice:

#7: Make time for the art museum in every city you visit.

You learn much about a city and yourself when you see its art collection. A good museum will fill your chest until it feels as though your heart could explode.

#157: If you want to leave a party and you don't have a good excuse, spill something on yourself.

#212: Remember that most fairy tales were written by men.

Some of the greatest writers of children's fables were male: The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, even Walt Disney. You are not a tiny princess awaiting rescue by a valiant man, a symbol of frailty and naïveté, or the punch line in a morality tale. The women in those stories were crafted by a different sex at a different time for a different audience; these days you slay the dragon yourself.

#221: You don't need the extended warranty.



Twinkie Chan's Crochet Goodies for Fashion Foodies

"Eat your cake and wear it, too," is the motto of Twinkie Chan, author of Twinkie Chan's Crochet Goodies for Fashion Foodies: 20 Yummy Treats to Wear (November). For her, lemon coconut cake, pepperoni pizza and rocket popsicles, among other foods, aren't just for eating, they're for accessorizing. Her new title features patterns for Strawberry Fingerless Mittens, a Chocolate Cupcake Hat with Blue Frosting, a Green Salad Scarf and other culinary-themed creations.

Chan is a former literary agent who uses a pseudonym as her crafty alter ego and lives in San Francisco. She grew up in a creative household with a strong DIY philosophy and has wielded a crochet hook since she was 10. In 2005, she started a website, www.TwinkieChan.com, to showcase her appetizing accessories--which have been featured on the HGTV show Uncommon Threads--and recently launched a new line at www.YummyYouClothing.com.

Chan's crochet guide is a colorful addition to a category Andrews McMeel has been cultivating for the past several years: quirky craft books. "Our roots are in humor, and that has extended to the craft line," said editor Lane Butler. Sales have been on the rise, with a recent publication, Zombie Felties: How to Raise 16 Gruesome Felt Creatures from the Undead by Nicola Tedman and Sarah Skeate, the #1 craft title on BookScan earlier this month.

"People of all ages are crafting--just look at the success of online sites like Etsy--and they want something fun and easy, which I think is really fueling the growth of the quirkier craft books," said Lynne McAdoo, v-p of sales. "And we do a terrific job of finding titles that are not 'your grandmother's crochet book.' "

Some of Andrews McMeel's first quirky craft titles were Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's humorous essay collection Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter and the perennially popular The Lost Art of Towel Origami by Alison Jenkins. Disney Cruise Line purchased copies of the latter for its employees, who fold guests' towels in various shapes--elephants, palm trees, skyscrapers and luscious lips among them. 

The craft books typically are devoted to a single subject and geared toward do-it-yourselfers of varied ages and ability levels. "We choose things that don't require a lot of prior knowledge or spending a lot of money. It really broadens the audience. With Twinkie Chan's Crochet Goodies for Fashion Foodies, all you need is a crochet hook and a couple of skeins of yarn," said Butler.

A handful of materials like felt, glue and sequins are all that's needed to make the adorably spooky creations featured in Zombie Felties. The book, which "combines the two hot trends of easy sewing projects with zombies," noted McAdoo, has inspired at least one crafting group--the Temple of Craft in Tarrytown, N.Y.--to make felties like Dead Ducky, Zombie Bride and Zombie Surfer for Halloween.

Andrews McMeel's quirky craft line is, in large part, about good old-fashioned fun. "We like to entertain people and make them laugh," said Butler. "When you see someone walking around in a spaghetti 'n' meatballs scarf, you can't help but smile."



Blue Chair Jamming

A defining aspect of Andrews McMeel's cookbook program is its diversity. "I love the eclectic nature of cookbooks," said Kirsty Melville. "I'm fascinated by how different people come at a subject." The company serves up titles on subjects such as international and U.S. regional cuisines, vegetarian fare, gluten-free dishes, eating local, cocktails, comfort food, bacon, BBQ, budget gourmet--and now jam.

In The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, Rachel Saunders shares more than 100 recipes for jams and marmalades, organized by season to maximize fresh fruits and flavors (White Guava & Meyer Lemon Marmalade in winter, Brandied Red Cherry Conserve in late spring). She illustrates each stage of the preserving process, presents flavor combinations from simple to complex and offers insights about different fruits and their varieties from a jam-maker's perspective.

"Rachel is representative of a new generation of young men and women who are looking at traditional ways of making things and giving them a modern take," said Melville. "She's a contemporary Alice Waters, a person who started this business and is changing the way a generation thinks about it."

Saunders is the owner of Blue Chair Fruit, a jam company specializing in sustainably farmed fruits from the San Francisco Bay Area. She teaches jam- and marmalade-making classes at her Oakland kitchen, located in a restored streetcar garage, and earlier this month she showed off her skills on the Martha Stewart Show. The book has been featured in the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and other publications, and on websites like Epicurious.com.

The Christian Science Monitor chose The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook as one of the "Six Best Food Books Coming This Fall." After hailing Saunders "the queen of jam-makers" and praising her "lush, stunning, and comprehensive book," the paper had a warning for readers: "Seriously, one look at these photographs will be enough to make you want to jump face first into a pot of boiling fruit. And that says a lot."



Food Bloggers Serve Up Cookbook

When Kirsty Melville attended the inaugural International Food Blogger Conference last year, she was struck by "the dynamic energy" of the attendees and wanted to publish a cookbook to celebrate the diversity and emerging voices of those food bloggers. The result: Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes, Photographs, and Voices edited by Sheri L. Wetherell, Barnaby Dorfman and Colin M. Saunders, founders of Foodista.com, a Wikipedia-like cooking encyclopedia with recipes and tips on tools and techniques--and host of the conference. Their book is the first grassroots cookbook to emerge from social media.

"One of the exciting things about our cookbooks is that we've had the opportunity to experiment with different ideas and approaches," Melville said. Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook brings together digital and print, allowing home chefs who might not be web savvy a chance to experience some of what's happening online. "For people who aren't comfortable with food blogs, this is a way into the world in book form."

In the book, food bloggers from France to the Philippines, San Diego to Spain, present 100 innovative recipes for cocktails and appetizers, soups and salads, main and side dishes, and desserts--culled from more than 1,500 entries that were voted on by the Foodista.com audience, with the final selections made by the editors. Each recipe is accompanied by a color photograph of the prepared dish, a brief chronicle about its creation and a blogger biography.

Contributions come from expats nostalgic for a taste of home, those eager to share a bite of their culture and other enthusiastic epicureans like a foodie from Denver who reads cookbooks as if they were novels. "The book is about storytelling as well as recipes," said Melville. "To me cookbooks are a means to learn about people's lives."

A blogger originally from Kolkata, India, and living in Munich, Germany, shares her recipe for Spinach Coriander Chive Bread. A Los Angeles magazine editor created Lonely for London Cookies to emulate the milk chocolate and hazelnut candy bars she enjoys on visits to her favorite city. A self-described "southern girl living in the big city" of Chicago and working in the science/medical field moonlights as an amateur chef, turning out dishes like Asian-Braised Lamb Shanks. 

With its online origins, crowd-sourced content and global perspective, Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook, said Melville, is "very much a book of its time."



The Robot Book from Accord

How does a robot work inside? What makes a robot tick? These are the intriguing questions that Heather Brown answers in The Robot Book, which features actual moveable gears, cogs, nuts and bolts and is being released today by Accord Publishing.

Children will be especially taken with the moving pieces; readers of all ages will enjoy the endearing story. Robots are made of many parts, the book says, including a mouth, a pair of eyes and two arms--all of which are demonstrated on successive spreads. But a robot is "more than just a pile of parts," the book continues. Then, on a page showing three cogs that circle within a large heart, we learn, "It's what's inside that makes him tick." Check out the delightful video here.

To get the word out, the company is running an online promotion in November with dozens of mothers, parenting and tech/geek websites. The promotion will feature reviews of the books, giveaways and contests that highlight The Robot Book as a holiday gift for kids.

The Robot Book is published by Accord, the novelty children's books and crafts calendar publisher that Andrews McMeel bought in 2005. Accord has a small, highly focused staff with offices in Denver, Colo., separate from AMP headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., and develops unusual and innovative titles that often include new technology. For example, bestseller Bee & Me by Elle J. McGuinness, illustrated by The Robot Book's own Heather Brown, was the first title to feature Ani-Motion, a new paper engineering technology. Ani-Motion has been used in several other titles, most recently in Dancing Dreams by Kate Ohrt and illustrated by Kristi Valiant, published last month.

Other current Accord titles include Circus Fantastico by Lynn Gordon illustrated by Molly Idle, a mystery/adventure with a magnifier to engage junior sleuths (July); the Stick to It series, with a magnetic puzzle on every spread; When I'm Big by Paula Hannigan, illustrated by Milena Kirkova, a story that grows with the reader (October); and The Rainbow Book by Kate Ohrt, which uses a new format to reveal intricate paper-cutting and an elaborate design on every page (February).

Accord is "committed to creating original and distinctive products from our incredibly talented roster of in-house artists, writers, paper engineers and innovators," senior v-p Linda Jones emphasized. "We are confident they will continue to surprise in seasons to come."


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