Not Just Kid Stuff: Robert Sabuda and James Howe, Two Successful Creators of Children's Books, Talk about Coming out in Their Corner of the Publishing World. (Books)

Article excerpt

Children's books have always benefited from the talent of queer authors and illustrators--on the QT, that is. But a new generation of artists no longer feel the need to be discreet. They're breaking free of the old restrictions and creating work that accurately reflects their lives.

Take James Howe, 55-year-old author of the beloved Bunnicula series--which has eight million copies in print--and a major figure in the children's book industry for more than 20 years. He's coming out as a gay man with the publication of his new book, The Misfits (Atheneum, $16).

Robert Sabuda, on the other hand, was never "in." Creator of numerous witty best-sellers--among them The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Little Simon, $24.95), one of the most complex and commercially successful pop-up books in years--the prolific 36-year-old Sabuda has been open from the start of his career. He even includes the fact in his press biography, sent out to reviewers, reporters, and librarians.

Has this candor cost him? Far from it. Sabuda's newest project, a series of Young Naturalist Pop-Up Handbooks (Hyperion, $19.99 each), is a collaboration with his 30-year-old partner, Matthew Reinhart (creator of the adult-oriented and hilarious Pop-Up Book of Phobias and Pop-Up Book of Nightmares).

Sabuda thinks there's one obvious reason that his career comfort level keeps improving. "Children's publishing is populated by 97% women," he offers, "and they have a very different perspective on things, I feel, than men do."

This year it was the much admired James Howe who gave the old ways a thorough shaking up. His coming out was a bombshell in the industry. True, his past work has offered clues for the analytically minded. He's penned more than 70 titles, including the Pinky and Rex series (Pinky is a boy who loves stuffed animals and the color pink) and the Sebastian Barth mysteries, which feature a girl who wants to play on the school football team. ("She has possibilities," laughs Howe.)

Howe's most famous book, though, is Bunnicula, about a bunny rabbit who may be a vampire, written with his first wife while she was dying of cancer. …


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