The Adventures of Team Pom: Squid Happens by Isabel Roxas

Hello, Isabel Roxas! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read. I’ve been lucky enough to reveal three of the middle-grade covers you’ve illustrated. Today, I’m THRILLED to reveal the cover for your AWESOME debut graphic novel, The Adventures of Team Pom: Squid Happens. Please tell everyone about Ruby, Agnes, and Roberta.

Isabel Roxas: Hi John! Happy to be here with a book that’s all my own! Thank you for having me :) Here we go:

Ruby is an aspiring naturalist and avid reader. Agnes has an all-consuming passion for pigeons and Roberta is the team’s little big boss and prime mover. Together, they are Team Pom! Not actually great at sports, but awesome at snacks.

Scenario: You are once again attending in-person conferences and events. You’re in an elevator with a group of librarians when someone notices you’re holding a copy of The Adventures of Team Pom: Squid Happens. She turns to you and says, “What is it about?” You have about 30-40 seconds to respond.

Isabel Roxas: Three spirited, but uncoordinated girls are trying to win the year’s Synchronized Swimming Championships. In the midst of their preparations they discover a giant Squid in the pool and their summer will never be the same again. Also, there are two dapper Rats in bowler hats who’ve been tasked to hunt down the Squid for a nefarious boss whose identity shall remain secret (for now).

What materials did you use to create the art?

Isabel Roxas: I made the drawings with a mix of non-photo blue pencils, PITT Oil Base pencils and Copic pens on Bristol. I colored them digitally with a Wacom tablet in Photoshop with lots of scanned textures that I made or found lying around the studio.

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Shadyside is an imaginary neighborhood largely based on MY neighborhood called Astoria which is in Queens, New York. It’s got bodegas, a nice park, a real sports club for kids (which I used as inspiration for the Salmagundi club), and pigeons. Lots of pigeons.

Graphic novels, comics, and zines are some of my most favorite things to read. I’ve been reading comics since I was little, sneaking into my brother’s room to read his DC and Marvel collection (which were all very carefully packaged in plastic). As a reward for doing well at quizzes and stuff, I received Archie comics. My sister and I would race to see who could read fastest (she always won) — I lingered too long studying the drawings. Then I discovered Calvin and Hobbes and felt a deep kinship with those characters. I loved Hobbes for his good humor, and I think he helped shape my idea for Ruby, who is a good foil for Roberta who is far more explosive and rolls into a room like a hurricane.

There are so many more graphic novels and zines being produced today and the variety of the forms/topics being covered is tremendously exciting.

I collected zines and comics way before I started making them because I was occupied making picture books. Making zines helped me become a part of a new community of creators. It also allowed me to test and explore ideas that I needed to unpack. In fact, Team Pom started out as a zine. My publisher Sam, bought a copy at a comics festival and months later he wrote to see if I could expand the world and make it into a series.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me… where did the idea for this book come from? I love reading the morning paper and some 10 years ago, there were two articles serendipitously juxtaposed: one about a Japanese synchronized swim team and one about the first video footage ever taken of the Giant Squid, and I found that so intriguing and funny that I made it into a painting called Giant Squid vs. the Red team. It would years before I would turn that same idea into a graphic novel. I spent a lot of time trying to write it as a picture book when I realized that what I really needed was a lot more words and pages to bring the story to life, and here we are!

Thank you, Isabel! 

Born in Manila, Philippines, Isabel Roxas is an author/illustrator, ceramicist and micro-publisher. She has illustrated several books for young readers, including Goodnight Songs (Sterling Books), Let Me Finish! (Disney-Hyperion) and Day at the Market (Adarna House), winner of the Philippine National Book Award. Isabel’s work has been recognized by American Illustration, HOW Magazine and 3x3 Magazine of Contemporary Illustration.

Look for The Adventures of Team Pom: Squid Happens on June 1, 2021. 


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