Françoise Mouly: She’s ‘Tooning’ Kids In

March 20 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Read All About It

In 2016, the senior VP of marketing at Marvel Comics gave an interview claiming that female readership of the brand’s comics and graphic novels is growing. He noted that based on market analysis and info from retailers, nearly half—40 percent—of all Marvel readers are female, and in some markets, that number could be more like 60 percent. He says that’s a dramatic increase from eight years previous, when female readership was at maybe 10 percent, and a big bump from 15 years ago, when female readership was negligible. Women and girls are glued to pages from illustrators and writers who depict the female perspective, like Roxane Gay and Sara Pichelli. I think it’s fair to say our gender can’t get enough of fantastic stories told with pencil, paper and a whole lot of imagination. Whether it’s satirical or educational, in the comics industry, gals are here to stay.


Whether their favorites are comics, picture books or Harry Potter, getting kids to read at a young age is paramount for their education. And according to children’s-literacy organization Scholastic, parents are taking that more seriously than ever. In its recent biannual survey, the group discovered that 77 percent of parents with children age 5 or younger say they started reading aloud to their child before Baby’s first birthday. It’s never too early to plant the lifelong appreciation for well-told stories.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Françoise Mouly, Founder of Toon Books

Each year, Smithsonian Magazine, the flagship publication of the lauded Smithsonian Institution, presents a handful of remarkable individuals with its American Ingenuity Awards. It’s as highly esteemed as it sounds, and we’re fortunate to talk today about one of the recent winners, the phenomenal Françoise Mouly. Françoise is no stranger to praise, having made some tremendous strides in her career.

This Parisian moved to New York in the mid-1970s, and has been a powerhouse in the publishing industry ever since, first as the founder, publisher, designer and co-editor, along with her husband, of a groundbreaking comics anthology, and later, as the acclaimed art director for The New Yorker, a job Françoise has managed with aplomb. From cover-story art about politics to visual commentary for the magazine’s Culture Desk section, Françoise has contributed much to the publication’s prestige, including being responsible for more than 1,000 covers during her tenure.

Despite her busy schedule, Françoise also found time to launch Toon Books, a pretty darn brilliant publishing company that combines high-quality comics with education. She got the idea while reading to her kids, who loved traditional American books but also devoured French comic books. Part of the appeal came from her kids being able to independently determine the storyline before they could even read the words. Françoise realized she was onto something and soon turned her kids’ love for comic books into a full-blown business that has become the home for high-quality comics that inspire kids to “toon” into reading.

Toon Books are categorized by reading and interest level, and are all about quality versus quantity. This spring’s release, titled The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America, is offered in both English and Spanish, and was written by an award-winning author.

Educators find Toon Books incredibly helpful in their classrooms too, for both engaging the entire class and strengthening students’ literary skills. And since Toon Books are aligned with Common Core State Standards, it’s a win-win for teachers to build a complete library of Toon Books.

Thanks, Françoise, for giving kids a really cool way to build their love of reading. We’re sure all your fans will want to “toon” in to your next daring publishing adventure.


Françoise Mouly’s husband and Pulitzer Prize winner Art Spiegelman said it best when he said:

“Comics are a gateway drug to literacy.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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