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An Interview with the Creators of Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City

The New York Times bestselling graphic novel, Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City is now available in paperback as of January 2018. With the constant barrage of seemingly sordid political news, name smearing, and broadening discussions around gentrification and the mistreatment of marginalized people, we took a minute to sit down with Olivier Balez and Pierre Christin, the creators of Robert Moses to find out why they decided that this controversial character had such an important story to tell.

1. What inspired you to create this book about Robert Moses?

“Since my first visit to New York city in the sixties, I have walked extensively in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island. Slowly, I discovered that there were traces of Robert Moses practically everywhere. Later, I started doing a bit of research on this character, who is more or less unknown to a French person like me. Thanks to my daughter, then working on her Ph.D. at Princeton University, I read books and articles about him. I had already been researching urbanism for some of my novels, and comics, and Robert Moses appeared as such a formidable, visual, figure that I knew I had to do something about his life and I had to work with a graphic artist.”Pierre Christin

2. In doing the research for Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City, what surprised you most about the life of Robert Moses?

  “After a trip to New York, Pierre sent me a huge box full of books and pictures about Moses’s work and some books about Jane Jacobs too. This was very helpful because it was difficult to find good resources online. The swimming pools that Moses was responsible for were my favorite part to draw, and Jones beach for all of its lovely details, such as the signs and the bricks.”Olivier Balez

3. What research did you do in illustrating this book? Is there a particular Robert Moses project that you are most drawn to?

  “I was surprised to discover that Moses was undoubtedly a man of power and money, but also an advocate of public service and a much wiser user of state investment than a regular capitalist. In this way, he was not far from another great figure of urbanism, the French Baron Haussmann, who totally remodelled Paris in the second half of the 19th century, a man Robert Moses admired. Both of them were rich and popular for many years, both of them ended up being rejected and with relatively little money in their later years. Romantic destinies, in a way.”Olivier Balez

4. The illustrations in Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City beautifully capture life in New York. If you could describe the city in just a few words, what would they be?

  “Several cities within one city.”Olivier Balez

5. Robert Moses as a character has been portrayed recently in the off Broadway musical Bulldozer, and in the Golden Globe Award winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which focuses on Jane Jacobs’ early protest movement against Robert Moses’ efforts to build a highway through Washington Square Park. Why do you think there is renewed interest in this powerful, intelligent character?

“It is only when I realized who Jane Jacobs was and what she did, that I felt I was ready to write the story I wanted. Because, instead of having only ONE hero—Robert Moses—and taking (even unconsciously) the risk of idealizing one man, I could portray TWO heroes. Moreover, these two characters were incredibly antagonistic to each other: man/woman, right/left, social elite/popular, modern/postmodern. A great theatrical couple both dramatic, and in some respects, funny.”Pierre Christin

6. In addition to all of his city planning accomplishments, Robert Moses is also responsible for displacing a quarter of a million people, as you show in Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City. How do you think that could have been avoided?

  “This was certainly not his greatest moment, and now we see that as the biggest failure and the worst aspect of post war urbanism. Unfortunately, the same disaster has occurred in most big cities and suburbs of the world. Even Communist countries, where there is little capitalistic pressure, do no better. However, there is no excuse for Moses’ actions.”Pierre Christin

7. How do you think Robert Moses could serve as a cautionary tale to powerful men in the US and abroad today?

“Educated and logical people learn from the past. Illiterate and non-rational people despise the past and mostly ignore, or worse, manipulate history.

I do not think many present leaders are ready to analyse the successes and failures of Moses, or the intuitions and illusions of Jane Jacobs. But globally, it seems that the worst constructions and urban planners are behind us, with such giant errors of the second half of the past century.”Pierre Christin

 

Robert Moses was a powerful, convincing man, and revisiting the story of his brilliance and flaws helps remind us of the kind of people that built up places that we find pride in as Americans, like New York City. It also reminds us of the great human cost that so often comes along with what we call progress. Check out the fact sheet below of details about Robert Moses that you may not know, and don’t forget to order your copy of Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City (now in paperback) at all good bookshops and the links below!

Nobrow

Indiebound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

 


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Emily Hughes Wins Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

Congratulations to the creator of Wild and The Little Gardener, Emily Hughes, for winning the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award from the American Library Association. Announced Monday, February 12, Hughes along with writer Laurel Snyder won the award for Charlie & Mouse.

Emily’s lush, playful titles have received rave attention since the beginning.   

The Little Gardener was an NPR Best Book of 2015, and the New York Times praised, “Hughes’s illustrations thrum with life. The drawings are a tangle of Gauguin and Rousseau and botanical journals.”

As for Wild, the story of a little girl who simply won’t be tamed, Maria Popova of Brain Pickings said it was “an irreverent, charming, and oh-so-delightfully illustrated story, partway between Kipling’s The Jungle Book and Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are . . . Wild is one of the loveliest and most endearing picture-books I’ve seen.”

These stunning titles are available for purchase anywhere books are sold or on the Nobrow website. We wish Emily Hughes all the best in this prestigious win.


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Find Nobrow/Flying Eye Books at ABA’s Winter Institute and ALA Midwinter

Memphis and Denver, Nobrow is coming for you!

We’ll be at the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute (running January 22 to 25) in Memphis, Tennessee. Say hello to US Sales and Marketing Associate Director, Hannah Moushabeck on Meet the Presses Day: January 25, 9:15am to 12pm; 1:30pm to 7pm. Booksellers will have the opportunity to meet with Hannah for an informal conversation, and pick up an advance copy of Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey (forthcoming in March).

Then, running from February 9 to 12, Nobrow will be in Denver, Colorado for the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting. Come say hello to us at Booth #1111 in the Exhibit Hall at the Colorado Convention Center! Pick up a poster, buttons, and enter our raffle for a chance to win our full Hilda series and a Hilda doll.

We hope to catch you at one of these events. You won’t want to miss this chance at an early sneak peek of our Spring 2018 list of children’s books and graphic novels!


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Celebrate the Holiday Season with 12 Gifts from Nobrow!

 

Shopping for gifts is hard, and the clock is winding down to the holidays, so the staff at Nobrow put together a list of books for those hard-to-buy-for people in your life. Even your science-obsessed niece and posh sister-in-law will be over the moon with these unique, thoughtful books (and you’ll have a cool gift on time).

 

1. For the dad who used to be in a punk band
(and wants to relive the good ol’ days instead of getting another tattoo).

101 Artists to Listen to Before You Die is author Ricardo Cavolo’s love letter to music—from Charlie Patton and Elvis Presley to Wu-Tang Clan, Jay Z, Amy Winehouse, and Skrillex (and Johnny Cash twice) this has something for every music lover, with each entry accompanied by Cavolo’s playful, brilliant illustrations.
Zoey, US Marketing Assistant

 

2. For curious children and hidden heroes.

Join young Arthur Brownstone on an epic quest back in time to the land of the Vikings as he meets powerful gods, collects magical objects and conquers mythical beasts (and his own fears) to save his town from being frozen in time. Ideal for fans of Thor Ragnorak looking for further exciting adventures through Norse mythology, Arthur and the Golden Rope is a beautifully illustrated, gold-foiled picture book/graphic novel hybrid that will be a sure fire hit with even the most reluctant readers (and heroes) in your life.
Zoë, UK Marketing Co-ordinator

3. For the gamer who loves Zelda and NBA Jam in equal measure.

Fantasy Sports No. 1 is an action-packed adventure story that follows Wiz, a trainee mage and her begrudging mentor, Mug through the tunnels and tombs of an ancient temple to recover some ancient treasure. Can they put their differences aside and combine their skills and strength against a demonic big boss in a duel of… basketball? BOOMSHAKALAKA! Probably.
James, Creative Director at Minilab

4. For your thrill-seeking best friend who can’t stay in one place long enough for a stable relationship.

In a brilliant, layered story, Luke Healy brings you into three narratives—each a struggle. In How to Survive in the North, the historical expeditions of Ada Blackjack and Robert Bartlett to the Arctic are framed by the fictional story of Sully, a professor who is wading through heartbreak and midlife crises. The adventuring friend in your life will love the bravery of Blackjack and Bartlett, and then be grounded by the real questions in Sully’s life: how do we navigate the intangibles of love and belonging?
—Avalon, Editorial Assistant

5. For your Instagram famous sister-in-law who just wants the ‘perfect’ office wall.

I consider the Leporello collection, including Locomotion, one of the gems that we have at Nobrow. I’ve been in love with these even before working here. The unusual format, turns into a big canvas for the artists to play with. And the final results are printed in spot colors, that highlights the artwork even more. It is a book, but definitely could work framed as well!
—Bia, Designer

6. For the kid who’s a little too good at finding where you hid the presents.

Mr. Tweed and the Band in Need is the second of Jim Stoten’s wacky search-and-find adventures featuring that dapper dog, the titular Mr. Tweed! Kids will pore over the wildly detailed, far-out illustrations to help Mr. Tweed locate the missing members of his favorite band amidst the jumble of a lively day at the zoo. Bright colors and silly sight gags make for hours of fun, the perfect gift for kids who love discovering something new!
—Geoffrey, US Marketing Manager

7. For the child who won’t stop drawing on the walls.

Nightlights is a graphic novel for young readers (ages 8 to 12) about a young girl whose passion for drawing is always getting her into trouble. Filled with stunning illustrations and sprinkled with lessons about self-confidence, this book will make the perfect gift for the creative child in your life. Great for fans of Ghosts by Raina Telegmeier or the Hilda series by Luke Pearson.
—Hannah, US Sales & Marketing Director

8. For the budding naturalist.

One Day on Our Blue Planet is a series by Ella Bailey that highlights the life of young animals around the world. I love this series because it strikes a rare balance between beauty and information. Readers will enjoy exploring the detailed spreads full of unique animals to discover on every page and will be inspired to learn more about all the different creatures that share this blue planet with us.
—Lilly, Designer

9. For your best buddy from college who needs to read a book instead of binge watching Bob’s Burgers.

Pantheon: The True Story of the Egyptian Deities is a fantastic and hilarious retelling of the Egyptian myth about the god Horus who plots bloody revenge on his Uncle Set. Pantheon contains incest, decapitation, suspicious salad, fighting hippos, flying cows, a boat race, resurrections, lots of scorpions, a golden willy, AND laugh-out loud moments. Your college buddy might actually start reading again.
Camille, Senior Designer

10. For little ones who have their feet on the ground and their heads in the stars.

Astro Cat and his crew set off on a journey around our solar system in Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System and share with us simple but fascinating facts along the way, accompanied by exciting visuals, retro illustrations and beautiful design. What are asteroids? Why is Mars red? Well, this is the perfect book to answer all their how and why questions, and get all children excited about science!
—Marie, Foreign Rights Manager

11. For your indie-film-nut, younger brother, who’s minoring in philosophy.

The Spectators is a beautiful graphic novel from French artist Victor Hussenot, (ages 18+) about the lives of city dwellers—those who immerse themselves in a routine of bus stops and train platforms, whose lives revolve around observing the strangers they pass on the street. Hussenot explores how our behavior changes during the few minutes we spend sitting beside those we’ll never see again. Filled with colorful, delicate illustrations of bustling crowds and precious, quiet moments, this is the perfect book for the people watchers and the city lovers, and anyone who has ever enjoyed the feeling of belonging to a crowd.
—Coryn, Sales Administrator

12. For your niece who loves to play with frogs and hates to be stuck inside.

Wild tells the story of a girl who grows up in the forest, and is discovered by other humans. When they take her home, they attempt to civilize her, but this girl cannot be tamed, “because you cannot tame something so happily wild.” Celebrating everyone’s wild inner child this beautiful picture book is perfect for children who can’t get enough of the outdoors and always come home with leaves in their hair and dirt on their faces.
Harriet, Senior Commissioning Editor

 

There you have it—Nobrow’s gift picks. We hope you enjoy your time with food and family, and remember you can never go wrong with gifting a book for the holidays. For more great gift ideas, check out Nobrow’s website!