November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Gale Galligan On “Dawn and the Impossible Three”

Tackling family woes, friendship blowups, and more, Gale Galligan’s graphic novel adaptation of Dawn and the Impossible Three (Scholastic/Graphix, Sept. 2017), an SLJ Popular Pick, is bound to resonate with fans young and old. This is the latest installment in Ann M. Martin’s “Baby-Sitters Club” books, a long-running series from the 1980s and 1990s about a group of girls managing their own business. With this book, which centers on California girl Dawn Schafer’s entry to the club, Galligan picks up where Raina Telgemeier, who translated the first four books in the series into graphic novels, left off. Galligan discusses why the books have endured, addresses the challenges she encountered, and, best of all, reveals her favorite BSC member.

What was it like to work on this book, knowing that Raina Telgemeier had already adapted the first four volumes? 

It’s interesting—jumping in after four graphic novels took the pressure off in some ways (pre-established world for me to play in!) while adding it in others (lots to live up to!). My editors and I knew that we wanted to keep the next two BSC books within the same visual universe. While I didn’t try to mimic Raina’s work (nor could I have, truly), we did want the books to flow comfortably from her style into mine. To that end, I referenced Raina’s character and environment designs whenever possible and took care not to break the continuity she’d established.

That said, I think I did make the book my own! While Raina’s and my personal experiences, visual libraries, and senses of humor intersect in some places, there’s no way I’d be able to place myself squarely behind her eyes. It’d be a little spooky.

The original books are set during the 1980s and 1990s. Did you try to modernize this title for today’s readers?

Just a bit! Most of the main story points in these books are still totally applicable, but sometimes details change. We wouldn’t want present or future readers to wonder whether the BSC were getting the really short end of the stick when it came to their hourly rates, for example, so we removed or adjusted any mention of specific dollar amounts. We also used more inclusive language where we could, and cut out the really wacky turns of phrase that (sadly) didn’t stand the test of time.

We didn’t add too much in terms of technology, though—that stuff ages fast!

Why do you think the series resonates with modern tweens, even though it was conceived of decades ago?

Judge my answer as you will, because I am definitely not a modern tween, but here’s my guess: it’s really relatable. Each member of the BSC has her own special strengths, weaknesses, fears, and dreams. There’s a lot there for readers to identify with and learn from! For example, a big thing for my nervous tween self was seeing Mary Anne figure out how to speak up for herself and become more confident—if she could do it and it turned out fine, maybe I could come out of my shell a little, too.

What are some of the challenges of adapting a prose book into the graphic novel format?

The first thing that comes to mind is pacing. In prose, a short paragraph might cover several moments of time; in comics, those moments could be broken into any number of panels or pages.

You can write, for example, “She sneezed, unexpectedly, with the force and timbre of a mature elephant.” If I’m adapting this, I need to decide how important it is to the overall story. If it’s minor, I’ll use one or two panels to show the sneeze, put it in the background of the rest of the scene, or cut it entirely. But if it’s a big moment, I might show the character starting to feel her nose itch, and then make the sneeze itself take up almost all of the page!

Also, wordy conversations. It’s one of my favorite challenges: finding interesting ways to tell readers more about characters using poses, facial reactions, and camera shifts, all while breaking their dialogue across panels to keep the eye moving. Comics are fun! 

Were you a fan of the original books? And do you have a favorite member of the BSC? 

I was! I still remember winning my first BSC book in a library giveaway, and then I had to go back and find more immediately. That’s how they get you.

As for favorite character, it’s got to be a tie between Mary Anne and Claudia. I might be a shy kid at heart, but I am also into snacks in a big way. Claudia gets me.

What do you have planned next?

Right now I’m working on the next BSC installment, which is one of my favorites—it’s jam-packed with exciting moments that are going to be a lot of fun to draw. After that, I’ve got some projects cooking outside of the BSC universe.

This article was published in School Library Journal's July 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar (mdar@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.

Share
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*