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The World in Multicolour

Behind the scenes: Around the world with Lantana

in: Cultural diversity

 

At Lantana, we say that our books open up the world for young readers. Our stories offer windows onto other cultures and mirror back our common humanity. But what you might not know is how each book is the product of an intercultural and global collaboration, and this opens up our world, too. Join us on a quick trip around the world as we take you behind the scenes of the production of our upcoming title, Kaya’s Heart Song!

First stop, London!

British summer weather is famously fickle, but editor Alice Curry remains steadfast as she steers the production of Kaya’s Heart Song from manuscript to book. Written by first-time author Diwa Tharan Sanders and set in the jungles of Malaysia, this joyous story about mindfulness and listening to your heart made our hearts sing. We believe that pairing an author with an illustrator from another culture enhances the global qualities of the story, while the author’s voice keeps the experience authentic. Alice approached Argentinian illustrator Nerina Canzi, whose stunning work on The Ammuchi Puchi put her at the top of the list. Who better than Nerina to bring Kaya’s magical journey in the vibrant Malaysian jungles to life?

 

To Argentina for some winter lemons

While Alice enjoys (sometimes) sunny weather, Nerina gathers winter lemons from the tree in her garden. Alice, Diwa and Nerina coordinate via email (in Spanish and English!), sharing photos and Pinterest boards until they come up with a look that inspires them. Nerina works her magic while keeping cosy in her artist’s studio.

 

 Then, to a beach island in Sri Lanka

“Sunny blue skies and a steady ocean breeze fill me with lots of energy to write,” Malaysian-born author Diwa says. Under the warm tropical sunshine, Diwa reads some notes from Alice and polishes her manuscript. “I love writing outdoors and being close to nature. Because I’m relaxed, the words flow easily.”

 

 

And finally, to snowy New Zealand

Katrina Gutierrez, our communications and project manager, coordinates publicity and events with Alice and the London team all the way from New Zealand. With Alice and Katrina at opposite ends of the earth working with a list of authors and illustrators from around the globe, Lantana is truly a publishing house with diversity at its heart.

Kaya’s Heart Song will be out in the Spring and is available for pre-order here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for up to date news about this and our other books!

 

 

The Lantana Team

 

 

Magic Number 3! Celebrating 3 years of Lantana Publishing

in: Publishing

The week is drawing to a close, but we are still on a birthday high! We thought it would be great to round off our celebrations by sharing 3 of our best accomplishments.

1. Our 10 inclusive and diverse books!

We are thrilled to have created 10 visually stunning, high-quality books that children from all over the world enjoy. What’s more, we are proud that all of our books are products of intercultural collaborations. To date, our small team, authors and illustrators come from almost 20 countries. This creative cultural exchange, wherein we tell the same story from different cultural perspectives, continues to energise and motivate us.

Around the world with Lantana’s books

We are especially proud of the success of A Wisp of Wisdom: Animal Tales from Cameroona charity fundraiser and preservation project that sought to give children in Korup, Cameroon 2000 books. Together with Tom Moorhouse and 10 fabulous authors (including Abi Elphinstone, Piers Torday and Gill Lewis), illustrator Emmie van Biervliet and the conservation charity WildCru (Oxford University), we created a special collection of tales. The project raised more than £13,000 for the Korup children.

2. Awards and accolades!

Last year Chicken in the Kitchen won Best Book at the Children’s Africana Book Awards and was made a White Ravens Honour Book. The book’s illustrator Mehrdokht Amini earned a Kate Greenaway Medal 2017 nomination for her stunning work. She is also 1 of only 17 UK entrants in the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava Awards – one of the most important awards in book illustration. Amongst our awards and accolades are:

Mehrdokht Amini (illustrator), Alice Curry and Nnedi Okorafor (author) in Washington DC for the Children’s Africana Book Awards

We are also amazed to have been 1 of 5 publishers – and the only one from the UK – shortlisted for Best Children’s Publisher of the Year (Europe Category) at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2017. Finally, our founder and director Alice Curry received recognition this year for her amazing leadership and clear vision. She was shortlisted for the Young Stationers’ Prize and won the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize, which celebrates women of promise in publishing.

3. Hello, USA and Canada!

Chicken in the Kitchen, The Tigon and the Liger, Sleep Well, Siba and Saba and The Wooden Camel have had a wonderful welcome in the USA, already receiving starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and high praise from Publisher’s Weekly, the SLJ and book bloggers like HereWeeRead. We are very excited that more children in the USA and Canada will have a chance to read our books. Our books are distributed by Lerner Publishing Services. 

Hardcover US editions!

And there you have it, our magic number 3.

We couldn’t have done it without you. THANK YOU for cheering us on these past 3 years. We look forward to many more years of championing inclusion and representation in children’s books.

Because all children deserve to see themselves in the books they read.

 

Watch this space and our social media channels for news on our exciting new books, special offers and discounts! 

The Lantana Team

Alice Curry *shortlisted* for the Young Stationers’ Award 2017!

in: Publishing

Shortlistings have been coming thick and fast for our founder and director, Alice Curry! We are so proud to announce that, on the heels of winning the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize 2017, she is the only woman on the shortlist of this year’s Young Stationers’ Award!

What is the Young Stationers’ Award?

The prize is awarded to a young person who “has achieved great success in their career; made an outstanding contribution to the sector in which they are working; or achieved success outside their immediate world of work in interesting ways which are relevant to the ethos and trades of the Stationers’ Company.”

Dominic Graham, Chairman of the Young Stationers comments, “The entries to this year’s prize were of an exceptional level and demonstrated to the judges the range and quality of the work being done by young professionals across the livery’s trades.”

Who else made it onto the shortlist?

Anthony Cond (Managing Director, Liverpool University Press), Ian Buckley (Managing Director, Prima Software), and John Macpherson (co-founder and director, Bright Red Publishing).

And the winner is…!

The winner will be announced on the 24th July at the Young Stationers’ Annual Dinner in Stationers’ Hall. The prize is a trophy kindly donated by The Worshipful Company of Pewterers and will be presented by last year’s joint winners, Ella Kahn and Bryony Woods of Diamond Kahn & Woods Literary Agency.

CONGRATULATIONS, ALICE!

Katrina and the Lantana team

Alice Curry is the *WINNER* of the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize 2017!

in: Cultural diversity

Representing Lantana and cheering Alice on were our co-director Caroline Godfrey and author and referee Tom Moorhouse

A huge congratulations to Alice Curry, our Founder and Publisher and fearless leader, for winning the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize! The judges called her a ‘great role model for future generations starting out in publishing’ and said she ‘stood out for her radical switch from academia to starting up a publishing business that puts her passion and knowledge to practical use’.

The Kim Scott Walwyn Prize celebrates the professional achievements of women of promise in the publishing industry. It is open to any woman who has worked in UK publishing for up to seven years. Alice was one of five inspirational women shortlisted for the award – all ‘forces of nature’ in publishing. These are: Amy Durant (Publishing Director, Endeavour Press), Candice Carty-Williams (Senior Marketing Executive, Vintage), Sarah Braybrooke (Managing Director, Scribe UK) and Zeljka Marosevic (Co-Publisher, Daunt Books Publishing).

Alice Curry with Mary Beard

Alice with Mary Beard who gave a fascinating speech about feminism in antiquity

Alice’s thoughts on winning the prize…

This is an incredible honour and – a day after the ceremony – it still hasn’t quite sunk in. Lantana is a tiny, independent publishing house with a mission to open up a space for diverse voices in children’s publishing and I’m so thrilled that this award signals a move in publishing towards its margins – a sign of a more inclusive and welcoming attitude towards young houses and towards those who aim to spot gaps and see opportunities and try to make change where change is needed.

I believe this award celebrates not just the achievements of individuals but a whole collective of people working together to make change in the industry. None of us would be where we are today without the support we constantly receive – from colleagues, family, friends – and it’s this support that allows women like me and the other shortlisted candidates to channel our vision and passion into businesses or imprints or campaigns with a heart and a social conscience.

Alice Curry Kim Scott Walwyn Prize

Kim Scott Walwyn’s parents, who proudly honour their daughter’s memory with this award

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my tiny team who are wonderful and who have backed me and my vision for Lantana from the start. I am also deeply grateful to Kim Scott Walwyn’s family and the judging panel for this incredible show of support and encouragement – it is a wonderful legacy and a real boost to the confidence of any woman starting out in this industry. My thanks also go to the sponsors of the prize – the Society of Young Publishers, National Book Tokens and the Publishing Training Centre – who offer much-needed financial support and formal training.

I want to acknowledge the other shortlistees – Amy, Candice, Sarah and Zeljka – who are all incredibly impressive women and will no doubt continue to achieve amazing things throughout their careers. And last but not least – to women in general, those often unsung heroes who contribute so invaluably to every business and every sector, just like Kim Scott Walwyn whose memory we honour with this prize.

Long may awards like this one inspire and encourage women – young or old – to take risks and dream big.’

WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU, ALICE!

Katrina and the Lantana team

THE WOODEN CAMEL – PUBLISHED TODAY!

in: Children's books

Happy book birthday to The Wooden Camel!

 

Etabo dreams of being a camel racer. One day he might even beat his older brother when they race. But with the price of water rising, Etabo’s father must sell the camels, and his siblings must find work. What will Etabo do now? This story of love and hope centres on the inspiring Turkana people of north-west Kenya.

Told with gentleness and humour, this heartwarming tale from Wanuri Kahiu and Manuela Adreani is about keeping one’s dreams alive.

Purchase your copy here!

‘Through its beautiful illustrations and charming story, this book opens a window into another culture while encapsulating a theme that will resonate with anyone who knows how it feels to hold onto their dreams against all odds.’ – Books for Topics

‘Beautifully illustrated! I smiled as I read this charming story of a young boy who finds unique ways to keep on believing even when it seems impossible.’ – Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, African literature blog, Bookshy

‘Adreani’s scenes of the Turkana people of Kenya set against the harsh landscapes are truly beautiful and perfectly complement the soft, sympathetic humour of Kahiu’s text. A book to cherish, to share, ponder upon and discuss widely.’ – Jill Bennett, Red Reading Hub 

Alice Curry Shortlisted for the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize 2017!

in: Publishing

We are very proud to announce that Alice Curry, our Founder and Publisher, is amongst the quintet of incredible women nominated for this year’s Kim Scott Walwyn Prize! These women are ‘forces of nature’ in publishing and stand out ‘for their passion and determination to affect change’.

What is the KSW Prize?

The Kim Scott Walwyn Prize celebrates the professional achievements of women and the promise they bring to the publishing industry. It is open to any woman who has worked in UK publishing for up to seven years. The Prize honours the life and work of Kim Scott Walwyn, who was Publishing Director of Oxford University Press before she died in 2002. The Society of Young Publishers (SYP) runs the award in partnership with the Publishing Training Centre (PTC).

What the judges said

The judges ‘had a very hard job deciding who to shortlist from a field of young, high-achieving and self-motivated women. The five we selected are outstanding not only for how much they have achieved in a very short time, but also for their passion.’

Why they chose Alice

Since her return to the UK from New Zealand and Australia, where she lectured in children’s literature, Alice Curry has spotted an opportunity in the market and capitalised on it: founding Lantana Publishing, a small independent children’s publisher committed to working with members of black, Asian and minority groups in order for diverse voices to be published. Driven by the social imperative of celebrating difference and increasing representation across children’s books, she has developed a forward-thinking programme reflecting our multicultural society, and several titles have already garnered awards. As well as the challenge of running a small independent company, Alice has also developed a strong outreach element of the company, recently donating 2000 books to children in Cameroon. Although Lantana Publishing is only still in its infancy, it seems set for a strong future with Alice Curry at the helm. 

Who are the other nominees?

Amy Durant (Publishing Director, Endeavour Press), Candice Carty-Williams (Senior Marketing Executive, Vintage), Sarah Braybrooke (Managing Director, Scribe UK) and Zeljka Marosevic (Co-Publisher, Daunt Books Publishing).

The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony on May 9th. She will receive £1000 (sponsored by SYP) and a two-day training course at the PTC.

CONGRATULATIONS, ALICE!

Katrina and the Lantana team

Nominated for Best Children’s Publisher of the Year 2017 at the Bologna Book Fair!

in: Children's books

We are thrilled to announce our nomination for Best Children’s Publisher of the Year 2017, administered by the Bologna Children’s Book Fair!

What is the BOP?

The Bologna Prize for Best Children’s Publisher of the Year acknowledges the most significant publishers in each of the six areas of the world: Africa, Central and South America, North America, Asia, Europe and Oceania’. We are one of five publishers nominated in the Europe category – and the only publisher from the UK!

Last year’s winners were:

AFRICA: Bumble Books di Publishing Print Matters; ASIA: Kalimat dagli Emirati Arabi Uniti; EUROPA: Andersen Press; NORTH AMERICA: Groundwood Books; SOUTH AMERICA: Ediciones EkaréOCEANIA: Book Island

How we were nominated

The exhibitors at the book fair were invited to submit the names of seven publishers (two for their own geographical area and one for each of the other categories) that ‘have most distinguished themselves for their creative and publishing excellence over the year, showing originality as well as professional and intellectual skills’. The Bologna Children’s Book Fair and AIE – the Italian Publishers’ Association – came up with a list of nominations by counting the number of times a publisher’s name had been submitted. 

What happens next

The attending exhibitors are now in the process of casting their votes for the best children’s publisher in each geographical category. The deadline for voting is on the 28th of February. Six publishers will be given an award – and we may – with a lot of finger crossing! – be one of them. Whatever happens now, however, we are just delighted and proud to have come this far.

THANK YOU!

Many, many thanks to everyone who nominated us and supported us throughout these past two and a half years. We are grateful and humbled by your faith in us and in our mission to bring UK children’s publishing one step closer towards achieving a more diverse and inclusive children’s book landscape for the next generation of young readers.

Because all children deserve to see themselves in the books they read.

To buy our books, please click here.

Alice, Katrina and Caroline

Lantana Publishing: Because all children deserve to see themselves in the books they read

in: Children's books

It’s Children’s Book Week – the most wonderful week of the year! We thought it would be a great time to remind everyone what Lantana Publishing is all about, and why we have chosen to champion cultural diversity in picture books. Earlier this year, Lantana was IBBY UK’s featured publisher. We are delighted to give you choice excerpts from Clive Barnes’ interview with our directors, Alice and Caroline (updated where there is new information). Reproduced here with kind permission by Pam Dix.

Lantana Publishing is a remarkable new publishing venture. Started in 2014 by Alice Curry (top) and Caroline Godfrey, two friends who first met at Oxford University, its aim is to produce books that reflect the diversity of our multicultural world.

Alice and Caroline each bring their own skills to the work: Alice from an academic background in children’s literature (and a longstanding member of IBBY) and Caroline from teaching. They head a young team drawn from across the world and began publishing with three picture books last year, with two more due out in April this year. (Update: We’ve published four new picture books since!) . Their work is dear to IBBY’s heart, so we were pleased that they agreed to be the second interviewees in our publishing series.

Alice and Caroline, thank you for agreeing to answer some questions for the website. Can you tell us how you met one another?

We met while we were studying English Literature at Oxford University. In fact, we became friends on our very first day at university and have been discussing books with each other ever since.

Caroline Godfrey United Kingdom

At what point did you decide that you wanted to become publishers and what came first, the desire to create children’s books, or to further the cause of cultural diversity in children’s books?

We both have a long-standing interest in children’s books and have been aware of the inequalities in children’s publishing for quite some time. Alice’s work with educational organisations after her PhD hammered home the disparity in publishing opportunities across different cultures and countries where factors such as class, race, socio-economic status and the continuing legacy of colonialism impede publishing opportunities for many people. Caroline’s years as a teacher have given her first-hand experience of the lack of diverse books available in the UK, often leaving children desperate to read stories that reflect their own lives and experiences. Our desire to become publishers was born out of these frustrations.

And why the name Lantana?

The Lantana flower is one of the only plants that has petals of many colours on one stem. What better way to represent our readers? Children of many colours reading happily on one earth.

What do you see as Lantana’s particular contribution to culturally diverse publishing for children?

As far as we know, we are one of the very few publishing houses to focus solely on diversity. This means that our whole team, all of our creative resources and our entire budget are dedicated to one unifying mission – to increase the number of multicultural picture books on the market!  We know of some fantastic publishing houses that specialise in particular areas – Tiny Owl is a good example of this, being a publishing house with a specific mission to bring Iranian children’s books in translation to the UK – but we feel that where we can really contribute is to increase the number of picture books that reflect a wide variety of different cultures, geographies and belief systems – working with authors of BAME backgrounds as well as of other nationalities. Alice has written about some of the different types of culturally diverse books currently available on the market; by contrast, we have a special fondness for fantasy writing because we believe that all children – and not just those of privileged backgrounds – should get to go on adventures.

Cover - medium resPhoenix Song, written by Tutu Dutta, born in India, and living in Malaysia. Illustrated by Martina Peluso from Italy. A tale of a Malaysian boy and a very special flute.

 

 

 

 

From your website and blog, it seems to me that you see Lantana is aiming to do a lot more than publishing books. What do you see as your wider mission?

Essentially, we’d like to inspire as many children as we can to read and enjoy books. This means many things – working with authors who may not have the opportunity to publish with mainstream publishers, producing books that are reflective of our diverse population (after all, if you can see yourself in a story, you are more likely to engage with that story and be caught up in its magic) and also making sure children who don’t have easy access to books find stories that are relevant and inspiring to them. We see each of the above not as a nice add-on to a commercial agenda but as a cultural and educational imperative. As a former teacher, Caroline is in a perfect position to make our books relevant and accessible to teachers and she has produced a comprehensive range of classroom resources to accompany each book. We believe we have the capacity to make a real change to the reading habits of young people and are excited to be creating a thriving community of passionate and vocal supporters of diversity on our website and social media pages. This year also sees the beginnings of our outreach programme to reach children in under-resourced areas whose access to books is limited!  (Update: Our outreach project, Cameroon stories, is in full swing!)

Is there a particular reason why you began with picture books and why you chose to commission new books rather than, perhaps, looking for books that might be translated into English?

Some really exciting work is happening in diverse young adult fiction at the moment. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet seen this type of momentum in picture books where old favourites such as Handa’s Surprise tend to be the go-to texts, even though this book was published more than a decade ago!  We wanted to give a boost to the picture book genre so have concentrated our efforts here, although we may expand into middle grade fiction in the future. One thing we hope to do sooner than this is to publish translations since we agree that translated picture books are in woefully short supply in the UK market. We really like the idea of bringing the best books that the world has to offer to children in this country and hope to do so very soon.

The Jasmine SneezeThe Jasmine Sneeze, written and illustrated by Nadine Kaadan. The story of a cat and a mysterious flower spirit set in the author’s home city of Damascus.

 

 

 

 

These books feature authors and illustrators who are perhaps not that well known in Britain and often pair authors and illustrators from different cultural backgrounds. Can you tell us about the thinking behind your commissioning policy and how you found your authors and illustrators?

We have been lucky and privileged to work with some fantastic authors and illustrators whose talents are unmistakable. Yet these authors are generally published by small-scale presses and are unfamiliar to British readers. Nnedi Okorafor, our African American author, is an exception to this rule since she has won widespread acclaim for her middle grade novels as well as several international writing awards. If we love someone’s work, we believe our readers will too, and we don’t think that cultural or geographic boundaries should impede a reader’s access to great stories. We find that the cross-cultural conversations that spring from working with authors and illustrators from different backgrounds – Nnedi’s book Chicken in the Kitchen was illustrated by Iranian-born illustrator Mehrdokht Amini, for instance – can be really productive and eye-opening, providing new facets of understanding to the stories. We are always on the lookout for new writing. We have a submissions page on our website and are constantly receiving manuscripts from around the world.

Chicken in the Kitchen, Nnedi Okorafor, Mehrdokht Amini, diverse children's book, African picture bookChicken in the Kitchen, published last year, has won Best Book for Young Children at the Africana Book Awards 2016 in the USA.

(Update: It has since become a White Ravens Honour Book 2016 and has been nominated for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2017)

 

 

You have a young team of advisers drawn from different parts of the world on your website. Can you tell us something about their roles and how you hope to develop them?

Our advisers are wonderful – they are always on the lookout for authors and illustrators from their own cultures and countries who we may like to work with in the future and they keep us up-to-date on the children’s books that are being published overseas.

To us, Lantana looks like something new, in Britain at least, but I know that you both have a wide knowledge of publishing for children and I wonder if you have taken inspiration from any other publishers either here or elsewhere?

We have always been inspired by publishing houses that make diversity party of their mission: Frances Lincoln and Tamarind Books are good examples of these. Lee & Low in the US, Tara Books in India, Gecko Press in New Zealand – all of these are doing fantastic work in this field. We like to share experiences with other companies whose aims and passions are similar to ours, such as Tiny Owl who we mentioned earlier. And we are always very interested in small independents who are doing inventive things by targeting a niche market, such as Pereine Press and Persephone Books.

Dragon Dancer Cover ImageDragon Dancer by Singaporean Joyce Cheng and French illustrator Jérémy Pailler is the third of the books published by Lantana in 2015. It’s a story of Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore.

 

 

 

 

Do you think Britain is receptive to culturally diverse publishing? What challenges does the market present for you?

Wonderfully, a much wider conversation has grown up around diversity in children’s publishing following the successes of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and the recent #OscarsSoWhite debate has generated even more discussion about cultural representation as a whole (we have written about this debate and how it links to our own mission here). The inaugural Bare Lit event at the Free Word centre in February and the recent introduction of the Jhalak prize for BAME authors are both heartening demonstrations that organisations and individuals are trying hard to turn such talk into action. One of the challenges we face, of course, is that industry attention doesn’t necessarily have an obvious or immediate impact on consumer behaviour. We would urge parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians to be as adventurous as they can when purchasing books for young people. As a small independent publishing house, we are at a disadvantage since we are expected to offer the same types of discounts to suppliers and wholesalers as large multi-resourced publishing houses; to counter this we hope to gain loyal, passionate and engaged coterie of supporters who want to see more diversity in children’s publishing as much as we do.

How do you hope to develop Lantana?

We hope to become a thriving press that is well-known for the books we publish – books that are of high quality, beautifully illustrated and culturally diverse. We hope to expand our work with budding authors and illustrators of BAME backgrounds in the UK as well as those abroad, and to make our first forays into publishing translations. If we can get to a stage where we can recruit a new generation of young publishers to help shape the company and develop a team, as well as a portfolio, that is representative of our diverse population, we will consider it a job well done. In the meantime, we will continue to work closely with our wonderful small team and nurture new writing talent, develop our outreach programme and inspire children with our unusual, multicultural books.

Looking for Lord Ganesh Mahtab Narsimhan Sonja WimmerLooking for Lord Ganesh, written by Indian-born Canadian Mahtab Narsimhan, and illustrated by Sonja Wimmer, born in Germany and now living in Barcelona. This is a story of a young Indian girl’s adjustment to life in a new country and how she enlists the help of Lord Ganesh.

 

 

 

Chicken in the Kitchen: Winner of the Children’s Africana Best Book Award 2016

in: Children's books

img_4026

Of all the weeks in Lantana’s two-year lifespan, this past week has ranked as one of the best. Not only did Lantana’s founder, Alice Curry (left), fly to Washington to attend the Children’s Africana Book Awards ceremony for Chicken in the Kitchen alongside author Nnedi Okorafor (centre) and illustrator Mehrdokht Amini (right), but we also found out that Chicken in the Kitchen has made it onto the White Ravens 2016 honour list, which means it has been nominated by the International Youth Library in Germany as one of the 200 most ‘exceptional’ books from around the world for that year. And all of this on the one-year anniversary of Chicken in the Kitchen‘s publication!

 

img_4051Library of Congress

The week began with a visit to the Library of Congress courtesy of Everybody Wins! DC, a non-profit organisation devoted to improving children’s literacy through shared reading experiences. Author Nnedi delighted children with tales of Wood Wits and giant chicken masquerades and illustrator Mehrdokht had all the children guessing with her fabulous sketches of animals from the book. It was a pleasure to see each child leave the event with a smile on their face and a copy of Chicken in the Kitchen in their hands.

An Open Book Foundation

Day Two began with a school visit courtesy of An Open Book Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting literacy among disadvantaged children and teens in the greater Washington, D.C. area. Not only did Nnedi regale the children with real-life stories of masquerades in Nigeria but also answered all of the children’s questions, about nature spirits, insects, ten foot chickens and her own long hair!

 

img_4163Awards Dinner

The Children’s Africana Book Awards dinner took place that evening, hosted by the African Studies Association andAfrica Access, two organisations devoted to the accurate and authentic portrayal of Africa in the arts, and in the exchange of knowledge about Africa across all subject areas. Held at Busboys and Poets restaurant in Washington, the awards dinner was a great success, involving words of thanks by the winners and honourees of the awards, including our own Nnedi and Mehrdokht. Lantana’s Chicken in the Kitchen won the highest honour of the night – the Best Book Award 2016.

Awards Festival at the Smithsonian

The final event of the three-day celebration was held at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and saw hundreds of children and parents descend on the museum to attend a drumming session, watch an African dance performance, get their faces painted, make chicken collages out of coloured paper, and have their books signed by the winners of the Children’s Africana Book Awards. Much fun was had all round! To top it all off, Nnedi and Mehrdokht took part in a fascinating panel discussion about their inspiration for their award-winning book, and the possibilities of future collaboration…  Watch this space for further information!

All in all, a truly fabulous few days in Washington and a fitting tribute to the wonderful work of Nnedi Okorafor and Mehrdokht Amini. Our thanks to Brenda and Harriet and all of the people who made such a wonderful programme of events possible. And if you’d like a reminder about why our award-winning book Chicken in the Kitchen is such a hit with children and adults alike, you can find out more information about it here!

 collage

Alice

For National Translation Month: Our Titles in Translation

in: Children's books

chicken-hola

It is the last day of September – and there is just enough time left to celebrate all our translated titles for National Translation Month!

Founded in 2013 by Loren Kleinman and Claudia Serea, National Translation Month seeks to honour all translators. Through their dedicated efforts we are able to overcome language barriers and “foster artistic unity across linguistic boundaries.” It also celebrates all literary works in translation.

Our translated titles: Chicken in the Kitchen and Phoenix Song

We may be a very young company, but already two of our books have been translated into foreign languages! Spanish publisher Planeta de Agostini picked up Nnedi Okorafor and Mehrdokht Amini’s Chicken in the Kitchen, a fun story about a young Nigerian girl named Anyaugo who wakes up one night and sees a giant chicken in her kitchen. Knowing that children in Spain and Argentina could now join Anyaugo on her curious adventure delighted us no end.

chicken-spanish

Equally exciting is the translation of Phoenix Song into Malay by Malaysian publishing house Oyez!Books. People often think our books are stories in translation – in fact, they are English-language originals. Phoenix Song is a story inspired by a traditional Malaysian folktale and reimagined for an English audience. We feel that the Malay translation is a wonderful homecoming for the Phoenix. In a way, it symbolises the powerful return of folklore to a culture where local tales have been overshadowed by Western stories.

phoenix-song-in-translation

Photo by Tutu Dutta

In the UK, the call to publish more translated fiction to better represent our country’s multicultural reality has become increasingly louder. At Lantana, we have already begun looking into translating foreign-language picture books that feel like sisters to our own in terms of their style and vision, inspired by fantastic organisations such as Outside In WorldLiterature Across Frontiers and Booktrust. But the literal translation of stories is only one facet to diversity. Our books are examples of stories that translate cultures – books that celebrate cultural realities that are different to our own and make them accessible to new readers. And long may we bring the best new writing from around the world – in translation or otherwise – to UK readers!

Happy National Translation Month everyone!

Katrina and Alice

A Summer with Lantana Publishing: an intern’s story

in: Publishing

julietteFor two months now, I have been interning with Lantana Publishing, learning to discover its wonderful picture books and building new skills that will hopefully help me in my future career. As my internship is coming to an end, it is time to share my experience of interning with a small independent publisher of picture books, hoping that it might provide useful information to aspiring publishers like me.

Finding an Internship

When you first think about starting a career in publishing, one thing becomes clear very quickly: a significant experience of the publishing industry is necessary to find a job and opportunities to gain such an experience are hard to find. Big firms like Penguin Random House or Harper Collins have internship schemes, but small publishers often use their connections to find interns. I was a French graduate in English literature with no experience of the publishing world and almost no idea of how I would integrate it. Earlier this year, I met Alice Curry through an acquaintance and asked her if I could conduct an interview with her for an application I was preparing. At the end of the interview, she kindly offered me to intern with Lantana Publishing over the summer. I had always wanted to work in picture books’ publishing and it was a great opportunity to discover the different roles and skills involved in publishing and, more particularly, independent publishing.

To find an internship, you need to put yourself out there. Ask around for potential contacts, accept networking as an essential part of your sociability (I know, it’s hard!) and basically be aware of who’s who and who you would like to work with. You never know, that person you met for a college application might end up being a key contact in your career!

Working for a small independent publisher

The experience of working with a small independent publisher like Lantana Publishing is fascinating because it involves understanding and participating in every step of the production of a book. My main duties were to work on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for the website and to focus on a marketing strategy for the launch of The Tigon and the Liger and The Ammuchi Puchi. Apart from that, I was able to observe how Alice proceeded to edit manuscripts, or to research different topics such as wordless picture books and foreign acquisitions. Multitasking is therefore a challenging but exciting aspect of working with a small publisher. Interning with Lantana Publishing allowed me to try my hand at the different roles involved in publishing and to decide which would suit me the most.

If you’re going to work for a young independent publisher, you should be ready to work on different fronts and deal with tasks that you probably never knew existed. It is a great opportunity to gain useful skills very quickly. Moreover, you will gain insight in how a company is built and, hopefully, actively participate in its development. I was personally thrilled to have my first experienceof the publishing industry in a small company with great values and products like Lantana Publishing!

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Publishing 2.0

When you leave university, your use of computers and the web doesn’t go much further than your personal pages on social media and word processing. In the two months I spent with Lantana Publishing, I learnt how to use different online tools to assess a website, the basics of SEO, how to lead a marketing campaign on social media, and so on. I discovered that, although our products are still material, everything takes place online and mastering all the tools the internet offers you is the perfect way to launch both your website and your products in an efficient and cost-effective way.

When you start making your way through the intricacies of the web, two things matter: be interested and be creative. You will soon discover that social media and the internet are actually easy to understand and use to your advantage. Observe the strategies of other publishers, spend hours on google looking for bloggers and organisations that might promote your books for free and, most importantly, think outside of the box. The internet is full of opportunities to interact with potential customers and reviewers, so find them and grab them!

Making the Most Out of Your Internship

The most important thing during an internship in publishing is to grab any opportunity you have to transform your work into useful skills and knowledge. You should obviously focus on the tasks you are given, but any task can provide you with occasions to enter intocontact with interesting people, to discover companies or organisations that you might later want to work with or simply expand your knowledge of the publishing industry. You shouldn’t hesitate to ask the publishers you are working with for explanations about particular aspects of their work.

Finally, you shouldn’t start your internship with the fear of being useless or, worst, an inconvenience to you employers. Be creative and pro-active, don’t be afraid of expressing your ideas, they are probably worth being heard! With passion, patience and goodwill you will learn very quickly and soon become an asset to the publisher.

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What Now?

I will be leaving Lantana Publishing with a new set of wonderful picture books on my shelves and an entirely new perspective on publishing. Yes, I have new skills that will help me in my job search, but, most of all, working with Lantana Publishing helped shape my approach to the world of children’s publishing. I am now more aware of the issues related to identity in children’s books, and have discovered the many publishers and organisations that fight for more cultural diversity in literature. Finally, I have discovered through contact with the different team members of Lantana Publishing that publishing is a challenging trade but a fascinating one, and that the satisfaction provided by the publication and promotion of a beautiful picture book is absolutely worth the commitment it demands.

Juliette

On tigons and letting the imagination run wild: an interview with Keilly Swift

in: Children's books

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Today I caught up with Keilly Swift, debut author of The Tigon and the Liger, who is also managing editor at the much-lauded children’s newspaper, First News. She told me all about what makes tigons and ligers special and why they are a good symbol for those who feel like they don’t fit in. Keilly also shared some writing tips she received from the brilliant Michael Morpurgo – read on to find out!

Congratulations on the publication of your new picture book The Tigon and the Liger! Can you tell us what it’s about?

It’s the story of a tigon (a cross between a male tiger and a female lion) and a liger (a cross between a male lion and a female tiger) who are bullied for being different. Their lives change forever when they become friends, begin having fun and learn to celebrate their differences.

Do tigons and ligers really exist? What made you decide to write about them?

The Tigon and the Liger Keilly Swift Cosei KawaYes, tigons and ligers do exist, but they are very rare indeed. They are usually found in zoos or wildlife parks where tigers and lions are more likely to meet. I was inspired to write the story after working on a feature about hybrid creatures for an educational magazine. The subject is a controversial one, but I saw tigons and ligers as wonderful symbols of how we all sometimes feel we don’t belong and the characters of Tyler and Lyla began to take shape in my mind.

What do you think of Cosei Kawa’s illustrations for your book? Which is your favourite illustration?

Cosei’s illustrations are absolutely stunning, they add depth to the story and bring the characters to life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I love his use of colour, the small details he’s added and the different perspectives he uses, such as the spread where Tyler goes off on his own which Cosei has illustrated looking down from the top of tall trees – Tyler looks so small and alone and it really emphasises how lonely he is at this point in the story. I also love the opening picture of Tyler and the pyramid of big cats showing Tyler and Lyla playing with their new tiger friend – it’s so lovely to see them having fun!

At Lantana, we feel that this story might speak particularly to children from a mixed race background. What message do you hope readers will glean from your story?

Yes, I certainly think that the story might appeal to children from a mixed race background. However, I hope it speaks to anyone who has ever felt different or like they don’t fit in (which must be everyone at one point or another!). The underlying message is that what makes us different is what makes us special and that everyone should be accepted, and accept themselves, just as they are.

You grew up in the BahaIllustration the Tigon and the Ligermas before moving back to the UK when you were nine. What was it like splitting your childhood between two countries?

Did you ever feel torn or out of place? Although I definitely stood out at my school in the Bahamas, with my fair skin and blonde hair, it was when we moved back to the UK that I felt more out of place. I remember being teased for my Bahamian accent and the different words I used (such as candy for sweets, sidewalk for pavement, etc.), as well as feeling out of my depth at school because the curriculum was so different here. I desperately wanted to fit in and would practice my English accent every night!

Do you think it’s important that children have access to books that represent cultures, world views or family arrangements other than their own?

Children are naturally curious and I think it’s vital that they read books that teach them about different cultures and ways of life. It not only means that they’ll grow up with an open mind, but also that they’ll be open to so many more wonderful cross-cultural opportunities, from travelling and studying to new friendships. A lot of the problems the world faces today could be solved if diversity was celebrated and everyone grew up with an appreciation and acceptance of different views and ways of living.

Congratulations also on recently becoming a mum! Has this wonderful event given you a new perspective when it comes to writing for children?

Thank you! My baby girl is just over three weeks old at the moment and she isn’t sleeping very much at night, which gives me a new perspective on everything! I’ve worked in children’s publishing for a long time and I think that becoming a mum has made me even more passionate about helping children understand the world they live in and promoting a culture of acceptance and tolerance, as bullying is an issue that affects far too many young people.

The Tigon and the Liger is in rhyming verse. Is this your preferred writing style or did it just seem right for the story?

I love writing in rhyme and it definitely felt right for this story as I think it makes the underlying message more accessible. It’s certainly challenging to tell the story you want to tell and ensure the rhyme scheme works, but it’s so satisfying when it all comes together and you strike upon the perfect rhyme!

Do you have a favourite picture book (that’s not your own!)? 

Tigon and liger, ilustration, animalsI love Room on the Broom – Julia Donaldson is the master of the rhyming story! I also treasure my Japanese picture books, such as Little Daruma and Little Tengu, that I bought while I was living in Japan – they really helped me with my Japanese language skills and also to learn about Japanese culture and various traditions.

Finally, can you give any aspiring authors any tips for their writing?

The wonderful Michael Morpurgo once gave me some great advice that has stayed with me – he said not to rush, take time to work out what you want to write about and give the idea time to develop in your head before putting pen to paper. Develop your own style of writing by reading and writing as much as you can and then, when you start your story, let your imagination run wild – you can edit it later. The Tigon and the Liger was originally twice as long as it is in the finished book and there were lots of drafts in between, so don’t be afraid to keep rewriting something until you’re happy with it!

Thank you, Keilly!

Katrina