I am enchanted … with the fresh, delightful, and imaginative books published by this independent publisher. Their doors opened in 2003 and even during these tumultuous times, their doors have stayed open and their vision has stayed strong. Enchanted Lion Books come from a diversity of sources and voices that have been under-represented, translated books from other countries and cultures, and international illustrations that are unusual and captivating. Enchanted Lion has stayed true to their vision and mission statement: “We love books, well-told stories, and illustrations that open up the visual world and deepen a child’s sense of story. … We believe in the books we publish because they are beautiful and lively, thoughtful and full of feeling. They evince a fierce belief in the imagination.”
As an author, educator, parent, and grandparent, I am pleased to share my excitement about these books because they offer new ways of seeing and caring about our world, imagining a better world as well as understanding one’s place in this world.
I had the pleasure of asking Claudia Zoe Bedrick, publisher, editor, and art director, about Enchanted Lion Books, to share her responses with you. First, she shared this quote from Pablo Neruda from his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, words that are especially relevant to our challenging times:
There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song — but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny.
First, I asked why is it important to publish books for children in translation?
Claudia replied: “Publishing books in translation is important because of the narrative, aesthetic, conceptual, philosophic, and cultural richness they present. Books created in different languages and cultures often pose more open-ended questions than US books, which tend to offer answers and resolution. Books created by people formed within the crucible of other languages offer different understandings of family, community, economy, life, death, happiness, sorrow, and so on. In Spanish-language cultures and Scandinavian cultures, for example, there is a tendency to publish “darker” picture books, meaning ones that are more honest and open about the relationship between sadness and happiness, life and death, and how all of that connects to a sense of meaning and purpose. So, books in translation give children a global literature and a bigger frame for thinking about the world and our place in it. We don’t think adults deserve only a national literature. Why should we think that children aren’t also nourished by a global literature?”
Will your publishing focus change due to Covid-19?
Claudia: “As a small, indie publisher we have had to make many adaptations as a result of COVID. We are making more e‑books of our books, but we are not taking up another publishing philosophy.”
What is most rewarding and challenging about being a publisher?
Claudia: “I would begin to answer this by saying that we are an indie publisher, which means that the risks, challenges, and rewards are different than for a corporate publisher. Our only income comes from the sale of our books. So if books can’t sell through normal channels, as during COVID, the risks for us are high. Daily challenges are enormous: staying afloat, getting our books noticed, working to achieve a level of sales that means our books are really taking on life in the world.
“But the rewards of our work are great. Our existence outside the mainstream and our role in coming from the margins with unusual books and voices gives us our sense of purpose. We believe in the margins and love the honesty, beauty, imagination, and preciousness that reside there.*
I shared with Claudia that I had spent the early morning cozy on the couch listening as my eight-year-old grandson read from Where the Sidewalk Ends. I thought about Enchanted Lion and the importance placed on children’s imaginations … and I continued thinking about Shel Silverstein’s poem:
“There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind … ”
Claudia responded: “We are in that borderland — the place where the sidewalk ends before the street begins. It is there, in that liminal space, that all manner of forgotten, yet necessary things thrive. Discovering new voices, bringing stories to life, working with artists, choosing materials for our books: these are all great and lasting pleasures.”
Which of your recent books do you hope educators will use as they encourage creativity and imagination throughout their curriculum?
Claudia: “I think educators will be using many of our recent books, a few specific titles:
- Layla’s Happiness
- Drawing on Walls: A Story of Keith Haring
- The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out
- The Shadow Elephant
- The Strange Birds of Flannery O’Connor
- Every Color of Light
- Telephone Tales, a short-story collection written by the great Italian children’s author, Gianni Rodari
Claudia continued: “It’s everything. There is no future, no better world, no utopia, no progress, no hope, no true community without imagination and the spirit of creation. I believe that our fundamental nature is love and love is creative. That we presently are on so many paths of violence is a terrible perversion, a sickness.
“Our humanity is in the dancing, however clumsily, and in the singing, however sorrowfully. We whittle ourselves down when we fail to keep creativity and imagination alive. The stories we tell, the visions we have, all make this world just as surely as anything else.”
Request a copy of Enchanted Lions’ books from your library or an independent online bookstore.
Dance where “the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind … ”