Enchanted Lion

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.

Claudia Zoe Bedrick

Clau­dia Zoe Bedrick, publisher, 
Enchant­ed Lion Books

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 … ” 

Become enchant­ed.

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Deborah Williams
Deborah Williams
3 years ago

Won­der­ful inter­view, Nan­cy! I had not heard of this pub­lish­er but will def­i­nite­ly keep them on my radar. I love their mission!

Caren Stelson
Caren Stelson
3 years ago

Nan­cy, what a love­ly inter­view. Beau­ti­ful done! Miss you in Min­neapo­lis. Caren Stelson