Elena Mannion, founder and publisher at independent children’s publisher, Pikku, is passionate about books that are visually rich, strong on story and beautifully produced – and perfect for sharing aloud. Here she talks more about how she chooses books for her list, and her aims of bringing more authors in translation to UK readers, and republishing gems from the past.
Children’s book sales rose steeply last year – with real, printed book sales leading the charge: isn’t that great news for our children? Young readers – with all their senses standing to attention – love handling real books! A book is a work of art, and you can own it, treasure it and pass it on.
At Pikku Publishing, we love beautiful picture books, and they don’t have to be contemporary: part of our list is dedicated to lost gems with glorious illustration and strong narratives. Newly released TASSO, by William Papas, was first published over 50 years ago, but its joyous energy and warmth leap from the page today and bring us the flavour of another era.
Once seen, Papas’s style is very hard to forget! Indeed, he received six commendations for his work from the CILIP Kate Greenaway awards – quite a haul. TASSO brings us Greek culture, a world which children share with the adults, and a tender fable which renders it timeless.
At Pikku, a book has merit if we feel it can be read aloud, treasured and passed on. In fast moving times, books that are shared become something old and young can remember and talk about: a common thread down the generations, providing a wonderful bond. Elizabeth Clark – a great oral storyteller – understood that, and our new editions of THE ELIZABETH CLARK STORY BOOKS, first written nearly a century ago, remind us that charm never goes out of style.
Illustrated by the amazing Nina Brisley, the fleeting moment is captured in unashamed colour and detail; emotions are depicted on faces with refreshing frankness and immediacy. This was typical of the era, and is now a style that comforts and reassures. Many is the adult who smiles and sighs when they see Brisley’s colour plates and delicate line drawings! They proved the perfect match for Clark’s delightful prose style.
Pikku has another focus too. It has been rumoured that not everything important has been written in English first (!), and with that in mind we are publishing translated books for young readers. We have so many illustrated books in our shops and libraries – the Moomins, Tin Tin, Elsa Beskow’s works, to name a few – that are so established, we hardly even think of them as translations any longer. Pikku wants to build on this important tradition, giving children access to successful authors and illustrators from other countries. Opening new doors to new sensibilities can only add to the adventure of reading!
Did I mention book covers? Creating a great cover is an illustrative challenge in itself. Markus Majaluoma’s DAISY AND DADDY STORY BOOKS have covers like little works of art in frames. And like all good covers they say, ‘Open me, see what I have to offer you!’ Rather like a picture in a gallery, a cover captures a moment in a story, or a mood, and children are very alert to what they signify.
Majaluoma’s illustrative genius is to create an entire scene, and enliven it with plenty of tiny, witty ‘remarks’ which young readers will love to spot! We know that children thrill at using their huge powers of observation, and it’s particularly empowering when you haven’t yet mastered the alphabet. Markus’s work is held dear in his homeland, Finland (famous for being the most literate country in the world), where he is a celebrated author and illustrator. To enable better access to his work, and translated books in general, we are donating copies of THE DAISY AND DADDY STORY BOOKS to libraries around the UK, through the Finnish Institute’s 10 x 10 Stories campaign this year.
And to continue the translated picture book theme, we can’t wait to launch SPY DAD later this year, where the integration of the narrative and the illustrations is truly inspired – and that’s no exaggeration – here is the cover as a taster!
We wish all readers, writers and budding illustrators a wonderful year!