Enchanted Lion Books has been captivating readers with diverse and entertaining titles since their start in 2003. The mastermind behind the press’ success is Claudia Zoe Bedrick, creator and publisher of the press. She has an astute perspective on the publishing industry and a worldly outlook in terms of the titles she publishes, bringing Japanese aesthetics, German stories, and Danish styles (to name a few) to readers across the country. On September 29, 2015, Travis Jonker for “100 Scope Notes” on School Library Journal interviewed Bedrick about Enchanted Lion’s upcoming fall/winter releases. Not only does the interview provide an exciting preview for the press’ 12 title season, it also illuminates just how intelligent and thoughtful Bedrick is when it comes to calling the shots for such creative projects.
The first title Jonker and Bedrick discussed—Where’s The Baboon by Michaël Escoffier and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo—almost didn’t happen, as it fell onto Bedrick’s lap at the very last moment when she already had eleven titles planned for the season. After producing Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings, Bedrick said she was ready for a break, to “not think about a book.” However, Kris Di Giacomo approached Bedrick with the idea for Where’s the Baboon,” emailing from France to pitch the companion novel to the previously published Take Away the A. Bedrick had her doubts about how they could get the title done in the short amount of time that they had, but Giacomo was confident. Bedrick explained that outside of the U.S., illustrators tend to work faster: “if they are to work solely as an illustrator, they have to be delivering regularly, they have to be doing books in three months.” Whereas illustrators in the U.S. can take a year or two to create a book because of higher advances, illustrators outside of the U.S. do not have that luxury. However, this does not mean that the work they produce is anything less than stellar: “it doesn’t mean they’re sloppy or doing shoddy work, obviously, it just means they’re very adept at moving through the process.”
So in just three months, Where’s the Baboon was created. The quicker pace also ensured that Take Away the A and Where’s the Baboon could interact with each other: “it made sense not to let too much time-lapse between the two books. So they could play off each other and be in the classroom at the same time.” Though Bedrick could have passed on this second “language game book” because of its last-minute conception, her recognition of the different paces in creation around the world and belief in Giacomo paid off.
On the other end of the spectrum, Into the Snow by Masamitsu Saito and Yuki Kaneko was a long time in the making. Bedrick fell in love with Saito’s work when she published the translation of Beach Feet in 2012. She contacted Saito through his translator Kaneko—who wrote the text for Into the Snow—and asked him to do a book directly with Enchanted Lion. In the interview, Bedrick said that the book could have come out years ago, but Saito’s “work style is to do with sensory research during the proper season in which the book is set.” Because Into the Snow is about—obviously—snow, Saito had to “catch the season.” He did not finish all of his research before the seasons changed, so he had to wait until the next winter to complete the book. While this might seem overly intense to quick-paced Americans, this work style is very much in line with the Japanese notion of onomatopoeia, as Bedrick explained: “Japanese books for young children often have a lot of onomatopoeia—they’re told from the first-person point of view and they are about the child’s experience and perceptions of being in the world. The onomatopoeia often connects to that feeling of being in the world… [Masamitsu had] to take it all in and find that place of wonder.”
Bedrick knows her stuff and puts her trust in the right people, producing titles that are distinct and simply beautiful. She summed up her attention to detail: “I wouldn’t be looking to put a book in children’s hands if it wasn’t worth their time. […] They can be looking at our world and having an amazing experience, they don’t need to be looking at a mediocre book.” Bedrick’s committment to and passion for the art of creating quality books is obvious when she talks about her work and is a main reason why Enchanted Lion Books has been so successful. Check out the full interview to preview Enchanted Lion’s other upcoming titles!