Today we’ll be talking to newcomer (at least in this form) Levine Querido, a publishing house that was founded earlier this year. Don’t be fooled by the short history though–there’s a lot of experience beneath the surface! Answering our questions today is Nick Thomas, a Senior Editor of the Levine Querido team. Now then, let’s dive in!
Firstly, what circumstances led to the creation of your company? Some publishing companies start out as passion projects—was this the case for yours? Tell us about yourself!
Levine Querido is most definitely a passion project! We were founded by Arthur A. Levine earlier this year in March 2019. (Previously we were Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint at Scholastic, for 23 years.) We’re driven to find the finest voices and books for children in the world and bring them to American readers, with a focus on publishing previously underrepresented creators and books in translation. We’re also passionate about Diet Coke, deckled edges, tennis, and MealPal but perhaps that’s not what you’re after. Anyway, Arthur was inspired to create an independent company whose entire program was fully infused by this mission, and the rest of us felt similarly drawn to it. We’re having fun so far!
Hah! No, I can’t say those were exactly what we were fishing for, but good to know all the same! So then, onto the next question… Many publishing houses operate based on a set of core concepts or values that they would like to see propagate throughout the world—or at least the areas the publishers can reach! What would you say are the values that you search for when considering whether to publish a work?
I think the stated mission of our company speaks to the core set of values LQers share. Providing access to a diversity of voices to (what we feel is) quality editing, marketing, publicity, sales, bookmaking, etc. Providing access to young readers to (what we feel are) the finest voices and books in the world that truly reflect the world around us.
I’m sure you could identify some shared concepts or values if you read all of the books on our lists. We certainly hope you’ll buy them all and try. But I can’t say we ever evaluate a book, at least initially, in the sense of it being a delivery mechanism for a value we’d like to see propagated. I think our gut reactions are more about, does this feel true, does this touch something in us, how is this operating as a window and/or mirror, to quote Rudine Sims Bishop, etc, and the values kinda slip in naturally with that.
I think the ideal is to create a list of books, using these criteria, that are in conversation with one another, that may not necessarily agree with one another on everything but are bringing a mutual level of respect, thoughtfulness, and openness. Kinda like a group of friends that you’re hosting a party for on your shelf, to get really hokey.
That’s an interesting way of phrasing your approach. I like the idea of the books on the list being in conversation with each other instead of paralleling. Alrighty, next question–so obviously we are a blog about translation, and as such are very interested about your thoughts regarding it! Do you gravitate towards specific languages or genres? Linking back to the previous question, what about the languages or genres draws your attention?
I’ve been pushing Arthur to create a list of strictly Elven graphic novels but so far no dice. Otherwise, it’s tough for me to point to particular languages or genres as favorites. I think it’s the principal joy of my job that I get to read and work on ANY kind of book, from so many different countries and cultures across the world.
We have been seeing consistently excellent books, both in terms of the writing and illustration, from Spanish and Portuguese-language publishers in Central and South America. Of course, our partners Querido NL publish incredible books in Dutch, many of which we are excited to be publishing in English in the States. They don’t mess around; their books are extraordinary.
I’d say just as a general statement we’re trying to look globally and expand the geography of children’s books available in English translation.
One day we’ll see that line of Elven graphic novels! Until then it sounds like we’ll have plenty of awesome books to check out in other languages. So, when you work with translators and authors in other languages, how do you go about contacting them? Do they find you? Do you have in house translators that you prefer to use? What’s the thought process behind the decision, whether it is artistic or pragmatic?
In terms of authors and illustrators in other languages we mostly connect with them through their home language/territory publishers, or the agencies representing their books. It ranges from our meetings at fairs like Bologna and Frankfurt, through our general staying in contact with colleagues and the sharing of catalogs, through our outreach, to a variety of other methods. It’s more likely that we’ll connect directly with an author/illustrator from another language, because their portfolios are often online and easy to make a judgment off of, without the curation that another publisher or agent helpfully provides for someone who’s just a writer. (Says the guy who’s “just” nothing…I can’t write or draw a lick.)
In terms of translators, we almost always hire someone to do these, with the exception of the picture book here or there with little text. We try to keep a comprehensive list of folks we’ve loved working with, who we’d love to work with, and who we think have potential all very much in the same way we do for designers, artists, and authors. So we’re constantly reading samples and other books to build this up.
In terms of picking the best translator for a particular book, I would say this is almost entirely an artistic choice. Does a translator’s style fit the vibe of this particular book? Do they connect with the story in some way? Those kinds of questions. Being prompt certainly doesn’t hurt, though!
Haha, well said! So let’s transition into talking about your titles. What are the upcoming titles in your catalog that you are most excited about? What book in your catalog would you recommend for a lazy beach goer stretched out on a beach chair? What about for a precocious child reading under the covers of a bed? For a weekend pop into the library?
I’ll give you two from our Fall 2020 launch list. The first is a book called The Wanderer, by Peter Van den Ende. It’s a 96-page graphic novel-slash-picture book, in the vein of The Arrival by Shaun Tan, and when Querido NL sent us the final art a couple weeks ago it literally shut our office down. We’ll put that into the reading under the covers bucket.
The second is a book called Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger. That’s a YA debut novel about a Lipan Apache girl investigating her cousin’s murder in this alternate version of America. Lots of vampires and river monsters but the book is so sweet and funny and clever too. We have a ridiculously talented Australian artist named Rovina Cai doing illustrations as well.
Well, those both sounds absolutely delightful. Any work that can shut down an office like The Wanderer is always worth keeping a special eye on. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for any news on these titles! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions today! We’ll be looking forward to seeing your titles in the coming years.