Publisher Preview: Transit Children’s Editions (Spring 2024)
As you read this I am going to work in -7 degree temperatures, so you want to know what gets me up in the morning? Publisher previews of small presses, baby! By jove, if I can get at least one done a week, it gives me a warm glowy feeling in my lower intestine.
Today we return to Transit Children’s Editions. I actually featured their debut list last April (seen here) so it was nice that they were down for a second go round. And in the name of brevity we’re just looking at two books today for their Spring 2024 list. You’ve one in April and one in May and both doggone interesting.
9781945492877 | HC | $19.95
Last March I was attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy, wandering the multitude of exhibits, when I encountered a massive section where an artist’s work had been painted over a series of gigantic walls. The exhibit was featuring none other than Mexican illustrator Andrés López and his work (you can see a large swath of it here). And, naturally, Transit Editions took one look and signed him right then and there. Their first title with him, Giant On the Shore, will be released April 16th simultaneously in both an English edition and a Spanish edition.
The story is a gentle and tender tale of that vulnerability and self-doubt that we feel when taking a risk or trying something new. Interestingly, the entire book is told in the hypothetical. A giant looks at a town and wonders if he should approach. What would the reaction of the townspeople be? Would they welcome him and let him play games with them and let him play in the orchestra? In a way, the book is made up entirely of what ifs and the question at the end is, do you act on that? The reluctant giant is a particularly good stand-in for little kids who are first learning how to meet people and make friends. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that this book was conceived in the aftermath of the pandemic lockdowns, as people everywhere tried to figure out how to reenter society. As such, it begs that central question: Do I go forward? You imagine all the possibilities and then you make your decision.
Most interesting to me is the fact that it’s not the giant telling the story but someone else about him. The giant himself isn’t actually doing anything in the book. He doesn’t even appear on the page. All that you ever see of him are elements of his absence. You might notice his shadow falling over the town or his enormous footprints in the sand. In fact, we don’t know if the giant ever comes ashore or not, and that ambiguity is something to sit with, rather than a call to action. It’s a literary ending with fableistic qualities to the writing and striking art. He’s a star on the rise, Andrés López. Keep an eye on him.
The Story of the Everything, the Nothing, and Other Strange Stories by Gyula Gábor Tóth, ill. Norbert Nagy (tr. Adam Z. Levy)
HC | $19.95 USD
You may have noticed that each year Travis Jonker and I pay homage to Unconventional Children’s Books (his term). Delve deep into these lists and you will notice that a large swath of them are imports and translations. For whatever reason, the American world of picture book publishing tends to eschew the madcap, thoughtful, and endearingly odd (though there is always the rare exception here and there). Around the world, other countries pick up our slack. Take Hungary, for example. Today we’re looking at one of their creations (out May 14th) and it’s quite the trip.
Now illustrator Norbert Nagy is one of the better known graphic illustrators in Hungarian media and children’s books. Here, he applies a funky mix of mediums in a very graphic style, overlaced with pen and ink. The final result was, as Transit Editions put it, “super playful.” Essentially, this is a picture book of almost bedtime stories that subvert the traditional storytelling tropes. Its best audience would consist of those child readers who are game for both the absurd and things that are beyond what we consider to be the “normal” bounds of a storybook’s parameters. The description of it that I enjoyed the most was that the vibe on this book is like “the meta quality of The Stinky Cheese Man paired with The Book With No Pictures.” It’s a very kid-centric book in that sense.
In fact, the book itself was developed from actual bedtime stories told to kids. Each one begins “Once upon a time”. Now here’s your fun fact of the day. Did you know that in Hungarian, they don’t actually say “Once upon a time” but instead have an opening that roughly translates to “Where there was a place that never was…” I love that.
And turns out that this book is an award winner already. You’ve heard me mention the international list of children’s books called the White Ravens, yes? That was how Transit Editions actually found this title. Good thing too.
Many thanks to Jarrod Annis for sharing these titles with me. And thank you for reading about them!
Filed under: Publisher Previews
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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