Here at Kidsreads.com, we love compiling our monthly roundup of new picture books. With minimal text and tons of gorgeous spreads, our selections often feature issues big and small, from dealing with new siblings to counting to 10 and even receiving dragons in the mail. In recent months, one publisher has really gained our attention with its artistic books full of big messages for small readers. Although NubeOcho is relatively new on the scene, they've been earning tons of praise for their gorgeous, but insightful books. We had the chance to ask them a few questions about their picture books and goals for young readers. Read below to learn more!
Kidsreads.com: What was it like starting NubeOcho? Why did you choose to specialize in picture books for children?
It’s been a great and challenging journey. We’ve been researching and preparing ourselves for a few years now, brainstorming with parents, teachers, booksellers, bloggers, librarians and psychologists about what materials and issues were missing in children’s’ books. And for certain issues, of course, we’ve talked with kids as well.
We’ve always been interested in offering a new perspective on “diversity,” books about values and emotions, about exclusion or competition for instance. And as we spoke with booksellers and educators and more, we’ve heard their needs for such books as well. Like, I mean, we want to talk about these “issues” but not in a way that appears to be “educational;” the goal is to present these ideas in a "fun approach” so that we aren’t preaching to our readers. Working with some of the best illustrators in Europe and Latin America makes that less of a concern as they really understand children and how to present material to them.
KRC: I’ve read that your focus is promoting good values and diversity. What does that mean for you? Are there any topics you’re particularly interested in covering in your picture books?
NO: We are very interested in equality between boys and girls because, surprisingly, there are still fewer picture books with “girls” and “strong” girls as the main character. And not only that, we feel that sexism in adult life should be handled at an early age. So, we talk about these issues in books with kids to promote understanding of equality, and we try to present it in an accessible way. What are all the ways that make us feel “different” and how can we approach those topics? Some kids might feel uncomfortable because they wear glasses, because they stutter or because they are different in apprearane or act differently from the children around them, and we like to work on empowering them through their differences. We believe it’s cool to have special characteristics because each of us is unique. BOGO THE FOX WHO WANTED EVERYTHING or THAT'S NOT NORMAL are good examples of that.
But we also consider other themes like environmental protection in THE GALINOS, on exclusion in I WASN'T INVITED TO THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, excessive shyness in CARLOTA WOULDN'T SAY BOO and competition in RACCOON WANTS TO BE FIRST...
KRC: Having read a few of your titles, including I WASN’T INVITED TO THE BIRTHDAY, THAT’S NOT NORMAL and CANDY PINK (my personal favorite!) it’s clear that you want children to gain some understanding of difficult situations and how to best approach them. Why do you feel picture books are the best format for these messages?
Most times parents don’t have an answer to everything. We weren’t born with all the pedagogical answers to some questions like: How do kids deal with exclusion? What about bullying in school? What does it mean “to die?" "Why is it over-rated to always be first?” "I am different and I don’t like to have freckles, or glasses, or my difficult hair…”
So picture books can be good tools to help parents and educators to talk with children. And, if at the same time, you add in some humor and appealing illustrations, the kids enjoy the story at the same time. We can talk about why RACCON WANTS TO BE FIRST, why I WASN'T INVITED TO THE BIRTHDAY. We can talk about gender equality in CANDY PINK or diversity in THAT'S NOT NORMAL. We can share important messages that kids can absorb in an enjoyable and effective manner.
KRC: Is there a specific artistic style NubeOcho tends to lean towards? If so, can you describe it?
NO: Our style is European, but we work with different nationalities. French, Spanish, Italian, Swiss and German (in Europe), and Argentinean or from Chile (in South America). We like a simple but clean design, and we give a lot of importance to the illustrations. We don’t like lot of “distractions." We’re especially proud of the awards we’re receiving, such as the recent White Raven Selection from Europe for THAT'S NOT NORMAL, and two of our books --- BOGO THE FOX WANTED EVERYTHING and THE PERFECT SIESTA coming in spring --- have been selected here in the US by the Junior Library Guild.
KRC: What are some of your favorite picture books, both from your own catalog and other publishers?
I love our THAT'S NOT NORMAL, called “a charming story for younger readers that makes clear in a clever way that there really isn’t such a thing as 'normal,' this choice is lovely” by nationally syndicated newspaper columnist Kendal Rautzhan --- plus it recently received the White Raven selection, which is a very highly prestigious award in Europe and is being considered for a Cybills award. And, like you, I also love CANDY PINK, a vintage book that addresses equality between boys and girls. It was written 40 years ago and is still a classic that is so valid nowadays --- we are bringing it to the US public at its 40th anniversary. Also BOGO THE FOX WHO WANTED EVERYTHING is a Junior Library Guild book: this quote from Kirkus makes us proud: “An entertaining story with whimsical illustrations and lots of heart." From other publishers I like a lot of Steve Antony Books (PLEASE, MR. PANDA and BETTY GOES BANANAS).
KRC: What has the response been like since you began distributing books in the United States? Do you plan to branch out to other countries as well?
NO: Our US distribution just began earlier this year and it’s still soon to tell, but we’re encouraged by the reviews and the responses from booksellers, librarians and more. We are distributing our books to Canada too, and recently we began with Mexico and Chile. In 2017, we will begin publishing books in Italian with direct distribution in Italy --- we receive very positive feedback when we show our books every year at the Bologna Book Fair for Children Books (Italy) so we’re particularly excited about the possibilities of NubeOcho books there.