children's books

Life Lessons: Books for the Kid in ALL of Us

We've been thinking a lot over here at Penny Candy Books about just how important the books we read as kids have been in our lives—and the responsibility we have as publishers to engender dialogue rather than present the world in black and white. We want our books to raise questions, not to create unwavering answers (except, actually, when it comes to hate. We don't have time for hate). We get excited about multiple interpretations—books that can be walked around like holograms, seen from multiple perspectives. 

A lot of the books we read as kids are interpreted by our parents, or through our parents' lenses. Take The Giving Tree, one of my all-time favorites, for example. My mom's interpretation of this story: be selfless, give of yourself to make others happy. My interpretation: don't take advantage of another's kindness; don't give so much of yourself that you're left a stump for sitting on.

Images from  The Giving Tree , Shel Silverstein

Images from The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein

These are wildly different interpretations of Silverstein's story (and there are plenty more)—I never thought it was fair that the tree kept giving of herself just to win the boy's approval, not even when my mom told me the tree was doing the right thing. Silverstein was a complex man, and so are his stories. All of these ideas are in conversation with each other. The story is simply told, but it is not simple. The Giving Tree gave me the opportunity to develop my own theories about self, selfhood, selfishness, and selflessness. 

Here are two books that make use of kids' books lessons:

We'd love to hear about the lessons you've carried with you from your childhood reading. Please post a comment! We'll continue to add to our list of influences in our Life Lessons category. 

Here's to the kid in all of us, 

Alexis

Here we go!


Alexis and Chad at Full Circle Bookstore, Oklahoma City, photo courtesy of Penny Candy author, Tracey Zeeck.

Alexis and Chad at Full Circle Bookstore, Oklahoma City, photo courtesy of Penny Candy author, Tracey Zeeck.

Well, it's official. Penny Candy Books is real. What a journey the last few months have been. Chad and I have made good work of being business partners in two different states. Thank heavens we live in places with nearby airports. We truly believe in our mission: to bring books into the world by diverse authors and illustrators for diverse audiences. We know that diversity has become a buzzword these days, and yet we still find ourselves using it because, well, it's still necessary. And when we say diversity we mean it in its most inclusive sense. In fact, maybe we should think about using the word inclusivity instead! In our planning sessions, we talk a lot about disrupting the narrative; we believe that our dominant culture has defined a narrative that doesn't resonate with a huge portion of our actual human population. Our books seek to add to a new narrative. We are not afraid to ruffle feathers--and no doubt we will on occasion, as with The Hunt, now available for preorder, a brilliant wordless picture book from France's Margaux Othats that takes a stand against violence, particularly gun violence, though it's a metaphor for all sorts of destruction that attempts to crush our spirits. Our books are for kids, yes, but they are also for the adults who want to see their values reflected in works appropriate for their children. They're also, simply put, beautiful objects, if we do say so ourselves. 

Here's the lowdown: we have three books under contract and almost ready for the world! The Hunt, we mentioned above. Check out Margaux Othats' page to find out more about her. Our next book is called A Gift from Greensboro, and follows a friendship against the backdrop of post-Civil Rights lunch counter sit-ins. A Gift from Greensboro is a poem written by Quraysh Ali Lansana and illustrated by Skip Hill. Both men are brilliant artists who are collaborating on a powerful story. Finally, Tracey Zeeck and David Bizarro have teamed up to bring us The Not In Here Story, an adventure that explores adoption through the lens of a couple seeking a child to love. 

Join us in celebrating the birth of Penny Candy Books. Pre-order The Hunt now! Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Follow the blog. Subscribe to our newsletter. Join us in our mission to disrupt the narrative and promote diversity and inclusivity in kid lit.