Editors' updates

May 1-7, 2017: Children's Book Week!

Happy Children's Book Week from Penny Candy Books! Did you know that this is the 98th straight year that Children's Book Week has been celebrated in the US? It was founded in 1919 and predates the Newbery Medal (1922) and Caldecott Medal (1933). 

We have a lot in store for Children's Book Week this year, including blog posts about our favorite childhood books and what they've meant to us over the years. We have a super secret something on deck for Friday, too.

What will you do to celebrate CBW? Head over to http://everychildareader.net/cbw/ to see how you can celebrate children's books this week! 



Our newest title! NUVEAU: The Future of Patterns

We're so excited for this coloring book to hit the shelves. We've tested it on kids and adults, to rave reviews by both. Working with Tiffany (the artist) and Amy (director of SixTwelve with whom we teamed up to make this book possible), has been and continues to be a joy. The book is on its way as we speak and will be available to ship in early January. You can pre-order one (or five or ten) on our website now, or go to the party tomorrow night (in OKC) to grab one of our 100-or-so early copies, which Tiffany will sign! Check out this rad video for more:

Natural Grain: Penny Candy's New HQ & Better Parenting

Penny Candy HQ

Penny Candy HQ furniture rehab

Chad here. It seems that every week we reach a new milestone at PCB, and this week marks the first that our new physical office (our "headquarters") seems put together enough to actually work in. Located in the historic Paramount Building in Oklahoma City's Film Row District just west of downtown, the office is 175 square feet of bliss with high ceilings, a whole wall of built-in cabinets, and a great view of downtown. But when I first saw it, the walls had a hideous green paint on them, and there was a drop ceiling with two rows of old fluorescent lights. It was clear that hiding behind those regrettable modifications was a gem of an office space, its original beauty obscured by whim and fashion.

I've been working on rehabilitating some old furniture to use in the space. One is this credenza with a chrome lip and marble top. Notice the wood grain. When my wife purchased this a couple years ago, it had been smothered in a maroon polyurethane finish that obscured the natural beauty of the wood. I've been slowly sanding it down, and this past weekend I applied a nice ebony stain. 

I think there's a metaphor here for parents. Too often, without thinking, we try to form our kids into what we want them to be. We try to “finish” them, to paint over their natural beauty. We expect them to perform the roles we prescribe them. We do it without thinking because, after all, our kids seem to be miniature reflections of ourselves in many ways. Painting over walls or furniture isn’t the end of the world, but maybe not such a great idea with humans. How many of us would have benefitted from a parent telling us that our natural instincts were good enough?

How much better if, instead of shellacking them in what we envision they should be, we would instead help them to discover their own natural grains? Not turn them loose exactly; rather help them help themselves? Maybe they’d get a stain (that could be called culture), but only if it lets their own inner beauty shine. 

This got me thinking about a book my wife and I loved reading to our kids when they were smaller: Gregory, the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmatt, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey. It’s the story of a kid (as in a young goat) who, to his parents’ horror, would rather eat fruits and vegetables than cardboard boxes, old tires, pieces of rugs, and the other things that good goats eat.

Flummoxed that Gregory refuses to eat what they offer him (shoes, magazines, coats), his parents take their fussy eater to the doctor, the wise old Dr. Ram, who says that “it makes sense” that Gregory would want to eat what he likes. He advises that Gregory be allowed to eat what he wants but that the parents introduce one new item into his diet a day. This approach helps the parents to accept Gregory for who he is and helps Gregory come to see that what his parents want isn’t all bad. By the end of the story, a normal meal for Gregory might consist of juice, scrambled eggs, and wax paper. Compromise!

Like so many great kids’ books, it seems Gregory, the Terrible Eater is not only intended to help kids grow and learn but also to help parents be better parents. Adults have a lot to teach kids, but kids can teach us adults a lot, too, if we’re willing to listen to them.

The Catalog of Catalogs

If you were to take a catalog of our catalogs, the first entry you'd see is this catalog, our first one ever. We hope when the catalogers of catalogs come cataloging, they will find many PCB catalogs in our catalog. But until then, let the record show that this was the catalogus primus and therefore the catalogus supremus. Enjoy! 

Click image for pdf.

Click image for pdf.

Where We Are, Where We're Going

It's been almost a month since we announced that Penny Candy Books is up and running. We have two books in the hands of our talented designer Shanna Compton, who also owns and runs the independent poetry press Bloof Books. We've been posting sneak peeks of The Not in Here Story by Tracey Zeeck, illus. by David Bizzaroand A Gift from Greensboro by Quraysh Ali Lansana, illus. by Skip Hill, but we can't resist two more, so here they are:

The Not In Here Story  by Tracey Zeeck. Illustrations by David Bizzaro.

The Not In Here Story by Tracey Zeeck. Illustrations by David Bizzaro.

A Gift from Greensboro  by Quraysh Ali Lansana. Illustrations by Skip Hill.

A Gift from Greensboro by Quraysh Ali Lansana. Illustrations by Skip Hill.

The Hunt is ready to go to the printer! Unbelievable. So what are we doing with our days? Well, for starters, we are reading amazing submissions and proposals for our next round of books, slated for spring 2017. Send us something via our Submittable page! We're getting Advance Readers ready to send out to reviewers. We're writing press releases and sell sheets and devising PR campaigns. And, we're doing our taxes...apparently, that's part of being in business too.

Second, we are, as always, thinking a great deal about our mission, and the assumptions of privilege that might hinder our mission if we're not careful. I'd like to share a personal story with you. Several months ago, a student in the after school writing program in which I teach wrote this:

"I refuse to be a caged bird tricked into thinking I'm flying free because you took me out of a cage and put me into a habitat of your creation."

My creation. Chad and I have talked a great deal about these words from this young, black man and how, as two white people creating a publishing house whose mission it is to celebrate diversity and disrupt dominant narratives, we need help. Sometimes we simply won't see past our perspectives without consulting people who have different perspectives. We need to make certain that our choices are not being guided solely by the narrow assumptions of privilege, that we never try to create habitats for anyone, rather that we give space and voice to already existing worlds. To that end, Penny Candy Books is developing an advisory council--a diverse group of people to whom we can turn for wise council, who have agreed to help us check our assumptions. We'll be announcing the members of our council in the coming months. 

We hope that our Advisory Council will help us shape our growing catalog into something wide-ranging and lasting--a catalog that sees the world from many different perspectives. That student and I made an agreement too. He explains to me where he wants to take a piece of a writing, and rather than imagining for him where it might go, I help him get to his chosen destination. 

Finally, please remember that you can pre-order The Hunt now, and if you do, you get free shipping! This is such a powerful book about how art and creation can overcome the impulse to destruction so prevalent in our culture. It's also a badass feminist manifesto, as The Hunt's heroine, a young girl, beats some serious odds. We like people who beat long odds. 


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.