retail market? After
all, Brazil has some
20 million people
under the age of 14
who are potential
consumers of children’s books. Unfortunately, they don’t
read enough books,
in part because they
and their caregivers
are not educated sufficiently about the
importance of reading.
In my view, in addition to buying books for schools and
libraries, the government should develop a long-term program for promoting literature and reading. There are some
public and private efforts in this vein, but they don’t go far
enough. There should be more focus on helping teachers to
effectively use the books that have been purchased for the
classroom and on helping families with children to incorporate reading into their daily lives.
When it comes to anything to do with Brazil, the scale
of the country, both in terms of population and geographic size, makes implementing any widespread project
daunting. I was once talking to someone from the Ministry
of Education and he said, “You must realize that everything we do, even a simple letter, is done in great quantities... millions. We distribute books all over Brazil and
that is not an easy task.” So we must take into consideration that any large-scale literacy or education project in a
big country will not be easy to implement. With a big
market come big challenges.
—Miriam Gabbai, publisher, Callis Editora
Canada: Staying Ahead of the
Curve on STEM
There are a couple of economic challenges facing rights sales
for Canadian children’s publishers right now: ( 1) market
saturation—there are just more and more books available;
and ( 2) a stagnant world economy, which means foreign
editors tend to be risk averse when it comes to emerging
authors and innovative, unproven content.
Certain themes that might be resonating in Canada and
the U.S.—STEM or global issues, for example—might not
catch on internationally until a few years later. This actually works in favor of Canadian children’s publishers.
Our book The Most Magnificent Thing, for example, has
sold over 250,000 copies due to its strong STEM content
and the growing maker movement. But it’s only now, three
years after it was first published, that we’re starting to see
rights sold internationally—currently into nine languages
and counting. Now that the STEM movement is a world-wide one, we expect to see quicker pickup on our upcoming
—Adrienne Tang, rights director at Kids Can Press
Chile: Dreaming of Making a Real
If I had to say what the biggest challenge or obstacle facing
children’s book publishing and literacy in Chile today is,
the first thing that comes to mind is the perennial difficulty
in finding interesting subjects to bring to children. In the
Chilean book market, we have a good variety of books on a
wide range of subjects, but it’s always necessary to try to
deliver new stories with new themes that can answer children’s questions and be part of their various stages of growth.
Even though MásKe Libros is a small company, with only
three people running two bookstores, we have tried to make
a difference in improving our country’s reading level. That
includes publishing our own books—we have released two
In our stores, we don’t stock any Harry Potter titles, so
our bestseller list tends to be a little different than the usual.
While some authors on our list, such as Mo Willems, will
be familiar to many, other local writers and publishers
whom we have done well with are lesser known. Among
the lesser-known titles that have sold well for us are Yo
tenía diez perritos by Paloma Valdivia and Carles Ballesteros
and Animezclados by Constanze von Kitzing, both published
by Editorial Amanuta.
—Miguel Wolter, manager, MásKe Libros
Colombia: Kids’ Books Open the
Door to Discussing Difficult Issues
Thirty years in children’s publishing have convinced María
Osorio, owner and founder of Bogota-based Babel Libros,
of the necessity of addressing Colombia’s complicated and
often violent history in children’s literature. “Issues such as
death, vulnerability, ransom, displacement, and massacres
have been central to children’s stories by Colombian authors
such as Irene Vasco, Yolanda Reyes, Triunfo Arciniegas,
Pilar Lozano, and Francisco Montaña,” Osorio explains.
Osorio references Reyes’s 2013 book Agujeros negros, a
60-page story about a displaced boy who lives in a rundown house in Bogota with his grandmother. His parents
disappeared following a home invasion at their house in
the woods. The boy survived by hiding in a closet. The
black holes of the title refer to the voids left by his parents’
disappearance, voids he will have to face as he travels back
to the house in the woods and relives the dark experience.
The history of Colombia’s long armed conflict is evident
in stories such as this one. “Children’s stories make no effort
to hide the context in which events take place; they show
reality as it is seen from a child’s perspective,” Osorio says.
One result of this frankness has been strong sales. “[These
books] give parents an excuse to talk about contentious
issues with their children,” Osorio says.
According to Osorio, local children’s publishing began to
flourish in the 1980s, with the success of publishers such as
Editorial Norma (bought by Spain’s Grupo Prisa in 2016)
and Carlos Valencia Editores. Nowadays, other players