Tapioca Stories: a new children’s book publisher with Latin American soul

Founded in 2020, Tapioca Stories is a New York-based publishing house which aims to introduce young English readers to the finest Latin American children’s books, originally written in Spanish and Portuguese. Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp introduces the press and reviews their first two picture books in translation…

by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

“We are carefully selecting and translating children’s books written and illustrated by unique and ingenious contemporary Latin American authors and illustrators,” say the team on their new website. “We want children to discover the diversity and commonalities between people from all corners of this world. We believe that exposing children to new perspectives early on can encourage them to grow into more empathic, perceptive, and thoughtful adults. The Tapioca team knows how to find the greatest stories with the most surprising narratives and beautiful, stunning art illustrations to express ideas beyond words…and borders. We are bringing in the best of our home collection, books that we love from our childhood, and those we carefully selected to read to our children – books that intensify emotions, foster curiosity, and make children’s imaginations fly.”

Kudos to Tapioca Stories for inclusion and celebration of the creative act of translation: they credit and include translators alongside authors and illustrators on the Collaborators page of their website.

The Elevator

Written and illustrated by Yael Frankel, translated from Spanish by Kit Maude (published Nov 2020)

A girl and her dog set off on their afternoon walk. But to go down to the ground floor, they take the elevator in their apartment building. She presses the button to go down, but each time the elevator goes up. On each floor we stop at, we meet the colourful and quirky residents of the apartment block, all characterfully illustrated in Frankel’s unique smudgy style. As they all pile in, one by one, the endlessly patient dog reveals his true feelings in his mournful eyes and a little piddle at floor 6 (the little girl hides behind Ms Paula in shame)!

When the elevator grinds to a halt and they get stuck … the walls of the elevator expand with the acts of kindness and storytelling that the grown-ups resort to as a distraction and a comfort.  And when the lift does get going again, well, they’ve all made new friends and now have a much better plan for the day!

A surprise little extra is a tiny book in an envelope, tucked into the back of the book: the story about a bear that was told to while away the time spent stuck in the elevator and to put a positive spin on what could have been a worrying experience for the girl and her dog. “Who cares?” asks the bear in the story-within-a-story, always looking on the bright side.

Argentinian author and illustrator Yael Frankel‘s books have been published so far in France, Italy, Spain, China, South Korea, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina, and this is the first English translation of her work. The original Spanish-language edition, El ascensor, was included in the 2020 White Ravens Catalogue, was winner of the Best Illustration at the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival 2019 and was named Best Picture Book at the XII International Contest for Book Illustration and Design, Moscow, 2019.

The Invisible

Written by Alcides Villaça, illustrated by Andrés Sandoval, translated from Portuguese by Flávia Rocha, in collaboration with Endi Bogue Hartigan (published Dec 2020)

A philosophical journey into the world of being invisible, and back out again, told with striking two-tone vinyl print illustrations. Do you ever dream of being invisible? Imagine stealing auntie’s ice cream, rubbing out the teacher’s writing on the board as they write, helping yourself to sweets at the candy shop, or sneaking into the pilot’s cockpit to fly to your dream destination. This playful picture book prompts question after question, bringing you eventually back to the realisation that -as fun as that would be – actually being seen, appreciated and loved for who you are is perhaps worth staying in the world of the visible for, after all.

There’s a wonderful interview with Brazilian illustrator and graphic artist Andrés Sandoval over at Let’s Talk Picture Books with demonstrations of his printing technique. Alcides Villaça is a poet and literary critic from São Paulo (born 1946). The Invisible is his first book for young readers.

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