Meet the Publisher: Marilyn Brigham from Amazon Crossing Kids

We recently caught up with Marilyn Brigham, senior editor at Amazon Crossing Kids, to tell us about the books they have been publishing in 2021…

World Kid Lit: Hi Marilyn, thank you so much for talking to us today. It feels like it’s been an exciting year for Amazon Crossing Kids. Could you tell us briefly about some of the books you have published this year in translation?

Marilyn Brigham: Thanks for having me! This year we’re publishing five new books, including four translations. In March, we published AGNES’S PLACE by Marit Larsen, illustrated by Jenny Løvlie, translated from Norwegian by Kari Dickson, a sweet story that follows a girl whose world is transformed when a new kid moves in to her tight-knit apartment building. In July, we published our first translation from Venezuela, THE CAIMAN by María Eugenia Manrique, illustrated by Ramón París, translated from Spanish by Amy Brill. It’s based on the true story of a man who adopted a baby alligator. His devotion to the animal is touching—he even asks the caiman’s permission to marry his wife!

Cover image of Magic Candies by Heena Baek, translated by Sophie Bowman

We also have our first books from Asia on our list this year! This September, we’re publishing MAGIC CANDIES by Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award laureate Heena Baek, translated from Korean by Sophie Bowman. It’s a quirky story of a boy looking to make friends, who eats candies and can suddenly hear the thoughts of those around him. To me, this book is a showstopper. The artwork is striking, unique, and is handcrafted by the author.

Inside spread from Magic Candies of a boy watching in wonder as the autumn leaves fall around him as they whisper the word "bye"

In December, we will publish PLAYING WITH LANTERNS, by Wang Yage, illustrated by Zhu Chengliang, translated from Chinese by Helen Wang. This delightful book shows readers a local Chinese New Year tradition through a little girl’s experience. It captures the excitement and wonder of the holiday—feelings all kids can relate to. Rounding out the list, this November, is A SARI FOR AMMI by Mamta Nainy, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat, which was first written and published in English in India. The book follows two sisters who work together to buy a sari for their mom, who weaves them. We just loved this glimpse into the life of a weaver family.

WKL: One of the things World Kid Lit is calling for is books to be published in translation from countries beyond western Europe, so we’re thrilled to see that some of your books this year originate from Venezuela, China, Korea with an upcoming title from Turkey. Has this been a conscious decision to explore children’s literature more widely or is it just a coincidence? How do you come across books from around the world?

Cover image of Playing with Lanterns by Wang Yage, illustrated by Zhu Chengliang, translated by Helen Wang

MB: It’s important to us to acquire books from all over the world. There are so many interesting stories and unique voices that deserve a wider audience. We want to find these gems and introduce them to new readers. We’ve been lucky to connect with wonderful publishing folks from across the globe through conferences, virtual meetings, email, and other connections, who have helped us make this a reality.

WKL: When you are covering a wider range of languages which you may or may not read, how do you go about finding people who can advise you on a certain book?

MB: Agents and translators have been instrumental in helping to bridge the language gaps. We find people through kid lit and translation resources (including this blog!), and through our networks, including the Amazon Crossing team and the Amazon Publishing global rights team. Through this experience, I’ve learned how small and connected (and supportive!) the translation world is.

WKL: Does the experience of editing books in translation vary greatly from country to country or is it more dependent on individual books and the people working on them? Have these processes been affected at all by the coronavirus pandemic?

MB: Each book is unique, but some languages translate to English more easily than others. When there are larger changes, we bring in the author for clarity and approvals, which can slow the process but is very important. I’ve been lucky to work with passionate translators who have made the process as smooth as possible. The pandemic slowed things down, but  I feel lucky that I was able to continue to acquire, edit, and work with translators throughout the pandemic.

WKL: One of the things we often hear about picture books is the difference in format between English-language picture books with relatively little text on a page compared to picture books from elsewhere which may have much more writing on the page. Looking at two of your latest books THE CAIMAN and MY GRANDMA’S PHOTOS, both of these books include longer sections of text. Is this something you are aware of and that you are purposefully challenging?

MB: The word count is one thing (among many!) that can make global books a bit different. We try to choose books we think readers will engage with and that will inform them about other cultures, which sometimes includes an approach to storytelling or artwork that readers may be less accustomed to.

Cover image of My Grandma's Photos by Özge Bahar Sunar, illustrated by Senta Urgan, translated by Amy Marie Spangler

WKL: THE CAIMAN and MY GRANDMA’S PHOTOS both deal with loss. What are the challenges in editing books that deal with topics like loss and grief? Are there differences in how such topics are presented from one language to another and what challenges does that pose for you as an editor?

MB: The international market doesn’t shy away from these tough topics for kids, and that feels so refreshing! We look for books that handle these topics in a way that will resonate across cultures but that still have a strong essence from the original culture or country.

WKL: Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?

MB: Yes! You mentioned MY GRANDMA’S PHOTOS, by Özge Bahar Sunar, illustrated by Senta Urgan, translated from Turkish by Amy Marie Spangler, which publishes in January. It’s about a boy who goes with his grandmother, who has dementia, on a journey through the memories of her life. It celebrates life and the bonds between generations in such a beautiful way. In 2022, we’ll also publish our first title from South Africa, with I AM YOU: A BOOK ABOUT UBUNTU by Refiloe Moahloli, illustrated by Zinelda McDonald. The book, first written in English, introduces young readers to the African concept of ubuntu—the connectedness of all people—which felt like a perfect fit for Amazon Crossing Kids.

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Photo of Marilyn Brigham

Marilyn Brigham is senior editor of Two Lions and Amazon Crossing Kids, the children’s book imprints of Amazon Publishing (APub). Prior to joining APub in 2012, Marilyn was an editor with Marshall Cavendish, where she began as an intern. Marilyn is the author of the board book Swim!, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, and the educational title Dik-Dik (Even Weirder and Cuter Series). Twitter: @MarilynBrigham | @AmazonPub Website: www.apub.com