Inspired by their two young daughters and a quote from Maya Angelou ("perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but... it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends"), attorney Aisha Greene and restaurateur and education specialist Christine Mills launched Hartlyn Kids earlier this month. Fittingly for a press that focuses on making other places and cultures accessible to kids, the name they chose combines the names of the cities where Mills and Greene live: Hartford and Brooklyn.
The roots of the press go back to May 2010. "We started blogging about what it’s like to be parents of young children and how we can expose them to other cultures without travel," says Greene, who blogs with Mills at hartlynkids.blogspot.com. "We saw Borders falling apart and there was a big indie movement going."
In order to do their own publishing and control their books, Greene and Mills turned to family and friends for seed money. And they looked on Web sites like elance.com for freelance writers from other countries. Their vision was to capture the travel experience by producing books about different countries around the world, which would be written by a native of that country. Basically, Greene explains, they want to enable children to travel around the globe one book at a time, a description they use as the press’s tagline.
The press debuts this fall with two books in the Day in the Life series: The Bamboo Dance (Sept.) by Cress Sia and Adventures That Lead to Home (Oct.) by Bonita Jewel Hele. The books, which are both illustrated by Lisa Butler, focus on children in Asia, specifically the Philippines and India respectively. Each contains a sticker that the child can put in a passport that is purchased separately. “It’s all about trying to embrace and respect other cultures,” Greene says.
For now, Greene and Mills are selling the books themselves online and at book fairs like the recent Brooklyn Book Festival and next month’s Wordstock fair in Portland, Ore. If all goes well they will publish a third book in early 2012, and begin looking for a distributor.