After its success with Bee Yinn Low’s Easy Chinese Recipes on the adult side last fall, Tuttle Publishing is following a new recipe when it comes to producing children’s books. The North Clarendon, Vt.-based publisher has long produced beautiful books that bring together East and West, but many have been so focused on appealing to the East that sales in the U.S. have suffered. With Easy Chinese Recipes and its other cookbooks going forward, Tuttle has made a conscious effort to combine authentic content by an author of Asian descent with a text geared to American readers with limited access to Asian groceries.
Now, says publicist Rowan Muelling-Auer, "We’ve taken that framework and applied it to children’s books. We’re still using illustrators from overseas. But the aesthetics is about illustrating for American children rather than Korean or Chinese kids."
This year Tuttle will also release a broader list of children’s books. In 2011, it published only three and one of those was a book from distribution client Shanghai Press. Tuttle’s spring catalog features nine books for kids, including nursery rhymes—Danielle Wright’s Japanese Nursery Rhymes—and books on holidays, including Liana Romulo’s Filipino Celebrations and Sanmu Tang’s Celebrating Chinese Festivals. According to Muelling-Auer, going forward the press will publish three to five titles a season.
In addition, Tuttle is moving into graphic novels and manga for a YA audience with its new editions of the first two books in husband-and-wife team Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt’s Attack series, Yokai Attack (July) and Ninja Attack! (July). The authors came to Tuttle when it was unclear last spring what would happen to Kodansha International, which has since reemerged as Kodansha USA. Both books will be published in what Muelling-Auer compares to a "director’s cut" in film, with full-color throughout for the first time and 16 new pages. A new book, Yurei Attack!, will be released at the same time. "For us, it’s about a couple carefully picked titles," says Muelling-Auer. "It really works with what Tuttle is. We publish frontlist with an eye to backlist."
Tuttle’s refocus includes placing more emphasis on bilingual books and will do three for young children this spring, including Sunny Seki’s Yuko-chan and the Daruma Doll (March) in English and Japanese. In another upcoming highlight, it will publish the first children’s book by screenwriter John Fusco—Hidalgo and the Academy Award-nominated Spirit—which is based on a 17th-century myth, Little Monk and the Mantis, due out in May. And it’s starting to do Lexile evaluations to determine the reading level for all its children’s titles.