When translator and editor Paul Olchvary founded New Europe Books in Williamstown, Mass., last fall, he sought out books by authors living in the former Eastern Bloc, as well as expats from the region. In February 2014, he will launch a YA imprint, Young Europe Books, which will publish teen literature from the former Communist Bloc for a U.S. audience. “The aim,” he said, “is not to unearth Harry Potter wannabes,” but to mine what he calls a “treasure trove” of children’s literature from Poland to Hungary, much of it untranslated, and to seek out books that speak to the experiences of teens across the globe.
In the process New Europe will expand from four books a year to five or six to accommodate one or two children’s titles. The imprint will kick off with two YA books, starting with Petra K and the Blackhearts (Feb. 2014) by Chicago native M. Henderson Ellis, who has lived in Budapest for more than a decade. Olchvary published his adult novel, Keeping Bedlam at Bay in the Prague Café, earlier this year. Ellis’s YA novel, the first in the Petra K series for ages 14 and up, centers on a girl who traverses a world of miniaturized show-dragons whose futures are traded like stocks. Set in the imaginary city of Pava, the book weaves together the legends of old Prague – alchemists, hauntings, and mysticism – with more modern issues like consumerism and fascism.
The second book on Young Europe’s list is by an Australian living in Eastern Europe, Scott Alexander Young, the creator of Max’s Midnight Movies, a cable TV series popular in Europe. In the first book in his trilogy for ages 9 and up, The Wild Cats of Piran (Sept. 2014), magical cats encounter the ghosts of a Slovenian town on the Adriatic coast and the wicked General Rat. Each chapter opens with a color illustration by Moreno Chistè.
“[The new imprint] seeks to demonstrate that the New Europe that emerged from the revolutions of 1989 and ’90 produced not just another ‘Old Europe,’ but a region brimming with youthful energy, emotions, and fantasy,” Olchvary said.
Young Europe titles are distributed by Random House through an arrangement with Hanover Publisher Services.