U.K.-based co-founders Sarah Odedina (young readers’ publisher at One World) and Kate Manning (sales and marketing director at the Phoenix comic) have announced the launch of a new magazine on children’s literature. The Read Quarterly will look at the culture of children’s books, regularly featuring stories about publishers, book creators, and the history and tradition of children’s literature in a humorous and critical way. The contributors and focus of the magazine will be international, though published in English, with the first issue expected in January 2016.
Odedina was inspired by “those very beautiful coffee table magazines about culture and literature,” she said in a phone interview, citing publications like Lapham’s Quarterly and Kinfolk. Her aim is to create a product that is “very much for adults who are interested in children’s literature, presented in a formed and intelligent way.” The magazine will present a “critical look as well – it won’t be fawning, it will look at what’s written, why is it written, and how does it relate to the tradition of children’s literature.”
Odedina is keen to have a lot of personality in the magazine, and is already reaching out to bloggers, authors, and illustrators to contribute critical content and original fiction and art that will contribute to the “collectability” of the publication. She’s in talks with authors to contribute short stories, which would be published in four pieces, so that by the end of the year, readers would have the complete story.
“I think people who love children’s books are quite magpie about collecting information,” she said. “We’re tapping into that quality of readership: people who want to know about publishers from the 1960s and ’70s, and also want original fiction, original art. In each issue we will profile one particular illustrator, some new and young but also some established and well-known, to celebrate their creative output.” Odedina sees a need for this audience of adult fans of children’s literature, where many publications are “review-laden” or highly academic, but rarely something for the “lay person,” and she aims to fill this need with a publication that will feature high quality content displayed via “spectacular” design.
Odedina’s passion for international content, reflected not only in her list at Oneworld but in the content she is compiling for the first issue, underscores her global vision for the quarterly. The first issue will contain pieces on Tara Books, the India-based publisher that prints books with local artists and handmade materials; a look at nonsense literature for children by academic Michael Heyman; a profile of Portuguese illustrator Catarina Sobral; and an exploration of Beatrix Potter and the loss of childhood by Eleanor Taylor, illustrator of The New Tales of Peter Rabbit. Both Manning and Odedina will be working on the quarterly as a “labor of love” alongside their full-time day jobs. “I have three days a week, and evenings,” she said, when asked how she’d manage both.
After attending literary festivals in Singapore and Lagos, Odedina said, “I was convinced [the magazine] was a good idea.” Particularly in Nigeria, she saw publishing that is “locally sourced and homegrown,” and she hopes that bringing the exciting publishing stories from these pockets of the world will not only create a conversation that will help support these industries, but will push the “huge conversation about diversity in children’s literature. I’m excited about a forum where we can talk about an artist from India, and an artist from the U.K. with the same standards,” casting a wide net and hearing from “as many voices as possible.”
The project has been in the works for just over a month now, and has just been announced in the U.K.; immediate response has been enthusiastic. The biggest challenge Odedina faces is funding, but she’s already halfway there through individual donations, “we’re open to all and any donations,” she said. “Nothing would be too small.” Odedina and co-founder Manning are also looking into arts councils and grants to supplement funding, and are talking to potential international partners in Singapore, India, and Australia, to bring the publication around the world. She’ll be in the U.S. in a few weeks taking meetings to secure a sales and distribution partner in this country, and can be reached here. The team envisions seeing the magazine in bookstores, libraries, and educational institutions across the U.S.