Penguin Young Readers has announced the launch of a new imprint, called Kokila, that will focus on diverse books for children and young adults. According to Penguin, the imprint's mission is to “add depth and nuance to the way children and young adults see the world and their place in it.”
Namrata Tripathi, previously associate publisher and editorial director of Dial Books for Young Readers, has been named publisher of Kokila. The Kokila team includes editor Joanna Cárdenas, currently an editor at Viking Children’s Books, and art director Jasmin Rubero, currently associate art director for Dial Books for Young Readers.
Kokila will release approximately 15–20 fiction and nonfiction titles annually, ranging from picture books to middle grade to young adult, as well as graphic novels. The debut list will launch in the summer of 2019. Authors and illustrators already set to be published under the Kokila imprint include Pablo Cartaya, Sherine Hamdy, Myra El-Mir, Isabel Quintero, Zeke Peña, John Corey Whaley, Calista Brill, and Nilah Magruder.
Tripathi has, while at Dial, worked with a number of high-profile authors, including, most recently, Junot Díaz. His first book for children, Islandborn, which is illustrated by Leo Espinosa, will be released in March.
Kokila is being launched, Tripathi told PW, to contribute to the ongoing conversation about diversity in contemporary children’s literature. It is a dialogue that Tripathi has been actively participating in, as have Rubero and Cárdenas. Besides being co-chair of the diversity hiring committee at Penguin Random House, Tripathi serves as a mentor in the Representation Matters program connecting young people of color who aspire to publishing careers with editors across publishing houses, and she was a founding member of the CBC Diversity Committee.
Rubero has taught art to children in school districts lacking robust arts curricula, and Cárdenas is on the steering committee for Latinx in Publishing, a nonprofit organization committed to supporting and increasing the number of Latinos in the publishing industry, and is the co-founder of Representation Matters.
“Building community will be a large part of our identity,” Tripathi said. She explained that the imprint was named after the Sanskrit word for the Asian koel bird. The bird has great significance in Indian litrerature, regarded as a harbinger of new beginnings. “The name helps capture who we are,” noted Tripathi, who is an Indian expat in the process of attaining U.S. citizenship.
“We will be able to make a positive contribution to the conversation by approaching [the publishing of diverse books] in a thoughtful and holistic way,” Tripathi said, emphasizing that Kokila's three executives bring "a real sense of mission" to the work of engaging with writers and illustrators to create and publish books spotlighting themes of representation and inclusion. Diversity will be addressed across a broad spectrum of human experiences, she noted. To that end, Kokila books will not just be written through the lens of race or ethnicity, but also sexuality, religion, ability, and other markers.
During Tripathi's childhood, her family lived in Europe, Asia, and North America. This, she believes, has instilled in her an appreciation for people from different cultures coming together to tell their stories. Her background informs her vision of Kokila as a community of authors and illustrators sharing their stories with readers from across the full spectrum of experiences.