Drawing upon a rich history of Iranian culture, while instilling a sense of tolerance and understanding in young readers, is the mission for the U.S. launch of Tiny Owl. The London-based children’s book imprint is set to enter the U.S. this spring. Tiny Owl is the brainchild of publisher and co-founder Delaram Ghanamifard, who was inspired by her experience immigrating from Iran to the United Kingdom in 2010 and her desire to introduce Iranian literature to a new audience—including her own children.
Upon settling her young son into his London school after the family’s move, Ghanamifard noticed how, despite his teachers’ efforts, he became anxious trying to read and write in an unfamiliar language. “I thought if my son could practice his reading with books that were in English, but had a feeling of ‘home,’ he would feel safer,” she recalled. “It was then that I realized that there were very few books that reflected his culture or experience.”
With the intent of providing stories that present Iranian culture for a young audience, Ghanamifard launched Tiny Owl (whose name symbolizes knowledge and wisdom) for the European market in 2015 and is preparing for its U.S. distribution this spring, in hopes of expanding the imprint’s presence on a global level. “At present, there is a great need for books that offer a more positive image of the Middle East and that promote greater cultural awareness, understanding, and tolerance,” she said. “Tiny Owl books aid understanding, integration, and more positive community relations, as well as introduce children to a variety of art, philosophies, and cultures.”
Bridging the Gap
For its first season in the States, Tiny Owl will roll out four picture books that showcase traditional and contemporary Iranian authors and artists, with minor tweaks to the text. “The only adaptations to our titles was to make sure the text was Americanized so that they have the right language and spelling, and feel right for the American audience,” Ghanamifard noted. The company’s initial release, The Little Black Fish by Samad Behrangi, one of her childhood favorites, was originally published in 1968 and was later banned by the Iranian government. “It’s about a little fish who dares to dream big and swim against the mainstream,” she said.
Following this title is the May release of The Parrot and the Merchant, part of the Tales by Rumi series that pays tribute to the 13th-century poet, philosopher, and mystic. The story chronicles the adventures of a female merchant, and artwork by Iranian illustrator Marjan Vafaeian draws upon Persian miniatures.
The remaining titles for Tiny Owl’s U.S. debut list include When I Colored the World (June), celebrating contemporary Iranian poet Ahmadreza Ahmadi; and Cinderella of the Nile (July), which has been retold by Beverley Naidoo and features illustrations by Marjan Vafaeian. “Created with colored ballpoint pens, [they] bring a unique perspective to the story inspired by ancient Egyptian art,” Ghanamifard said.
U.S. Expansion Takes Flight
To help spread word of Tiny Owl in the U.S., the imprint had its official launch at the ALA Midwinter meeting last month, where its titles were on display at the Publisher Spotlight booth. Consortium has signed on as distributor, and the company will also rely on targeted mailings and a limited-edition poster for The Parrot and the Merchant to promote the brand.
Looking ahead, Ghanamifard plans to grow the Tiny Owl brand by adding new authors and titles. “As Tiny Owl takes flight and spreads its wings,” she said, “we will continue to publish books from around the world to broaden perspectives and celebrate marginalized voices—but, most importantly, to speak to the heart of children.”