After publishing children’s books, many in translation, for more than 15 years, Enchanted Lion has announced the spring 2021 debut of Unruly, an imprint dedicated to the expansion of the picture book format to more experimental visual territory and to older age groups. Well versed in the international picture book marketplace, publisher Claudia Bedrick explained that the new imprint “grew out of the understanding that many illustrated books and many of the books that artists want to make do not fit neatly into the conventions and categories presupposed by the American publishing landscape, and that in many other countries, hybrid books—those that combine elements of the graphic novel, picture book, and art book, with ample text, sophisticated conception, and darker or more complex subject matter—are created for older readers.”

With the aim of broadening and deepening the house’s commitment to diversity in illustrated books, Bedrick wants Unruly to introduce picture books that defy traditional categorization. “We believe that the possibilities for the illustrated book are larger and richer than the categories that currently exist in this country,” she said. “It is our contention that as human beings and readers, we never age out of pictures, and we seek for them across our lives.”

Though the idea of starting an imprint focused on picture books for an older audience had long been percolating at Enchanted Lion, Bedrick finally took that step when she acquired The Story of a Mouse Who Never Asked for It, a feminist retelling of a Spanish folktale, written by Ana Cristina Herreros, translated from the Spanish by Chloe Garcia Roberts, and illustrated by Violeta Lópiz. “Our mission at Enchanted Lion has always been to publish picture books that, however experimental, are appropriate for readers of all ages,” the publisher said. “This book takes an unexpectedly radical direction, and the narrative and illustrations are quite intense, and we could not comfortably publish it under Enchanted Lion.” So the publisher decided the time was right to create Unruly, launching next April with The Story of a Mouse Who Never Asked for It, which features gatefolds and a booklet insert about the story, created by the author and illustrator.

Future Unruly books will include a provocative meditation on creative passion from Norwegian artist and illustrator Øyvind Torseter and a collection of illustrated short stories from Los Angeles photographer Edward Valfre. Bedrick anticipates that Unruly will release two books annually—but conceded that, given the imprint’s raison d’être, that number is not set in stone.

“There are so many unknowable factors that it’s difficult to predict what it will take to grow the imprint,” Bedrick said. “Unruly is by definition unruly, choosing to live outside of the categories and age groups prescribed for picture books and refusing to be hemmed in. Unruly books can be unabashedly and gloriously themselves, presenting complex themes through words and pictures that reveal and amplify each other, engaging readers in a serious act of reading, interpretation, and play. As a publisher, I am thrilled to be asserting our faith and confidence in The Story of a Mouse Who Never Asked for It and other work that doesn’t fit the standard model, by creating a space under Enchanted Lion for such challenging and uncontainable books.”

The Story of a Mouse Who Never Asked for It by Ana Cristina Herreros, trans. by Chloe Garcia Roberts, illus. by Violeta Lópiz. Enchanted Lion/Unruly, $22.95 Apr. 2021 ISBN 978-1-59270-3203