One of the most pressing issues of 2020 is the social-emotional health and well-being of children, whose lives have been upended by the pandemic and who will feel its effects for years to come. But a small, Barcelona-based publisher is primed to meet their needs, with a global reach and a record of success.
Flamboyant Books opened in 2009 as a two-person operation dedicated to translating titles with simple, powerful messages for kids. “We want to contribute,” says Eva Jiménez, cofounder and CEO of Flamboyant, “to the development and intellectual richness of children through texts and images that awaken their imagination and artistic sensibilities, foster their empathy, enrich their points of view, and help them to have their own ideas.”
To do that, the company took a leap in 2012, expanding its program to include previously unpublished titles. The team’s first book, Anna Llenas’s The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions, blazed a bright path for the company. Featured on the Today show and translated into more than 30 languages, the book has sold more than three million copies worldwide. During the pandemic, its power and relevance have only grown, as evidenced in September, when it shot into the top 10 of bestseller lists in the U.K.
The spirit of the book is reflected in Flamboyant’s new publications. Today, the company has 10 employees and publishes nearly two dozen titles annually, all guided by the mission that led to the publication of The Color Monster. In the first half of 2021, the publisher will release Domesticated Plants and Other Mutants, a humorous picture book about plant domestication over time, as well as Fantastic Animals by celebrated illustrator Amaia Arrazola.
The books are entertaining, but careful planning goes into ensuring that they are also primed for use by educators and librarians, helping children develop language skills and emotional understanding, along with a greater knowledge of the world around them. An example of this commitment can be seen in Flamboyant’s take on Hansel and Gretel and Puss in Boots. Both books have been published in versions available for three different reading levels. “Beginners can follow the story by reading key words placed next to important elements in the illustrations,” Jiménez says. “Once they reach the sentence-level stage, they can read the adapted version in simple sentences; finally, once they are a bit more proficient, kids can read the full original unaltered text, with more complex sentences.”
While Flamboyant’s team is hard at work acquiring and refining titles for young readers, the founders are also taking steps to ensure that the company’s success doesn’t come at the expense of a healthy planet. The company has earned a climate neutrality certificate for its efforts to offset carbon emissions through a partnership with the Plant-for-the-Planet foundation. The agreement ensures that 5,543 trees will be planted in the Yucatán to offset the company’s 2018 emissions, and it is part of an ongoing effort that the founders remain dedicated to.
“We make books for children,” says Jiménez. “We want them to grow into happy, healthy, smart, creative adults with a life of opportunities. But our work is useless unless we guarantee them a future. That’s why we believe it’s essential to minimize our carbon footprint in order to meet the target set by the Paris Agreement. This can only be done if we all play our part.”
It’s that spirit of community, big and small, that connects the company of today to its roots. “We wanted to create books that can help teachers respond in the classroom, in a way that is entertaining and stimulating, to the questions and needs of children,” says Jiménez. “Moreover, we publish books that parents can read to their children as a family: an object around which they can gather and dialogue and, in this way, strengthen their emotional ties.”