If publishing imprints were people, 10-year-old Triangle Square Books for Young Readers would be Seven Stories’ Mini-Me. The concept for an activist children’s line parallels the adult division, with books for “skeptical young readers.” The resulting titles have sold so well, particularly during the pandemic, that TSBYR is about to double its list and introduce two new series.
“The children’s division is thematically and philosophically an offshoot of Seven Stories,” said Seven Stories publicity director and newly appointed TSBYR publisher Ruth Weiner.
“We believe at Seven Stories, and I do, first and foremost, that books can change the world,” added Seven Stories founder Dan Simon. “It can seem a little bit earnest in the adult world, but it works in the kids’ world.”
Kids’ books were introduced to the Seven Stories list back in 2007, with Howard Zinn and Rebecca Stefoff’s A Young People’s History of the United States. And even though TSBYR is a separate division now, it shares personnel with the adult line—there is no dedicated children’s staff. Simon pointed out, though, that it’s not always obvious whether a given title should publish with Seven Stories or TSBYR.
Last year, Seven Stories released Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s The Lost Soul, illustrated by Joanna Concejo and translated from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, to acclaim as an adult picture book, even though it was released in other countries for kids. On the other hand, a picture book by Swedish writer Sara Stridsberg, whose adult novel Valerie was longlisted for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize, is on the TSBYR list. Slated for June publication, The Summer of Diving, illustrated by Sara Lundberg and translated by B.J. Woodstein, describes the summer during which Stridsberg’s father was hospitalized for depression.
Though the children’s program started small, initially releasing titles only once a year, in 2022 it will begin ramping up—from six–10 per year in 2021 to 16–20 by 2023. The success of TSBYR’s 66-title backlist encouraged it to do more. Top sellers include Innosanto Nagara’s A Is for Activist and Counting on Community, which together have sold nearly 400,000 copies; A Young People’s History, which has sold 300,000 copies and is due out in a new edition, with contributions from Latinx scholar Ed Morales in honor of the centennial of Zinn’s birth; and Stefoff’s adaptation of Ronald K. Takaki’s A Different Mirror, which has sold 90,000 copies. The first two books in Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth’s frequently challenged trilogy (What Makes a Baby and Sex Is a Funny Word) have combined sales of 143,000 copies; the third book, You Know, Sex, is due out next month.
“The mark of a good company is that the books become more important over time,” Simon observed. He points to the growth of Seven Stories’ backlist, which has gone from 40% of sales to 70% in recent years, in large part thanks to TSBYR. During its first eight years, children’s books contributed 52% of overall backlist sales. In 2020 and 2021, its share rose to 57%.
This spring TSBYR will introduce two new series. “It’s a little coincidental,” Weiner said, “and it’s also the way we came into publishing children’s books. When it’s good and we like it, we do it.” In the case of the Philosophy for Young People series, for ages 12–17, Weiner and Simon wanted to do a series on philosophy for several years but couldn’t find the right books, until they read Devra Lehmann’s Socrates: A Life Worth Living, which is due out in May in hardcover. When TSBYR reissues her earlier work, Spinoza: The Outcast Thinker—which received a National Jewish Book Award for Young People’s Literature—in paperback in April 2023 along with the paperback of Socrates, the books will be given a unified look. Lehmann is writing at least two more, on St. Augustine and Hannah Arendt.
The second series, They Said No, offers short historical fictions about real people who stood up to injustice and is aimed at slightly younger readers, in some cases 10–14. The first books, due out in May, are translated from the French series from Actes Sud Jeunesse. Anna Politkovskaïa: No to Fear by Dominique Conil, translated by Alison L. Strayer, is about the slain journalist, known for her reporting on the Second Chechen War. Mordechai Anielewicz: No to Despair by Rachel Hausfater, translated by Alison L. Strayer, traces the life of the leader of a Jewish insurrection against the Nazis in Poland in WWII. TSBYR will begin with 12 books translated from the French. It also plans to commission its own titles directly.