When Arthur A. Levine founded Levine Querido (LQ) in April 2019, he had a storied reputation as a children's book publisher. He was coming off a 23-year stint at Scholastic, where his eponymous imprint was responsible for a long list of award-winning and bestselling titles, including the Harry Potter series. With LQ, he vowed to create a diverse collective of publishing professionals to pour their energies into magnificent books by historically marginalized creators.
More than half of the LQ staff identifies as Latine, and, as of 2023, 30% of the publisher’s list is by Latine creators. Authors and illustrators are from around the world: Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. One of the first hits at the publisher was Donna Barba Higuera’s middle grade debut, Lupe Wong Won’t Dance, a coming-of-age novel told from the perspective of the titular seventh grader who will grow up to become the first female pitcher in Major League Baseball. The novel won, among other awards, a Pura Belpré honor.
Following in this tradition, LQ launched a new imprint, Ediciones LQ, in 2022, which publishes books in Spanish. With two to three books a season planned, the line includes picture books through middle grade and YA. The aim is to eventually add graphic novels and nonfiction.
According to associate editor and publicist Irene Vázquez, putting out translations was part of Levine’s original vision. “Our motto at LQ has been ‘Giving Voice to a World of Talent,’” Vázquez told PW. “It seems only natural that that voice should reflect the reality of the U.S. readership today.” More than 13% of the U.S. population speaks Spanish as a first language.
Higuera remains one of the stars of the LQ line; her 2021 novel, The Last Cuentista, which melds science fiction and Mexican folklore in its tale of a 12-year-old Latina who is forced to leave an uninhabitable Earth, won both the Newbery and the Pura Belpré. The Spanish-language edition, La última cuentista, is one of LQ’s bestsellers.
Other exciting authors emerging from LQ include Camille Gomera-Tavarez, a 26-year-old Afro-Dominican Pura Belpré Honor author, whose February 2024–slated The Girl, the Ring, & the Baseball Bat has been dubbed an Outsiders for the modern era. LQ marketing director Antonio Gonzalez Cerna says the YA title “effortlessly captures that urban Gen-Z voice.” Letisha Marrero’s debut middle grade novel, Salsa Magic, which came out in September, is another book to watch, he says. It follows a 13-year-old Brooklyn girl whose life is forever changed by the unexpected arrival of her estranged titi from Puerto Rico. (At the upcoming Guadalajara Book Fair, LQ rights contact Pablo de la Vega at Base tres will be handling these, and other, titles.)
Vázquez cites Anna Lapera’s upcoming middle grade debut, Mani Semilla Finds Her Quetzal Voice, as a book that will appeal to fans of Higuera. “It’s full of spunk and activist heart,” Vázquez says. “Anna comes from a Guatemalan mother and Hawaiian-Filipino-German father and was raised all over the world, giving her an interesting perspective.”
LQ’s commitment to bringing Latine and queer voices to print isn’t always easy, especially in today’s climate of book banning and censorship, but the publisher remains committed to its line. “We're in a strange moment in time,” says assistant editor Arely Guzmán. “I think this will result in readers seeking this wider range of emotional resonance in their diverse stories.”
Guzmán believes stories about identity have moved on from tales of struggle. “Those are still important considerations, but we are also seeking out stories that reflect our lives more fully,” Guzmán says, “not just our challenges, but our loves, our creativity, our families, our triumphs.”
From Cerna’s view, marketing the line is still a balancing act, as Hispanic culture is so diverse. “A book about a quinceañera in Boyle Heights isn’t going to resonate in the same way with a Puerto Rican tween exploring Santería in the Bronx,” he says. “That’s why we build relationships with Latinx content creators across a wide spectrum of experience. The Spanish language market is not a monolith—far from it. With each book we do our best to work with translators that are right for each project and can capture the nuances and cultural specificity of Mexican, or Colombian, or Dominican Spanish, and everything in between. We Spanish readers occupy the same digital and media spaces as English readers. You just have to speak our language: both figuratively and literally.”