Picture Book Publisher, L'école des Loisirs
What was your first job in publishing and how did your career progress from there?
I started as an intern in the Foreign rights department 20 years ago. Then I worked on design and editorial projects in the picture books department, under Arthur Hubschmid's direction, and now I’m the picture books AD and publisher.
As Picture Books Publisher for l'école des loisirs, one of the largest publishers of children’s literature in France, what does your role broadly entail?
I’m in charge of the picture books catalogue (about 40 new titles every year), which means French creations as well as translations from foreign countries. I tend to receive over 10 projects everyday, from unpublished, published, French or foreign authors, and I have to choose which project will be the best for our list.
How does the French children's book market differ from the rest of the world?
French children’s books seem to be more varied than other markets, you can observe it in Montreuil Book Fair: there is a lot of diversity in stories, design, themes, and it’s more daring (than Anglosaxon books for example).
Tell us about a recent project you enjoyed overseeing and what made the collaboration so memorable.
There are so many! Every project is special and intense for me, because I put my very best effort into it. Working on the translation of Tomi Ungerer’s last picture book « Juste à temps! » was very moving. Discovering Claude Ponti’s original artwork is always incredible... I laugh out loud in my office when I have received Adieu odieux dîner by Delphine Bournay and Les chiens pirates by Clémentine Mélois & Rudy Spiessert. I was touched with Catharina Valckx's last project... And I really felt being an outlaw in the Far West working on Mini Cowboy by Daniel Frost!
What portfolio advice would you offer illustrators looking to appeal to l'école des loisirs?
Focus on characters (not on environments), practice making complete storyboards (not only one drawing), find your own unique style (do not copy others) and think about children while drawing children’s books (not about adults).
Looking at your current list, what are some of your favourite picture book titles?
Hard to say… All of them!
Jules et le renard by Joe Todd-Stanton, Palomino by Michaël Escoffier & Matthieu Maudet, Le sapin d’anniversaire by Delphine Bournay, Les chiens pirates by Clémentine Mélois & Rudy Spiessert, Moi veux ça ! de Stephanie Blake, Non cornebidouille, pas mon doudou ! by Pierre Bertrand & Magali Bonniol, Mouha de Claude Ponti, La mystérieuse baleine de Daniel Frost...
Which books from your own childhood had the most profound effect on you?
I didn’t have a lot of picture books when I was a child. But I remember spending hours in libraries, reading everything, forgetting time...
Which titles have been some of L'école des loisirs' biggest success stories a) in France and b) Internationally?
In the company's early days, our biggest hits in France were mostly translations from foreign bestsellers: Les trois brigands de Tomi Ungerer, Max et les Maximonstres de Maurice Sendak, Petit-Bleu et Petit-Jaune de Leo Lionni...
And then: Pétronille et ses 120 petits de Claude Ponti, Caca boudin de Stephanie Blake, Grosse colère de Mireille d’Allancé, Cornebidouille de Pierre Bertrand et Magali Bonniol, Haut les pattes ! de Catharina Valckx...
International success stories are: Je ne veux pas aller à l’école de Stephanie Blake, Papa ! de Philippe Corentin, Nous, notre Histoire de Christophe Ylla-Sommers et Yvan Pommaux, Ça pousse comment ? de Gerda Muller, Je mangerais bien un enfant de Sylviane Donnio et Dorothée de Monfreid, Le prince tigre de Chen Jiang Hong...
What kind of stories do you think the children's book market is missing?
All good stories are missing, not one kind in particular.
What would your dream project look like?
Perfect story and perfect drawings, loved by children...
Cover headshot photo © Guillaume Murat