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New Associates: City of Light & BeaLu

Welcome City of Light Publishing to the Children’s Book Council!

The goal of City of Light Publishing, throughout its many incarnations, has remained to make beautiful books. They have deep roots in Buffalo, New York and after joining the CBC, their publisher Marti Gorman answered some questions for us.

What is a title you’re proud to have published and why?

The most important children’s book that I have ever published is surely Clover and the Shooting Star. Since its release in 2016, this charming board book has helped thousands of toddlers cope with loss. Clover is a bunny, and the shooting star is a sparkling metaphor for those we lose too soon. They can light our hearts just like the shooting star lights the hearts of the fireflies, so we remember them forever. Award-winning artist Heather Lynn Harris created this gem of a book now used by Hospice organizations across the country, in response to a family tragedy. She has also breathed new life into Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Swing, and retold Five Hungry Mice, another long lost 19th century tale. The Monster in My Basement is her next book, with a timely October 2020 release date.

What are your favorite bookstores in or around Buffalo, NY?

Talking Leaves is our uncontested premier indie bookstore in Buffalo and Western New York. It has been serving this community since I was a student at the University at Buffalo back in the ‘70s. Right across from campus, it played a central role in my life as I studied English and Linguistics and became a journalist and a librarian. All these many years later, proprietor Jonathan Welch continues to play a leadership role in the literary life of this unexpectedly literary city.

What projects are you really excited about?

Kite to Freedom: The Story of a Kite-Flying Contest, the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge, and the Underground Railroad is a brilliant combination of STEM and historical fiction. This middle grade chapter book (ages 8-12) is a compelling fictionalized version of how a kite contest won by children helped span the Niagara Gorge and allowed the first suspension bridge to be built. That bridge then helped enslaved people escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad. The gripping tale includes a historically accurate appearance by Harriet Tubman and the struggles of a young girl grappling with the concept of slavery. Thought-provoking and very timely. Spring 2021 release.

The Mystery of the Barking Branches and the Sunken Ship is the first book in the Cayuga Island Kids series. It takes place right upstream from Niagara Falls on the real Cayuga Island. What excites me about this early reader chapter book by children’s book author Judy Bradbury and illustrator Gabriella Vagnoli is how cleverly primary and secondary sources, note-taking, and proper research practices are incorporated into the delightful adventures of five vivid, unique kids who set out on a fun quest and inadvertently discover a real cannonball from a real galleon. A joy to read. Spring 2021 release.

The CBC is thrilled to start collaborating with BeaLu Books!

BeaLu Books is an indie book publisher, whose mission is to contribute to the power of literacy through the support and encouragement of their authors. They are committed to working within their community. The answers below were provided by Luana K. Mitten, CEO.

What’s the origin story of BeaLu Books?

Mr Beans and Lucy

After working in the classroom and library side of children’s book publishing for many years and traveling extensively, I realized two things. I was starting to miss out on my son’s last years at home, and I wanted to publish books that bring new voices to trade books— books that I am passionate about. Living in Florida, my options for working for another publisher were minimal, so starting a small press was how I could stay in the field I love and stay home with the people (and dogs) I love. BeaLu Books is named for our two rescue dogs, Mr. Beans and Lucy.

What is a title you’re proud to have published and why?

Micah the Mighty Marathoner is a book that I’m very proud of and honored to be a part of. Micah’s sister, Mackenzie Snell, wrote this book to tell the story of her brother. The book has taken Mackenzie, Micah, and their mom to visit schools, where they share their story, and break down the barriers of ableism. It’s important to me to amplify underrepresented voices. Additionally, all profits from the sale of Micah the Mighty Marathoner go to Micah’s Miles (www.MicahSmiles.org), a nonprofit foundation that the Snell family started to raise funds for a variety of charities. Through book sales and race sponsorships, Micah’s Miles has donated over $70,000. Mackenzie’s second book, Micah the Mighty Marathoner and His Friends, will be released Fall of 2020.

BeaLu focuses on publishing young writers, how did you develop that idea?

I came to publishing through education, so working with young writers and new-to-publishing adult writers comes naturally to me. As a reading and writing specialist, I saw the power of kids learning from each other and wanted to tap into that on a larger scale through publishing books by young writers. Sarah Frank and Mackenzie Snell are two of our young writers. Through school visits and other outreaches, such as Sarah’s TikTok Channel @SarahFrankAuthor, kids are learning about the power of writing and that they are never too young to start reaching for your dreams.

What one project are you really excited about?

I’m excited about the Fall release of Ruffian by Precious McKenzie. It is the story of Ruffian, the greatest Thoroughbred filly, told through the eyes of a teenage girl. Although Ruffian was a horse, she has much to teach us about grit and determination. Ruffian left a lasting impression on the hearts of all who worked with her, and because of her tragic death, horse racing has implemented new techniques to care for injured horses.

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