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Publisher Profile: Hoopoe Books

The CBC asks Sally Mallam, Director of Hoopoe Books, questions about the publisher.

How did your publishing house start out?

Hoopoe’s publishing program began in 1998 with a series of 11 beautifully illustrated traditional teaching-stories from Central Asia and the Middle East, collected and adapted for children by the author and educator Idries Shah. We’ve since added many more teaching-stories, as well as an All About Me series that provides useful, scientifically validated information to help preteens and teens understand.

What is your publishing house most known for?

Hoopoe’s motto is “Thinking children become thinking adults.” Our mission is to publish books that not only entertain children and young adults, but also help them to understand themselves and their world and to develop higher-level thinking skills and perception. Our traditional teaching-stories have been widely commended—by educators and psychologists, the U.S. Library of Congress, National Public Radio, and other news media—for their ability to do this and to foster social-emotional development.

Perhaps uniquely among children’s publishers, we offer these award-winning books not only in English, Spanish, French, and German but in many other languages as well, including those of the regions where the stories originated. And we publish them in dozens of different bilingual editions so that displaced families all over the world can benefit from them. For such people, the power of a book in one’s own language is extraordinarily strong, and offering them a book in their own language not only acknowledges their cultural identity but also extends a hand of welcome and acceptance.

In addition to selling these books through normal commercial channels, Hoopoe operates outreach programs that partner with schools, orphanages, and social-service agencies to provide these books, and related materials, free of charge to at-risk children throughout the world – including many who have lost their home and their belongings, and have been forced to flee with next to nothing. Stories are borderless, powerful ambassadors that cross between cultures and communities, connecting us and bringing understanding. We currently have outreach programs in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ukraine, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Germany, Hungary, and Nicaragua. And we hope to soon launch similar programs in India, Morocco, Syria, Turkey, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Romania, and Poland.

Our beautifully illustrated children’s books bridge cultures and promote tolerance among people of all backgrounds. The stories are traditional tales from South and Central Asia and the Middle East, and resonate with children from those regions, as well as with their parents and grandparents. But these stories aren’t culture-specific; rather, they’re universal tales that everyone, everywhere, can relate to. Add to this the fact that we publish them not only in English, but in a wide range of dual-language editions, thus encouraging communication and acceptance between the newly arrived and the recipient communities. Ideal for those who are learning a new language, these bilingual editions enable refugee children living in the West to read wonderful stories in their mother tongue as well as the language of their new home, and to share their culture – its differences and commonalities – with their classroom friends, developing empathy and understanding. What’s more, most of the Hoopoe titles depict the people, clothing, architecture, and animals indigenous to the parts of the world where the stories originated. For children, a book is not just a lens through which they see the world; it’s also a mirror through which they see themselves. So, in addition to promoting tolerance by centering on characters who look different, our books also help promote a healthy sense of identity in people of the diasporas whose roots are in those cultures.

The value of Hoopoe’s unique books is enhanced by related materials that we provide online for
teachers and parents at no charge.

Where in the country is your house based?

San Francisco.

How many books does your house aim to publish per season/year?

We published three new titles in 2023 and plan to publish 10 new titles in 2024.

Which genres does your house prefer to publish?

Most of our books are traditional teaching-stories that have been illustrated and adapted for children.

Which formats does your house prefer to publish?

All of our books are available as paperbacks, and the All About Me series books are also available as eBooks.

What are some of your house’s publishing priorities over the next few years?

We already distribute in nearly 300 language combinations, and we will be seeking to extend this still further. A second major step for us will be the creation of a view-and-read online platform, where we can make available our materials and support activities aimed at teachers, pupils, and parents. This will be enhanced by monthly online discussions and readings shared by communities around the world—the aim being to help young people express their culture and celebrate their differences as well as their commonalities.

Which upcoming titles is your house buzzing about?

In 2024, we plan to publish 10 new teaching-stories by Idries Shah:

  • The Tale of the Sands
  • The Man, the Tree and the Wolf
  • The Boy Who Couldn’t Hear
  • The Onion
  • The Rich Man and the Monkey
  • The Ants and the Pen
  • Melon City
  • Speak First and Lose
  • The Horrible Dib Dib
  • After a Swim

Which of your frontlist titles would be great for a school or public library?

Peaches, The King without a Trade, and The Palace of the Man in Blue.

Which of your frontlist titles would be great for a classroom? Which grade?

Peaches, The King without a Trade, and The Palace of the Man in Blue (all of them for grades 3-6).

Which of your frontlist tiles would you like to see get more attention from bookstores?

Peaches, The King without a Trade, and The Palace of the Man in Blue.

Name a few of your favorite backlist titles that people should check out.

All of our teaching stories:

  • The Lion Who Saw Himself in the Water
  • Neem the Half-Boy
  • Fatima the Spinner and the Tent
  • The Silly Chicken

As well as our All About Me series books:

  • Me and My Memory: Why We Forget Some Things and Remember Others
  • What We See and Don’t See
  • What’s the Catch? How to Avoid Getting Hooked and Manipulated
  • Me and My Feelings: What Emotions Are and How We Can Manage Them

Thank you, Hoopoe Books!

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